The Journey Begins

We are Women of Color in ELT, standing together.

We are on a journey to create safe spaces where Women of Color who are often pushed to the sidelines can get support and encouragement from one another.

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The Late Chaos of a Painful Night: A Poetic Narrative of a Huwo

The views expressed in blogposts are the author(s)’s own and do not necessarily reflect WOC in ELT’s stance.

Foreword

I know Behnaz from Book City located in central Tehran, Iran where we took some classes and participated in events on literary criticism and joined reading circles to read critically together.

When I started Women of Color in ELT movement, I contacted Behnaz. Here is our conversation:

Me: Do you identify yourself as a Woman of Color? If yes, join Women of Color in ELT.

Behnaz: I’ve never thought about it. I am whiter than my British and Belgian colleagues. Women of Color is a term to colonize women as nowadays to colonize, you do not necessarily need to physically occupy lands. Such terms can do that for you.

Me: I see your point although I use this term in a different way.

Behnaz: So, what’s your opinion on the term Women of Color?

Me: I believe this term can unify all women experiencing multiple layers of marginalization with race, ethnicity, and/or skin color. It will help us come together to build collective power for equity and systemic change. I believe together we can dismantle white supremacy and racism in ELT.

Behnaz: The thing is when you call yourself a Woman of Color, you have accepted oppression and then you want to resist and stand up against it.

Me: [Her critical comments reminded me of this article: The Problem with ‘People of Color’: It Implies Whiteness Is the Default where Kay Gilbert agrees with Nadra Widatalla on the fact that the term People of Color erases black people and she would retire the term for a different but related reason: “It privileges whiteness.”] I do understand what you mean and that is why I am ready to change this term if I find a better one. I not only acknowledge these concerns, but I myself am critical of this term. For now, I am using Women of Color as a unifying term.

After our critical discussion, Behnaz added her name to the database of Women of Color in ELT, and after a while, she contacted me and said she would like to share her story.

Here is a poetic journey to her story of confronting her past and the pain she has silently carried with her for years:

“The Late Chaos of a Painful Night”

“آشوب پسين شبي پر درد”

Followed by a poem about being a woman from her narrative both in English and Persian.

Her mesmerizing voice will touch your heart and soul.

Peace, radical love, and revolutionary hope,
Parisa


The Late Chaos of a Painful Night

I still remember the old, long stairs of my granny’s house;  with its dark brown coating and thick, low walls that surrounded them and were our childhood spiral slide away from the eyes of the elderlies; away from the others, an elderly who turned the slides into the slaughterhouse and sealed my body and soul forever with pain. My mother said: “shush! Don’t breathe a word, don’t go there, don’t do this…” and I wonder should I be blamed for these harassments, is it my delinquency to play around my own bloodline?

The night of adolescence befell by trusting the air and injected fear and wound into my every cell, “shush! Otherwise…” and there was I, sitting in slimy concussion and a blade awaiting death without any objection, not shedding a tear, neither screaming, nor begging for help.

I grew up in my loneliness with a mind-blowing number of unanswered questions, intuitively discovering my instincts. Hatred of femininity and the way of human intermingling became persistent nausea. A gradual death like a carcass which required meat-devouring worms to degrade and a decadence befalls me.

…………..

That man came. A masculine who set my boundaries into the fire, taught and fed me the carnal pleasure; yet again it was HIM who defined me, though I was a woman, a ‘huwo’ [1].

Carnal pleasure by others that if it is for me, it would be prostitution and promiscuity which deserves abandonment and the scarlet letter endurance, that deserve to be treated like a dirty tissue to clean their slimy-prostitution and eradicated by them who becomes unwomanly born angels whose love only bestows on the other as if your body was only a public lavatory honoured by their filth.

And love that never was, never is; a mirage and a whirlpool; barren hands and eyes filled with tears, gazing upon the deserted road gone with the wind and a hole that has been punched through my chest.

Behnaz Amani
21 June 2019

آشوب پسين شبي پر درد
The Late Chaos Of A Painful Night (in Persian)

I sing myself to the acid rain of a pain-bruised city
Are you listening?
I, a woman suffering from a dementia of getting rid of myself
Walk through all the bloody and strange backstreets of this sinister thought
Till I’m back to the melancholic womb of my creator
Till I’m back to the late chaos of a painful night
That the heavy apparition of a moon slither on my naked body.
I, a woman like a one thousand years wine
Surrendered in the opium breaths of an out of history crypt
Make a vow to all the ancient herbs,
Stomping to the dance of wheat
There that I’ve been stolen to the Hades’ embrace
Till the earth round on My circuit
Till months and years, become the plaything of coquetry of My eyes
That My eyes bewitched the high stature of Olympus
There that the fiery lust
Galloping and dancing on the figure of inevitable fate of humane

Yes, I, a woman lost in breeze
Singing the elegy of this earth’s refugees
With love….

Behnaz Amani
30 December 2015

Neither a separationist nor a racist, I’m just a woman, a “Huwo”[1] who wants to share her story with the people of the world to hear theirs. I fell in love with literature this treacherous mistress of all who sucks the life out of your veins and gives despair when I was a teenager. To be a Nobel Prize winner was my ambition, yet growing up made me realize that being a voice requires accomplishments greater than just a prize. It needs courage beyond doubts to accept your loneliness in your life journey and wisdom to be the sole reliance.

A Ph.D. holder in English literature, who had studied interior architecture and design, and tour guiding, as well. A fine art photography model, poet, and writer who believes in kindness and understanding. Tries her best to be supportive of those in need and hates lies and infidelity.

[1] Human – woman. Since both of these terms have ‘man’ as their essential components, I thought omitting that and converging the two remaining parts would give us a sense of emphasis on femininity.


We, Women of Color in ELT, have powerful stories to share. Our stories can help us heal and empower ourselves and our collectives. 
Check here to share your story if you choose to do so.

Give Them Voice: Tanzanian Girls in Primary & Secondary Schools by Catherine Njau

The views expressed in blogposts are the author(s)’s own and do not necessarily reflect WOC in ELT’s stance.

Foreword

I got to know Catherine Njau through TESOL Social Responsibility Interest Group. When I started Women of Color in ELT movement, I shared it with her, and now she is one of the active members of this movement.

We usually chat with each other and share what we do in our classrooms. I am always fascinated by the love and passion Catherine brings to her classes.

Here is the story of the organization, Kuleana, she has founded in Tanzania to liberate girls by making them understand their human rights and by helping them develop their potential for their liberation.

Peace, radical love, and revolutionary hope,

Parisa

Give Them Voice: Tanzanian Girls in Primary and Secondary Schools

In Tanzania which consists of 120 tribes speaking their own vernacular languages and practicing different cultures and customs, girls are facing different challenges when it comes to the time of menstruation.

Most of the tribes have their own taboos regarding menstruation. For example, a Chagga girl is not allowed to pick vegetables during their period; a Sukuma girl is not allowed to touch and wash utensils until her period finishes. These are some examples of taboos which discriminate girls during their period.

Apart from these discriminatory acts against girls, adults and even leaders do not speak about menstruation as they feel ashamed to speak about it openly, so girls do not get enough and quality education about their body changes and menstruation hygiene.

Due to lack of proper education and poverty, girls use unclean products during their periods such as cow duck, rags, toilet papers, leaves, and barks of trees. Buying disposable sanitary pads is not affordable for many of these girls. This makes them stay at home for three to seven days and as a result they miss their education while boys are still proceeding with their education.

The Kuleana organization is a group of teachers who join together to speak about this issue. This idea was generated when I worked as a counterpart with Peace Corp volunteer, Riah Werner, and we tried to solve this problem by distributing re-usable sanitary pads from one of the organizations in Kenya known as Huru International after attending a workshop held by this organization.

After the distribution of the pads, the demand was so high that I asked for grant from the USA Embassy and got one. The challenge was how to transport the pads from Kenya to Tanzania as the taxation was so high. I then decided to think and produce re-usable sanitary pads and distribute them among the girls. The quality of the products was satisfying and many girls were happy and shared positive feedback. Since 2011 to the present, the Kuleana organization has successfully distributed 5000 Waridi Kit bags in many parts of the region.

The current challenge that the organization is facing is lack of grant to proceed with our products. We have all the necessary equipment. What we lack is materials and labor charge.

Based on my observation, this project has had some positive outcomes. Many girls come to school during their periods and they feel comfortable. The problem of early pregnancy has been decreased. Also, the performance of these girls at school has increased. Boys have also benefited from this project as they have learned about life skills and body changes, and they have become aware of different challenges that girls face and try to help them instead of laughing at them unlike before.

The group members of the Kuleana organization are trying to increase education in many parts of Tanzania and they regularly meet with all groups in the country such as children with disabilities, parents, mentors, and teachers.

We hope more people who wish to support this project join Kuleana so that many more girls and boys can develop awareness and confidence to live empowered. You can donate to this project here.

In this video, Catherine is teaching students about body changes and menstruation at Lyakirimu secondary school located in Moshi district, Kilimanjaro region, in Tanzania.

Catherine Njau is a secondary school English language teacher in Kilimanjaro region in Tanzania where she was born and raised. Catherine is currently a student at the Open University of Tanzania studying Linguistics and Literature. She has earned several certificates in online English courses. Catherine is a regional coordinator of Tanzania English Language Teachers Association, which is an affiliate of TESOL. She has been employed in a government’s secondary school and she has been teaching English there for 15 years. Apart from teaching, she has participated in various educational activities. She coordinated life skills and debate programs at her school. She has served as a primary counterpart for two different Peace Corps volunteers from America and volunteered for two English Teachers Training Programs. She has also participated in English Volunteer Training in her school and contributed to Maua Mazuri Project by helping create bilingual training manuals for arts-based girls’ empowerment workshops.

Catherine Njau on Facebook and Instagram.


We, Women of Color in ELT, have powerful stories to share. Our stories can help us heal and empower ourselves and our collectives.
Check here to share your story if you choose to do so.

Takeaways from #31DaysIBPOC for #WOCinELT to Heal and Light Up the Dark

The views expressed in blogposts are the author(s)’s own and do not necessarily reflect WOC in ELT’s stance.

Link to the tweet

Who is in your Twitter feed? Now, many social justice activists and scholars/educators of color. To name a few (in alphabetical order):

I was checking my Twitter feed and I saw this hashtag: #31DaysIBPOC, a project that celebrates the teacher voices of Indigenous, Black, and People of Color (IBPOC). 

Source: Click here

Every day I had something to read to heal and light up the dark. As @meg_allison tweeted,

It’s so hard to choose, but here I would like to share some highlights of these amazing poems, essays, and blogposts that I found healing, enlivening, empowering, and liberating.

Note: Some people wanted to print this infographic, so here is the link to its PDF file.

Read, read, read, and read.

Source: Click here by @SaraKAhmed

  • Read Acevedo, Alexander, Baldwin, Cisneros, Coates, Delpit, DiAngelo, Edim, Freire, Gino, and Grimes.
  • Read Hughes, Kendi, Morrison, Oluo, Reynolds, Shalaby, Slater, Stevenson, Thomas, Woodson, Zoboi, and Zinn.
  • Read Veera Hiranandani and Maxine Beneba Clarke and Edward Galeano.

Tweet, tweet, tweet, and tweet.

Sources: Click here by @HKhodai & here by @SaraKAhmed

  • Twitter is the medium through which I broadened my network.
  • I read and I write in 280 character bursts. In the spaces between panic and despair, I like and I retweet. I process and make visible my thinking, all the while striving to believe in the power of my story and inviting others to share theirs.
  • Study posts and threads from the human beings of #CleartheAir #EduColor #DisruptTexts #WNDB #DiversityJedi #HFellows.

Write, write, write, and write.

Source: Click here by @SaraKAhmed

  • Write. Write like hell. Write for anyone who will read, study, and listen.

Listen, listen, listen, and listen.

Sources: Click here by @SaraKAhmed, click here by @biblio_phile, & click here by @edifiedlistener

  • Listen to perspectives and voices who own a story you cannot tell as your own.
  • I was surrounded by people who had so many amazing stories to help make sense of my own– I just needed to listen.
  • Listen to the pop playlist here. Soul playlist over here. All of those tunes belong to me, to the person I’ve become, underscoring my collection of missed wishes and dreams come true. I know the words to all these songs. In singing them, I sing myself in a thousand and one ways.

Create, create, create, and create.

Sources: Click here by @biblio_phile, click here by @SonjaCherryPaul, & click here by @izzieteaches

  • I’ve realized that I have to create the place where I feel whole. It’s up to me to look ahead and create a spaces and connections.
  • Find and create new spaces to thrive.
  • You create your own path. Others may not understand it. It wasn’t meant for them to.
  • You can move quickly with speed but go further when you stop to pause for clarity.

Dance, dance, dance, and dance.

Sources: Click here by @edifiedlistener & here by @ValeriaBrownEdu

  • Song and dance offered me an emotional home base; countless spaces for me to rejoice and rage, recover and revive.
  • Sis, light up the dark places with your dancing. Dance in your classrooms. Dance in the hallways. Dance in and out of meetings. And when they ask you why you are dancing, tell them that you are protecting your heart.

Do you, do you, do you, and do you.

Source: Click here by @izzieteaches

  • Affirm yourself. Affirm every day.
  • You are multifaceted. Don’t stick yourself into any singular box. Get rid of people who try to.
  • Take time to connect with yourself. Seek out understanding, not to be understood.
  • You’re allowed to change your mind. Over and over and over again… You are not the same person, you were six months ago when you made that choice. If anyone questions how much you change, question why they haven’t.
  • You will be afraid at times. Be grateful. Fear signals that a change is about to occur.
  • Trust yourself. Align with the wisdom that is inherent within you.
  • Acknowledge the emotion and continue moving forward despite it.
  • You are not alone. One hundred ancestors have been pouring of themselves into you for decades.
  • You are worthy of taking up space. They’ll pretend they don’t see you. They’ll walk past you without excuses. Bump into your flesh, as though your melanin can be ignored. Plant your feet even deeper.
  • Exist loudly! From your hair follicles to your toenails. You have a right to your existence. Stand tall and show up!
  • Never shrink yourself to make others comfortable.

Continue, continue, continue, and continue.

Sources: Click here by @booktoss, click here by @mochamomma, & click here by @CrazyQuilts

  • I continue to speak, continue to push, and continue to educate because nothing will ever change if we allow ourselves to be silent.
  • I’ll keep telling that story.
  • We feel fear, but we continue; we persevere.

Love, love, love, and love.

In the end, love prevails. Love is the answer. Fierce love that demands change. Active love in which silence against injustice does not exist. ❤ Source: Click here by @DingleTeach

And ice cream. Lots of really good ice cream. 🙂 Source: Click here by @booktoss

If you want to amplify this project on Twitter, you can find all the posts here:

Here is the link to #31DaysIBPOC webpage. I am sure you’ll read some of these posts that resonate with you more than once: https://31daysibpoc.wordpress.com/

Finally, I would like to thank the hosts of #31DaysIBPOC, Tricia Ebarvia, @triciaebarvia, and Dr. Kim Parker, @TchKimPossible, for allowing me to blog about and make a graphic design based on these powerful posts.

What do you do to heal and light up the dark? Leave comment, reach out on our social media or contact us and let us know.

Peace, radical love, and revolutionary hope,
Parisa

The Story of Women of Color in ELT

The views expressed in blogposts are the author(s)’s own and do not necessarily reflect WOC in ELT’s stance.

This blogpost was first published here.


I’ve been trying to fit into the unjust, unfair, inequitable, and exclusionary ELT world about 5 years since I moved to Japan.

I have stopped trying to fit in. What happened and why? The following figure can give you some idea. You can also go through the blogposts here. So, I no longer wish to be “included” and no longer let anyone “include” me as those who have the power to “include”, have also the power to exclude.

Page-1
Source: Click here h/t: Click here

This blogpost by Maha Bali, Unpacking Terms Around Equity, Power and Privilege, and this lecture (Revolution Today) by Angela Davis were so eye-opening to me as I truly realized why “diversity” and “inclusion” are such problematic terms.

If we stand up against racism, we want much more than inclusion. Inclusion is not enough. Diversity is not enough, and as a matter of fact, we do not wish to be included in a racist society.

I remember that when I came to Japan, I was added to or encouraged to join ELT Facebook groups about gender equality/equity. Well, I did. I then turned the groups’ notifications off, and I told myself, I live in Japan and I have no gender issues anymore. So naive, huh?

I’m now acutely aware of the inequities imposed by the intersections of race, gender, skin color, physical appearance, nationality, and religion.

I even shifted my research focus from Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) —quite male-dominated area of research in ELT— to Social Justice Education and Equity Studies in Education (SESE).

I supported, joined, and got involved in feminist/equity/equality movements in ELT:

JALT GALE SIG

Women in ELT

EVE: Equal Voices in ELT

Equality in ELT in Japan

I also read about:

The Fair List

Gender Equality ELT

There was always a voice in the back of my head telling me that something is missing: A sense of belonging. A sense of representation.

I believe the reason is that the issues related to Women of Color in ELT, whose struggles are way different, are often ignored, and issues related to race are often swept under the rug.

For example, a database of women ELT speakers

  • cannot help women who have visa issues (e.g., read my visa story here, click here as well) and that is why we need to talk more about open access in ELT and support movements like Virtually Connecting.
  • cannot help women who live in contexts where currency crisis is an issue and that is why we need to add class to the equation.
  • cannot help women who find ELT conferences inhospitable and unsafe and that is why their needs should be addressed (e.g., how to navigate predominately white spaces in ELT).

I tried hard to communicate with these pictures.

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Click here
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Click here
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Click here

I googled and started reading to connect and bridge the historical gaps in my mind.

For example, I found this:

Rosie the Riveter isn’t a universal icon: “That was a white woman’s story”

So it wasn’t that I was boycotting the Rosie story. It simply had nothing to say to me.

That is why, inspired by Scholars of Color in Language Studies (SCiLS) and KOTESOL People of Color Teachers SIG, I have decided to start this movement in the hope of bringing Women of Color in ELT together so that we can support each other, learn together, and share our feelings that are constantly denied and invalidated by the dominant power structure in ELT:

Women of Color in ELT

Women of Color in ELT, Twitter post

I want Women of Color to stand together against racial erasure in ELT.

I want Women of Color’s intersecting complex identities to be represented in ELT.

I want Women of Color in ELT to belong.

Peace, radical love, and revolutionary hope,

Parisa


You can read about WOC in ELT and its mission and goals at:

https://womenofcolorinelt.wordpress.com/about-woc-in-elt/

If you identify as a Woman of Color in ELT (read about the term “Woman of Color” here) and would like to add your name to the Database of WOC in ELT, you can fill out this form.

If you are a true ally and want to support this movement, please check WOC in ELT Supporters.