“Najwa no podrá usar el velo”

Why does this headline have me so worked up? I am angry.  But, I also understand that anger is a secondary emotion.  It is how we express hurt and disappointment and my temporary home has just disappointed me.  How can a country that allows the legal consumption of marijuana, heroin and cocaine; that allows legal prostitution; where women wear jeans so tight they cannot zip them and blouses so low cut a nursing child would have no problem being fed—how can this same society now decide that a 16 year old girl cannot wear a veil to school???

Why do people assume that being undressed is more liberating then being covered? Since when is living in a society where women are routinely verbally assaulted by men who holler out statements that objectify women more acceptable then a woman choosing not to display her beauty? I do not understand the European, and sometimes US, response to the veil and the desire to “liberate” Muslim women. Let’s face it, women are oppressed and treated badly all over the world.  And the veil is not the cause of it and in fact offers some protection in societies that recognize the wearing of the veil like Spain recognizes a nun’s habit. It is a sign of religious devotion.  Should we know require nun’s to wear mini-skirts?

I am going to stop writing now as I see my arguments are more about the emotions I am feeling then the reasoning I try to bring to these types of discussions.  But, Spain—me ha roto el corazón:-(

Published in: on April 21, 2010 at 3:56 pm  Comments (2)  

Mi conferencia en español

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Last Friday I have joined the very small ranks of native English speakers from the U.S., whom have given a lecture in a language other then English.  And all the anxiety I experienced leading up to the event help me to understand why.  You do not realize how challenging it is to convey thoughts, especially complex ones, until you try to convert them into another language. Also, a lot of our vocabulary is culturally linked and have different meanings when translated. So, you have to figure out how to convey the ideas and do so in a manner the audience understands.

My Spanish colleagues were amazed that as an American I was even trying to do this.  Apparently the norm is to speak in English and have someone else translate what you are saying.  But, I have watched to many U.S. movies in Spain translated from English that had me saying “that is not what he said!”.  It is really interesting to see the translations for Will Smith’s wisecracks in “I Robot” translated into Spanish.  To put it succinctly, something gets lost in the translation.  No, I wanted to come across as me, as much as possible, in Spanish.

The standing room only crowd (over 120 people) greeted me warmly and was very patient with my pronunciation.  The audience of students, faculty and a few curious visitors (I am the first Black American to deliver a lecture at the Law School of UCM) laughed at the right moment and looked surprised when they were suppose to.  This let me know for the most part they understood what I was saying.  Things went better then I had any right to expect. I asked a few students a que se entienda mi español.  They told me that there where some words they could not understand, but felt that they understood about 60% of what I said.  I was elated.  This is the same level of understanding people have my lectures in the States.

Before closing this blog entry I want to acknowledge all the “foreign” born students at SU who have had to give presentations in my class.  I have a better appreciation of what you go through and the anxiety you feel when I have you stand up there in front of a group of people and try to translate your thoughts from Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian or Spanish into English.  And then take questions from the audience.  My head hurt when I was down and I needed a nap badly. So my heart goes out to those who stretch themselves to be not only understood, but to understand in a language other then their native one.

Published in: on April 21, 2010 at 12:48 am  Comments (1)  

Sevilla – Semana Santa Pasos

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You can look up the history of Semana Santa in Sevilla and its elaborate processions. I will not address that in this blog and when I am back online I will post some of the hundreds (yes hundreds) of pictures I have taken here. No, this blog is an on the ground response from my perspective as a Black American being surrounded by what at first felt like the world’s largest KKK gathering.

Let me be clear, in my entire time in Spain I have not felt any hostility and negativity directed at me because of my pigmentation (sadly I cannot not make the same statement about my life back in the States). And that statement holds true in Sevilla. But, we often live in our historical memories and it took me awhile to get used to seeing people, un monton de gentes, in robes and pointy hats that looked exactly like those of the KKK. Now, I must admit, this being Europen some of the robes were more fashionable and included colours not normally seen on the KKK. There was, purple, brown, beige, yellow and green to name a few. But, it was the all white ones, with the big cross in the center that caused the collective DNA in my body to stand on edge and prepare for fight or flight. It took all my conscious mind to allow my daughter to accept the piece of candy handed out to children during this time–for the record I still have not let her eat it.

The all black robes are just creepy. Shades of the Spanish Inquisition abounded in my mind. But, as I traveled to the different churches and experienced the faith of the true believers I have began to feel more at ease in the crowds and I less openly practice my karate moves done to ward off any one who may be here literally undercover and want to relive their “southern heritage”.

The processions are indeed magnificent and music from the bands cannot be captured in a picture or a small screen. Also, I must confess (this is a Catholic country after all) that when a woman, an older woman, a true believer on the patio of her piso (apartment) broke out in spontaneous song as the procession emerged from the church carrying a display of the Christ (pbuh) baring his cross; this woman singing with the voice of an angel on high touched my spirit and caused an upswell of emotion that one would not expect from such as I.

The spirit that exist within those who truely come from a place of love and worship of their God can reach out and touch those who do not share the same traditions; but indeed share the same love. A feeling so powerful that it can smooth the sensitivities of collective memories and allow for one of a different faith tradition to share in the transcendent experience of another people.

Feliz Semana Santa
Wishing you Prosperity

Published in: on April 1, 2010 at 10:16 pm  Comments (1)  
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