Building Bridges

Building Bridges

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Breath, Eyes, Memory - Student self assessments as project preparation

The Blog experiment in an English 103 classroom.

We started with the novel Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat. It led to readings that focused on bringing marginalized voices to the center. Chief Seattle helped us to look into family histories and students interviewed family members and shared their stories.

Danticat gave us words and the students used them to look into society's structure and they examined the word "patriarchy."

The students also wrote extensions to the novel and some students rewrote the ending.


Daniela Navarro            
English 103           
Edwidge Danticat Project        

Edwidge Danticat writes for the “voiceless, the oppressed, and the greater good for the community.”  In my opinion, the voiceless, and the oppressed are those who have no voice, or opinion in society.  They may be afraid to speak the truth, or they simply are not taken into consideration.  There opinion is worthless and does not count.  These might be people who are overruled by a higher figure of power, and simply cannot voice their opinion, or concerns.  Danticat also writes to help us understand the situations and the hardships being dealt with.  She acknowledges the concerns that these people may have, and wants to help them by telling stories so the world can comprehend their point of view and their everyday life.          

There are many examples in our society today, of people that cannot voice their opinion, or are not valued in society.  One example is how women are being treated in the middle east.  These women and children are being treated worse than animals.  The women and children are not allowed to say anything, not allowed to voice their opinion because they are considered a minority.  The men are in power, which means that the society is a patriarchy.  The men rule everything.  Another group of people that are “voiceless” are the homosexuals.  They are not treated equally like everyone else.  They cannot express their opinion without being maltreated in our society.  They cannot speak their mind because our society does not believe in same sex marriage.  They are afraid to say what they want because they don’t want to be rejected by the society.         

In the article, Full Frontal Feminism, by Jessica Valentini, she argues the positive aspect of feminism.  Violence is her main focus, due to the uprising problem in our society.  She discusses that violence against women is becoming normalized because the men in our society have been raised to think that women are objects.  This article relates to Danticat’s purpose for writing because Valenti is writing to help the poor women who are suffering from violence.  She is standing up for the women who are afraid to speak the truth, and the women who are vulnerable to the actions’ taken by the men.  Men tend to think that they are in a higher place in society, higher than women, which make it easier for the men to commit crimes against women.  Women are the ones to blame for the action’s committed by the men, which is truly unfair.  Full Frontal Feminism also relates to the meaning of Patriarchy, that society is dominated by those who are in power, usually males.  The men in our society are being taught that “violence and sexual assault are okay” states Valentini.  They think that they can do whatever they want, and that their actions‘ don’t affect others.          

Danticat’s writing for the voiceless also connects to Chief Seattle’s Speech-My People.  In this excerpt, Chief Seattle, wrote a response letter in accordance to the proposal that would change the lives of many.  The proposal was from the governor, who wanted to buy their land, so chief Seattle’s people would have to move to a whole new land.  He was skeptical at first, but the considered taking the offer.  Chief Seattle's  people were forced to migrate and start a whole new life in different town.  This relates to Danticat because Chief seattle is also writing for those who cannot voice their opinion, the ones who are afraid to speak the truth.  “Every part of this soil is sacred in the estimation my people”.  Chief seattle mentions that his people are the ones that dominate that part of the land, and they shall never be denied the right to visit their ancestors.  His people are afraid of the greater power, the government.  The government dominates the land, which means that they have more power over chief seattle and his people.  This relates to the idea of Patriarchy, the ones in power rule.  In this excerpt, the ones that ruled and dominated was the government.          

Ellis Island, by Irving Howe also depicts the reason why Danticat writes: for those who are voiceless.  Ellis Island was the point of entry for immigrants, from 1892 until 1965.  This excerpt is the experience and the trauma that the European immigrants faced, while entering Ellis Island.  “No previous difficulties roused such overflowing anxiety... as the anticipated test of Ellis Island.”  As they entered the port, they were marked or or numbered for classification to determine the category they were put in.  The immigrants were inspected to see if they were allowed entry.  Those who did not pass the inspection were sent to different doctors to determine the mental issues that were assumed they had.  Most of the immigrants were in search of a better life, but their fear overpowered it.  Howe, like Danticat,  writes for those who feel  oppressed, and for those who feel that their opinion does not matter and think that their voice is worthless.    Patriarchy also plays an important role in this excerpt because it shows how the society is dominated by  the ones in power, usually males.           

We are Ugly, but we are Here, by Edwidge Danticat, she truly expresses the meaning of her writing purpose.  She reflects on her own childhood to tell us the story of where the saying “we are ugly, but we are here” comes from and what it means to her.  This article is the article that will best represent why Danticat is writing for the oppressed and for the voiceless.  Her ancestors were voiceless, which ignited a spark in Danticat to write.  This article reflects the meaning of patriarchy because Danticat writes about the hardships that her family experienced while back in Haiti, before they had migrated to the United States, and who was in power during that time.         

The Homeland, Aztlan, by Gloria Anzaldua, is about the immigrant experience that she experienced when she was young and how that particular experience shaped who she wanted to be in life.  “As an openly lesbian Chicana writer and activist”, gloria’s life revolved around the culture and the voice of the women of color.  This was Gloria’s passion, so she fulfilled it until her last days.  She mentions that the border was two worlds emerging, and she talks about those who were in power: the whites, and “those who align themselves with whites.”  “ The symbolic sacrifice of the serpent to the “higher” masculine powers indicates that the patriarchal order had already vanquished the feminism and matriarchal order.”  Gloria refers to the meaning of patriarchy, that the whites and the males were the ones in power, the ones that dominated society.  Gloria also speaks in behalf to those who were oppressed and those who had no voice in society.  She is speaking for all the immigrants that have gone through the same experience as she has, and wants to tell her story and her outlook in respect to the immigrant experience.   

In the article, The Silent Witness, by Raquel Partnoy, also discusses the immigrant experience, and her family hardships.  Her ancestors were Russian-Jewish immigrants who settled in Argentina in 1913.  She talks about her childhood, and what she witnessed as a young and innocent girl.  As Raquel grew older and more mature, her passion was Art.  Her paintings reflected the experiences and her heritage.  After Raquel’s daughter had been taken away from her, and taken to a concentration camp for 5 months, She started painting more pictures that reflected her emotions.  Raquel’s daughter, Alicia, had gotten married and conceived a baby girl.  The baby girl, Ruth, witnessed her mother being caught and taken away from her.  Ruth went to live with her grandparents.  As this tragedy occurred, Raquel also noticed that her son was suffering from depression.  She produced a series called “Clothes”, to represent his son’s life, until he could no longer bear it, and committed suicide at the age of 25.  Raquel became very focused on the lives‘ of many and what they had suffered throughout their lifetime.  Eventually, Raquel and her husband reconciled with her daughter and her family.  These paintings represented all of the experiences and the memories that she had.  This was a way for Raquel to speak for those who were oppressed and those who could not voice their opinion.  This was a new way to come across, how her life had changed through her own self-experiences.  Raquel painted several series to represent the different times in her life.  This story reflects the idea of patriarchy, because her grandparents had migrated to a better country in search of a better life.  They wanted to get away from a place that had no opportunities.         

Gloria Anzuldua’s article, The Homeland, Aztlan, connects to Chief Seattle’s speech, because they both address the immigrant experience.  Gloria talks about the borders being like two worlds emerging, and Chief Seattle talks about how they were forced to evacuate their land.  The article helps me understand the speech in a distinct way, that it is not all about the bad experiences, it is about the positive attitude that comes from that negative aspect.    

Rosa Castillo
English 103
Individual Reading Assessment
1)  Edwidge Danticat is a Haitian writer, who speaks for the voiceless, oppressed, marginalized, powerless and the silent one. Danticat’s books and article say the unspoken. There are many people around the world who suffer many discriminations, they are violated, and have no one to tell to, because saying something might mean dying.  Women and men keep their problems to themselves, and no one ever knows what they see or go through. Danticat speaks for these people she knows if no one ever speaks no one will. She believes that the only way for helping others is to speak up, and let the world know what they are going through. She says the struggles of people who are powerless to do so. She tells the world, the suffering of the people who cannot speak, and are not heard. People who are discriminated, who are beaten because of their religious beliefs, sexuality, color of skin or race, those who are looked down by society. She also talks from experience and knows that it is important that people around the world know that there is more that meets the eye.
We live in a world where society plays a huge part on our life. Society influences us in many ways, whether it is in the clothes we wear, how we act in public, or simply on the type of music we listen to. However, we often look the other way when society discriminates those who are different than us, and don’t meet the standards of our society. Two groups of people who are look down, discriminated, and are voiceless are illegal immigrants, and lesbians/gays. Illegal immigrants come to the U.S in search for a better life for them and their families, but instead they find a place where they are treated badly, and discriminated against.  Many illegal immigrants work under poor condition, are treated badly by their bosses and are even paid less than minimum wage. They are often called names, and are treated with calling immigration on them. Not only are they discriminated by the people around them buy also by the government. Such example is when the government implies harsh laws on them; one of them was The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. This act prohibited Chinese people to work in mines, and also banned them from California. Illegal immigrants cannot rely on the government to protect them, because to the government there aren’t really here, and are criminals who broke the law and are here illegally.
Another example in our society of people who are oppressed and are discriminated are lesbians and gays. Lesbians and gays are a group of people who are extremely discriminated against simply because of their sexual preference. They are label as “weirdoes,” “faggs,” “queers” and so on.  People harass them in many ways, whether is emotionally, physically, or mentally, gays live in fear most of the time.  Our society cannot accept them, because most people are dogmatic, and cannot accept those who are different from them. Gays and lesbians are often to pushed into living in fear, and forced into hiding their sexual preference. Immigrants, lesbians and gays live in fear, and are judge by our society. They have no way of speaking up, simply because they never know what will happen to them, just because of the fact they don’t meet our society standards.
2)  Danticat is a writer whose main purpose is to write for the voiceless, people who cannot speak up. She knows that they are many people who are oppressed, by their government, their family, and other reasons; therefore she tells people their struggles. She opens the eyes of the world. In Chief Seattle we see the natives being oppressed by the white man. The white man is kicking them out of their land, and if they do not obey their rules they get killed or beaten. These people cannot speak up, because they can’t, and if they do they will get hurt. Another example of native being voiceless is found on the article Homeland by Anzadula, the writer speaks on the history on Native Americans, and how poorly they were treated. Natives have no way of speaking up the horrors they lived, because they either are dead or are afraid of being killed, these people live without a voice.  In this situation Danticat would write about, detail by detail, and would make sure that the world know what they are going through and how they are been treated.  In the short articles Full Front Feminism by Jessica Valenti, We Are Ugly But We Are Here by Edwidge Danticat, speak of women being raped and how they are blame for such a crime. Women have always been seen as inferior beings, They have no one to tell because if they do, they are judge by something that is not their fault  and is implied in the article full front feminism by Jessica Valenti “women are still being blamed for being the victim of violent crimes” (65). In the article Ellis Island by Howe, immigrants are being abuse and treated poorly by the working staff in Ellis Island as Howe affirms the following “Ellis Island, which sometimes allowed rough handling of immigrants and even closed an eye to corruption” (71).  The silent Witness by Raquel Partnoy talks about the government oppressing their own people and being killed for unreasonable reasons, and if they try to fight back they will be put in jail or worst killed. All this people are considered voiceless, because they cannot tell anyone they suffering, hardships, the things they see, because if they do there are risking their own safety. This is where Danticat will helps them, by writing their stories and letting the people know that there is more in the world than a television show.
3)  Patriarchy means that a society is dominated by males, it doesn’t mean that they rule the world simple that they have a more privilege than women. Women in our society are still considered a minority. We live I a world where men are still considered the more “powerful” than woman.
4)  Anzadula’s Article and Chief Seattle both relate on the sense they talk about natives and their struggles they faces. Anzadula writes about how natives arrive first to the U.S, and were forced to abandon their home. She says how they have the right to live there, and the immigrants in this case the British have no right what so ever to kick them out, for the natives settle first, years before them. In Chief Seattle speech he address the natives and tell them how sad, and mad he is to see his people fall. Chief Seattle says that the land they had called home for so long, is no longer their but the white man’s land. Both relate to each other, because Anzuela and Chief Seattle want to let the people know of the natives’ hardship, not only that but to say their home is being taken away. No matter how hard they try to erase the Natives, they will not be forgot because they leave their footprints on the land, and cannot be erase, something both Anzuela and chief Seattle make clear.

Yadira Cisneros, Moises Martinez,
Robert Palmer, and Luis Garza
English 103
M-W, 8-10:20 a.m.
Group Discussion
            Voicelessness happens by not talking, and not speaking up for yourself or others.  For example, a woman can be voiceless when a rape has occurred by someone she knows.  That woman can decide to be voiceless or she could speak up.  But in many cases women choose not to speak for fear, shame and powerlessness.  Voicelessness mostly happens to women or men that live in poverty and are powerlessness.  It happens to any type of person from the mentally ill to the disabled, ages and ethnicities.
            If people had equal rights society would work better and be better.  If different ethnicities and social classes were not divided so much, it would be easier for people to get along and there wouldn’t be so many problems in society.  If there were more equal opportunities for everyone there would be no violence or hate in the world.  If men and women were treated equally then society would be one and not be divided into two worlds.
            We learned that women are not treated equally.  We learned that women don’t have the same opportunities as men do in society.  Women are treated as the weak sex and cannot be more than men.  We learned that families support one another in the hard times.  For example, Sophie supported her mother when she had the nightmares and she also gave her advice about keeping the baby.  We learned that even though a lot of women are afraid to speak up many women speak.  People who speak give other people awareness when they tell their stories and speak up for themselves.
            We learned that the information we gathered talked mostly about women and the lack of power they had in society.  As we were doing this project we learned that men have more opportunities and suffer the less women.  As we also did this project every member in the group got to share memories and look for pictures and quotes from the articles that related to women.  Some of us did articles of men’s power been taken away in the past.  We also learned that there is still a lot of violence towards women and men.  While we were doing the project we learned that the world is voiceless until someone actually speaks up.
Siobhan Crevecoeur           
ENG 103
Question 1:
(A): Danticat’s words are meant to speak for those who cannot. This doesn’t mean that the “voiceless” have nothing to say, only no way to say it. “Watching the news reports, it is often hard to tell if there are living and breathing women in conflict-stricken places like Haiti.” This quote, from Danticat’s, We Are Ugly, But We Are Here, points out that there are those whose voice does not count in their culture or society. This is based heavily on cultural traditions, religion, societal circumstances and sometimes simply based on gender.
(B): There are many examples of one who are “voiceless” in society today. I find this to be true for gay, lesbian and transgender people and the evidence is still very recent in our country, our state, and even our city of Santa Barbara. The gay community’s voice with basic human rights for example, is currently being silenced. Viewed by some as flawed, perverted, and dangerous people, their sexual orientation is what discredits their rights as a citizen of this “great” nation and denies them the right to share in the ultimate act of love, marriage. As a 26 year old gay woman I know that by the time I am ready to marry, I will be able to. It is inevitable at this point, but until that day, my voice doesn’t count. The only thing I can do for now is use it to educate people about the issue and eventually gay marriage will be legal in America.
Another example of “voiceless” people, some don’t consider people at all. Orphaned children, foster kids, group home kids; victims of child abuse or neglect, children raised by drug addict parents, starved children, you would think their little voices would reach us, but they really don’t. As a victim of abuse from a parent, I have seen my share of group homes. I’ve seen kids tossed to the side and their voice quieted. As a victim of molestation within a group home, I was moved from one home and thrown in somewhere else, with not so much as a slap on the wrist for the individual who did it. That foster mother accused me of lying, convinced my social worker, and adopted that boy four months later. As for my parent, she suffered no consequences either. No therapy, no fines, no jail time, no payments to make, not even an apology was requested. No matter the things that had been done, no matter that again I was violated in a place I was supposed to be safe, nothing happened. Children are important, they are the future of this country, and so why then are we teaching them at a young age that what they have to say doesn’t matter because they are just a kid. Foster parents are a whole different story for another time, and not a good one either. 
Question 2:
The article from Full Frontal Feminism relates to Danticat’s writing because women, the victims of sexual, physical and mental abuse, are the ones who are voiceless. “We’re so accustomed to seeing violence against women that it’s become normalized. We accept it as an inevitable fact of life, rather than an epidemic that we need to fight on a large scale. And that’s not okay.” (pg63) Many women who suffer abuse do not speak up about it, and so it continues to happen. Women subconsciously prepare themselves to fight abuse by carrying pepper spray, holding their car keys between their knuckles, locking the car as soon as they get in, just in case something might happen and they get attacked. Women should be able to feel safe at all times, and the only way that can happen is if the women who are attacked speak up, then, creeps like that will get punished for what they’ve done!
The article from Now and Then, titled My People, is a speech by Chief Seattle regarding the rights to his land and the beliefs of his people. This relates to Danticat’s view of voiceless because the rights of the Native American people were definitely silenced. Any high school history book can prove that. The natives were promised specific rights to their land but nothing was to come of it. They were separated from their families, killed, imprisoned, forced to learn English and abandon their native traditions. They became voiceless. Chief Seattle’s word in this next quote were meant to serve as a warning, and only now are we heading it; “Let him be just and deal kindly with my people, for the dead are not powerless.”
In the article from Now and Then, titled Ellis Island and written by Irving Howe, show’s Danticat’s voiceless people as the immigrants who flocked for entrance into America. “It’s a sad irony,… that under relatively lax administrations at Ellis Island, which sometimes allowed rough handling of immigrants and even closed an eye to corruption…” (pg 71) Those seeking to come to America at that time were treated more like livestock than people. Their voices did not count because they were from another country. Regardless of the fact that they were trying to become American citizens, the fact that they weren’t citizens yet, worked very negatively against them.
We are Ugly but We are Here, by Danticat is her own view of the voiceless that she often speaks for. She comes from the poverty stricken and dangerous country of Haiti where woman are viewed extremely negatively. They sometimes greet each other with that phrase as a way of coping with their fate. “It is always worth reminding our sisters that we have lived yet another day to answer to the roll call of an often painful and very difficult life.” (pg26) The violence against women in Haiti, and the “normalcy” of it all is what keeps these women voiceless today.
The Homeland, Aztlan, written by Gloria Anzaldua is about the border between the U.S. and Mexico. It relates to Danticat’s view of voiceless because it shines light on how Mexican immigrants are treated while trying to enter our country. “Do not enter; trespassers will be raped, maimed, strangled, gassed, shot. The only “legitimate” inhabitants are those in power, the whites and those who align themselves with the whites.” This quote is colorful and paints the picture that the immigrants are indeed mistreated and not able to exercise their voices. The controversy at the border is ongoing and has been escalating in recent years. The border is being used as a barrier for people, not just to define the dotted lines of this nation.
Question 4:
Patriarchy is evident in all of these articles. In Full Frontal Feminism, the men are more powerful than the women, which is also true in, We are Ugly but We are Here because women consider themselves ugly. In Chief Seattle’s speech, the article The Homeland and the article on Ellis Island, we see the people in power, primarily white men, which is a clear distinction of patriarchy. The ones in power always seem to be men, secondly, white, and third, American. 
Question 5:
Anzuldua’s article relates very closely to Chief Seattle’s speech. Both are speaking on behalf of their people. They are choosing to use their voices to be the voice of all their people. Chief Seattle spoke of his people as dear and special and that their requests are carried out, while Anzuldua speaks of her people as the ones who are shamed and unclean. In the end, both peoples were and still are, discriminated against and voiceless in defending themselves against the wrongs of our patriarchal society in America.

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