Knowledges We Intuit as Radical Survivors of Violence

Here is my 5-minute response to a free-writing exercise created by Kyoungwon Lee for her Healing Justice Track workshop “Knowledges We Intuit: An Experimental Writing Group for Radical Survivors of Violence” presented at INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence (COV4) Color of Violence 4 Conference (March 2015, Chicago, IL).

Writing Prompt: What’s your intuition’s relationship to “criminality”? How does your intuition scramble, feel, coagulate, burst, eat the idea of “criminality”? What images or words come to mind when you meditate on the relationship? Is there a song or melody that could accompany your piece? 


I intuit that we’re all criminals

I am a criminal, so are you, you, and you

Innocence denied

No purity, no innocence exists in this barren land

of us vs. them, good vs. evil, right vs. wrong, the dead vs. the living, free vs. the unfree

Nature doesn’t embrace the binary

I am beyond good and evil

I embrace the deviant body

bursting out of criminal, landlocked barriers of barbed wire fences

It’s the only way to imagine freedom

to embrace the shit, eat the shit, spit out the shit

and laugh loudly at having survived in the belly of the beast

Convicted of multiple crimes

Deviance, trespass, desire, pleasure, resistance

Prison cells are no match

for what I and we can intuit

in our bodies and imagine collectively

What is incommensurable

cannot be named


cannot be spoken, only felt

heavy as heart ache

light as release.

Melody: Desert at night in the borderlands, la frontera.

Unmoored. Infinite. Unassailable. Expansive.

Lena Palacios, March 27 at approximately 3 p.m.

Un poema de una Chicana perdida

Now that I’ve “survived” (but barely thrived in) graduate school, I found this poem I wrote the first week at McGill University on September 14, 2009 in response to Chickasaw educational activist and elder Eber Hampton’s essay, “Memory Comes Before Knowledge.” I was struck by the following quotation: “The mutilation of human beings in graduate school is a continuation of the mutilation that starts in kindergarten.”

Why am I here? ¿Por qué estoy aquí? Un poema de una Chicana perdida


I deserve to be here

Child of blue-collar laborers,

Pink-collar secretaries

Failed revolutionaries

In retreat

First in my family

To access, trespass

Academic borderlands

Trip-wire fences unexpected

Concealed by pristine lawns

Illegal entry

Tripped on uneven cobbled stones

Plastered over indigenous peoples’ sacred

Cemeteries, ceremonies lost

Underneath “pure” snow

Shoveled by the same people

Mi familia

Haitian Caribbean “security” guards standing

Waiting for rain, conducting bicycle traffic

Guarding buried treasures underneath the Earth

My new found privilege barricading me, marking me

As separate than, invisible to both camps

An intruder, a phony, a petty thief

I can step on scrubbed passageways fragrant with


On my way to class to learn to forget

Now I climb ladders

I proceed laboriously

Will I fall?

The burden is heavy

Sweat blinds my vision

Seeps into my parched mouth already

Silenced by a baleful of white cotton


On the long awaited 4th Edition of “This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color”

I Transfer and Go Underground

A love letter. Some random musings. Or a disjointed rant on the long awaited 4th Edition of “This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color”, edited by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa. Un mil gracias SUNY Press!

Thank you SUNY Press!

Thank you SUNY Press!

My formal introduction to Indigenous and race-radical women of color feminism was violent, namely due to my own life experience as a survivor of sexual and state violence, my social location as a mixed-race queer woman of color from an urban working-class/working-poor background, and to the wider political conjuncture that was taking place when I was introduced to this activist tradition. Like many poor queer youth of color growing up in the ‘shadow of the prison’ in the 80s and 90s in “Golden Gulag” (Gilmore 2007a) California, feminism—or what I thought at the time was feminism—didn’t speak to me or to anyone else in my hood. It didn’t help me to understand why and how California became comprised overnight of over nine hundred miles of concrete prisons overflowing with the caged bodies of the ‘surplus population’ of young men and women of color victimized by ‘The War on Drugs’ and by other horrors that start with the letter ‘D’: devolution, downsizing, deindustrialization, and dehumanization. What I would later understand to be white, upper- middle-class, hetero “hegemonic feminism” (a.k.a. “whitestream feminism”) just didn’t do it for me like queer Black and Chicana feminisms and “This Bridge Called My Back” (Moraga and Anzaldúa 1983) feminist praxis would. While “a principled sense of mortal urgency” (Gilmore 2007a, 251) has continued to propel me to act, race-radical women of color feminist thought has continued to teach me to act strategically and tactically, to possess a healthy distrust of easy, instantaneous solutions, and—as sister Audre Lorde reminded us in her poem “A Litany for Survival” (Lorde 1995)—“to speak, remembering, we were never meant to survive.” Continue reading

Why Transformative Justice: A Response to “Why Didn’t She Just Call the Cops?”

A piece I wrote for the amazing Third Eye Collective, a collective that is led by female-identified people of Black and African descent dedicated to healing from and organizing against sexual and state violence.

third eye collective

Why is the world always easier to fix/than our own homes?

–Essex Hemphill

We cannot live without our lives.

–Banner held by Combahee River Collective members protesting the sexual assault and murder of twelve Black women in the Boston area in the first six months of 1979

The Third Eye Collective is led by female-identified people of Black/African descent who are victims and/or survivors–all of us resistors–of sexual violence. Many Black girls and women who have experienced sexual violence at the hands of family, intimate partners, and community members, have also had direct, lived experiences as prisoners of punitive state institutions defined broadly to include jails, prisons, open or closed facilities, remand centres, immigrant and refugee detention centers, mental hospitals, foster care, group homes, child protective services, and domestic violence shelters. When confronted with gendered and sexualized violence in our families, communities, and institutional spaces, Black cis- and trans- girls and…

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With No Immediate Cause (Ntzoke Shange), Performed by the Third Eye Collective

third eye collective

In this video essay directed and produced by Lena Palacios and “MIZShama”, members of the Third Eye Collective perform Black feminist Ntozake Shange’s poem “With No Immediate Cause” while riding the Montreal metro.

Shange’s poem begins with statistics that viscerally pushes us into awareness about the endemic and unrelenting nature of intimate, sexual, and state violence against Black women and girls (“every 3 minutes a woman is beaten/every five minutes a woman is raped/every ten minutes a little girl is molested”).

Lena Palacios is an emerging video artist and was the recipient of the  SAW Video Media Art Centre‘s Cultural Equity Production Fund. The Cultural Equity fund is a production support program that provides opportunities for visible minority artists to express themselves creatively through the medium of video.

With No Immediate Cause

every 3 minutes a woman is beaten

every five minutes a

woman is raped/every ten minutes


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Hello world!

Hola a todos,

I started this blog to share my teaching interests & syllabi, participatory action research projects, documentary & experimental films, book project & publications, random rants & musings, and writings from my favorite bloggers. I also initiated my blog to chart the daily struggle to survive and thrive on the tenure-track as a new assistant professor in Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies and Chicano(a)/Latino(a) Studies at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. I specialize in transnational feminist prison studies, critical prison studies, Indigenous, Chicana and Latina queer feminisms, girls’ and girlhood studies, transformative justice and community accountability, and media justice.

Con respeto,