Saturday, March 16, 2019

The Persistence of Friends

man breaking free from ice block
In appreciation of the organizations that worked towards the release of gay Nigerian asylum seeker Udoka Nweke, including, but not limited to:

Black LGBTQ+ Migrant Project of Transgender Law Center
Black Alliance for Just Immigration
Freedom for Immigrants
Haitian Bridge Alliance

Full list is here.

Nweke fled homophobic violence in Nigeria. He asked for asylum at the San Ysidro port of entry in California in December 2016 and was detained by ICE immediately. He was put in immigration detention for nearly 2 years. Because of his orientation, Nweke was subjected to violence and verbal threats in Adelanto Detention Center. He made 2 suicide attempts during his long detention.

Nweke was released in September 2018 pending his asylum appeal.  Public Law Center will continue to represent him in his asylum case.

Asylum seekers released on parole often have to wait months for their work permit and have no income to rely on. As Udoka enters next stage of his asylum process in the US, the #FreeUdoka team asks you to consider making a gift to his survival fund.

Illustration is available on Creative Action Network.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Romance in Rain City

ShaCorrie Wimbley, a Kansas transplant, and Saja Tunkara, an asylum seeker from Sierra Leone, met in Seattle in 2007. ShaCorrie recalls her initial response to Saja, the first foreign man who tried to chat her up. "I was not very nice." But Saja did impress her as kind and patient. "He called every day for a year until I answered the phone."

Fast forward 10 years to 2017. ShacCorrie and Saja are now married, with 2 children. ShaCorrie says of her husband. "He cooks, cleans, does laundry, makes the kids lunches, and gives them baths. I never have to ask for help. He just did it. We have built a life together. We have been through so many things that would have destroyed any family..."

ShaCorrie applied for US permanent residency for her spouse, but the petition was denied. They decided to wait for the outcome of his years-long pending asylum case, which was also later denied. On top of that, Saja was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and a neck tumor.

Saja was scheduled for a tumor-removal operation in January 2018. But because he had remained in the U.S. to support his family after his asylum case was denied, ICE took him into custody shortly before his scheduled operation. ICE did not allow him to keep his hospital appointment. In the weeks that followed, a local organization, NWDC Resistance, received calls from [inside the detention center] saying, 'There’s a guy with tumors on his neck that we can see, he shouldn’t be here, he should in a hospital.'"

It was not until April 2018, after spending months in pain, that Saja was allowed to have his operation, by which time nerve damage had led to permanent decreased mobility in his arm.
woman and man under umbrella
Saja was deported in October 2018, after spending more than 9 months in detention, during which time he acquired vision and breathing problems, in addition to more tumors. ICE did not allow him his wife and children to say goodbye to him. The Tunkaras miss each other terribly.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Friendship and sisterhood: supernatural folktales of women helping each other

Women who make other women's lives miserable are disproportionately represented in folktales from around the world. Wicked stepmothers and cruel sisters drive the plots of countless fairy tales. Sometimes, the negative woman-woman relationships in the story are offset slightly by the presence of a wise crone or fairy woman who aids the heroine. But stories of mutually beneficial relationships between women who are peers are harder to find.

With that in mind, here are a few stories that meet the following conditions:
  1. A woman protagonist but NO woman antagonist
  2. Two or more female characters who help each other or work collaboratively (the typical fairy godmother intervention would not count because the giving is largely one-sided)

Monday, November 19, 2018


In solidarity with the parents who are trying to reunite with their children after being tricked or coerced into leaving their children behind when they were deported from the US.
Margay family separated by ice spikes
Margay family trapped on trees
In memory of Marco Antonio Muñoz, a Honduran father who was separated from his wife and 3-year-old son after crossing the United States-Mexico border to seek asylum.

Mr Muñoz's became distraught after his son was ripped from his arms. Later, Muñoz was found dead in a Texas jail, reportedly by suicide.
Margay family trapped on trees
In support of the organizations that are working hard to reunite families, including:

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Sheltering Wings

Second in the "Reappropriations" series. This painting is a response to someone's fantasy painting of a white European-looking angel with a lion. The angel in this illustration has an outfit and coiffure inspired by Ovambo fashions.
An angel in the form of an Ovambo woman, with lions

The first in the series is Melody.

"What's wrong with painting European characters with lions? Weren't there lions in Europe in ancient times?"

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Stories of monkeys who save themselves from water-dwelling false friends

Two similar tales from different sides of the Indian Ocean. "Monkey and the Shark" from the Kamba ethnic group of Kenya:
A monkey who lived near the ocean decided to befriend a shark. From his tree, he threw fruits to the shark, who gratefully ate them. After many days, the shark invited the monkey to a feast at his home to meet his parents.

The monkey was persuaded, and the shark carried it off on its back. On the way, the shark revealed that his father was ill, and a monkey's heart was needed to cure him. The monkey then lied, saying that he left his heart at home. With that, the shark turned back and swam back to shore to pick up the monkey's heart. As soon as the monkey reached land, he escaped up a tree and threw a big branch at the shark, rebuking his false friend.1
"Monkey and the Crocodile" from the Panchatantra Tales of India:
One day, a monkey living in a jamun tree by the river befriended a crocodile resting under the tree. He threw jamum to the crocodile. This went on for many days. Then the crocodile asked the monkey for some fruit to take home to his wife. The monkey obliged.

After eating the fruit, the crocodile's wife said that the monkey must be even tastier than the fruit. She demanded that her husband bring her the monkey's heart to eat. The crocodile was initially appalled, and refused to do this. But his wife refused to eat anything until she could eat the monkey's heart.2

So the crocodile invited the monkey to dinner at his home to meet his wife. After some persuasion, the monkey go onto the crocodile's back. Once in deep water, the crocodile revealed that his wife wanted to eat the monkey's heart. The monkey then lied, saying that he left his heart in the tree. With that, the crocodile swam back to the monkey's tree. After the monkey escaped into the tree, he scolded the shark for his deceit and faithlessness.
Although the two folktales are structurally similar, there are some differences in interpretations. In the Indian version, the crocodile is described as actually enjoying the fruits. In the Kenyan version retold by Dr Vincent Muli Wa Kituku, the shark's acceptance of food outside of its natural diet is interpreted as a pretense to win the monkey's friendship.1 Dr Kituku equated the shark to people who present a fake lifestyle in order to win a relationship, only to show their true colors later. (I think we've all met that sort of person at some point)

  1. "Monkey and the Shark", East African Folktales, Dr. Vincent Muli Wa Kituku
  2. The Monkey and the Crocodile, Cultural India. Web. 31 October 2017