Monday, May 14, 2012

Staceyann Chin: Biography



Staceyann Chin is a poet, writer, activist and performer. As a woman of both African and Chinese descent and a Jamaican immigrant residing in New York she has made various contributions to society just by using her strong voice, never apologizing for speaking her mind. Her work is true to a definition posed by Adrienne Rich that “Art is both tough and fragile. It speaks out what we long to hear and what we dread to find.” (101).

Staceyann was born on December 25th 1972. Abandoned by her mother (who fled to Canada) and a father who refused to to acknowledge her as his own, she was raised by her grandmother for the first six years of her life. She was then sent to live with her aunt and uncle in a more affluent part of the country and finally with her great aunt in a very poverty stricken area. Battling feeling like an other in virtually all areas of her life, to cope she sometimes lied. To classmates, in order to soften the harshness of her reality. To her great aunt to avoid punishment. In a New York Times magazine article she says, “I spent my teenage years dreading that the parts of my life would one day collide and expose me for what I was, a liar and a fraud.” (“Paradise Of Lies”)

Once she began college she vowed to only tell the truth, and she stuck to that vow. Upon discovering her attraction to women she decided to leave Jamaica rather than live a life of secrecy. She states that, “Homosexuality in Jamaica is not just a social taboo, it is an abomination that inspires celebrated songs detailing the violent killings of "chi-chi man" and lesbians...Women who dare to cross over into the realm of lesbianism live with the ever-present threat of rape” (“No One Cared If I Kissed Girls”).  In an interview with Maya Trotz of Jouvay.com, she also commented on the homophobic climate in jamaica she said:
"How do movements get started? Something as simple as “pon de river” or “signal the plane.” You get people to act on those things as easy as saying it. What makes them think that any other thing in the lyrics will not inspire them to action. It happens every single day. Nothing like that Trini music to give you directions. What makes them think that saying, “boom bye bye in a batty bwoy head” will not inspire somebody to put a gun to a homosexual man’s head and kill him? We signaling the plane, we pon de river we doing de donkey, five ten cent….oh no no people only listen to some things.”

Overcoming obstacles such as poverty, abuse, and a violently homophobic homeland she was able thrive in America. Finding a home in New York at age 24 she has found much success since then. According to the biography on her website (staceyannchin.com):
"Chin was the winner of the 1999 Chicago People of Color Slam; first runner- up in the 1999 Outright Poetry Slam; winner of the 1998 Lambda Poetry Slam; a finalist in the 1999 Nuyorican Grand Slam; winner of the 1998 and 2000 Slam This!; and winner of WORD: The First Slam for Television. The myriad of journals and Newsletters in which her work has appeared also include, The Shades Newsletter, GMAD magazine, the New York Blade, The Monsoon, and the Black women's magazine, Personal Personals.'
She was featured on Def Poetry Jam and even co wrote the Broadway production of the same name. Also in 2009 she published a highly anticipated memoir entitled The Other Side Of Paradise.

Recently having given birth four months ago, she is still a very active person. As a part of a blog series she has been writing for the Huffington Post, she explores her journey into motherhood as a single lesbian.
"I want to be an example of a woman who can take care of her kid but still leave room, space, opportunity for her own desires/pleasures to swell. I want my life after baby to reflect passion and love and art and my politics. I want to remain engaged and open and daring and sexy."
As a self described feminist this is not a surprising sentiment. In an interview with Ellen Parazian she talks about her commitment to personal choice and freedom.
"I fight and rally for the right to be anyone I choose to be, and that choice should always be mine to make, and that because I dress a certain way or because I move through the world in a way that you perceive be male, it does not make me [so]...All of us have the right to be free and choose, and our bodies are our own."
With a passion for social justice, ingenious mind, and a fiery tongue it is a wonder what marvelous works she will do now.  

Rozelle W.

Works Cited
"Biography." Staceyann Chin. Web. 12 May 2012. <http://www.staceyannchin.com/v2/bio.html>.
Chin, Staceyann. "No One Cared If I Kissed Girls." Nytimes.com. New York Times, 21 Nov. 2004. Web. 12 Jan. 2012.
Chin, Staceyann. "Paradise Of Lies." Nytimes.com. New York Times, 17 Feb. 2008. Web. 12 May. 2012.
Chin, Staceyann. "Motherhood: Ecstatic, Frenzied, and Exhausted." Web log post. The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 13 May 2012. Web. 13 May 2012.
Mahoney, Mellisa. Photograph. Web. 14 May 2012. <http://www.myspace.com/staceyannchin/photos/23689074>.
"Six Questions for Writer and Activist Staceyann Chin." Interview by Ellen Papazian. Bitch Media. 19 July 2009. Web. 12 May 2012. <http://bitchmagazine.org/post/bibliotalk-with-writer-and-activist-staceyann-chin>.
"Staceyann Chin." Interview by Maya Trotz. Staceyann Chin. Jouvey Ventures L.L.C., 09 Nov. 2004. Web. 12 May 2012. <http://www.jouvay.com/interviews/staceyann.html>.
Rich, Adrienne. "Why I Refused The National Medal For The Arts." Arts of the Possible: Essays in Conversation. 98-103. Print.

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