Robust Imaginaries
Informed Practice

Welcome to the Praxis Center, an online resource center for scholars, activists and artists hosted by the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College. From action research and radical scholarship to engaged teaching and grassroots activism to community and cultural organizing, and revelatory art practice, we make visible imperative social justice work being done today.

Praxis is
the synergy between
theory and practice,
knowledge and relevance,
ideas, images, and the real.


Karla Aguilar
Program Coordinator
Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership

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What’s a Family?

By Jaime Grant, Contributing Editor, Genders and Sexualities

As recently as a generation ago, conventional wisdom held that LGBTQ people had no family. The story told was this: cast out of our families of origin, social pariahs “incapable” of creating our own families, LGBTQ people led lonely, singular, queer lives.

The truth is that despite powerful obstacles and a modern movement for LGBTQ liberation that is only 50 years old, LGBTQ people have always formed families – working against institutions and attitudes that often prompted their more traditional families to deny them; creating new families out of extended kinship networks of friends, lovers and life-long beloveds; and finally, for some, choosing to parent in creative and multi-faceted ways against myriad social, legal and medical prohibitions.

Once a barely visible “wing” in the LGBTQ movement, the struggle to secure the rights of LGBTQ families has grown into a vibrant part of the larger LGBTQ movement. In 1979, a group of gay fathers came together to form what became the first national LGBTQ parents’ organization; at the same time, the first LGBTQ families programs were emerging at larger city-based community centers. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force founded its families program in the early ‘90s, launching a census education campaign to record same-sex partnerships and creating seminal coalitions with organizations like the Children’s Defense Fund and the National Association of Social Workers.

In November of 2008, I had the privilege of organizing a gathering of LGBTQ activists involved in organizing for family policy and services within the LGBTQ movement.  Continue reading →

Comments on What’s a Family?

Jim Campbell says:

Lisa, a broader and deeper contextualizing of this discussion would be, I think, its situating in the evolutionary framework of the study of Morgan’s “Ancient Families” (?), and Engels’ “The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State”. Further, Diop’s basic response to Engels from an African historical perspective in his seminal African history whose title escapes me would enrich this discussion/analysis. This should make for an enlightening course of study over two semesters. This course idea has occurred to me since retiring and listening to and following this passionately earnest and very serious discussion for the past few years. The thesis of this course could be: ’the family is a conscious human social bonding creation/invention/development, and it is a continuously evolving conscious social bonding network between humans’. Just thoughts. Jim Campbell

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Freedom through Exile: The Unfolding Stories of Cambodian Son

By Shayna Plaut, Contributing Editor, Human Rights

Three years after a meeting in the bustling streets of Phnom Phen when the co-founders of Studio Revolt, Masahiro Sugano and Anida Yoeu Ali, first “experienced” Kosal Khiev’s poetry, a documentary about his life is coming to the big screens throughout America – a country Kosal calls home but is barred from returning. Khiev was born in a refugee camp in Thailand after his family had escaped from the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. At the age of one he began his new life, resettled in Southern California growing up eating fried chicken and enjoying pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. As a teenager Khiev got involved in street life and when he was 15 years old he was charged with attempted murder and tried and convicted as an adult. Khiev served 16 years in prison, including solitary confinement. Through a prison writing program he found his voice and power, and spoken word poetry became his means of redemption.

After serving his sentence, when he was thirty-two years old, Khiev was released from prison and deported to the Kingdom of Cambodia: a country he had never known. He became one of the thousands of people who, after doing their time, were exiled from America. And this is where the worlds of Studio Revolt and Kosal Khiev came together. Khiev became an artist in residence with Studio Revolt offering his time and talent in return for their mentorship and management in the world of art.  Although Sugano identifies as an experimental filmmaker who had never previously considered documentary, he “decided to take on the responsibility to do it.” Continue reading →

Comments on Freedom through Exile: The Unfolding Stories of Cambodian Son

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#CancelColbert and the Politics of Being Dismissed

By Kenzo Shibata

Last Thursday, I came across this tweet from the official account of the Comedy Central show The Colbert Report.

It was not something that normally would have entered my radar since I don’t follow the show. Frankly, I lost interest after its first season. We get it. He’s a fake pundit. His shtick is that he acts slightly more ridiculous than right-wing Fox News talking heads, which makes for passable segment fodder, but I don’t have the patience for 22 minutes of ironic racism, sexism, and classism. This is on the network that put Daniel Tosh’s punch-down-and-laugh-at-rape brand of humor as a nightly delight and made famous comic, Anthony Jeselnik, whose show The Jeselnik Offensive exists solely to give a national platform to racist, sexist, and classist jokes. With a line-up like this, sometimes it’s hard to tell where the winks-and-nods exist.

Initially, I wasn’t all that offended by the fact that Colbert told a racist joke. I was offended by the fact the tweet was a racist, UNFUNNY, CHEAP joke.This was the kind of joke that 5-year-olds would tell to bully me when I was in grammar school. Upon watching the full sketch, I failed to see any kind of high satire from it. The construction of the joke was indeed satirical, but sometimes it’s hard to tell when someone is laughing at you or with you when the punch line is basically the same punch line of an actual racist’s joke..Regardless of how someone whose never been slurred ethnically may feel, the difference between ironic racism and racism is a liberal arts degree. Continue reading →

Comments on #CancelColbert and the Politics of Being Dismissed

Van Forsman says:

This wasn’t a joke – it was a part of an entire piece on the owner of the redskins’s decision to start a foundation to support native Americans, but one that has Redskins in the name. The whole point of Steven’s and Jon Stewarts shows are that mock material considered, ridiculously, “news” as well as news that doesn’t receive enough criticism – this being the latter. Being offended by this is silly, when your 1) this type of coverage is explaining what really offends which is 2) the news he’s reporting. If you think he’s not taking the racism here seriously, think of news people who don’t report it, let alone chastise it.

Willie Williamson says:

You are really on point. Racism is never funny. In our country the sensitivity level on issues about race and culture have been clogged with (“grow a thicker skin”) excuses translates into, we are not ready to have a meaningful dialogue. The resulting conditions of this dishonesty is expressed, as you so aptly point out, in all phases of society. It seems to be very difficult,for those who are apologist for such backwardness, to find ways of respecting and understanding other people. Imagine someone insulting or physically assaulting you and then afterward tell you how you should feel about what was done to you. Power and privilege has been the cornerstones for this country since its beginning and there are many attempts to make it seem as though a sense of fairness is the order of the day, but nothing could be further from the truth. Our voices must be heard because we are all under attack. I’m so glad you joined forces with Suey Park to remind those who may become potential allies in the fight for justice that dignity demands respect.

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