Today's a big day for me! The autumnal equinox is here
, ushering in fall, my favorite season of the year. I can tell just by looking out my window, where I see, instead of late summer sunshine madness, the familiar calm, gray sky of the Bay Area's characteristic overcast weather. I feel ready to welcome any changes this autumn brings.
Especially because the first change is this: I am now the proud author of my first chapbook, Split Ears.
And today is my big launch!Split Ears
is the result of a collaborative project that's been brewing for the past couple of months. As writer-in-residence at West Oakland's Aggregate Space art gallery
, I've been writing on conversation with artist Christopher Burch
's exhibition, The Missed-Adventures of Br'er Rabbit and Br'er Death in the Land of Shadows.
What does it mean to be a writer-in-residence? Well, to put it simply, it means that I've been on an adventure of my own. I've had the chance to use words to play with the incredible multi-media experience of taking in Christopher's work, an installation and and graphic narrative that includes floor-to-ceiling illustrations, found art objects, and a documentary film. The exhibit examines the folktale character of Br'er Rabbit
, and focuses on Christopher's own reimagined character of Br'er Death, whose presence reveals a darker side of Br'er Rabbit's antics, the subversive resistance within his comedic gestures.
The work is stunning, but don't take my word for it – you'd really have to see it yourself to believe the whole truth of it. And today is your last day to do so, as the gallery closes the exhibit with the Featherboard Reading Series, also known as the moment of take-off for my chapbook. I cannot even begin to capture Christopher Burch's work on the page, but I stepped up to the challenge by incorporating what I already knew of trickster figures and the legends of resistance. The poems in Split Ears are like none I've written before, influenced by blues music, oral storytelling, and mythology of Native American, African American, and Trinidadian cultures. The title of this post comes from one of my Split Ears poem titles, and similarly, I feel a certain overlap between my chapbook and other areas of my life – the need to speak my truth, to remember my communities' shared histories, and to be unafraid of embracing my own subversive side, to walk in my own land of shadows.
You can read more about the Featherboard Reading Series writer-in-residence project in the San Francisco Chronicle
(yes, that's me in the Chronicle!), more about Christopher Burch's exhibition on Oakland Art Enthusiast
, and more about Aggregate Space on SFAQ Online
And don't miss my chapbook launch tonight at Featherboard Reading Series! Today, September 21, 2013 at 5:00 pm. Aggregate Space, 801 W. Grand Ave (entrace on West), in Oakland, CA. Also featuring readings by Cedar Sigo and Mary Burger.
Catch up on my events page
for other opportunities to hear my read from my new chapbook, and if you can't make it to a reading but you'd like a copy of Split Ears, get in touch!
Thank y0u, thank you, thank you, for all of the inspiration and support.
Want to change the world? Join a non-profit agency! At an organization full of compassionate visionaries dedicated to making the world a better place, nothing could possibly go wrong – right?
Okay, so nobody’s perfect, and no non-profit is the perfect agent for change. As you may know, some aspects of non-profits can be stressful, challenging, and even counter-productive to the ultimate goals of social change work. And that can be hard for me to hold, knowing that even people with the best intentions can contribute to creating obstacles in the way of true liberation.
Luckily, we now have some courageous folks to help us name what goes on in the wacky world of non-profits, through a new activist-artist group called Peacock Rebellion. And they’re doing it all with fun and sass, as well as a deep sense of hope in the power of true activism.
Peacock Rebellion is centered around queer and trans people of color, and the artists craft their work through lenses of intersectionality, interconnection, interdependence and transnationalism. These artists aren’t afraid to speak the truth about the dangers of a non-profit industrial complex that upholds problematic patterns and stifles activists' dreams.
The truth is, we don’t have to accept the problems of the non-profit world, even with the best intentions. As Peacock Rebellion founder Manish Vaidya says, “we can dream bigger.”
Our big dreams take center stage at Agen(c)y: Nonprofit Dreams + Disaster
, Peacock Rebellion’s first cabaret. Twelve queer and trans people of color use comedy, film, burlesque and more to critique the current state of social change, and to share their freedom dreams. The tremendously talented performers include Lambda Literary Award winner Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Deep Dickollective founder Juba Kalamka, and Mia McKenzie, of the revolutionary blog Black Girl Dangerous. In addition to the all-star performers and curators (Maya Chapina and Manish Vaidya), there’s an all-star line up of sponsors: INCITE, Mangos with Chili, POOR Magazine/Prensa POBRE, Queer Rebels, and QWOCMAP. In other words, a whole lot of fierceness has gone into this show.
Agen(c)y: Nonprofit Dreams + Disaster premiered last night to a packed house at La Peña Cultural Center, and tonight’s show is nearly sold out, so it may be too late to see it on this run. But don’t worry! We’ll be seeing much more of Peacock Rebellion’s amazing work. To find out more, you can visit their website
or their Facebook page
, and to offer your support, visit the Indiegogo page
After I wrote about the "agenda" problem
yesterday, I realized there are certain subjects I've avoided lately, partly because I would have an impossible time approaching them without my "agenda" coming through boldly and unapologetically. Now I wonder why I thought that was a bad thing. I've avoided the hot topic of Daniel Tosh's rape joke, for instance, partly because I know my own experiences would influence my response. But how's that for silencing myself? I guess I fall under Sarah Silverman's joke about the laziness of rape comedy -
"'Cause who’s going to complain about a rape joke? Rape victims? They don’t even report rape."But I've been watching closely as others respond, and what I really like about this whole conversation is that it's so complex. The best responses acknowledge that there are no absolutes -
it's not that rape jokes always work, or never work. But Tosh has sparked an important conversation about how to make a rape joke work without being, well, a "lazy asshole." In the spirit of not showing an agenda, the Women's Media Center has put together this video of rape comedy. You can watch and decide for yourself why some of these jokes seem to expose injustice in a hilarious way, while others, well...I'll just let you characterize them for yourself.
It's been a while since I've been excited about a new movie, but here's one I can hardly wait to see, and it's not even completed yet!Creators of the film "Dear White People" released a trailer as part of their Indiegogo campaign to raise enough money to complete their project. Since then, they've received media attention, exceeded their original fundraising goal, and sparked a lively conversation about the concept of
race identity in a so-called "post-racial" society. Clearly, I'm not the only one eagerly awaiting the release of this film. The film
is "a satire about being a black face in a white place." I want to see it because it looks so funny, and I'm also curious about how it addresses the issues it brings up. I've been thinking a lot about humor, identity, and speaking up against oppression, especially after participating in last week's National Queer Arts Festival Edition of That's What She Said! The show was hilarious, and it also went beyond simple entertainment to speak to issues of gender, sexuality, and what it means to have to struggle to claim your identity. In an article on the Huffington Post, Justin Simien, writer, director, and producer of "Dear White People," discusses his motivations for making the film. He says, "
The truth is, my film really isn't about 'white racism' or racism at all. As I see it racism is systemic and is inherently reflected in any honest story about life as a minority in this country. What my film is about however is identity. It's about the difference between how the mass culture responds to a person because of their race and who they understand themselves to truly be."Watch the trailer and see what you think. You can visit the Dear White People tumblr page, and follow Dear White People on Twitter, to keep up with the film's progress.
I'm back from my MFA residency, and I can't think of a better welcome back to the Bay than tonight's event. I'm reading some poems as part of the special National Queer Arts Festival edition of That's What She Said! It's a variety show featuring a bunch of crazy-talented women, so I'll just be trying to live up to my place on this brilliant line-up. The poems I'm reading are supposed to be funny, and though it's quite possible that the audience will laugh at me and not with me, I know I'm going to have a blast. The show is hosted by the fabulous host of all hosts, Wonder Dave, and by Caitlin Gill, whose comedy is really blowing up on the scene
lately. The lineup promises, laughs, music, and more - visit the show's website
for details. My residency was a lot of work, but it was also so much fun, reminding me that one of my reasons for writing and performing is just to enjoy myself. So, That's What She Said! Queer Arts Edition is the perfect way to settle back into doing what I love here at home, and it's also the perfect setting for showing up as my real, strange self. You may remember that I was part of a previous edition of That's What She Said!, as half of the comedy duo The Hermana Sisters. You can watch videos from that show here on Vimeo.
It was so much fun! So I can't wait to be part of the fun again tonight, at 8 pm, at The Garage's new location, 715 Bryant St in San Francisco. Hope to see you there!
Click to see a bigger version of this poster! I know, we're pretty cute.
Black folk don't blog. No, we keep our business to ourselves. If we share it with anyone, it's family. Black folk don't write. Just look at the widely accepted U.S. literary canon
and you know a young black woman like me has no business trying to be a writer. Also, black folk don't talk about things like violence
, survival or healing
. We survive, wordlessly, and go on with our lives. Okay, so clearly it's not that simple. I do all of the above. But it's amazing what it can to do to a person, the amount of hesitation or fear or self-doubt that can sneak in when I feel compelled to do something after hearing that "black folk don't."The idea behind the documentary web series "Black Folk Don't" is to
have conversations about those activities that often complete the statement "black folk don't..." Series creator Angela Tucker talks to folks who show that there are exceptions to every rule, and also some history, some pain, some shame and some humor behind each one. It makes for a very insightful show. In an interview just published on The Root
, Tucker chats about season one of "Black Folk Don't," as well as the upcoming second season.Let's see, what else don't black people do? Black folk don't identify as queer. If we do lean that way, we certainly keep it to ourselves. Oh, and black folk don't get tattoos. Black folk don't listen to white folks' music.
And black folk don't love animals. We certainly don't occasionally refer to our cats as "soulmates." And if we did, we certainly wouldn't admit to it on a public blog.Let's talk about
what we do and don't, and why. It seems like a good step toward understanding one another, beyond the limits that sometimes hold us back.
If you've been reading this blog recently, you already know what's up - it's Wellness Wednesday at CUAV, and this week I'll be helping facilitate as LGBTQ survivors of violence gather for food, games, and art. Visit www.cuav.org for more info. Wellness Wednesdays are new to CUAV this fall, and so far, one of the best things about them is that they're so much fun. You might say that we have so much fun playing games, sharing food and creating art that we forget it's all for the sake of healing. But it's not so hard for me to believe. One big lesson I've learned from working with everyone from the community movers of POWER (People Organized to Win Employment Rights) to the young folks of The Beat Within is that creating social change can, indeed, be a whole lot of fun.
At CUAV, we're building community power and helping each other heal, all with smiles on our faces. It's a beautiful thing.
I love knowing that you can change the world and have fun doing it.
Having fun reading at
The Living Room Reading Series
Laughter is a big part of my life these days, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
I've been feeling free to write with more humor, and that work has been showing up at readings such as Saturday Night Special and the Living Room Reading Series. In fact, I think doing readings is part of what's been pushing me toward humor. It's great to feel the audience respond, and if that response comes after the reading in the form of applause or compliments, that's great. But it's even better in the moment to feel the room on a journey through the work, and hearing laughter is one of my favorite ways to feel that. And I've been engaging more directly with humor through the Hermana Sisters, the comedy duo I've created with my good friend Elaine Gavin.
While preparing for our debut performance at That's What She Said!, Elaine and I tackled some hard questions - How can we challenge what's offensive through humor without being offensive ourselves? Where do we draw the line between censorship and awareness? And what's more funny - Viagra or laxatives?We ended up taking on some of the subjects most important to us, all while laughing, and without crossing those lines we believe shouldn't be crossed. The most important thing, we reminded ourselves nervously as our debut drew closer, was that we were having fun. Still, there was a sense of something larger than that, an awareness that we would be both laughing with our audience and sharing perspective. Our tentative version of what the show's feature, Morgan, delivered in this hilarious, poignant stand up set from her point of view. See how we did as the Hermana Sisters here
. It's easy to think that doing hard, heart-breaking work, like trying to help improve the lives of the world's most vulnerable people
, would be a downer most of the time. Sometimes it is pretty sad. But the thing about creating change is that we're creating positivity, spreading the good news of better days just like we spread our smiles. Looking forward with laughter.More fun this week - Tomorrow, November 17, I'll be attending InsideStoryTime Twists and Turns, featuring an amazing lineup of Ishmael Reed, Frances Lefkowitz, Sona Avakian, Kenton K. Yee and Matthew James DeCoster. And on Sunday, November 20, I'll be celebrating my birthday with an afternoon reading at The Clattering Loom!
I owe this blog a recap! I've been keeping busy with a variety of events
, including some exciting new projects, so here's a quick recap of all that's been going on. Deeper reflections to follow.
Regie Cabico reads at
Lit Crawl for Matrices
- Matrices Press. Matrices Press debuted during Lit Crawl 2011, the final night of the literary festival Litquake, with a reading by the writers of Matrices: Origins. Writers included myself, Regie Cabico, Laura Wolfe, Willy Lizárraga, Antonio G. Fernandez, and the anthology's editor, Rajshree Chauhan. I mentioned that I needed to have fun that night, and it was indeed a fantastically fun evening. And even more than that, it was an event that made waves.
As co-host and collaborator of the next Matrices anthology, I felt unbelievably honored to be there as the event unfolded. The other readers' work was just breath-taking, and the sense of how vital this work is resonated throughout the audience. And the waves are continuing to flow. So far, we've received submissions
from Canada, France, Africa, and throughout the United States for inclusion in our next anthology. It's going to be amazing. Catch some video from the event here
, and visit the Matrices website at www.matricespress.net
to learn more about the project and how you can submit!
The cast of That's What She Said,
hosted by Wonder Dave
and Caitlin Gill
- The Hermana Sisters. The Hermana Sisters also made their debut in October, at the all-female variety show That's What She Said! Actress Elaine Gavin and I joined forces to take on cultural appropriation, women's roles in the art industry and more, all with a sense of humor.
The entire show was just magnificent, and it was so much fun to be a part of it. You can watch all of the second night performances here
. Folks have asked if the Hermana Sisters will perform more in the future, and the answer is yes! Check back soon for more information.
Wellness Wednesday participants helped
create this altar for a
Dia de los Muertos event with PODER
- Wellness Wednesdays. I've been part of the circle of CUAV members putting together Fall Wellness Wednesdays at the offices of CUAV (Community United Against Violence). And it's been absolutely wonderful to see what grows each week as LGBTQ survivors of violence come together for community fun, healing and food. Learn more about Wellness Wednesdays at CUAV's website.
I dressed as Gwendolyn Brooks
for Saturday Night Special
- Growing as a reader. I've been having so much fun at readings. At Hollie Hardy and Tomas Moniz's Saturday Night Special, I featured with the incredible Nathan A. Jones and readers in costume brought their best to the open mic. And at the Living Room Reading Series, I read among such great writers as Dan Langton. It was an unforgettable experience.
I feel that I've been growing in general in my writing, but especially in the realm of being able to read my work. It's a really good feeling, to be able to use such tools as humor, honesty and imagination to create work that can both draw a response from a room and feel true to my voice. I'm really looking forward to my next reading, at the Clattering Loom on November 20th. Find the details on my events page.
I believe I've just now recovered from the weekend's thrills
(and I'll recap that fabulousness soon), and now it's time for more fun! That's What She Said!
is happening tonight and tomorrow night. Check out the website here
, or read on for details - That's What She Said! is a variety show that features awesome women. This show will include comedy, music and more, with performers including Blythe Baldwin, comedian Just Morgan, and the Hermana Sisters! Who are the Hermana Sisters? Well, I'm glad you let me pretend you asked. The Hermana Sisters are a comedy duo made up of my good friend, comedian Elaine Gavin, and myself.
We've been working together to not only make ourselves and others laugh, but also to explore the appreciation of female comedians (as well as other comedians commonly overlooked), and to illuminate the ways that wild and raunchy comedy can avoid being triggering and offensive.
Can we do it? Come out tonight or tomorrow night, at 8 pm at The Garage in San Francisco, to find out!And here's a reminder for CUAV's Fall Wellness Wednesdays - Queer and trans survivors of violence can stop the CUAV office today from 4 - 8 pm
for support, dinner, and a group art activity. Visit www.cuav.org
for more information about Wellness Wednesdays.