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
Each day, I search for something new. A new image, or a new idea, or a new way of seeing the world. It's important to me to be open to change.
That much may be obvious. If you're reading my blog you might know I'm looking to explore the relationship between writing and social change. But this time, I'm not really talking about creating change outside of myself. I'm thinking about the changes unfolding within me.
I keep writing and reflecting on new practices
, because I'm generally being good to myself
these days, which is fairly new to me. So while I do have some beliefs and ways that I staunchly believe in, I generally like to approach the world open to the possibility of new light in my life. As far as being good to myself goes, I'm still learning a little more each day about what that means.
Newness is the stuff of growth and change. It's the spirit of creativity, and innovation. So being open to newness means just about everything to me as an artist.
Another reason I like to be open to change? There was once a time when I was stuck. Stuck in an abusive relationship. Domestic violence survivor advocates often describe domestic violence
as a pattern of power and control
, and I was trapped in that pattern.
That pattern means there was no one moment when it all went wrong. There was no one point when I should've walked away, in spite of all the time I've spent wondering. I was stuck in a pattern, and it was going to take a change
to break the cycle.
So, as a survivor, I like to keep my arms open to the ever-present possibility of new healing. That doesn't mean I won't settle into new patterns, get comfortable until they become old ones. But now I want to try nurturing the patterns that have good roots. If I'm open to new beginnings, from places that are good for me, I'll wander into my own healing path.
And this change might begin inside me, but, as I know from being in community with survivors, those who share their stories also spark new cycles of healing in the air around them.
Speaking of trying new things, here's the trailer for Season 2 of that web series I like
, "Black Folk Don't." The show is in a new location, and it looks like they're taking on some interesting and important topics for the new season. The first couple of episodes are out, and you can watch them on the "Black Folk Don't" website
The beach in Seaside, Oregon,
where our Pacific University
winter residency was held
Do you ever deal with those, the uncontrollable factors? How have you dealt with them? I ask because I assume you have the answers. And maybe those answers aren't right for me, but surely you've figured out what works for your life. We're constantly teetering around trying to find some sense of balance, and the balance I'm trying to find right now is between absorbing the wisdom from the brilliant minds around me and trusting that I know what's best for myself. For instance, recently I went to my winter residency
for Pacific University's MFA program. I shared about my experiences there last June
, and I'll soon share some of my insights from this trip, too. Surrounded by faculty as accomplished as Marvin Bell, Kwame Dawes and Tayari Jones, I feel quite humbled. At times during the residency, my voice vanished,
and I felt that all I could do was learn all I could by listening. But wait - what becomes of a writer without her voice?
At some point, I had to realize that their wisdom was available to guide me, of course, but not to create my words. I have to do that part on my own. And creating my own art means trusting in my ability to do so.
At CUAV's Wellness Wednesdays
, we've been talking about intuition, that feeling you get in your gut when you just know
something. It's the feeling that makes you the expert in your own life. Some would say that creativity is inherently intuitive
. And you could say a lot
about the relationship between writing and intuition. If I write this way, I may come up with some work that feels pretty raw
. But I took in some important lessons about revision at the winter residency, and it reminded me that I can always go back and take another look, make another draft. Always trusting that my voice can create the right words for my own blank page.
I've been taking a long break from the blog, as I attempt to get some life business in order. There are some things I've been able to control and put into place exactly as I'd like them. And for some other things, I've managed to do nothing more than realize I've got to give up control and let them happen as they will.
Around this time last year, I began posting about Good for the World holiday shopping
. The truth is, I absolutely hate shopping around holiday time. There are plenty of reasons for this, plenty having to do with crowds and greed and anti-gratitude and the larger picture of how consumerism hurts the world, but really for me it all comes down to this - Christmas is no longer as magical as it was when I was a child, and I bitterly blame every holiday Wal-Mart commercial for this fact. Never mind that whole growing up thing. How can one believe in magic with the message that we can only be happy if we add the season's must-have material item
to our collection of...stuff?But I believe
it's not too late to get the magic back. Or, at least we can create a new version of the magic. We don't have to buy into the idea that we must gain material things to celebrate one another. We can hang on to the more real, less tangible things that make life worth celebrating.
So, my first suggestion for Good for the World holiday shopping is to participate in Buy Nothing Day
. You can participate today, or tomorrow, or hell, you can make it a whole Buy Nothing holiday season if you want. Instead of shopping this weekend, why not make an extra effort to spend time with loved ones, or to relax alone? And if you feel like you're falling behind in the season of gift-giving, why not spend the day creating something new? Personally, I'd prefer a thoughtful, handmade gift to one purchased at Wal-Mart. Know anyone in your life who may feel the same?Buying nothing doesn't mean we have to do nothing. It means we can take a moment to remember that the true value of things isn't determined by how much they contribute to our credit card debt. Our most precious gifts are our hearts, bodies and minds. At least, those are the holidays as I remember them.
Has it really already been a month since Safetyfest? My, how time flies. And I've had time to reflect not only on the fantastic weekend that was Safetyfest, but also on the transformative power it's shown since. So, though I usually look elsewhere for my Friday Friends posts, this week I need to look no further than
you and me to find inspirational stories of what we can do, using only our bodies, our hearts and our minds. Safetyfest is CUAV's annual festival celebrating queer and trans power to respond to and heal from violence. Here are some of the ways I witnessed the
transformative power of art during Safetyfest:
- Performance pieces by everyone from the luscious ladies of GlitterAction, the Radical Queerlesque Cabaret, to the youth of Ourspace, Hayward's LGBTQ youth community center. These fierce performers showed how they love themselves and create change by inspiring others to love themselves, too.
Celeste Chan's beautiful
return to ballet
- On a related note, the energizing power of dance was present throughout the festival. I was truly moved watching Sheena Johnson move across the stage, and of course it's always lovely to watch Celeste Chan perform. And everyone got a chance to show off their moves at the Ferocity closing party, coming together to dance to the jams of DJ Bootyklap, Micah Tron, Tru Bloo and more.
- I have no words for the power of film demonstrated by Kyisha Williams' Red Lips [Cages for Black Girls]. Approaching the issue of violence against women from the perspective of an unabashedly honest queer femme black woman. Just. Incredible.
- We saw plenty of visual art as well, including a mural that allowed everyone to come together to share their own vision of what queer and trans safety looks like.
- I'm so grateful for the photography that captured it all. Check out the photos here, by photography genius Kelly Puleio (the photos on this post were taken by yours truly, not quite so genius).
- And finally, of course, there was the power of written words. Participants blew me away with their strength and generosity in the writing workshops I co-facilitated with Jen Cross and Sam Sax. Other folks, including Yosimar Reyes and Joshua Merchant, laid it down onstage with their amazing poems.
And I had the unbelievable experience of closing out the incredible Queer Rebellion show, which meant I was not just on stage with my own words, but riding the tide of the performers who came before me, including Fayza Bundalli and Redwolf Painter
, Urban Prodigy
and the El/La Program Para Trans Latinas
It. Was. Powerful. And all of this power came from within our own bodies. Isn't that amazing?
What kind of power lies within you?
Art saves lives. I admit that I feel like something of an idealistic dreamer when I talk this way, but I have no doubt that it’s true. As a friend
wrote to me recently, “You are a writer. We write and share stories to save not only our own lives, but the lives of others.” I believe the same is true for many forms of art. That’s part of the problem with the idea that art should be reserved for the privileged elite who can afford it. Should we regard only the “high art” of the upper class as legitimate artistic expression? Or should we expand our idea of how we define meaningful art to include the art that impacts the lives of people from all walks of life? If we narrow our vision, we might miss some of the artwork that holds incomparable value in our hearts, even if the monetary value is modest in comparison. For example, who would imagine that the power of airbrushing could enrich and save lives? Oakland artist Ronald Allen, Jr. demonstrates this power every day. This article by my friend and fellow writer Roger Porter tells the story of Allen, the man known as Mr. Airbrush Hands. Becoming an airbrush artist saved Allen’s own life, giving him a positive alternative to the dangers of the streets of Oakland. And after 20 years of airbrushing, he knows he’s added something to the lives of others as well. His work does everything from helping grieving folks memorialize their lost ones through R.I.P. pieces to showing youth the positive power of art through his inspirational story of overcoming the obstacles before him to follow his dreams. Now I know I can’t be the only one who feels this way about the power of art. How have you seen art change the lives of the people you see every day? I’d love to hear about it.
Today’s Friday Friends follow this week’s continuing theme
of the transformative power of art
. Roaddawgz drop-in center
is even more than a place for San Francisco’s homeless youth to come for shelter and rest. At Roaddawgz, young people can find alternatives to the risks of living on the streets, such as incarceration
, drug addiction and death.
The best part is that they find that these alternatives are possible through their own power. Roaddawgz help youth develop job and life skills through literary and artistic activities, including recording music, creating art and writing. The youth are compensated for their work, which is published online and in zines. The program also provides mental health support, education enhancement,
and employment and technological training.
And the truth is that the Roaddawgz participants aren’t the only ones who benefit. For those of us who aren’t homeless youth, the project offers a glimpse of the triumphs and struggles of the people who are, so that we may transform our world in ways that support those who are most in need.
Visit the Roaddawgz website
for more information.
Today I'm feeling antsy, because tomorrow I'll be reading, and writing. That, of course, doesn't sound any different from any ordinary day, so I should specify that I'll be doing it in front of a live audience. Scandalous, I know.Each month, the Portuguese Artists Colony
hosts a reading featuring live music, local writers, and the part that's fun for you as an audience member, and terrifying for me as a participant -- live writing. That's right, that means I'll be writing on a topic I don't yet know, to then read in competition with my fellow writers as the audience determines a winner. Fun, yes? Terrifying? ...Yes. But mostly, I'm really excited, because I know it'll be a good time. My competition will be fierce -- Jesus Angel Garcia, David Corbett and Evelyn Pine.
I'm calling myself the underdog, because while they can say "refer to my book(s) and multiple awards for proof of my writing skills," I'll be using the line "refer to my blog, where I regularly demonstrate my live writing skills by posting the first words
that pour out of my head in the morning." There will also be featured readings from writers who are not to be missed, including Shideh Etaat
and Matthew Siegel
. Plus, music by Erma Kyriakos
. It will be quite a night! At least if I'm terrified for part of the evening, I'll be entertained for the rest. And I'd love your support, if you're around the Bay Area and can make it out to the reading.
Here are the details
Sunday, April 24
Doors open at 4:30 pm
Show at 5:00 pm
As for tonight, I'll be getting cozy with some creative inspiration at one of my favorite reading series, the Living Room Reading Series
. Read this post
to learn why I love it so much, and if you're interested in attending check out the details on Facebook
. I hope to see you at some point during this lively weekend of literary life!
I haven't had time to put together a proper post reflecting on all of the awesome that was Safetyfest 2011
, so until I do, here's a little preview.
What's left of us
What's left of us now -
the sound of our stomping
the sight of our signs
the glitter from our cheeks
the polish from our nails
the laughter of our children
the crumbs from our meals
our ink on the sheets
our wheels on the streets
How will you practice peace
is under way, which means there are plenty of opportunities in the Bay Area!
Here are some of my Safetyfest plans for today:
- From 10 am-6 pm there will be events happening at the Ed Roberts Campus near Ashby BART, 3075 Adeline St. I'll be popping in and out of the wonderful Healing Space and Art Space that will be available throughout the day.
- At 10:30 am, a Transformative Justice workshop will provide a framework for transforming the conditions that perpetuate violence.
- At 1:30 pm, I'll be co-facilitating Notes from Our Underground with Jen Cross. We'll explore how writing freely can change our lives.
- At 3:45 pm, Queers Challenging Policing will feature a transnational panel of fierce queer people of color organizers who will share how LGBTQQ folks are organizing against criminalization and police violence.
There are many other events you won't want to miss! Find the full calendar here
. How are you
spending Safetyfest?Also, please note that tonight's nighttime Safetyfest event has been canceled. Instead, Say No to Violence!/Di No a la Violencia!
will be a demonstration following the April 1 attack
against a transgender woman in the Mission District of San Francisco. It will take place at the 16th and Mission St BART station. I'll be reading poetry, among other demonstrations of community power. I hope you'll join me!