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
You might've already seen the video for Lupe Fiasco's single "Bitch Bad," since it's been out for about a week now (if you haven't yet, take a look below). That's enough time for the video to get over half a million views and counting on Youtube, and for plenty of viewers to chime in on a complex conversation about the kind of message Lupe's sending. It seems that the question comes down to this: should the artist be hailed as some kind of hero for speaking up against hip-hop culture's tradition of disrespecting women? Or is he out of line in his approach, actually demeaning women
as he claims to honor them? Full disclosure: I enter this conversation as a longtime fan of Lupe Fiasco's
work, particularly because of the way he challenges the status quo, breaking away from the misogynistic attitudes found in so many mainstream hip-hop songs.
But I'm also not one to give somebody a pass simply because they have good intentions. Addressing misogyny is a complicated matter, and it's possible for Lupe to make mistakes. It can be hard to discuss the issue in hip-hop without falling to one extreme or the other – how can we criticize the objectification of women's bodies without contributing to ideas based in shame around black women's sexuality? Is it possible to have this conversation while thinking outside of the virgin/whore dichotomy?Some argue that with "Bitch Bad," a song that sets up a hierarchy of women (
“bitch bad/woman good/lady better"), Lupe speaks against misogyny from the wrong angle, by slut-shaming, and by honoring only a certain type of woman – the chaste, mother-figure type. I'm following my usual habit of seeing this conversation as more complex than just one conclusion or the other. Sure, Lupe's video misses a few parts of the complicated issue. But he also does a few things right
, starting with the fact that he's willing to create this concept and contribute to a conversation about the issue in the first place. I agree with Akiba Solomon
and Rahiel Tesfamariam
on this one (and I link to their articles because I believe they've said it all already, and better than I can say it myself). It's not enough to have good intentions alone, but it's a good start, better than starting from a place of maintaining the problematic status quo. Here's the video, so you can take a look and decide for yourself where the message lands. What do you think?
I wanna take a moment to give the East Bay some love. Because, too often, talk about the Bay Area's lively literary scene fails to reach beyond the limits of San Francisco. Because some of the liveliest, realest, most engaging literary artists I know hail from across the bridge. And because some of those artists have put together a really exciting night, the first of its kind in Oakland. Tomorrow night, July 7th, is the first annual Beast Crawl (get it? "East Bay" is "Beast" in Pig Latin). Beast Crawl
is Uptown Oakland’s first literary “pub” crawl, a free
festival featuring more than 125 poets, writers and performance artists in a single night, spread out over three hours and 25 local galleries, bars, restaurants, cafés, and storefronts.
One glance at the schedule
and you'll see that Beast Crawl is full of fabulous events. Leg 1 begins at 5 pm, and your choices include Cave Canem fellows at Lyrics & Dirges
, jamming with the Three Times Bad Band
in the Giant Burger parking lot, and more
. Leg 2 is at 6:30, with chances to witness the cultural exchange and inter-generational dialogue of Generations Literary Journal
, a special collaboration between Saturday Night Special and Grinder
, and more
. And the final readings of the night will start at 8 pm for Leg 3
. I'll be reading at Leg 3's Hella Soulful
, which is shaping up to be a dynamic, spirited, provocative event. I just can't wait. And the night still won't be over - the finale will be the after-party at Paradiso
, kicking off at 9 pm.
Visit the Beast Crawl website
for more information, including venue map, full event schedule, and author bios.
I already know Hella Soulful
's gonna be a great event, because I've done events with two of the other readers before. Safiya Martinez is co-host of one of my favorite local readings, the Living Room Reading Series, where I read last year
. Around the same time last year, I was a feature
at Saturday Night Special. My co-feature was Nathan Jones
, another Hella Soulful reader, and trust me, you don't want to miss a chance to hear him read. The rest of the Soulful line-up includes poet Jessica Dailey, artist Mica Valdez, and musician i.Ameni, with host Roger Porter.
Check out this video of a soul-shaking performance by i.Ameni for just a taste of what the night will bring.
QWOC Media Wire has a great article on The Lost Bois, a queer music duo that uses hip-hop beats, jazz styles and insightful lyrics to make some powerful music. In their own words, "We write, we sing, we speak for people like us: queers, dykes, black folks, brown folks, to dance, to fuck, to smile, laugh at and along with." Read more: The Lost Bois: Transforming Queer Hip Hop through Black Feminism
The Lost Bois have a dynamic style, so their songs range from fun to thoughtful to sensual, or all of the above. They work hard, so it can take a while to get the full range. I'll just leave these here to get you started. Enjoy.
Today's the last of CUAV's Fall Wellness Wednesdays
, until we resume on January 11, 2012. From 4-8 pm, LGBTQ survivors of violence can join us for healing, art, food and fun. Visit CUAV's website
for location and details. One of the great things about
Wellness Wednesdays is that everyone is free to come as you are. That means any and all types of backgrounds, sexualities, genders, in any mood, at any point in your healing journey. Come with a smile on your face, or tears on your cheeks. Come searching for community or just seeking some dinner. Some of us have no choice but to come as we are, to any place. No matter how hard we try to hide, our truth emerges, whether it's in the quiver at the edges of a forced smile or in the colors of a piece of art. I'm not always bold enough to make my truth immediately visible, but I draw strength from those who do. This makes me think of a film I've seen - "Pick Up the Mic" is a documentary that shows that the term "queer hip-hop artist" is no oxy moron.
And although mainstream hip-hop may be full of hetero-normative expectations and even homophobic attitudes, the artists featured in this film are bold enough to come to the stage as they are. It's an inspirational reminder that opening our lens to the whole range of diversity in any field creates a beautiful picture. Here's the trailer for "Pick Up the Mic." You can watch the whole film for free on Hulu here.
What do you think of this video
by Dead Prez
, celebrating the beauty of natural women? Any chance creating music like this can help shift ideas about what makes us beautiful?