Today is my birthday! And I'm not asking for much. The older I get, the more I just want simple things. You know, a quiet night with my sweetie, laughter shared with a few friends, and an end to all hate violence. Is that too much to ask? I like to think it's not too far out of reach. Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance, so my birthday wish is to take time to remember all of the precious lives of transgender folks lost too soon. Too many suffered through hate, and so many were people of color.
But none were disposable, and we'll never forget them. That's what Transgender Day of Remembrance is all about. You can visit the Transgender Day of Remembrance page to learn more about everyone whose memories we're honoring today
. With transgender murders on the rise
, there are many lost lives to remember. Gwendolyn Ann Smith has written a great piece on why we remember
. San Francisco is observing Transgender Day of Remembrance with a rally, a march and a service, which all starts at City Hall at 5 pm. Learn more details about events happening worldwide here. Let's keep honoring each other, and building a safer world together.
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
Today is National Coming Out Day! For some of my perspective on coming out, you can read "Thank You For the Ice That's Melting,"
my account of coming out to my mom, as well as a couple of posts from my old blog, on identifying as a queer writer
and on what it means to me to be "out" as a queer writer
. This year, I've been thinking about coming out in community. It's amazing to see how one person's individual choice to come out as queer can grow from personal to political. The act of saying just a few words to a loved one can mean adding one's voice to a whole chorus of people. And through risk, and possibly loss, one can find transformation and communities of folks who have all taken great risks to reject the idea that we should be ashamed of who we are or how we love. Tonight is a special Darling Nikki queer dance party, and I can't think of a better way to celebrate the courage and power of being visibly out and proud
. Proceeds from tonight's event benefit CUAV
, my own beloved organization that works to fight violence within and against queer and trans communities. A chance to shake my booty (to mostly old school hip-hop and rap, no less) and support safety for queer folks? I'm so in. Are you? Details are below - also, check out Darling Nikki on Facebook for more information about their monthly queer dance parties and the community organizations they benefit. Darling Nikki - October 11, 2012
and every 2nd Thursday of each month!
SLATE BAR (Formerly Som-Bar).
2925 16th Street in between South Van Ness and Mission Street
This month’s theme is “Around the Way Girl” - we’ll be playing more old-school rap and hip-hop than usual, and we want you dressed accordingly! Bust out your Fendi bag and bamboo earrings!
This month’s guest dj is DeeJay Andre from Faded, 13 Licks and Fix Yr Hair, and we'll have our fantastic resident dj's Dr. Sleep and Justin Credible. We've also just added DJ Campbell to the lineup and she will be tagging with Dr. Sleep during the last set of the night.
As usual, we’ll have drink specials for all budgets and a fabulous photo booth by Cody Williams with art by the fantastic Katie Bush- check out her work at destroyevil.com and katiebushart.com
We’re also a benefit! This month’s organization is CUAV (Community United Against Violence).
$5 to get in.
I've just spent a few days in Richmond, Virginia for the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs
(NCAVP) Roundtable. It was quite a trip, and I'm just beginning to get my bearings back.
I've been on staff with Community United Against Violence (CUAV) for a little over six months now, and this job has taken me on many adventures so far. In my work, I'm an advocate for LGBTQ survivors of violence, a support group leader, an organizer for under-resourced communities - in other words, as I like to put it, I'm pretending to be a grown-up. And the rest of the time, I'm a real-life mess of a human being, just trying to keep my shit together. In other words, I'm a poet.
I really appreciate that in my work I can show up as my whole self. The NCAVP Roundtable is a meeting of folks from anti-violence programs working to prevent, respond to and end all forms of violence against and within lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and HIV-affected (LGBTQH) communities around the country.
So we're all kinds of people - lawyers, therapists, educators and more. And on one hand, we showed up at the roundtable to get down to the business of our work. On the other hand, our work is made up of stuff that's hard, and messy, and not always easy to fit into business-model workplans and agendas. Many of us are involved in this work as survivors ourselves, or as folks whose friends and family have experienced violence, so there's a part of this work that's deeply troubling and emotional.
We also understand that this work is absolutely vital. The NCAVP compiles data about violence against LGBTQH people. Alone, each individual story matters - these are stories of real people suffering pain and loss, of hate and violence robbing our people of parts of their hope, their humanity, and in some cases, of their lives. Together, these stories show strength in numbers. Through the NCAVP reports, we can see trends, like the recent rise in reported anti-LGBT murders
, and the disproportionate rates at which transgender people and people of color
fall victim to these crimes. So we can understand that each individual incident is part of a bigger picture, one that shows a need to care for one another and create better conditions in which to survive.
You can visit the NCAVP website
for the data and other resources, on everything from supporting LGBT survivors to S&M vs abuse.
At the Roundtable, we talked business - numbers, data, workplans. But we also talked about the stories behind these numbers, and about how we feel about those stories, and about how we plan to make change for those who deserve better.
With hate crimes on my mind, I can't help but see a connection to the recent shooting at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin. Seven people were killed, and more were injured. Rep. Joseph Crowley has been calling for the FBI to count hate crimes against Sikhs
, and I have to believe that he might be right. As much as we can pretend that this was the act of a lone, crazed gunman, the truth is that there is a horrible history of hate crimes against Sikhs
in the U.S. And letting this shooting stand alone, treating it as an anomaly, really doesn't do anything to help prevent the next hate crime.
Sometimes, data is more than just numbers. Sometimes, the numbers help us gather our stories, and speak up to resist hate.
Last night's event was so much fun!
And here's footage from an event a few months back - The Color of My Spirit,
CUAV's spring showcase of queer and trans artists celebrating survival and resistance. Empowered youth, uplifting song, dance, poetry, comedy. Need I say more? I read my poems near the end, but the whole show is really worth watching. Featuring Joshua Merchant, Rosa Cortes, Tonilyn A. Sideco, Monica Enriquez-Enriquez, Nomy Lamm, myself and OurSpace, with host Yosimar Reyes. Enjoy!
How strange, this business of writing.
On one hand, it's very personal for me. It's just me and the page, journeying through thoughts and memories that exist nowhere else but within my own mind. You may have noticed that lately my blog has focused a lot on my emotions and my healing, and my creative writing has also been taking an inward turn. I've been looking at the possibility of social change through the lens of inner change, exploring how tending to my needs as a survivor connects with creating the change necessary to counteract the broader impact of oppression.
And on the other hand, writing can be all about connection. It's an odd combination of stories both personal and shared, as the words that once hid in my darkest places make their way into the daylight for anyone listening to hear.
Like so many others, I began my day today with the impact of violence weighing on my heart, as I woke to news reports of the mass shooting in Colorado
. I'm praying for the victims and the survivors. I'm thinking about what it means to witness and survive violence, as so many of us in oppressed communities do each day, as we watch others fall to the violence we face.
In moments like these, I feel the need for connection. If only to know that others are surviving, and to learn how they're doing so. So today I'm turning to Dangerous Sweetness
, "an online collection of poems by queer & trans* poets responding with love & rage to the violence committed against those in their queer & trans* communities." It's a powerful, meaningful, necessary collection of words by remarkable artists, including some I've been honored to connect with personally. Poet Meg Day, whose work I've shared on this blog before,
writes of her need to collect these poems for those who have lost lives and livelihoods to violence, including those whose stories we haven't seen in the news, saying, "We honor them with our grief, our fury, our love, our words, & our lives."
There's something about connecting in this way that offers a glimmer of hope on dark days. This post was supposed to be about Bitchez Brew Revue
, the event where I'm reading tomorrow. Obviously, today's news of violence took my thoughts in a different direction, but this feels like an appropriate time to reflect on what connection means to me. Tomorrow, as I share some of my most personal poems with a crowd mixed with friends and strangers, I'll be thinking about what it means to share those stories that once were secrets, and are now acts of resistance against the forces that bring suffering. Event details:
Bitchez Brew RevueJuly 21, 20127:00 pm Awaken Cafe
1429 Broadway, OaklandFeaturing MG Roberts, Sean Labrador y Manzano, Cassandra Dallett, John Panzer, Jason Scheinheit, and Maisha Z. Johnson, with music by Brooke D.
Here's today's song for survival - Asha Ali's "In This World."
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.
If you're curious about what we've been up to at CUAV, visit The CUAV Blog
. I've written a couple of posts there recently, about the work we've been doing and how it relates to my personal journey. Our members have been writing some really moving poems about their own journeys during our Wellness Wednesdays, and some of those will be up on the blog soon, too. I'll write a new blog post there once a month or so, so look out for a May update. You may have noticed that I'm crazy about my job. Some of that is disbelief that I actually have a job that I love in this tough economy, so when I talk about it, I'm saying "pinch me - I'm happily employed." But a lot of it has to do with what we do and how we do it. CUAV (Community United Against Violence) takes a transformative approach to addressing violence within and against queer and trans communities. That means listening to people, affirming their healing and growth, trusting their path toward liberation without relying on shame, isolation,
or criminalization that so often leaves us feeling more vulnerable. That also means that part of my job is embracing my wild ideas about the relationship between the creative arts and social change. I must admit, sometimes I have my moments when I wonder about these parts of myself colliding, the activist and the writer. There are times when I'm upset enough about the state of things to take the to the streets and yell until I'm voiceless, and instead I take to my notebook and write. And for just a moment, I wonder. Is it worth it? Am I really doing any good at all, sitting here writing a poem, of all things, when people's lives are at stake?Today's one of those days when my worlds come together and I can affirm that yes, it is worth it to write about the issues that matter to me. Tonight I'm reading poetry in a performance event
celebrating queer and trans survival and resistance. My co-workers aren't saying, "Are you crazy? Reading poetry when there's violence happening?" No - my fellow CUAV staff members are the ones throwing the event. Pinch me, I'm happily affirmed in the work that I do, both on the page and in the office. Tonight's event, The Color of My Spirit, starts at 7 pm at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts in San Francisco.
It will also be broadcast live on Comcast Channel 76 and streamed over Bay Area Video Coalition's
SF Commons livestream. Details are below. I can't wait!
Details from the Facebook event page
Back by popular demand! Community United Against Violence (CUAV) and the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts invite you to an evening of queer and trans artistic offerings in honor of survival and resistance. Join us for this follow-up to last year’s wildly successful revue of local LGBTQ talent. Artists will share a collective vision of liberation through video, song, poetry and dance.
Poet Yosimar Reyes returns to MC a spectacular line up including Nomy Lamm, Maisha Z. Johnson, Josh Merchant, Our Space, El/LA, and more!!
Buy tickets online or pay at the door! http://missionculturalcenter.org/MCCLA_New/events.html
This event will be televised LIVE! on Comcast Channel 76 and streamed LIVE at SF Commons.
ACCESS: Fully wheelchair accessible. Please refrain from bringing scents or fragrances on your body, clothes, or hair.
BREAKING NEWS: May 11th will also be the release of four beautiful new posters illustrating key tools that we have developed during the implementation of our transformative strategic plan. The set of posters, designed by Tim Simons, will be available for a suggested donation of $10-20.
It could be pretty easy for me to trust someone else’s version of my truth. These days, with election season in the air, all I’d have to do is defer to the media about the politicians and law-makers who claim to know what’s best for me.
Instead, I’m building up the courage to trust my own truth. I have so much respect for those artists who speak for themselves, regardless of how their story is told by others. Artists brave enough to trust their own truth.
Take, for example, the women of Mirman Baheer, an Afghan women’s poetry group featured in this New York Times piece
. These women take the ultimate risk, putting their lives in danger in order to write and share their poetry. Many of them write about love and hope, and about injustice and despair. Is it worth it, the risk of death? A girl calling herself Meena recites a landai: “My pains grow as my life dwindles, / I will die with a heart full of hope.”
She thinks so.
CUAV members and staff
united on May Day
Last Tuesday, May 1, was International Workers’ Day. Like many years before, folks came out around the world to demonstrate in support of immigrants’ and workers’ rights. CUAV staff and members joined the events in San Francisco, uniting to show solidarity as queer and trans immigrants and workers. The media coverage of Bay Area May Day has focused largely on the violence that took place, and there have been many conversations
since about issues of violence at such events, what it means and who’s to blame
Let me just share for a minute that my experience of May Day was very different from the story of the media. Mine was just a piece of the whole truth of the day, but it is my truth. And it looked like this: artists and organizers coming together to lift up our stories as we tell them. I saw street theater, visual art, chants and music telling the stories of the people. This kind of art sends the message that we trust our own truth, and we demand to be heard. If only for a day, we shut down the noise of what others say is best for us and spoke up about the fact that we know what’s best for ourselves.
I’m really looking forward to the event coming up this Friday. It’s time for The Color of My Spirit, an evening of performances by queer and trans folks honoring our survival and resistance. It’s a follow-up to last year’s Safetyfest event
Queer Rebellion, which was just an unbelievably amazing night. This year’s event includes dance, film, music, and spoken word, and I’ll be reading poetry as well. This version of our story isn’t often told, but on Friday it will be loud and clear – we have survived, we have resisted, and we’re proud of where we’ve been
. This is our truth, the truth we can trust.
You can visit the Facebook event page
or the MCCLA website
for more information about The Color of My Spirit, and to buy tickets online. You can also buy tickets at the door (nobody turned away for lack of funds).
And if you can’t be at the event in person, there’s great news for you – The Color of My Spirit will be televised LIVE on Comcast Channel 76 and streamed live at SF Commons, which is exciting. So I hope you’ll be there, in person or in spirit, to see The Color of My Spirit.
Artist Lauren Quock
writes of the first of many incidents that inspired her Modified Bathroom Signs series
, "I vividly remember the first time someone asked whether I was a boy or a girl. I was five years old." Public restrooms are just one of many social spaces where we're pared down to just one part of our identity. Man, or woman? What if there are days when you feel like neither? Like both? We try to understand each other through such limited categories, based on how we look, who we sleep with, the color of our skin. But we are so much more.How would your bathroom sign look, if it welcomed you for who you truly are? What's missing from the gender binary? Come to CUAV's Open House tonight to see Lauren's powerful artwork, and the unique bathroom signs that some of us created during yesterday's Wellness Wednesday. It's also a chance to learn more about
CUAV's work to transform cycles of violence in LGBTQ communities. It's taking place from 6:30-8:30 pm, at CUAV's office. Visit CUAV's website
or the Facebook event pag
e for more details.Here's a silly poem I wrote a while ago. I might've posted it here before. unidentified
i need to take time out to say this only because
sometime between the latest recorded bloodshed
and my mother’s latest investigation
into my dating life, it occurred to me that all
those dire happenings in the world, the war, the
disease, the suffering, is all because you don’t
know enough about my sexuality. and how selfish
of me. it’s only just been brought to my attention
due to the urgency of your inquiries, and
i can assure you that had i known world
peace could be achieved simply by revealing
the details of my pussy’s history, i would
have done this much earlier. here’s hoping
it’s not too late. as to the most common
question, of whether i am gay or straight,
the answer is neither. if there are no options
in between then i am nothing more than a
figment of your imagination. fluid, they call it,
like water, so that you can pretend that like
water in a glass, i’ll remain clear and unseen,
and while we’re on the subject of putting irregular
humans into regular shapes, let me set out
describing my type. after all, in this game we
should not call dating, but repeating our
mistakes, we’re not really playing unless
we’re making all the same moves, landing
in just the same place. our asses. and speaking
of asses, aren’t i supposed to say the parts
i like, the tits or the ass, isn’t that how this type
thing works? when i’m asked what part
of my lover i think is sexiest, i say, her bottom
lip, when bitten. that is, unless i say, his
fingernails, with dirt beneath them. i like bodies
that tell stories, skin with traces of where it’s
been so when we make love, i close my eyes
and it’s not you i’m thinking of, but the parts
that create you, it’s your hair, heavy with smoke
that wasn’t your own but came from strangers
smoking around you, strangers whose breath
has found me. and that’s when i feel sexy, when
i feel like i’ve been found. but there i go again,
talking about me, forgetting what this means to
you. if all you want to know is how i
feel about body parts, the truth is this: if i paid
half as much attention to my lovers’ gender as
anyone else did, i would know more about their
genitals than their mind. and i have a hard time
believing that i’m the cause of some kind of unrest
because i don’t pick a side in terms you can wrap
your black and white boxes around. and i have a
hard time speaking of love in our language. but
let’s give it a shot. now you know a little more about
me, and maybe now the world can have its peace.
or maybe we’ll just go on.