The reports started to trickle in. They were conflicting, a little, but they still painted a picture: Prince lived with chronic pain for years from all that dancing in high heels and jumping off stages- his knees hurt so bad all the time. He had had a hip replacement. He had needed a hip replacement but his religion didn't allow him to do it. Prince had flu that turned into walking pneumonia, for three weeks of tour, and he cancelled some shows but didn't cancel others, and he was on a lot of planes. On the Entertainment Tonight article, his long time friend and collaborator Sheila E. said, “He was in pain all the time. But he was a performer.”
I had walking pneumonia last week, too, my second pneumonia this year. I still have it as I am writing this. And right after I went to urgent care with shortness of breath Tuesday night late, after telling my partner i was just fine for days, and got the diagnosis, I was still thinking about still getting on a plane to L.A., with pneumonia on three days of antibiotics because the doctor said it should be just fine. I listened to my body, but I had to fight to do so. My sick and disabled friends had to say, NO when I asked if maybe possibly it was ok for me to fly, it was just a mild pneumonia and I needed the money and wanted to do the gig. I had to negotiate while I was sitting in the chair at Rite Aid waiting for my antibiotics to be filled, asking them to see if they'd be open to me doing it on Skype so I could be at home, not on a plane and a shuttle. And I still wished I could be there in person.
Let me be clear: I am very clear I am nowhere near Prince's level of fame, talent or world domination, his place in the world and what he meant to folks. But I am a writer who goes on tour, and his death made me think about some things about illness, pain and being a performer.
So here's what I've got: To me, it feels like performance and writing and art can last forever in the minds of those who witness it. And it's also fragile and easily forgotten, especially if you are a queer/trans artist of color, a disabled queer/trans artists of color, an artist coming from being working class or poor, a rural artist, or all of the above. I often feel like if I stop, everyone will forget about me in five minutes. And this doesn't come from nowhere. It comes from seeing Black and Brown queer artists I consider my friends and comrades and also mentors, people a little older than me, people who I looked up to and still do, who shared their skills of how to book a show, how to write a grant, how to believe in yourself as a QTPOC artist. Artists who maybe hit a rough patch where the thing called life was happening a little more than usual, or just changed what kind of work they were doing or how much they were doing it, and folks a little younger than me say, "Who?" when their names come up. The laws of perpetual performance motion, as I've experienced them, dictate that you've gotta just keep saying yes to people who want you to come perform or write or do something, because if you say no, the wheels will stop and it's all over. Maybe (probably) this feels different to folks who are artists who have access to wealth or a trust fund. But for most of the rest of us, I think it feels really different, and the model we are taught is to never stop.
I know the feeling of panic when the three gigs I was counting on for fall 2014 all fell through and I was (really) short on money and scared. I know the hustle, the scramble to get money together, to email and email following up. I know all the ways we are superheros, what it feels like to perform right after puking or having a panic attack and making it shine anyway. I know the ups and downs and the waiting for the check to show up. I know the feeling of loving what you do and having adenaliene carry you. I know the feeling of post tour crash after you are home safe in your bed and your body knows it is safe to finally get sick, when you get sick and sick and sick. I know the feeling of fighting to stay relevant and known- not because you want to be famous, but because if people know your work, you'll get work and your work might reach folks; if not, you won't and it won't. I know the feeling of loving tour, of feeling blessed to be able to travel around and do what you love for folks. And I know the feeling that you are lucky to be able to do your work and you just have to keep going and going because this is not a 9-5 job, so all of this is worth it, right?
As a particular kind of disabled person who for years was broke and sick and unable to leave my neighborhood much, let alone the city, touring was both something other working-class artists explained to me as a way of making a living that could work with the peaks and crashes of a chronically ill body who had fatigue weeks and energy weeks, where you could make a chunk of money and then live frugally off of it when you were sick or tired. And something that felt like, and is, an immense privilege, that many people don't get to do- for lots of reasons, including that I am a walkie, and it's easier for me to get on busses and trains and planes than many of my friends and comrades who use adaptive devices that transportation is too ableist to easily accommodate. I have always felt, no matter what, I don't have my mom's life. I am lucky as hell. I got no reason to complain.
And there is truth to all of that. What is also true is all the days you work sick and in pain. All the invisibilized labour you do to lie down before and after, to take pain meds and stretch and carry traditional Chinese medicine teapills with you to ward off or mitigate the sick, to take care of the sick and pain that happens on the road and after the road. The inner and outer voices and archetypes common in performance culture, that say you are so lucky to do what you do, that the show must go on, that you power through illness, that canceling means you're a diva or 'unreliable' or weak, that to be open about illness means people will think twice about booking you and think you are no longer at the peak of your career. What is true for me, at 41, is realizing that the ways I was able to push myself, even as a chronically ill artist, to take redeyes and busses and long long travel days, in my 30s to shows and workshops and gigs, are less possible in my 40s.
Many folks I know increasingly talk a lot about sustainability, but I knew few people who actually have figured out how to do it all the way. That's not our fault- it's ableist capitalism's. We are all trying to survive the best we can, and there are few working artist workshops, fewer working disabled artist workshops, and a reality that it certainly feels like not everyone can make any kind of living as an artist. We are used to doing a lot on a little as a working-class, QT/POC artist model of our strengths. We don't have a model of touring that includes disability and illness, canceling and rescheduling, that seems like something other than a luxury, or even possible. This often comes from a place of being cash poor, but it's also true that artists with access to more money don't feel like it's possible to cancel or slow down either.
When Sins Invalid, the disability justice performance collective I am honored to perform with, rescheduled our big 2010 show after a collective member had 3 big health issues come up, bumping it from an original October 2010 date to April 2011, it was both unprecedented - something no one in performance worlds I know had seen done - and something we deliberately did as a disability justice collective committed to leaving no one behind and centering our bodies as they were. (You can see more about this decision here: http://sinsinvalid.org/blog/sins-invalid-performance-update and here: http://sinsinvalid.org/blog/sins-says-thanks ) I hope it's made other groups start to dream how to build in ideas of how to make performances happen where cancelling or rescheduling isn't an unforseen disaster or an impossibility, but something we can plan for.
I don't have a magic solution. But I know I am 41, a performer and writer, on my second pneumonia in two months, watching a lot of our beloved artists- Prince so much among them, but also Aiyyana Maracle, Mohawk Trans Elder writer and performance artist whose work I first encountered twenty years ago, who meant so much to me and so many folks in communities I am a part of, who just passed from liver cancer today, and many others - become ancestors in their 40s and 50s and 60s. And I am committed to figuring out together how we can remake performance culture's expectations and figure out our own disabled and chronically ill performance ideas that allow our bodyminds to thrive. I want us to live to get old.
You know, Jian Ghomeshi will affect us all in different ways, so a day after the verdict, as a means of getting through this last hour and a half of a semi turbulent plane ride from detroit to seattle, with narry but a mickey of Woodford and some free seatback TV as resilience practices, I give you this series of survivor movie reviews. Survivor narratives are barely anywhere on TV outside of CSI: Special Victims Unit, so I started thinking about the gems that I have watched obsessively over and over again that have spoken to me about trauma and resilience. Also I am a Taurus so I just watch the same shit over and over again. Here it is. WARNING LOTS OF SPOILERS. This is not an exhaustive list.
Good Will Hunting
I have a strange love for this movie. It's about working class white straight cis guys. But for all that, it's like one of the few films I've found about trauma and working class smart kids who are foster care survivors who fuck up, get the girl, fuck up, and in the end, reject assmillating into a nice middle class job. It also makes fun of most shrinks and the main character heals through finding a similar working class genius fuck up who went to MIT but is teaching at bunker hill community college. If it was about POC it'd be perfect but it would also be another movie.
Dance Me Outside.
Sorry this is gonna be a big spoiler, but this gem of a movie is like one of the few movies I see that has an almost all Native cast, where a white guy kills a Native woman but in the end the Native women kill the dude and nothing bad happens to them. Also, a white man's low sperm count is a prime plot point and there's a lot of gentle, goofy yet realistic kindsa Native masculinity in main characters. Plus, Gloria Mae Eshkibok is in it. You can watch the whole thing on YouTube. I used to have it on VHS.
Mostly for the moment where the main character touches the girl they are crushing on and everything stops. The sound cuts out as they kiss. When her mom kicks her out of the house, she doesn't kill herself. She goes to UC Berkeley to study like, queers and poetry. “ I'm not running, I'm choosing.” She stands with her best buddy on a Brooklyn rooftop eating an ice cream watching the sun.
One crazy upper middle class white femme girl runs away from the psych ward and her fucked up dad to live in an abandonned building and hang out in pre-gentrification Times Square with an also crazed survivor baby butch, strips, is supported by street life and starts a pirate radio station. They touch a lot and love each other but don't fuck. Trauma bonding. Femmeness. Sex work. Street life and running away to safety.
Once Were Warriors
Hella real, beautifully shot and acted story about intergenerational trauma and resilience in a Maori Indigenous community. The mom character is incredible . Hard hard survivor suicide moment at the end, but also a return home.
Still have never been able to bring myself to watch it. Have read the book 98 times. Glad it launched Gabrielle Sidibe's career but still mad Ms Rain has straight hair.
Oh hi. Look, I booked a 20 city tour for Bodymap, cause I'm like that. Please check back for updates and more specific information as things get firmed up. I will also update with access info and Facebook links as they come up. Also I AM TURNING 40 during this time period. Stay tuned for surprises.
CLICK TO ADD FOOTER
prefigurative politics and creating radically accessible performance spaces: building the world to come.
(I've been working on this for a while, but these are expanded notes for the talk I gave at Proof.So.Gay: Pecha Kucha Night, a series of 6 minute talks Syrus Marcus Ware asked me to speak at yesterday, at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto.)
“If, as the African revolutionary leader Amilcar Cabral described it, culture is the ‘collective personality of a people,’ then the arts are its collective dreamlife. In the absence of coercive control, the arts, like dreams, are naturally drawn to the deepest hopes, fears, and truths that are suppressed in daily life...art becomes conscious dream-telling, responsible creation with the potential to affect the life of our people.”
- Ricardo Levins Morales (with thanks to Patricia Berne for sharing these words with me.)
Pre figurative politics is a fancy phrase for the idea of imagining and building the world we want to see now. It's waking up and acting as if the revolution has happened. It's, for example, building a sliding scale community acupuncture clinic that is affordable and centers disabled and working class/poor and black, indigenous, people of color, instead of writing reports about how the medical industrial complex is fucked up. (though that can be important too.) I think of it as being focused on the Allied Media Conference principles of "we spend more time building than attacking" and "we focus on our power, not our powerlessness."
As a performer and writer, I know that in the higher education programs that I attended to study writing and performance, I learned basically zero about creating accessibility in making performance art and theater and spoken word. The focus was almost always on creating the work of Art, in a vacuum- almost no attention was paid to the audience, the performance space, the container and community for the art as being as important as the art itself, and not separatable from the art. Practical skills- from how to make a flyer or a budget, let alone how to do successful ASL and make a fragrance free space or a performance whose pace was accessible to non hyper able bodied performers- were neglected in those ivory towers. I think that if anyone had asked about how to create accessible spaces, for performers or attendees, they would have been, gently or not so gently, dissed. That stuff, that's about community based art, or art therapy- not real, professional, capital A art.
As a performer, producer and director, I believe that how you do it and who is there to see it is as important as what is on the stage. My favorite performance spaces are spaces that become temporary, two hour communities that are autonomous zones that feel like freedom. Being in them, we can smell and taste and feel things we have always wanted but rarely witnessed- both in what we see on stage, and how we interact and participate as an audience that is a community of witnesses. Having an accessible space for performers and attendees and workers, where disability is not marginalized, tokenized, or simply not present, is very different than having a performance space that is full of mostly able bodied, young, non parenting people who can afford to spend the money to attend and get there.
As oppressed people, we don't control a lot of things. But one thing we can sometimes control is the stage. The stage can be prefigurative politics.
I remember this time that I asked Patty Berne, the genius co-founder and Artistic Director of Sins Invalid, the disability justice performance incubator I have been deeply inspired by and have participated in as a performer, why she started Sins with Leroy Moore. She said something like, (and I know I'm paraphrasing, but this has stuck with me) "You know, I could lecture people of color doing movement work about why they should care about ableism. Or I could create a performance that shows them the inside of their dreams and nightmares and fucks their shit up and shakes them inside out and transforms them."
As a (queer, disabled, femme, cis, of color) performer, writer, curator, producer/director and performance artist, i can attest to the fact that disability, access and accessibility are rarely thought about in performance. As in most ableist and able bodied centered spaces, when access is thought of, it is thought of as a guilt ridden afterthought. It is usually only thought of when disabled, sick, Deaf and/or Crazy people ask (in an email, on a Facebook event, in a phone call, like we do) for a curator or director to post the access info. This request is usually responded to with guilt, with defensiveness, with surprise, with bad or nonexistent or last minute scrambles for access. Because, as Qwo-Li Driskill says, one way ableism works is that disabled people "don't even exist in the able bodied imagination."
Further, in ableist, mainstream performance spaces, access is mostly only considered only when audience members are concerned. It is beyond the scope of most theater managers to even imagine that performers, directors, light and sound techs, stage managers and volunteers could be disabled. Writing this, I can remember clearly the pause on the other end of the phone as I asked my contact at a performance space whether the stage was accessible, after he had said, "Oh yeah, there's a ramp at the door" three times, and I'd said, "Yes, but is there a ramp for the stage?" He couldn't imagine that one of the performers was a wheelchair user. When he got it, he said without hesitation, "Well, I guess she'll just have to perform on the floor"- without thinking for a second about the second class place implied by that state- able bodied and walkie crips get the stage; you get the floor.
We are not supposed to be healers, because we are obviously 'unhealed' and broken, according to the ablest imagination. And we are not supposed to be performers except in a "clap for the brave cripples, but don't expect them to be a) good b) have some shocking shit to say that you didn't expect" kind of way. The charity model infects even how crip art can be thought of, or if it can be thought of at all.
So this brings me to the work of setting up performances and the idea that making access happen
You've heard the idea perhaps that the audience makes the performance? Aa performer of color, I know that performing to an all QTPOC audience is very different than performing to one that is majority white- or when white people have grabbed all the seats right at the front, for example.
The audience at a Sins show is as important as a show. Is part of the show. Because it is a portrait of cross disabled, deeply accessible space that is also Black, Brown and economically accessible.
When I went to Sins for the first time and ran smack into crip culture- a line of chair and scooter users right at the front, a line of Deaf, Hard of Hearing and signing folks at the front right in front of the ' terps, short folks, cane users, folks with PCAs, folks in pain, dressed up, dressed all in white, popping pills, flirting, spraying active enzymes under their tongues to withstand chemicals they were surrounded by, sitting by audio describers, Black Brown and white, no one turned away for lack of funds - it fucked me up in the best way and changed my life. This was the audience. I was a part of the audience. A brown, sick part. We were not translating and we were not trying to pass as disabled or fighting to just get in the door or to see five seconds of ourselves on stage and the world was the world to be. and we were not "sorry, the space is inaccessible, but you can watch it on the livestream!" (Note: I am all in favor of livestreaming as being a way to make performance accessible to folks who are unable to make it to the show because of money, sickness, fatigue, etc, but livestreaming an inaccessible space is not an ok fix for an inaccessible venue- sick, disabled, Deaf and crazy folks would like to be part of the community gathering to witness performance, too.) We were not an afterthought. Able bodied people could come, but they weren't doing us any favors.
Over the next few years, as I grew in disability consciousness and identity, and took part in hanging out, talking, thinking and building DJ culture with other sick and disabled folks, I started thinking a lot more, and trying to put into practice, accessible booking and producing. I learned a lot from others doing this work.
It took a long time before i realized that the work I was automatically doing as a disabled producer- buying the fragrance free soap, booking ASL and doing Deaf promo and making sure that everyone got their scripts in to the terps two weeks in advance, taping off lanes 36 inches wide, figuring out where interpreters, Deaf and HOH folks could sit near each other and still have clear sight lines to the performance, doing pre show education about fragrance free, recruiting childcare workers, calling venues multiple times to punch through their "Oh yeah, it's accessible" to finding out what that really meant, co-creating an accessible venues google document- was both a specific skillset of accessible performance skills, its own job that no one should be doing *and* doing directing, performing, etc. And that It was also an invisibilized labour because it is feminized, disabled cultural labour. And it is never taught in a theatrical or performance MFA. And mostly, when it happens, it happens because sick and disabled and Deaf and crazy folks make it happen, because we are the ones who a) care b) have the sick/disabled/crazy/Deaf science and skills to make it happen.
Five years after I attended that first Sins show, when I was working on booking the Mangos with Chili toronto show, I listened to myself as I explained that the culture in Toronto had shifted- not at all fully, and not automatically, but through years and decades of cross-disability and Deaf cultural activism in Toronto, and it was no longer just acceptable business as usual all the time to have queer performance in inaccessible spaces. People who did could expect resistance and a community raising our voices in anger. (I say this with hesitation, knowing that there are still so many inaccessible spaces, and that this is an ongoing work in progress- and also wanting to mark that accessibility awareness in Toronto QTPOC and activist performance spaces does feel broader than in many cities that I have visited. And that that happened through the labour of many, many disabled, chronically ill, crazy and Deaf folks and allies, and deserves to be celebrated.)
And I was rewarded. At the show, there was a line of signing folks right up front, parents who were able to attend and watch burlesque because there was childcare, chair users with nice wide rows and clear beginning and end times marked on the invite so WheelTrans bookings could happen, frag free seating, folks who left halfway through because they got too tired, youth and elders.
That crowd was the show.
And more than that: that crowd was the movement and community i want to live in and make art for and with. It was the opposite of an inaccessible performance space filled with able bodied, non parenting, young queers. It was a cross-disability, parenting and mixed class community for three hours where I felt like all my parts could come home. I didn't feel like I was pushing myself to be in a space that was inaccessible, and where the fact of disabled people wasn't even present. I wasn't at home, staying home from an inaccessible and alienating space, worried that I would fade from people's memory or become a "whatever happened to her?" because I had just stopped going to inaccessible spaces. Where I was not isolated from other disabled, deaf, chronically ill and/or Crazy folks because of the walls the ableism enacts to separate us from each other and forcibly isolate us. That show and crowd, it was the world to come. It was, and is, the world and the performance space that I want.
(PS: I am working on a guidebook for creating accessible events- watch this space for where it will be available for download.)
( image description of thumbnail image]: large screen with the image of writer June Jordan on it, wearing a black and white horizontally striped shirt, looking down, smiling with pleasure. person on stage at mike is
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarashina wearing a red slip]
As an emerging queer writer of color, I deeply needed writing arts spaces that got it - that weren't just focused around straight, dead white guys - and they were damn hard to find. They don't exist in most graduate schools. They are rare in community spaces. I've spent the past 13 years teaching writing and performance to badass marginalized writers to try and fill that gap and because I love doing it, through Supporting Our Youth's Pink Ink program, co-founding Asian Arts Freedom School and teaching with June Jordan's Poetry for the People program at UC Berkeley and in communities and colleges across North America. And 13 years later, I know there's still so much need for places to learn writing, stretch and grow fiercely as a queer writer of color.
But! I am so excited because I'm starting to teach writing classes as sacred space by and for two spirit, queer and trans people of color and TSQTPOC with disabilities. My first class, Sacred Texts, Collective Dream, is kicking off this November at the Living Room Project in West Oakland, CA, a physically accessible space. I'm also teaching this class online in December, in order to make it accessible to as many people as possible. Further, I'm teaching Frida and Harriet's Children, an online writing class for TSQTPOC with disabilities and chronic illness in January 2014. I am so fucking excited about taking the leap to make spaces of liberatory writing education for communities of writers I love the most possible. You can see more about the project here: http://www.brownstargirl.org/current-projects.html
Since I posted the call for participants three weeks ago, I've had a ton of people emailing and being interested in taking classes. This is awesome! I've also had a bunch of people asking what the scholarship opportunities are because guess what- a lot of two spirit, queer and trans people of color writers are broke! I have a number of Deaf folks who want to take the class, and I am fundraising to pay ASL interpreters to make this class Deaf accessible.
A huge part of liberation is making learning accessible in all ways. So- I'm writing to ask if you would consider supporting Sacred Texts, Collective Dream with a donation of any amount to go towards full or partial scholarships for folks who are broke/ low-income to take the class, and for access costs.
Here's the cost breakdown:
Cost of renting accessible space: $120
Scholarship fund: $600
ASL: 2 interpreters at $60/hour for 4 2 hour classes= $960
Total goal: $1680
You can Paypal me at email@example.com, marking the donation as "personal" or "I'm sending money to family and friends." I'm bad at making GoFundMes and stuff like that, but this seems to work for most folks. Literally any amount of cash helps and gets you my love and support and thanks for helping collectively build zones of accessible creation as liberation.
If you're broke right now, I get it (believe me.) You can totally help by passing the word on! You can also help out by letting your folks know about the classes, posting about the classes and campaign on social media, or writing an article or blog post.
Thanks in advance for all the work you do, and all your love and amazingness.
In honour of the first year of my tarot business, I've started a separate tarot website. Go here: http://brownstargirltarot.wordpress.com/ for all the info.
photo by Naty Tremblay, taken at Maggie's Toronto's Reclaiming Revolution event, July 2013
hey all- amazing queer cis femme prison abolitionist organizers Lisa Marie Alatorre and Chanelle Gallant interviewed me for their blog, Everyday Abolition! Here's the link to the audio interview and the transcription of the piece: http://everydayabolition.com/2013/06/06/interview-with/ .
Everyday Abolition is an amazing new project documenting ways people bring prison abolition work into their lives every day. In their words:
"Everyday Abolition is an international political art collaboration between Chanelle Gallant and Lisa Marie Alatorre collecting stories, art, and interviews highlighting the ways PIC abolitionists practice, and live PIC abolition in our work, organizing, and personal lives.
Starting in February 2013, we began collecting submissions and conducting interviews with self-identified PIC abolitionists – a community of strong, resilient, brilliant, and committed people – whose stories and words tell us what it means and what it takes to live abolition, everyday.
We are sharing their genius on this blog as a living collection that we will add to for (at minimum) the rest of 2013. In addition, we will be self-producing a zine version of the blog, to be shared more broadly with communities off-line—especially our comrades inside cages and those navigating the PIC controlled streets who don’t have/want access to online activism and art.
This project has inspired both of us to imagine new strategies and possibilities and to get more clear with ourselves about what we mean by “Everyday Abolition.” If abolition is a long-term strategy and the forces opposing us are so formidable, how are we still creating it everyday? These stories, art pieces and interviews explore this concept with so much honesty and transparency, admitting the challenges and defeats while simultaneously claiming the victories for celebration and learning. What we are seeing is how we always come back to transformation and the healing powers of living for a world without cages. A world without punitive punishment and oppression. A world that invests in people and their capacity for change.
We are living it, everyday.
To quote from one of our interviewees Giselle Dias: “It seems anything and everything is possible when we create the space for it”.
ha! I wrote this and then I guess it got stuck in drafts. here's everything I did this spring.
Dear beloved family,
Happy Nawruz/ Spring Equinox 2013! This year feels so full of potential, and it's moving so fast and yet feels slow and mindful to me. I've had Octavia Butler's phrase "wild seed" in my head a lot lately. Everyplace I go, everything I do, I keep feeling and running into these magic connections, wild seeds sprouting with unpredictable futures. Reading cards for a client in a Toronto cafe, I look up and see my friend who, it turns out, is cooking up similar dreams for a queer and trans people of color healing land project to the one me and folks I know are. The world didn't end in 2012 the way some of us thought it might, but for a lot of folks I know, our worlds transformed and ended in other huge ways. And here we are in the afterfuture, figuring out what we're going to make next. And I'm also thinking about imaginal cells- the cells in caterpillars that completely liquify when they are in the cocoon trying to turn into a butterfly. The caterpillar has to turn into this
totally liquid goop on the way to it becoming something completely else. That's the time it feels like we're in, too.
So far for 2013 I've, among other things:
* travelled to Sydney and Melbourne Australia at the invitation of the Sydney Femme Guild, to keynote a conference with Amber Hollibaugh and Jaiden Pony, and to find my grandparents graves (they immigrated to Australia from Sri Lanka in the 70s and were buried there);
* been really excited about, with Cherry Galette, producing Mangos With Chili's first tour since 2009, as well as upcoming shows in the Bay Area, Toronto, Stanford and Kitchener-Waterloo, ON.
* met with other QTPOC arts producers in the Bay Area to talk about the work we're doing, resource sharing and challenges, and how we can build a network of strong QTPOC arts creators and curators
* started meditating
* considered going to my 20th anniversary high school reunion
* and had a month long fibro flare and huge RSI flareup that has made typing hard and made me change a lot of habits.
and a whole lot of other amazing shit that is listed in the events and updates sections below.
Oh yeah- I finally got Mail Chimp and started sending out occasional email updates that aren't me sending 500 emails from my gmail account! Cute templates! Columns! And stuffs. If you don't want to be on this, feel free to hit unsubscribe, but this will only come your way once a season at most. Feel free to pass this around, too.
with love and hope, for real,
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
performances, events and workshops!
I thought I was having a slow spring. I guess I was wrong. Here's some of the amazing readings, performances and workshops where you can find me over the next three months:
Wednesday, March 27, 5:30-7:30 PM, San Francisco Public Library, Latin@ Heritage Room. In conjunction with Women's History Month, Kearny Street Workshop proudly presents Sri Lankan Women in Their Own Words: Six Contemporary Writers in Conversation at the San Francisco Public Library. Women writers from the global Sri Lankan diaspora representing Sinhalese, Tamil, and Burgher ethnicities will read from their body of work,and engage in a panel discussion about craft, process, inspiration, and the role of history and identity in informing their writing. The six writers are Dharini Abeysekera, Nayomi Munaweera (Island of a Thousand Mirrors), Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha (Love Cake, Consensual Genocide), Seni Seneviratne (Wild Cinnamon and Winter Skin, The Heart of It), Pireeni Sundaralingam (Indivisible: An Anthology of Contemporary South Asian American Poetry), and Arany Uthayakumar (Teen Poet Laureate of Pleasanton).
Kearny Street Workshop (http://www.kearnystreet.org/) is the oldest Asian Pacific American multidisciplinary arts organization in the country. Offering classes and workshops, salons and student presentations, as well as professionally curated and produced exhibitions, performances, readings and screenings, KSW makes artists out of community members and community members out of artists. For the past 41 years, KSW has nurtured creative spirit, offered an important platform for new voices to be heard, and connected artists with community. For more information, visithttp://kearnystreet.or (http://kearnystreet.org/) g
Saturday April 6: I'm guest performing with the Heels on Wheels Glitter Roadshow (http://www.heelsonwheelsroadshow.com/) at SoleSpace!
@ 7:30pm [doors] 8:00pm [show]//$5-$15 // All Ages // Wheelchair Accessible; Please Come Fragrance Free!
SoleSpace, 1714 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, CA, 94612
Heels on Wheels is a queer performance art cabaret of radical extravagance and thought-provoking glamour. Our fearless performers rampage across the femme-inine spectrum serving up poetic theatre, hilarious performance art, and rocknroll you can sink your heels into! The touring artists are: Shomi Noise [NYC], The Lady Ms. Vagina Jenkins [SF], Heather Acs [NYC], and Damien Luxe [NYC] + special local guests Meliza Bañales Annah Anti-Palindrome, Kentucky Fried Woman & Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha!
FB event: http://www.facebook.com/events/271293946337075/
Thursday April 11- Friday April 12, I'm keynote performing and giving a workshop on transformative justice for Sexual Assault Prevention Month at Oberlin College, Oberlin, OH.
Friday, April 19, I'm the keynote performer at Day of Silence, Northeastern University, Boston, MA.
Saturday, April 20: With Mangos With Chili, I will be performing as part of the keynote performance at the (en)gendering resistance conference at the University of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario. http://engenderingresistance.noblogs.org/
Sunday, April 21: MY 38TH BIRTHDAY! And I'm thrilled beyond belief to be spending it performing with Mangos With Chili in our first Toronto performance since 2007!
**2 Nights, 2 Performances, 2 different locations**
$20-$10 dollars, sliding scale, no one turned away for lack of funds (WE REALLY MEAN IT!!!)
Sunday, April 21 - 8PM - The Tranzac Club 292 Brunswick Avenue (19+, accessible, open bar, and the fabulous Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha's Birthday!)
Monday, April 22 - 8PM - The Palmerston Library 560 Palmerston Ave (All ages welcome, childcare available, accessible)
We acknowledge that this event takes place on stolen, unceded and occupied Mississauga of New Credit/ Three Fires Conspiracy Indigenous land and acknowledge that settlers benefit from occupying Indigneous land.
We will have ASL translation!
Featuring performance by:
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
The Lady Ms. Vagina Jenkins
Ms. Cherry Galette
Access info about venues:
In order that beloved community members and performers living with chemical injury can attend, please come fragrance free. Good information about how to do this is here:http://www.brownstargirl.org/1/post/2012/03/fragrance-free-femme-of-colour-realness-draft-15.html (http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.brownstargirl.org%2F1%2Fpost%2F2012%2F03%2Ffragrance-free-femme-of-colour-realness-draft-15.html&h=QAQFyGfjS&s=1) . Leaving off cologne, perfume and essential oils for the evening is a great place to start.
ASL is still being finalized, but we have the intention of providing ASL at both shows.
Childcare available Monday evening.
Both venues are fully wheelchair accessible, including bathrooms.
Friday April 26- Sunday April 28, 2013: I'm performing and giving many workshops as part of Evergreen State College's Day of Absence. I'll be giving a rare performance of Grown Woman Show and leading my Warrior Poets, Disability Justice and QTPOC With Disabilities Writing Workshops. ESC, Olympia, WA. Thank you to FIST (Feminists In Solidarity Together) for all the work that made this happen!
May 5, 2013, I'm performing as part of FSALA, the Toronto Festival of Literature and the Arts 2013: (http://www.fsalatoronto.com) www.fsalatoronto.com (http://www.fsalatoronto.com/) , an amazing festival sponsored by my publisher, TSAR Publications, who have been publishing people of color and queer small press literature for a long time.
May 10, 2013, I will be screening a video as part of SPIRIT: A Century of Asian American Activism, as part of the National Asian American Theater Festival, curated by Celeste Chan of Queer Rebels Productions (http://www.queerrebels.com/)
Tuesday, June 11, 2013, as part of the 2013 National Queer Arts Festival, I will be producing and performing in Mangos With Chili Presents Free: Queer, Trans of Color and Two Spirit Visions of Freedom. African American Arts and Cultural Complex, 762 Fulton Street San Francisco, CA.
Just how free can we get? How do we get there? FREE explores the ways Two Spirit, trans* and queer people of color have fought for justice on our own terms throughout history. We'll time travel, visiting with ancestors and future descendants to explore our freedom dreams. Come to a ritual space of conversation and transformation to imagine our beautiful futures. Featuring breathtaking new collaborative performance work by Qwo-Li Driskill and Natro, Cherry Galette, Juba Kalamka and Joshua Merchant, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Fabian Romero and Micha Cardenas, Manish Vaidya, and Anna Martine Whitehead, and video art by Adrienne Maree Brown, Alexis Pauline Gumbs and Julia Roxanne Wallace, and Vanessa Huang (other artists TBA), and a sneak peak at the new film Major, an autobiography of Stonewall warrior and TGJIP founder Miss Major. ASL translated, chemically and physically accessible.
amazing projects I'm involved with!
** organizing and cool shit!!
I'm a member of the BadAss Visionary Healers (http://badassvisionaryhealers.wordpress.com/) , aka the Healing Babes for Justice. Who are we? To quote our mission statement: "We are a 6-person Bay Area-based collective of radical healers who build connections between radical healers in the Bay Area & beyond. We believe in an anti-colonial framework of healing that centers people of color & Indigenous knowledge, the brilliance of disabled bodies, and is all about the queers; sex positive & critical of professionalism & the fee for service model. We work to build a world beyond the medical industrial complex where healing is not for profit or the control of oppressed bodies, but where we transform the impact of generations of abuse, trauma, violence & oppression into/towards justice & healing. We also believe in twerking, good food, good sex, disability justice, that fat is flava and that all bodies deserve some radiantly luscious anti-colonial healing."
Our second seasonal dinner gathered 18 radical healers - 2 on Skype- to talk about Money on Monday, March 19! Notes and resources will be live on our website soon. We are at work on dreaming up a QTPOC healing and arts land project, more gatherings, and are looking forward to participating in the AMC Healing Justice Network Gathering this June.
Speaking of which- I'm helping organize the Healing Together Network Gathering (http://alliedmedia.org/#!/news/2013/02/06/healing-together-network-gathering-seeks-mini-sessions) at part of the 2013 Allied Media Conference (http://amc.alliedmedia.org/) ! As in, a gathering of radical healers at the best conference on the planet! The day-long Healing Together Network Gathering will take place on Thursday, June 20. We will come gather to strategize and develop a network structure that explores the barriers, challenges and dreams we have for a Healing Justice network throughout the continent. This will be a space for all genders and all bodies where participants can build upon last year's conversation and work. Our mission is to explore and strengthen the work that happens at the intersections of health, healing, media and organizing. To submit a session proposal by March 23, go here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1L8Ncsr9lqSu6KSW7HtF4YtpH0fm7p0YzfKn2_mVGDOU/viewform
I'm working with The Icarus Project (http://theicarusproject.net/) , an amazing radical mental health network that just celebrated its 10th anniversary, on how to build racial justice and multiracial and people of color lead organizing around madness.
Mangos With Chili (http://mangoswithchili.wordpress.com/) is currently in the very early stages of planning our fall 2013 tour- our first tour since 2009! We'll be bringing Beloved: A Requiem For Our Dead, our annual show remembering our queer and trans of color ancestors as well as those slain by violence, to audiences along the West Coast, Southwest, and Gulf Coast. Stay tuned to our website (http://mangoswithchili.wordpress.com/) - to be relaunched in May 2013 with updated video, photos and a whole lot else- or Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mangos-with-Chili) for more info, and if you want to bring us, hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org!
And I'm continuing to provide intuitive counseling services through Brownstargirl Tarot (http://www.brownstargirl.org/brownstargirl-tarot.html) . Since I launched my business more full time in September, I've been honored to offer expanded tarot and numerological services to folks in the Bay and as far away as Germany and the UK. Emailbrownstargirl@gmail.com if you'd like to book a reading. (Thanks to Jacks Ashley McNamara (http://www.ashley-mcnamara.net/) for creating the beautiful design for my business cards and website- book them if you want something pretty for your business!)
As always, please email me if you'd like to book me for a reading or a performance, a workshop on writing, transformative justice or disability justice, a keynote or any damn thing else. I am currently booking my fall/winter 2013-2014 season. I am also working on beginning to teach writing workshops via Google Hangout- keep an eye out!
And finally- it's looking like Dirty River, the memoir I've been working on since 2005, is finally gonna be published real soon. Watch this space for more details!
To friends and folks:
Hi. As many of you know, I have a chronic illness. It means I live with chronic pain. Sometimes the pain is worse; sometimes, it's better. I've had this stuff since 1997, and there is no cure, there's just stuff I do to manage it. Sometimes, I fly or the weather gets cold and damp, and my pain gets worse.
Some things to keep in mind
1. Constantly "forgetting" that this is true for me and expressing surprise at me being sick again, using a cane, etc, is not helpful.
2. Like all sick and disabled folks, I am not either an uplifting inspirational heroine or someone who is a downer because I have that illness thing. I'm a ordinary, extraordinary crip, dealing with impairment and ableism and stuff. I am a complex human being, not a Hallmark card.
3.My relationship to pain is different than yours. I live a lot of my life basically feeling like I have a cold and/or am at level 5 pain on one of those hospital charts, all the time. That is with nutritional choices, aqua-aerobics, herbs, rest, stretching and acupuncture. Hurting and feeling tired is real normal. It also no longer feels "bad" with a capital B the way pain is for a lot of mostly able bodied folks. It's familliar.
Sometimes, I fly in an airplane or drive many hours or the weather and barometric pressure gets crappy and my pain gets real bad. Bad like I feel like I'm hallucinating. Again there are things I do to take care of this, but there is no magic cure.
Some things to keep in mind when I have a pain flare:
Not great responses:
2. Well, that's a drag!
3. OMG! What happened!
4. Uncomfortable silence
5. Looking totally uncomfortable and freaked out.
1. Sorry to hear that! Is there anything I can do? Do you want me to pick you up some food? Give you a ride somewhere? (Even if this shit happens pretty frequently and I seem to have a handle on it, even if I don't ask, even if I say no, I appreciate this. )
2. Oh man, I'm sorry. How bad is it today? (Normalizing it and just asking is cool. Freaking out about OMG YOU ARE IN PAIN isn't so helpful, but acnowledgment is nice.)
3. Offer to come by and do something low key- like watching videos, read in bed together, eating, is great. Often people want to "cancel til I feel better", and while I appreciate this, I'm gonna feel this way every two months til I'm dead, and if we cancelled everything every time I'm hurty, I'm not gonna see anyone. Sick isn't an all or nothing dichotomy for me, with wellness on the other side- it's a way of life. Sometimes I do indeed need alone time to chill, but sometimes, I like it if you come over.
Many of these things may also be true for other chronically ill/in pain/ disabled friends you have. Or they may not. Asking, hey, how can I be in your life in a good way when you're hurting? and listening to what the person says, is always a good way to show up for sick and disabled folks in your life.
This concludes this public service announcement. ;)
PS: Oh yeah- telling me about a magic cure or telling me I should slow down or if I just did X thing everything would be fine also doesn't work so great.
as of september 2010, I'm committing to post one new piece a week (disability and travel may remix this intention.) all this work is shared under a Creative Commons license- credit if you share, no commercial use allowed.
This work by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.