“It seems to me that the best art is political and you ought to make it unquestionably political and irrevocably beautiful at the same time.”
— Toni Morrison
I am a published writer, blogger, performer in both spoken word and theatre, an emerging media artist in both photography & video and an arts educator grounded in intersectionality.
For me my art, activism and pedagogy are all places where I strive to bring my complete identity (Queer, Femme, Black, Mixed Race, Community-Educated…) in ways that are beautiful and political, personal and public. I work to challenge ideas around shame, fear, and the lived experiences of systemic violence.
I share my art as a practice of community building and healing, to find other kindred spirits, survivors of sexual violence, folks who grew up cash poor, people living at the intersection of multiple experiences of oppression while resisting in visible and invisibilized ways. It is also a deliberate act of decolonization where I seek to unearth my herstories.
Performance Excerpt, "Hands In My Cunt" @ Trigger Festival 2009
The arts are a site where communities of colour have embedded strategies of resistance and liberation, from the creation of the Steel Pan in Trinidad when we were banned from playing drums to Capoeira to 'The Blues'. It is place of sharing knowledge, experience and emotion. It can be used to bind communities closer to each other, engage in difficult conversations and create new culture. Seeing oneself reflected in the arts can be so powerful as it allows our existence to grow and take on new forms, just as when we learn about our histories in ways that are authentic and honest, it adds an additional dimension of our personhood.
As marginalized communities, we have had to respond to systemic oppression often by painting the 'best' pictures of our communities. This has been a valuable and necessary strategy that has created space for artists to share our stories in even greater diversity, to share our vulnerability and our magnificent imperfections. Black art is genius and inventive and there is currently a renaissance of Black Queer and Gender Non-Conforming Artists including theesatisfaction, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Truth Is, Syd The Kid, 88 Days, Awkward Black Girl, Dee Reese (Producer of Pariah) and Janelle Monae as some examples. I am grateful beyond measure to be inspired daily by my peers and contemporaries especially in our efforts to learn and connect to those who came before us.
It is often suggested both literally and implicitly that Black art is 'community art' or 'urban arts' and is hierarchized in ways where it is less valuable or 'less professional'. In the past year I have worked intentionally to immerse myself in art made by communities of colour who make art about the things that we live and experience which include racism and sexism as well as the ways we love, play and create. This has had the effect of being incredibly healing and inspiring personally and has helped find language as well as an artistic voice to challenge these stigmas.
T-Dot Renaissance 2011 Flyer For 'Diasporic Journeys'
In these ways my art practice is inseparable from my identity, from my work, from my relationships. With my play Hands In My Cunt where I shared my experiences of sexual violence both in domestic partnerships and in the streets and my process of coming out where I invited my mom to bear witness. This began a much-needed process of healing and broke over a decade of silence between us.
When I curated the Gender Exhibition, I wanted to create a space where artists with a variety of gender expressions (genderqueer, stud, femme, queer) and from a diversity of backgrounds could bear witness to each other and listen. From decorated boot shaped cakes to large-scale oil paintings of Black masculinity, I work to create spaces that liberate us and give us space to learn about each other's nuances.
While a part of Les Blues, we worked to draw out the obscured stories of Womyn and Trans Folks Of Colour and share their art in ways that were beautiful, sexy and political. We would do so without shaming the ways that we have connected to pop culture and media, while challenging us to discover more.
Les Blues 2009
While on the set assistant directing the acclaimed Stolen From Africa Real TV Doc, we created a space for every member of the cast and crew to engage personally in the process of collectively retracing the underground railroad and the middle passage.
On Set Of Stolen From Africa Real TV Documentary Sapelo Island, GA
My art practice and my experience of art literally sustain me and have been the medium by which I have continued and catalyzed my personal practice of education.
The mentors who have nourished me including D'bi Young, Punam Kholsa, Tomee Sojouner, mi Abuela Aurelia Leone and Clarissa Chandler have reaffirmed a practice of never being trapped by someone else's rigid definition of their abilities. They have encouraged me to be responsible for my education and to create art, work, and life with integrity.
I also work consistently with D'bi Young's SORPLUSI principles including: Self-Knowledge, Orality, Rhythm, Political Context & Protext, Language, Urgency, Sacredness and Integrity.
My art/activism/education practice include:
Writing; poetry, blogging, articles, socio-political commentary
Performance: Theatre, spoken word, keynotes, workshops, team building.
Video and photography as accompaniments to my performance and writing
My writing is a fusion of stream of consciousness, cultural dialects, 'urban' queer, black colloquialism and deconstructed academia. I have had the privilege of being compared to a combination of Rihanna, Marcus Garvey, Audre Lorde and Assata Shakur by the members of my community.
My performance is deeply rooted in my gender; I speak clearly, but softly, in ways often described as 'feminine', with the melody of a Trinidadian, with rhythmic gestures.
Pride Caberet 2012; Glad Day Bookstore
I am 'femme on purpose' and I work hard to challenge the sexist femmephobic notions that queer femmes are just conforming to heteronormativity and that femme of centre (a term that denotes that many genders can hold femme, i.e. trans, intersex, male) folks are less intelligent or less capable. I am very performative around my gender, a lot of face paint, bright colours and tight dresses. I also challenge a lot of the stigmatization and classist racism directed at myself and the other girls in the hood I grew up in. I rock gold doorknocker earring, weaves with different colours, acrylic nails to respond to the construction of andactivist’. I dress like this all the time, because it has proved impossible for me to separate myself from my politics and my artistic expression. I hope to be a part of the community of folks challenging the monopoly held by 'louder', more 'forceful' spoken word artists. I once had a 13-year-old girl tell me after a performance that she felt inspired to see a poet embracing femininity and she realized that she could be powerful in a skirt.
My video and photography has always been a part of documenting my travels and attempting to capture my tenuous relationship to my family. Simple and very focussed on people and the details of space.