Dear GAQ readers / followers,
I have decided after much thought and deliberation that theGAQ tumblog will come to an end.
In May of 2009 I couldn’t find a blog that catered to Queer people of color OR the amazing breadth and depth of artwork our community has to offer. So I started this project passionately with the intention to have a catalog of queer art & culture as I embarked on a personal journey of finding out more about my sexuality, identity and community. The Tumblr LGBTQ community and TheGAQ have helped me every step of that journey – as I hope it’s helped a lot of you.
theGAQ has grown into an online source for those with similar interests – and has garnered a great deal of love and support. I’ve had the opportunity to meet a number of dope people and learn a tremendous amount through this space. I learned that our community is not limited by distance and location. There is a virtual community out there that can guide, help and encourage you through the best and worst of times.
I am completely thankful for the 3 years I’ve had working on theGAQ. But I am growing and changing and ready to embark on new and different personal creative projects. I apologize if this causes any disappointment or dismay. I am eternally grateful and thankful for being able to share this space with ya’ll.
I’ll keep theGAQ up as an Archive. To keep in touch with me personally, you can view my design/artwork on my portfolio site, http://cargocollective.com/mkbaldwin or follow my (extremely) random ramblings on twitter, http://twitter.com/_mekks
THE REVIVAL: A SALON STYLED POETRY TOUR OF QUEER WOMEN ARTISTS
With dynamic performances from poets and musicians alike, THE REVIVAL weaves a salon-styled night of libations and genuine fellowship. Reminiscent of independent poetry tours like SisterSpit…Saltlines… the iconic Def Poetry Jam, The Revival is a unique arts experience as each concert takes place in an actual home. A collective of queer women artists on a national, 10 day expedition, The Revival caravan honors a queer tradition. They not only demand safe space, they create it.
A group of individuals connected not through sexuality, color, so-called gender identity— but through language. It’s poetry that dismisses our diﬀerences and shakes up the system. It’s music that opposes the regular, hip-hop rhetoric of what women are to do and be. It’s the word that came ﬁrst. And the women we celebrate the day after that, and the day after that forever.
This tour looks so dope. The traveling troupe features T’ai Freedom Ford (rapper / spoken word artist), B. Steady (songstress / filmmaker) and JONQUILLE “SOLSIS & DAPPHO THE FLOW-ER” RICE (Singer, bassist, poet and audio engineer, educator & more). The tour also joins hands with remarkable women across the country as hosts, performers, and collaborators including: Mobile Homecoming Projects’s Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Atlanta’s Fi Williams, Chicago’s EarthPearl Collective and more.
The tour will be in the following cities:
NEW YORK: OCTOBER 5 with Charan Morris
TORONTO: OCTOBER 6 with Kim Katrin Crosby
CHICAGO: OCTOBER 9 Special Guest Feature at Chicago’s historic POW WOW Black Lesbian Open Mic
ATLANTA: OCTOBER 11 with Red Summer
DURHAM: OCTOBER 12 with Cheryl Floyd Miller
DC: OCTOBER 13 with Rachel Eliza Griﬃths and very special guests, DC Youth Slam Team
SUPPORT THIS AWESOME TOUR IN YOUR CITY!
Tona Brown: Why she kicks ass
- She is the first African-American Transgender violinist and vocalist to sing for a seated President of the United States of America, she did so in June 2011, when she was invited to perform the National Anthem for President Barack Obama in New York City during the opening ceremony of the LGBT Leadership Conference and Gala Fundraiser.
- As a professional musician and vocalist, her career spans across North America and Europe.
- Ms. Brown formerly was on the National Advisory Board of OUTMUSIC – The LGBT Academy of Recording Arts (The LARA). She programed and conducted the very first classical performance for the 7th Annual OUTMUSIC Awards with her 11 piece AIDA String Ensemble playing Vivaldi’s ‘Summer’, this acknowledged with a roaring 5 minute standing ovation.
- She also has been featured in numerous newspaper, magazine and television programs for her work with the youth in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia and for her recitals, such as articles in the Advocate magazine and The Virginian Pilot.
- She was selected to do a national tour with the “Tranny Road Show” a multi-media, tour group of Transgender artists that toured from Florida to Canada in April 2006.
- Ms Brown was also a featured soloist and speaker for the 2nd Annual LGBT Pride Month Commemoration Ceremony for the Department of Veteran Affairs singing the National Anthem. She was also a guest on the “Anthony McCarthy Radio Show” speaking about her volunteer work with Hearts and Ears Inc.
Yvonne Fly Onakeme Etaghene (@myloveisaverb) is an Ijaw and Urhobo Nigerian dyke performance activist, poet, dancer, essayist, playwright, actress, video blogger and mixed media visual artist who was born with a mouth full of dynamite and sugarcane. She uses her poetry to chisel a verbal sculpture of her soul for listeners while addressing issues of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, war, imperialism, love, self-esteem and family. Etaghene has self-published three collections of poetry, toured nationally and performed in over 30 u.s. cities.
In Fly’s own words, being apart of such an amazing community at a Berkeley class “Poetry for the People” (Originally developed by June Jordan and now taught by Aya de León) made her realize how crucial it is for writers to have a space and a community to bring their work to and receive powerful, life-changing feedback and encouragement. And thus, the Sugarcane Writer’s Workshop was born.
After seeing the culmination of this workshop at the Sugarcane Showcase, and the amazing work of all of the writers, I asked Fly some questions about Sugarcane, her own writing process and delicious baked goods. Here’s what happened:
theGAQ: I’ve known you virtually through your youtube videos, tweets and poetry for a while now, but we’ve only recently met and spent time together. Through social media and your amazing poetry, there is a wealth of information to be gained about you. What is something that people don’t know about you that they would be surprised to hear?
Fly: Yikes. Lol. Hmm. I want to be a carpenter and car mechanic at some point in my life. Not so much go into business, but I just want to have those skills and do it for fun. I love being covered in saw dust and table saws are awesome! The idea of being in coveralls, greasy hands replacing an engine or whatever—so much fun. ;) Mainly, because I love building things, I love understanding how things work and why, knowing how to put things together and take them apart and put them back together fascinates me. This is why I cook from scratch and why when I eat at restaurants, I try to figure out how to recreate the recipe. I also love the smell of gasoline so I like gas stations for that reason. Plus I like to fix broken things. That’s part of why I like to know how things work so I can understand them, yes, and so I can fix them if needed. And I want a motorcycle.
theGAQ: I’ve heard the testimony from a number of people (and tasted for myself) the deliciousness of your baked goods. How, for you, is food and writing linked?
Fly: Food is an expression of home and where so much culture lives. Who we cook for, why, when we eat and who we eat with—this is culture. Food is a big part of how I feel at home. Sometimes when I’m homesick for Nigeria, I’ll cook something I love—jollof rice or okra stew and eba. This makes me feel closer to home and closer to myself. Writing is also my home. Sometimes I don’t fully know what I think or feel until I write it. Writing is such a tremendous space of freedom for me, where I use words to paint my soul for others to see, where I tell stories, where I place words on paper and look at myself. Sometimes I just write for me, and those are words that no one may ever see but me. Writing and cooking are home to me—they both feel like home and are spaces I go to when I feel homesick, and reminding of who and why I am who I am. Both these spaces hold and take care of me. So they go together very naturally for me.
theGAQ: The Sugarcane showcase at Show & Tell was an amazing culmination to the workshop you facilitated over 11 weeks. What are some of the things you learned about yourself during the process?
Fly: Wow. These questions go right to the heart of the matter, I love it. I learned a lot, a lot, a lot. I learned that many people care about the work I do. I have lots of ideas, dreams and visions and sometimes I’m not sure if anyone else is interested in or cares about those dreams as much as I do. I learned that they do. I learned that I can move 3000 miles (I recently moved to Oakland from New York) and not know that many people and still inspire folks to be about the work I’m creating. I learned that when people say they want to support my work, they mean it and I need to let them. I learned that the cure for sadness is in giving. No matter what stress or sadness was going on in my life before the beginning of each workshop, by the end of it, I always felt better, because I was doing what I love and giving to a community I care deeply about. I learned that we can make things happen by handling one small thing at a time—that may seem over-simplified but it’s true. I learned that my vision for Sugarcane as an example of liberating artistic education is hella dope and super transformational.
theGAQ: The writers in Sugarcane vary in genre and writing levels, but all came together to produce a cohesive collection of amazingly beautiful work. Why do you think the writers felt safe enough to be so forthcoming and true to themselves?
Fly: Hmmm. Well, from jump we created community agreements together about how we wanted to the space to be. We created agreements around confidentiality and making sure everyone knew that the intention of the space was for us to be vulnerable together such that we can write our best work. The intentions were clear and pure. It was never about me mandating what was so. It was about me offering agreements just like every other member of the community that we all agreed on. And then, each and every person bravely chose to take risks and share intimate parts of themselves and be seen by the community and accept feedback on their work. We all took that risk and were all held by each other. And we all wanted to be there together. All these things created a powerful space of trust, sensitivity and love where we held each other’s writing as sacred and offered powerful feedback in order to deepen the amazingness of our work.
theGAQ: I’m a huge believer in the power that names hold for people and objects alike. From Sugarcane to Guava (your poetry tour) to Hibiscus (which is the name of your bike) you’ve got a dope naming system going. How do you do it? What inspires them?
Fly: You are sooooo insightful! Well, I feel called to fruit—I’ve felt that my whole life and especially right now. Don’t know exactly how to describe it. Many of the poems I’ve written this year have names of fruits in the title (e.g.: mango soul, guava, persimmons) and as you mentioned, many of the projects I’ve been working on (and my bike too) are named after fruit. Fruit mean a lot to me. Mango and sugarcane and coconut all remind me of Nigeria and in most, probably all, of my writing about Nigeria I mention some or all of those fruit. For me, they are as much a part of Nigeria as the sun, red soil, my last name. Those fruits are home to me. They comfort me. And as I name projects that mean the world to me, I choose names that make me feel at home, grounded, that make me feel loved. When I tell you mangoes, coconuts and sugarcanes have been loving me my whole life, that’s serious. I never really thought about why I’ve chosen those names, but I think that’s why—those names feel good to me, make me feel at home, and comfort me in deep ways.
theGAQ: Lastly, what’s up for the next iteration of Sugarcane? What, if anything, will be different from this first workshop?
Fly: Yes! Things will be different and things will stay the same. I will shorten the workshop season a bit—from 11 weeks to 8. I will also change some of the weekly themes/topics we addressed each week. Each season will be about what I feel called to share at that time, as well as what folks want to learn about and explore together. So for instance, if in the next season, some folks are interested in improv or playwrighting, then we might have a week or 2 focusing on that. And the syllabus would reflect that (I’d assign some writing and homework in line with those genres) and I’d design some exercises for us to do together in our workshop. Sugarcane will constantly be shifting and growing. Some things, many things, will stay the same—we write each time we meet, we share writing each time we meet, we check in with each other about how we’re feeling, we create safe space, we eat yummy things, we make brilliant art, we build community.
Much love to Yvonne Fly Onakeme Etaghene for allowing me to interview her. Peep more of her work on her website, HERE. Also support GUAVA, her performance piece about queer African sexuality that will be performed in Nigeria & South Africa in partnership w/ LGBTQ African organizations, HERE.
Photos of the Sugarcane showcase taken © Mekhi B. for theGAQ at Show and Tell Oakland. More photos can be seen on Flickr, HERE.
Transforming FAMILY is a ten minute documentary that jumps directly into an ongoing conversation among trans people about parenting. It is a beautiful snapshot of current issues, struggles and strengths of transexual, transgender and gender fluid parents (and parents to be) in North America today.