Womxn Who Rock 2017: Water is Life

The following is an introspective made by students of the class Feminism in the Borderlands at the University of Washington; it is a summary of 5 students’ experience at the un-conference.


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Professor Jade Power-Sotomayor leading Bomba on February 11 2017 at the Womxn Who Rock (Un)Conference in Washington Hall, Seattle, WA. Photo Credit: Afomia Assefa

Tags: Women Who Rock, Building Communities

Photo Explanation

We choose this picture because it is clear convivencia in action. Everyone is learning together and instead of having a teacher at the front talking down to students, she is equal footing with the students while she educates them. People are learning from each other in what is clearly a very safe space, where making mistakes is not punished or frowned upon. You can see the feeling of fiesta through the amount of people and their colorful skirts – this uplifting energy was felt throughout this whole information sharing session. It’s also a very powerful picture because the participants are clearly ignoring and surpassing gender norms; everyone is having a good time and binaries do not matter.

Category Explanation

The category of this picture falls under Making Scenes: Scene Makers, as she is performing on the stage and leading others by example to dance Bomba. Jade Sotomayor is a professor at the University of Washington Bothell and emphasizes the influence of dance and music into the social world of politics and ethnicity and vice versa.


Julie Olivos’ Altar Construction (pictured on the right) on February 11 2017 at the Womxn Who Rock (Un)Conference in Washington Hall, Seattle, WA. Photo Credit: Afomia Assefa

Tags: Women Who Rock, Building Communities, Making Scenes

Photo Explanation

We chose this picture because it represents the collective altar construction of not just our group, but everyone in the course. Altar making is a communal activity and we are reminded of that in this picture as you can see everyone’s work came together and created the wonderful amalgams of our personal lives that are visible in the altars. The strong presence of Frida Kahlo was also important in this picture as it represents Frida’s strong radical influence in Mexican art. Our altares were meant to be be equally radical in that we reclaimed our spaces and fought binaries, homophobia, sexism, and patriarchy: all things that have held our communities down for so long.

Category Explanation

The collective Altar that was built by our class and by Julie resembles the theme of Building Communities. Although it is not a specific form of music or performance, it is a form of art and spirituality that demonstrates coming together and providing a safe environment while inviting our ancestors to attend the Women Who Rock (un)Conference.


Liveblog Links:








Photo Reflections

wwr1Unconference Attendees Learning an Afro-Puerto Rican Bomba Dance. Women Who Rock: Water is Life Unconference. February 11, 2017. Washington Hall, Seattle, WA. Making Scenes.

This picture represents a sense of community and unity while dancing in harmony to Bomba. It is a representation and reclamation of Indigenous knowledge and roots. It is important to be aware of Indigeneity and how it is implemented in different types of art that display a connection between cultures.

This picture features the making of a musical scene. It captures the building of community and the reclamation of Indigenous culture. It is an excellent example of the use of music and dance to construct resistant epistemologies and political formations.


Altares by University of Washington Students. Women Who Rock: Water is Life Unconference. February 11, 2017. Washington Hall, Seattle, WA. Reel Rebels.

The picture of altares created by our classmates gives off vibrant colors and spirits in the unconference. These bright colors represent the bright souls that joined together in unity. This picture was chosen not only because it is a representation of a sanctuary, but a safe space of expressing and honoring our unique beliefs and cultures. The different altares is a way of reclaiming cultural traditions and transforming them our own way based on our experiences. We articulate our resistance through the process of making these altares.

We categorize this picture under ‘Reel Rebels’ because it documents the visual art of the ofrendas. It is visual art as well as an archivista practice. The altars include many pictures, which are themselves visual art, in their reproduction and remembrance of a subjugated history.


Maya Jupiter Speaking on Artivism and “Madre Tierra.” February 11, 2017. Washington Hall, Seattle, WA. Making Scenes.

This picture was chosen to represent the power within this space. Maya Jupiter is an artivist that uses her platform to advocate for social justice along with modifying her cultures histories through her songs. As a womxn of color, many of these spaces were not meant for us to partake in, yet, Maya Jupiter is breaking that traditional norm, which makes this picture so powerful. She is delivering an important message to the communities while on a tamira. This tarima adds on to the importance of this picture since it represents coming in convivencia, united together.

In this picture, Chicana feminist musician Maya Jupiter is addressing Unconference attendees. After displaying her video “Madre Tierra”, which she vocally accompanied, she explained her intentions in making the music video and her plans for future musical endeavors. The powerful artivism this picture captures justifies its categorization as “Making Scenes.”

Wrapping Up

We are wrapping up, but the Fandango is keeping the spirits up as we clean. There is still dancing going on. The play put on by Gabriella Seattle shared with us the stories of Filipino women who have to travel away from their homes to work. It is a story not often heard, and Gabriella shared it wonderfully. There was a spirit of solidarity throughout the entire day, but particularly during the play. Then Maya Jupiter freestyled against police brutality and the prison industrial complex which is a pressing issue in Seattle right now. We had an open mic which showcased all the many voices that represent women who rock from seasoned veteran performers to new voices. Finally, the Fandango is closing out the day by fostering the spirit of community and resilience of Women Who Rock!

–Elizabeth Bringier

Liveblog: 5:35 pm

The events so far have been spectacular; the initial blessings were beautiful and touching, while the Women’s Steel Drum performance immediately brought the already high energy to a breaking point. The speak back about standing rock followed, and although it was physically and auditorily a lot less explosive, the energy in the room was not permitted to drop. The seriousness channeled the present enthusiasm into the main purpose of women who rock: making a change. Each speaker built upon the last, and after it was done I (and doubtlessly most the room) was far more educated on Standing Rock and inspired to go out and do more. Immediately we transitioned to the more lighthearted workshops, and I feel like this back and forth epitomizes the Unconference: a space for people to come together, for change in the world and for reveling in their identities.

We’ve just finished hearing the panel, which was incredibly informative! Thank you to all the women who offered their stories and insights. We are now transitioning to workshops, always with music and dancing, of course. We’re enjoying the amazing sounds of Puerto Rican music right now, with a great bailarina leading the crowd in Puertorican dances. The energy is incredibly vibrant and the drums are keeping everything upbeat. All this, while some of the unconferencers are also enjoying the unmatched treat of tamales. And still on top of all this excitement we have people making pins and T-shirts, while others have opted to join in on some of the other workshops taking place. Some of these include a workshop on storytelling, ‘zine-making, and “Is Your Knowledge on Wikipedia?”

The panel of individuals who have been to Standing Rock and are leaders and organizers in the community just ended. They all shared their incredible experiences of what it was like to be at Standing Rock and what they were able to learn from it. They all emphasized the importance of telling our own stories and centerin indigenous people in how we understand the land and how we take care of our water and nature. It was really amazing to be in the presence of so many incredible individuals who also provided the audience with resources on how to get involved and where to find ways to be allies and get involved with so many different communities around Seattle and beyond.

At the moment we’re listening to a panel discussion report back on the organizing they’ve been doing in areas surrounding Seattle and also at Standing Rock. Speakers have discussed how Standing Rock is not only a place of resistance but also a site where people educate one another on the battles indigenous people face. They have also emphasized the importance in recognizing the spirituality present a Standing Rock. One of the recent speakers informed us about her work in King County, trying to organize in areas where minorities deal with those affiliated with the KKK or other supremacist organizations and how these people have managed to gain power to oppress through high positions of power in these communities. Her organizing focuses on changing the dynamic of these local administrations and giving minorities intersectional spaces in which to find support when they do not have access to safety in numbers, the way they might in places like Seattle. We’ll see what other discussion topics come up as more speakers offer reports on their work!

Opening Blessing and Community

We are beginning the panel of activists reporting back from Standing Rock. There is a strong spirit of community here. The opening blessing was an honor to witness. After, there was Afro-Latina dancers and the steel drum band got the energy high, and everyone started moving. This is a space of no judgement. We are a community of people, and everyone is looking to learn from one another. Students, activists, mothers, fathers, young children and infants are all here. No one is being left out, and we are led by Indigenous women. This is the definition of  building community. Now, the report back panel is sharing with us. We are hearing personal stories from Standing Rock, reasons why people went, stories of identities and skills learned there.

Important lessons shared by Suja from Standing Rock-

Know your family’s history.

Know whose land you’re one.

Use “we” statements rather than “I” statements.


LIVE blog

So far the conference as been beautiful and engergetic. I am impressed by how inclusive and diverse the community leaders and performers are. I am again reminded of the power of being a collective and having joy as one. My heart is full as I look at the singing and the dancing from across the world. The energy across the room is increasing and everyone seems to be having a great time. I love how people are getting up and dancing during the music and just being carefree. While I don’t know anyone here except the people I came with there is such an incredible energy that I feel safe and content participating in the beautiful performances and listening to the speakers.

Liveblog: 3:08 pm

The altar is finished, and everything went smoothly! Coming in from an unusually sunny and beautiful Seattle day, the energy in the building was palpable, and construction was a blast. Although our groups could handle it on our own, at no point in the process did the other spectacular volunteers stop offering to help, and they aided in created a beautiful display that exceeded all of my expectations. As I look around the space after finishing my task, I’m astounded by the amount of people here, and I’m excited too. The stage is full of musicians setting up; vendors and their beautiful wares have all the tienditas ready; and the pulse of life I felt when I entered has only gotten stronger. I cannot wait for the event proper to begin!