After the discussion, we watched full length performances by Black Mama, Caye Cayejera, and Taki Amaru. Due to the previous issues with the acoustics of the Intellectual House, the hip hop feministas decided to rap within a cypher instead of in the traditional format of a rapper and an audience. The use of a cypher rather than the stage/audience setup seemed appropriate as it deconstructs the European-created power dynamic of a stage and an audience. When we put someone on a stage, we are putting them up on a pedestal and the bodies that we put on this pedestal have historically been white. The cypher created a feeling of convivencia, allowing the artists to move around freely and dance during the performance. As an audience member, I really appreciated that Taki, Black Mama, and Caye were not willing to accept good enough. As Nicki Minaj once voiced in an MTV documentary https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PzGZamtlRP0, women of color are often discouraged from advocating for themselves in the music industry. However, it’s important to demand more for yourself because when an artist advocates for themselves they advocate for all women.
Here we have Lanessa and Makayla facilitating a panel with Black Mama, Caye Cayejera, Taki Amaru, and Gabriela Sinchy Gomez. These women are discussing how they empower women through their art, what their art means to them, and how they maintain self care. Additionally, they touched on topics such as the right to control one’s body, reproductive rights, patriarchy, and living as a biracial women, and what kind of privileges, disadvantages, and struggles that has presented.
These women all spoke very truthfully about their experiences as advocates for womens rights. It was inspiring to hear about the work that they are doing and the obstacles that they have had to overcome.
After this panel, we had live performances from Black Mama, Caye Cayejera, and Taki Amaru. Though there songs were in spanish, and I could not understand all of what they were singing word for word, they conveyed much of it with stage presence and expression of emotion.
Here is the altar that my group set up before the encuentro. The theme of our altar is commemoration of those who have died as a result police brutality and violence at the border.
We have decorated our altar with flowers, tea light candles, water, and photos of the painfulness at the border, We did not include any photos of victims who have passed, but rather general photos of such events, to respect families who have lost loved ones whom we don’t have permission from to portray.
Other Altars at the event are commemorating similar topics. This is likely because of the movie about the murder victims in Juarez that we saw in class, which showed just how unjust or ineffective the system can be.
The open dialogue was a way to connect the women and the audience together to create important dialogue. One that stuck with me the most was Black Mama’s response to a question about her feelings of isolation. Black Mama said both her ethnic groups would reject her because of her appearance but she “needed the love of [her] people.” This impacted me the most because I could connect to that feeling of not being able to fit into one group. This reminded me of “mestizo” or “mixing” learned in class because Chicanos/as were not able to fit into one ethnic group so the creation of the word “Chicanos/as” was a way to include those people. Black Mama said those who don’t accept others are wrong and in the future, marginalization should be eliminated. Black Mama was able to use her own experience to connect with others and use music as a way to reach a broader audience. Black Mama’s experience allowed me to feel more connected to her and her words left a grand impression on me. So powerful!
The event opened with an acknowledgement of the land and introductions of our facilitators Lanessa and Makayla. Gabriela Sinchy Gomez then presented the song “Sombero Blanco” and discussed its theme of taking a sexist song and changing the lyrics to make them empowering to womxn. Gaby mentioned that the feminism she created was for everyone – it was intersectinal. Then, Black Mama, Caye Cayejera and Taki Amaru performed opening songs. Pictured is Taki performing her song “Rap Kichwa”. During Black Mama and Caye’s performance, Black Mama noted issues with the acoustics in the intellectual house pointing out “if we were huge rockstars this wouldn’t be an issue”. This drew attention to the barriers that the music industry puts up to smaller artists. Not to say that the problem is that the event organizers picked the Intellectual House but rather that less effort was put by the university into the upkeep of the Intellectual House’s technology. Black Mama also noted that the adversity was nothing new for Latinx women. “We always make due” she said.
During my experience here at the Feminista Futurisms: Afro-Indigenous Muxeres in Hip Hop event, there has been so much great discussion on how art is powerful and can be used as the bridge between our reclaiming of indigenous cultures and identities. Something that I’ve noticed throughout my time is how the words and music create movement.
The performers move in a certain way with no conventional structure to their dancing, but more let their music guide their bodies and they allow themselves to respond.
In a similar way, I noticed the same response from the audience. Everyone responds and moves a little differently because they may have a slightly different way of personally connecting; however, the energy and vibe in the encuentro is mutual. When we formed a circle and the performers performed raw without mics, the connection between the performers and audience was evidently heightened. Rather than a performance, it became an experience within a community. This was truly an experience I will never forget!
Upon finishing building our altars and watching a few performances, we shifted the event to a community-led discussion that touched upon really serious issues that marginalized groups face. First, black mama discussed the struggles she feels with belonging, mentioning that her complex racial identity makes it difficult to identify with one race. We think this is a particularly important and relevant topic to address, considering many individuals who don’t nearly conform to a specific group often times end up feeling isolated. It also highlights how many divisions we place amongst people. As we were discussing some of the effects of racism in cultures, we began to analyze the ways our ancestral roots and language help individuals fight these socially constructed forms of oppression. One interesting thing that was said was the idea that their native language doesn’t have the concept of gender. This makes us realize just how much gender and race are entrenched in European society. A lot of these forms of oppression were forced upon the natives when the Europeans started to colonize the land and strip natives of their culture in the hopes of assimilating them to western society. These ideas tie in directly with many of the works we discussed in our class this quarter.
For a few moments, the audience at the Feminista Futurisms Encuentro was unsure of whether the event would get off its feet given the venue’s unreliable sound system and electronic display. Black Mama remarked that if the Afro-Indigenous muxeres were famous rock stars, they would never have to deal with unreliable technology. They would receive the necessary resources and attention.
Despite the circumstances, the muxeres would persist and make the situation work for them. This idea really resonated with me. I thought it was especially relevant to our group’s ofrenda. Sites of environmental exploitation threaten communities, but those communities still find remedies out of the circumstances.
After the event organizers fixed the technology problems, we heard Black Mama, Caye Cayejera, and Taki Amaru perform their music. Though I had seen videos of them perform, I was still surprised and awestruck as I watched their live performances by their talent and passion.
Next, Lanessa and Makayla facilitated a dialogue with Black Mama, Caye Cayejera, Taki Amaru, and Gabriela Sinchy Gomez. Taki Amaru talked about how her Kichwa language was in itself a form of medicine, which reminded me of the theme of my group’s ofrenda. Using her indigenous language despite pressures from society to do otherwise because it’s a healing act reminds me of communities on the borderlands deriving healing from their land rather than allowing it to be exploited for profit.
Building the altar was a collective journey between myself, my group, and my classmates. Building the altar was not only placing objects upon some empty boxes but understanding the significance behind each object. Once completed the altar’s significance was evident throughout.
Our group wanted to remember the missing indigenous women in Washington State and included objects to represent the women’s indigenous roots. The leaves and flowers signify the importance nature plays on indigenous women and placing images of a few missing women allowed the viewer to connect the movement to a face. The placement of the altar’s beside each other was not only visually appealing but also, demonstrates how the concept of an altar is interpreted differently from the various groups.
The differences in the altars made me realize that altars don’t have a right answer. Even though the altars differed from each other all came together and worked to promote the indigenous practices in a positive and informative way.
After weeks of planning and gathering materials, the day has finally come. Our team, Alina, Diane and Grace, spent the last half an hour building our altar and chatting with other teams about their altars. For our altar, it was important to not just honor and remember one woman, but instead to recognize the thousands of immigrant women who have been denied basic rights and oppressed by interlocking systems of power. In our altar, we have incorporated the importance of aesthetic expression which many of these women used in order to challenge the patriarchal society we live in. As we talked to other groups, it appears that many of them also centered their altars around these powerful concepts we covered in class this quarter.