Burlesque: Using Our Bodies As Resistance and Joy
Black Artists Unite To Revive Black Wall Street's Legacy
It was a joy and pleasure to create this photo essay about burlesque for Wear Your Voice’s #BodyPositivityinColor series. Grateful to work with the incredible beauty photographer Nathalie Gordon, and to have Egypt Black Knyle, Seraphina Wilder, Loretta E. and Caramel Knowledge be a part of this project. Check out the full post here!
Burlesque is our legacy as Black and Brown folks. Its roots are in social and political commentary and it continues to be a rejection of what is considered “respectable.” Since its inception, burlesque has been about challenging the mores of the day and often the restrictions that are put on our bodies and sexual expression based on gender and race. It encourages free sexual expression and celebrates our bodies in all of their forms…not just white American “beauty” aesthetics. Women of color especially have used this art form for over a century to make political statements, challenge racial stereotypes, parody the bullshit we deal with on a daily basis, and be as sexy and glamorous as we wanna be.
In the Mix: Integratron & Bathing in Sound
Last November I visited Tulsa, Oklahoma for the first time: the home of Black Wall Street. I didn’t know much about it except that it was a center of African-American wealth and that it was destroyed by racism. But as a part of the Breakout convening, I got to dive deep into the history and met some incredible Black artists who are reviving the legacy of Black Wall Street. My latest piece for The Root shares these stories. Excerpt below!
At the turn of the 20th century, the thriving neighborhood of Greenwood, known as Black Wall Street, in Tulsa, Okla., was an epicenter of black wealth in the United States. From 1905 to 1921, it was a flourishing community filled with black families who owned businesses, homes, newspapers and churches.
It was also the site of the Black Wall Street Massacre where a white mob burned, bombed and destroyed the entire neighborhood after a white woman alleged that a black man sexually assaulted her. The murderous spree killed between 100 and 300 residents, made 8,000 homeless, and left an indelible mark on the city of Tulsa for generations.
Nearly 100 years later, as the city is reconciling its racist past through renaming and reconstruction (or perhaps gentrification), black artists are coming together to claim space, tell untold stories, and revive Tulsa’s legacy of black excellence.
(click the title for the full story!)
I'm in Voyage LA!
Note: I wrote this post a couple of years ago after my first visit to the Integratron, a special place near Joshua Tree known for its powerful sound bowl meditations and healing. I’m planning another trip for 2019 and revisiting the magic here! It’s closed for the holidays but get on top of their calendar because the dates book up fast!
Sometimes you just need to get your chakras aligned and clear out some energy, right? Well if you’re in Southern California and can’t make it to Sedona, you can get some proper energy vortex action at the Integratron in the Yucca Valley. Visitors flock here to experience the hour long healing sound bath which the site accurately calls “kindergarten naptime for adults.”
Triggering Travel Conversations in the Era of Trumpito
Oh hey that’s me! Much love to Sid and the team at Voyage LA for featuring me as one of Los Angeles’s inspiring stories. It was quite fun to reflect back on the beginning of my career to see what I’ve learned and how far I’ve come. The growth and lessons are ongoing and I’m grateful to be recognized in my new home. Check out the link to learn more about my journey as a multi-hyphenate writer, dancer, publicist and boss lady!
A Visit To Black Wall Street
One thing I enjoy about travel is random conversations with strangers on planes, in taxis or Lyft rides, or on public transit. A lot of people despise this but often I interact with folks I might never engage with and see it as a learning opportunity. It’s Trump’s America so it’s really a crapshoot these days who you will chat with and these encounters challenge my preconceived ideas about people.
On Remembering Prince, ‘Baby Dolls’ Breaking Sexual Barriers and a New Orleans Second Line
One of the highlights of 2018 for me has been attending Breakout in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I’ve never been to Oklahoma but was really intrigued by the idea of visiting Black Wall Street and learning about this illustrious history. I also wanted to see what the area is like currently, and how our legacy is being preserved and transformed for the present day. I had the opportunity to connect with brilliant artists, activists and historians such as Dr. Ricco Wright, the Artistic Director of the Black Wall Street Gallery. Check out this video of him explaining what set off the Black Wall Street Massacre, as well as the connection between Black and Indigenous communities in Tulsa.
The Modern Dance Community Thrives on Crenshaw
I shared my experience attending Prince’s second line celebration in New Orleans a few days after his death in 2016. It was a convergence of Black music and culture history dancing with the Legendary Baby Doll Ladies through Treme. Read more at The Root and check the video of the festivities!
Bawdy Politic: The Best Burlesque in New York City
Lula Washington Dance Theatre is a family affair. The company and school was founded by Lula Washington and her husband Erwin, and is co-managed by their daughter Tamica; all of whom grew up in South Los Angeles. Their mission is twofold: to build a world-class contemporary modern dance company that travels worldwide with work that reflects African-American history and culture, and to create a school in the inner city where young people can learn the art of dance. The Washingtons use dance to “motivate, educate, inspire, challenge and enrich young people so they can become successful and productive citizens” because they know firsthand the transformative power of this art form.
#Crystal Bliss and Radical Self-Care When Stress is Literally Making Us Sick
While most people think of Dita Von Teese or that lackluster Christina Aguilera movie when they hear the word “burlesque,” women of color have a rich history and presence in the art form. Since the late 19th century, women of color in the United States have been creating burlesque variety shows that offer satirical commentary on American racism and gender roles. (The word “burlesque” comes from the Italian word burla, which means “joke.”)
Healers of color are emerging and connecting via social media. Folks who previously were skeptical of alternative healing modalities outside of Western medicine or Christian beliefs are integrating metaphysical elements into their self-care practices because, frankly, shit is real.
Crystal healing is now on trend and receiving a lot of attention. Like many ancient healing methods, it’s becoming commercialized and commodified. I’m encouraged, however, to see many women of color like author Devi Brownreclaiming this knowledge and empowering others to squad up and and step into healing roles.