As we have seen in the recent past, media and social media focus on male victims of police brutality and that’s now changing due to efforts such as #SayHerName. Before it was almost as if cisgendered males were believed to be the most relatable subjects. However, in your activism and in this current work you are presenting you are choosing to focus on somebody who is suffering from mental health challenges and who is a Black Woman . . . Why is this topic important to you and why do you think this is a problem that affects us all?
Well I’m a Black Woman and I’m a Black Woman who has bad days. I really think it started with Yuvette’s murder honestly. I’ve been doing this work for a long time and a vast majority of that work has been centered around holding up the lives of Black Men. When Yuvette was murdered, I don’t know if it’s because we’re close in age or if it’s because we’re both mothers or it was right around the corner from my house or all those things combined and just synergistically - because I think of the Black Lives Matter movement being led by women and unapologetically so - some space opened up to really fit in the fact that we are being murdered by police at a godawful rate too and somewhere I knew that and always knew that and I’ve had my own experiences with police-terror but there just wasn’t the space. It had yet to be opened up. All of those things combined hit me in a particular way. That’s been the primary focus of my work.
My recent decision to leave my full-time regular job and really focus on being an artist and activist and merging those two worlds together, I’ve chosen to focus specifically on telling the stories of those [people] whose stories don’t get told.
What the Black community does not need is for it to be Black Men against Black Women. Like who suffers the most? I’m not interested in that and that’s a very dangerous conversation. I think the conversation is about - if we’re going to get liberated - it’s got to be all of us. In order for real liberation to happen we have to tell the whole story and so that means talking about women, transgender and queer people too.
Tell us about this weekend’s Monologue? How did you choose the topic and what did the process of writing the piece entail?
Again, I made this decision to shift my life in major ways and to really focus on my art. I’m a poet. Initially the idea I had was to tell a bunch of the women's stories, a series of monologues, Rekia, Natasha, Yuvette, Sandra. I didn’t know who I was going to write first and I was literally in bed, it was three o’clock in the morning and Natasha - this is going to sound crazy. If you’re an artist this doesn’t sound crazy but it might sound crazy to other people. Natasha just
". . .if we’re going to get liberated - it’s got to be all of us. In order for real liberation to happen we have to tell the whole story and so that means talking about women, transgender and queer people too."
started talking - in my head - really loudly, to the point where I had to get up and write what she was saying. It was just sort of free form. I just typed and I didn’t edit and I just let it all come out. Next I watched the video in pieces. I could never watch it all the way through in one shot. It’s incredibly painful, the video that the sheriff’s put out about her murder. I watched that repeatedly. I watched a lot of videos of people who [suffer from] schizophrenia. And I cried a lot. Then it became clear to me that it’s not going to be a story of all these different woman, I wanted to tell Natasha’s story so I made the commitment to do that. Once I made the commitment out loud to do that the community has really responded with extreme support. That’s how this weekend came about.
This weekend are “artists response to police violence” put on by NAKA dance company who are the same folks who brought us the The Anastasio Project, which is an incredibly powerful piece around police-terror. There are several other artists participating. I think it should be a pretty incredible night at Eastside Arts Alliance.