Global Feminist Funk Underground Club: Fire-Bellied Feminist Forum
Our Fire-Bellied Feminist Forum series celebrates the folks who gather at the #GloFFUC (Global Feminist Funk Underground Club).
June 7, 2019
Today, we launch our #FireBelliedFeministForum series of folks who gather at the #GloFFUC (Global Feminist Funk Underground Club) by celebrating Janice BadMoccasin.
Here is how she describes herself: “I am Dakota, my spirit name is Cetanskan (chay tah ska n) White Hawk Woman Dancing. I am a Cultural Bearer, Healer, Knowledge Keeper and Muay Thai combat athlete warrior.”
Janice Bad Moccasin is a tribal member of Dakota Nation, Oceti Sakowin. She attended the Dakota Wesleyan University to study Human Development. However, she felt called to return to her traditional grassroots traditions of healing and restoring her spirit away from mainstream society and refocused her study inside indigenous communities. Mentored by elders and spiritual leaders, she now serves as a traditional healing liaison for her tribal communities. She works in various healing modalities of conducting transformational healing with horse medicine and ceremonial healing work with her family, women and communities. Her unique metaphoric and ceremonial healing proceeds through bridging Horse and Human relationship in the path of “Mitakuye Oyasin,” becoming one in spirit as relatives. This healing embodies the shifting away trauma and horses restoring with breath, energy medicine and old knowledge of presence.
Additionally, she is an an intergenerational caregiver of granddaughter and mother. She is currently employed by a successful tribal government in the role of cultural bearer/keeper.
Here is how she describes her work:
“Transforming my life from the death of trauma impacts, I didn’t plan to become a healer. Rebirthed of gratitude, humility and fierce compassion has torched in my spirit to carry forward the mission of restoring the spirit. Counting coup on the pains and anger forced upon our families and nation. What drives my dedication of healing work to community is the greatest need for culturally specific healing and my unique approach of believing in miraculous wonders of a healing gift. The quiet leadership and healer within me has been summoned by my family, women, and families. It is my spiritual ethics and values that I strongly adhere to being a good relative, healer and quiet leader as I have learned compassion and humbleness are the language of spirit and the natural world. Feeling empowered and supported by the universe and natural world of horse medicine healing, I carry forth healing for the people, what is healing is “restoring the spirit” by facilitating the aligning of a person’s life with the spiritual law with healing horses, ceremonial transformation, magnifying and reflecting their greatest strengths to overcome the trauma impacts. The ability to listen and communicate to the pains and healing aspects is when the greatest need miraculously shows up as good medicine with unsaid and unseen as if it were always present.” It is with great honor and love that I contribute to help transform our world. Ihun.”
Design: Laichee Dorothy
June 14, 2019
SHARON M. DAY, Ojibwe, is a leader in many circles of community, a visionary, and a change-maker.
**She is the Executive Director and one of the founder’s of the Indigenous Peoples Task Force (IPTF), formerly known as the Minnesota American Indian AIDS Task Force.
**She leads IPTF’s flagship program, Ikidowin Youth Theater Ensemble, and mentors youth via theatrical expressivity. Ikidowin young artists have performed several plays written by her.
**She is an artist, musician, and writer.
**An environmental activist, she has led 19 Water Walks from 2011, to draw attention to the devastation of natural water resources and to offer prayers for these rivers. These extended ceremonies have happened along the Mississippi River, the Ohio River, the St. Louis River, the James River in Virginia, the Missouri River, Cuyahoga River in Ohio, Seneca Lake in New York, and Pokegama Lake in Minnesota.
Of her environmental work she says, “As indigenous people, we’re fairly close to the land. And we have something to share with the environmental movement. …It’s really understanding that the earth is our mother, we are the water…So, how do you make an offering, how do you have a connection?…This is what we bring to the environmental movement. And justice and healing…And in 1998, for the first time, we took that kind of spiritual work out of our ceremonial work and placed it into a geo-political setting. It was necessary because of the crisis we’re in right now..North America is on fire.”
Sharon’s many awards include the Resourceful Woman Award, the Gisela Knopka Award, BIHA’s Women of Color Award, The National Native American AIDS Prevention Resource Center’s Red Ribbon Award, the Alston Bannerman Sabbatical Award, and most recently, the Spirit Aligned Leadership Fellowship. The Governor of the State of Minnesota, and the mayors of both St. Paul and Minneapolis named November 10, 1998 after her: Sharon M. Day, Day.
She is an editor of the anthology, Sing! Whisper! Shout! Pray! Feminist Visions for a Just World: Edgework Books, 2000. She is also one of two contributors to Drink of the Winds, Let the Waters Flow Free, Johnson Institute, 1978. Design: Laichee Dorothy
June 21, 2019
Today, celebrating CHERISH SONJA GIBSON for our #FBFF series! Cherish Sonja Gibson is a spoken word poetry artist and healthcare worker. A former Givens Foundation Fellow, her poetry piece “Dominant Traits” reflects on motherhood as much more than “what might be prescribed to me as a black woman, as a black African woman.” As a healthcare data abstractor, she wonders, “How can I bring justice there?” She envisions a future of reassessing treatment for cancer patients, to change lives in ways that think outside the gender binary. Gibson intends to leave a legacy that upholds the histories of Liberian, Black African, women-identifying people of color: “The ghosts are the things I need to conquer, work through, and acknowledge honestly. The ghosts of ancestors are like a calm coming over me. That’s a bit of presence—things that have built up that I did not ask for, that I did not fortify, that I am blessed to have—I am haunted, in a good way.” Design: Laichee Dorothy
June 28, 2019
Today, on our Fire-Bellied Feminist Forum, we honor SUZANNE THAO, who learned the power of needle and thread from her paternal grandmother and mother at the age of six. Through her practice of Paj Ntaub, Suzanne experienced the importance of intergenerational relationships within making and learning a craft. She once asked her grandmother, “Why don’t we just make a plain shirt?” Her Grandmother pointed to the embroidered patch on her back and responded, “Hmong knowledge and skills are sewn there. That is how you know you are Hmong.” Suzanne has carried this lesson with her throughout her life, when her refugee experience landed her family in France and many years later in America. She believes that it is through intergenerational learning, that one can attain the long embodied experience and knowledge of materials, processes, and histories of Hmoob Paj Ntaub.
For the past 3 years, Suzanne has worked with Hmong Museum, to hold space for intergenerational exchange through free paj ntaub workshops called Project Paj Ntaub. With her passion for the creative process and love and support for Hmong youth, Suzanne donates her time, knowledge, materials, and a colorful array of paj ntaub examples she cares for from diasporic Hmong communities across the world. Suzanne’s generosity and leadership stems from her desire to share the importance of learning the long embodied experience and knowledge of materials, processes, and histories of the women that have come before her. Design: Laichee Dorothy
July 9, 2019
Today, on our Fire-Bellied Feminist Forum, we honor the indomitable Laurie Carlos (1949-2016).
A native of New York City’s Lower East Side, Carlos became a seminal American theater artist and original player in NYC’s avant-garde performance scene, and developed new characters and aesthetics for the stage for more than 40 years. A powerful artist-advocate for women and communities of color, Carlos pushed the field forward through her innovative, feminist creations, teaching, mentorship, and visioning.
A gifted writer, her oft-anthologized pieces, including “White Chocolate,” “The Cooking Show,” and “Organdy Falsetto,” represented daring and successful forays into abstract aesthetics. She received an OBIE Award for Lady In Blue, the role she created in Ntozake Shange’s “for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf.” She won two New York Dance and Performance Awards (Bessie Awards) as choreographer of “White Chocolate” and “Heat.” Carlos’ work as a collaborating poet, dramaturg, and performer with the Urban Bush Women, Movin’ Spirits Dance Company, Ananya Dance Theatre, and with artists Sharon Bridgforth, Carl Hancock Rux, Lourdes Perez, Sue Lori Parks, Zell Miller III, and Daniel Alexander Jones is the stuff of performance legend. Carlos, along with Robbie McCauley and Jessica Hagedorn, formed the performance group Thought Music in the mid-1980s, producing the revolutionary performance work “Teenytown.” With Ananya Chatterjea and Marilyn Amaral, Carlos created a dance poem, “Marion’s Terrible Time of Joy,” in 2003.
Here is an artist statement Laurie wrote for Ananya Dance Theatre’s program in 2012:
I AM ALWAYS WORKING TO REVEAL IN THE CREATION OF MY DANCE-DRIVEN TEXT THE MULTIVOCALITY Of WOMEN’S STORIES AND DIASPORAS. THESE STORIES PROVOKED BY COMMUNITY GATHERINGS OF EXCAVATED DIALOGUES, FAMILY MYTHS, SECRETS, UNREVEALED DIALECTS, MOANS AND KICKS, INFUSE THE RECIPE OF SCRIPTED LANGUAGE.
I WORK IN A JAZZ- AESTHETIC ROOTED IN CLASSICAL RAGAS, FIELD HOLLARTS, URBAN BREATHS AND IMPROVISATIONS OF MELODY.
I AM ALWAYS NEW IN THE ROOM.
Photo: Paul Virtucio (ADT, Moreechika, 2012). Design: Laichee Dorothy
July 12, 2019
Nia & Ness are a black, lesbian, dancer-poet performance art duo based in Brooklyn, NY. The duo met in 2013 making art together, founding their company in 2016. They have performed at multiple venues nationwide, sharing their work that aims at a deeper understanding of their co-reality through intense investigation of their individual identities. Their work invites audiences to enter their world as observers, listening in on their intimate, strong, and loving conversations about and influenced by their identities.They have been keynote speakers at Brown University and City College, and performed their work at schools such as the University of California Riverside, New York University, Sarah Lawrence College, Harvard College, Bard College, and more. They have also performed at Brooklyn Pride 2017 and Harlem Pride 2018; were recipients of the BAX Summer 2017 Space Grant; inaugural nominees for the Virginia Giordano Memorial Fund, and were the winners of the 2017 National Women’s Music Festival Emerging Artist Contest. Together, these artists are fire! Their love for each other womanifests what they create and share in the world together.
Design: Laichee Dorothy
July 25, 2019
Today on our #FBFF, we honor Rhonda Fellows, a Certified Birth Doula and Childbirth Educator.
In her own words: “As a doula, I believe it is my calling to build relationships with families, learn what they desire for their birth, educate them on the processes of birth and bringing their baby home. Being a doula is a mixture of helping people create the atmosphere they desire at their birth and then holding that sacred space so they are able to focus on birthing their baby. In the midst of that birthing space, I assist throughout the process as they need. Bringing peace and calm to the birth space not only affects the birthing person in the moment but is also able to bring healing to past birth traumas because they are able to be comfortable in this new experience no matter what happened in the past.”
Her work is resistance to “Obstetric Violence…Maternal and Fetal Mortality Rates…Ignoring or Not believing POC when they speak about physical pain and illness…Lies told by providers to convince birthing people to do things their way…Families not knowing they have the right to make choices about their bodies.” She believes healing is “the sensation of peace that washes over you when you know you are making the right decisions for your life.”
July 30, 2019
Today’s #FBFF is graced by the amazing Sun Yung Shin, 신 선 영, the author of poetry/essay collections “Unbearable Splendor” (Minnesota Book Award); “Rough, and Savage”; and “Skirt Full of Black” (Asian American Literary Award) (all published by Coffee House Press). She is the editor of “A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota” and co-editor of “Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption.” Her bilingual (Korean/English) illustrated children’s book is Cooper’s Lesson. She is the co-director of Poetry Asylum which recognizes poetry as a human right, and is an emerging healing practitioner (biodynamic craniosacral therapy and Reiki Master Level III). She has an MFA from Naropa University and a Master of Arts in Teaching from University of St. Thomas. She lives in Minneapolis with her family.
She says: “The burning issues that fuel my work are silence and erasure, and the counterconditions of (desiring) voice and presence, making a mark, marks. As a person of color, an Asian American, a Korean, a woman, and an adoptee, I grew up in the United States without knowing my history in so many ways, from my own Korean parents and family of origin, Korean ancestors, Korean history, history of the US in Asia and Korea, the history of Japanese colonization in Korea, and so on. I also relate very much to those who are missing and abandoned, whether they are children or adults, and also those who were never born because of sex selective abortions, or selective abortions after multiple embryo implantations, or embryos in frozen stasis. It gets a little futuristic with the medically-assisted third-party reproduction!
“A sensation of healing is a sense of wholeness, that my body is connecting with its ancient life-knowledge, that it is part of the earth and the cosmos, and that it is infinite, and much more than the mechanistic construct that Western science would often tell us that we are.”
August 2, 2019
On today’s #FireBelliedFeministForum, we honor brilliant artist and visionary leader, Ni’Ja Whitson. Ni’Ja is a gender nonconforming/trans interdisciplinary artist and writer, Creative Capital Awardee, and Bessie Award winning performer, who has been referred to as “majestic” by the New York Times, and is recognized by Brooklyn Magazine as a culture influencer. They are a 2018 MAP Fund recipient, the featured choreographer of the 2018 CCA Biennial, a 2019 Tarpaulin Sky Shortlist Book Award recipient, and 2018-2020 UBW Choreographic Center Fellow. Other recent awards include a Camargo/Jerome Foundation Fellowship, Dance in Process (DiP) Residency, Hedgebrook Fellowship, LMCC Process Space Residency, Bogliasco Fellowship, Brooklyn Arts Exchange Artist Residency, among dozens of other residencies and awards across disciplines. Ni’Ja Whitson is an Assistant Professor at UC Riverside and is the Founder/Artistic Director of The NWA Project. Although “a bi-coastal artist,” they share, “I am nomadic by nature, so aim to be in the world flexibly and responsibly.”
Ni’Ja has been a student and practitioner of indigenous African ritual and resistance forms for two decades, creating work that reflects the sacred in conceptual and interdisciplinary performance. They engage a nexus of postmodern and African Diasporic performance practices, through a critical intersection of gender, sexuality, race, and spirituality.
In describing their work, Ni’Ja Whitson shares their poem:
I keep asking the impossible.
I keep stringing together sorrows
Traumas on curtains in rented rooms
Parking lots with too many observers
And too few interrupters
They keep on watching us die
Because we have nerve
I yearn for space
And then im ashamed at what I can drink
For the thirsty
Too few waters
I hope for quiet
During one of these eclipses sometimes
Pisces and such
Something for which to open
My mouth wide
A body that’s impossible
A body that’s impossibly in
Impossibly bound to
An impossible language that
Genders beating back at
Blood instead of drowning
It is a spilling I’ll live through
Until I evaporate to supernova
August 9, 2019
On today’s #FireBelliedFeministForum, we celebrate the tremendous work of Sarah White, whose work connects many distinct spheres. In her own words: “I am a space holder. Story teller using words of poetry to ignite full embodied awareness. Holder of hearts, mirror of song. I am a warrior for justice, water, babies, land. A mother of two dynamic beings. Radiant beings. I am a black farmer, looking to lean into mycelium to remember how to heal. How to breathe. I hold a flame to the system using romance and calls for activation. I am a soundscape wanderer. Opening dance floors as a place to find ritual. I am a hub in the cosmos, like everyone looking to find home, listening deep into my guts where I found my mothers wounded guts, where I found her mothers wounded guts, where I found her mothers wounded guts.”
Sarah delivers #inspiration as she speaks about her work and philosophy: “I understand justice as the handing over of land that was stolen, on knees, begging forgiveness. REPARATIONS. Artist sabbaticals. Grants without applications. Free food for community. Uniting families. Abolishing the POLICE. Holding black mothers deeply. Collective rest.
“One part of my life is working with Divine Natural Ancestry, a collective of three spiritual kinfolk living on Dakota and Anishinaabe land. We are dedicated to choosing life, love, healing through Radical Liberation. We are stewards of the earth, healers, creators, warriors, and visionaries. We are called to use our gifts to continue our ancestors’ revolution and heal trauma both interpersonally and communally. We believe that the basis of all physical, spiritual, and emotional healing comes from connection to the physical and metaphysical land we inhabit. As our society destroys more and more of our earth and our connection to land, food, and medicine, it inhibits our ability to heal and dismantle trauma. It takes us further and further from truth. We are warriors for truth.”
August 15, 2019
On today’s #FBFF, we celebrate Yasmin Abdi, a speech language pathologist for Saint Paul Public Schools. She describes her work in her own words: “I pursued a career as a speech therapist because of all my different collaborations with mental health and speech therapists who served children with ASD and their families, especially the caregivers of students of color.
“Those families tended to seek me out. I was often the only person of color working with their child or children at the Minneapolis site. Those black and brown families would seek to confirm with me what their therapists had told them or seek clarification about what a therapist had advised. It became an important part of my job to understand the jargon that some therapists might use, and find a way to say again and say differently a therapist’s message. I tended to work as a cultural liaison, inadvertently. A lot of the families who may self-identify as brown/black people of color gravitate toward me whether or not I serve their child; sometimes before they learn I’m the speech therapist serving their child’s class. Maybe I make them comfortable…I wear multiple hats. I serve the child I’m working with, as well as the family of that child, whether that family consists of parents, grandparents, adoptive parents, foster parents, and/or siblings.
“Doing my best to understand the caregiver network structured around a child is crucial. It goes beyond simply building rapport. Anyone in service knows about rapport in the moment that allows us to do the job we need to do to get to the short-term result we want. When working in the school system, within a primary service provider model, it takes more than rapport to progress towards success. I could proceed, without the caregivers’ input or collaboration, with my idea of what would help a family and a student to make progress on their educational goals and objectives. ‘I know what’s best and they just need to do as prescribed.’ That’s going to fail. Prescribing a solution is easy.
“Fortunately, we have access to evidence-based practice and practice-based evidence that give us better strategies. My coach has been a helpful facilitator of my informal reflective practice to find the words to talk about and ways to address challenges including, ‘How do we help in the way that empowers people so they don’t need us anymore?’ A well-known response: ‘Come up with a solution together.’ Not a solution the people we serve determine on their own, nor one that we impose on them or a cobbling together of perspectives. A ‘good’ solution comes from a collaborative conversation between the provider, student, and caregiver(s).
“Easier said than done. A challenge that motivates me to go to work everyday. And I have so many stories, sometimes funny stories, thanks to those beautiful children I work with.”
August 20, 2019
Today’s #FireBelliedFeminist is the brilliant Kuab Maiv Yaj/Koua Mai Yang, a Hmong American female artist based in Saint Paul, MN. She is an Art MFA candidate and DOVE Fellow at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, who explores Hmong identity in her studio art practice. In her current project, Hnav Hmoob, presented as a photo series, Kuab engages in traditional Hmong clothes making, dressing and performance to raise questions about Hmong materiality, culture and female representation through the circulation of global cultural production.
She wonders: “How much do we participate in capitalism, in the selling and consuming of Hmong bodies, of Hmong knowledge… certainly, it’s always a little bit different when it’s a Hmong person selling [Hmong things] than when it’s a non-Hmong person selling [Hmong things], right? These are [the] things that I’m noticing globally. I feel the connection in the materials and I don’t necessarily think it’s unique to just me. I think a lot of Hmong people feel that when they come to [a] place where they don’t expect to see themselves reflected but they see it in the materials.”
As a recipient of the Richard Fink Summer Research Fellowship, the Berlin Studio-Artist Residency Program and the College of Liberal Arts, Kuab traveled to Europe to continue her Hnav Hmoob photo series: “I needed to experience being by myself, away from my family and away from a context that I know to intentionally disorientate myself, to see if I can actually orientate myself to a place, or to make sense of where I’m at and what I’m doing. Because essentially, it is something that Hmong people have been doing for who-knows-how-long since being displaced, right? So it’s about retracing a kind of movement.” She further shares: “I am thinking a lot about memory, the unseen labor, the unseen things that has happened, that I think are still haunting this [Hmong] diaspora.”
Kuab seeks to understand the history of Hmong traditional dress from a female perspective, a place of labor, experientially and through an embodied methodology: “Since I started dressing in traditional dress everyday, resistant seems to be everywhere…it feels dangerous to look different now in that I have to practice looking and not looking at people. I have to practice knowing where to place my body now, who [to talk to] and how [to] share myself with people. [I’m] learning how to speak, when to speak and when not to speak.” She realizes “that wearing Hmong clothing is to try to understand what I’m reclaiming and what I’m trying to resist. I am trying to resist the systemic oppression of women in the Hmong community, in the Hmong identity. [I am] really trying to own [my] sexuality and knowledge.”
More about Kuab Maiv Yaj and the Hnav Hmoob project at https://www.kouamyang.com/hnav-hmoob-main
August 30, 2019
It’s a cloudy Sunday morning. Cool breezes rushed through the studio’s windows as we sit across a small coffee table, sipping on homemade Vietnamese coffee enriched with condensed milk. Pulling from the stacks of books lying amongst a collection of photo frames, souvenirs, and art pieces of all shapes and sizes, Anh-Hoa showed me her book on Spices. With such excitement, she told mesmerizing stories of spices, fruits, and cocktails in relation to history of migration, and her own immigrant childhood. Our conversation started with Anh-Hoa’s introducing me to her collection of beverage glasses and her vision for a “portable bar” where her original drinks can be served with poetic stories about each magical ingredient . As an artist, feminist, and writer, Anh-Hoa cannot hide her excitement for the potential for subversion and joy, through the simplicity of juice, herbs, and liquor, in her craft of cocktail-making: “Imagine if we can curate a gathering space for the community to share stories and explore joy over cocktails – or mocktails!” This conversation is yet another reminder that feminism is the care for details, the meditation on all parts of life, the journeys that had taken place to form the drinks we enjoy, the pages we read, or the people we greet everyday.
Anh-Hoa Thi Nguyen is a poet, community artist, activist, and an educator. She is part of She Who Has No Master(s), a collective of women and gender-nonconforming writers of the Vietnamese diaspora, and a project of the Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network (DVAN). Anh-Hoa is currently a Lecturer of English at St. Catherine University.
Read her poem “One Note. One Dish. One Love. ~ a poem” here: https://diacritics.org/2018/11/one-note-one-dish-one-love-a-poem/
September 6, 2019
So excited that this amazing feminist graces our #FireBelliedFeministForum today! We celebrate you Khushi Kabir!! Khushi Kabir’s trajectory as a powerful feminist and change-maker was shaped by the tumultuous events of the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971, which had the participation, support and backing of all people who constituted what was then known as East Pakistan, resulting in the creation of Bangladesh. A young woman just entering her twenties, Khushi joined BRAC (Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee) and threw herself into rehabilitation work, working with the millions of displaced peoples and refugees from different parts of the country. Her perspective shifted when she began to work in the remote villages, and she lived and worked exclusively for five years with the most excluded rural communities without the basic facilities that urban communities are used to–the first woman to be based in the field. She had graduated in Fine Arts and dreamt of creating her own world through her paintings. But the education she got living in the villages was the real school, which taught her what exploitation, subordination, patriarchy, majoritarianism, religious indoctrination, corruption, capitalism, neo-liberalism, autocracy all really meant in relation to people. There was no turning back.
In 1980 she joined Nijera Kori as Coordinator, a national level NGO working with 2,37,787 rural women and men in 1366 villages. Nijera Kori believes in creating strong autonomous organizations of the rural poor to assert their rights and ensure their entitlements as citizens. It believes patriarchy and class division are the twin forces against ensuing equality of women. She says about this work: “I do not believe in the ghettoization of women’s services. The separation of space, roles, hierarchy between men and women is so strong that what we need is for men to learn to work with women and deal with them as equals and women to learn to work with men and be much more assertive.”
Khushi now works extensively across the county and is a strong and fierce voice against all forms of injustice. Her main work however, is as the organizing force behind mobilizing self-empowerment groups of the most marginalized in the most depressed areas, to challenge existing practices and to ensure their own rights and entitlements are ensured as a citizen of Bangladesh and the world.
A passionate feminist, she believes that use of art forms helps unravel the dormant creativity within each person, which in turn creates the confidence to change lives.