MAKING SCENES, BUILDING COMMUNITIES
Table of Contents 1. Untitled – Kristina Clark
2. Decima de Iris – Iris Viveros Avendaño
3. Stockholm Syndrome – Johanna Buccola
4. If the poets teach the children – Stephanie K. Hazelrigg
5. These feet keep moving – Quetzal Flores
6. Imaginaries – Martha González
1. Testimonio – J. Kehaulani Kauanui
2. Testimonio – Michelle Habell-Pallán, Sonnet Retman, and Mako Fitts
1. Disassemble It and Dialogue With Me – Kate Wadkins
2. The Snake of a Thousand Heads – Jacque Larrainzar
3. Filming Women Who Rock With Rocking Women Who Film – Angelica Macklin
4. Nuevos Espacios Para Movimentos Sociales – Teresita Bazán Beltrán
1. You want them listening to you... – Alicia Armendariz and María Elena Gaitán
The Women Who Rock Conference highlights both contemporary and past movements in and outside of Seattle by bringing together musicians, activists, writers, advocates, and scholars to talk about questions of female representation and access for women with music scenes. The first conference was held Feb. 17-18, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. This ‘zine is based on material created for, during, and inspired by the conference. For more information, including access to an archive of digital audio recordings from the conference, visit: http://womenwhorockcommunity.org/ Edited by George B. Sánchez-Tello. Layout by Brendan W. Cosgrove
photo by Kate Wadkins
DISASSEMBLE IT AND DIALOGUE WITH ME by Kate Wadkins Communication as Punk Feminist Cultural Activism
This is a paper that I wrote for the D.I.Y. Media panel at the Women Who Rock Conference in Seattle, Washington. Some of the opening paragraphs were co-written with Jamie Varriale Vélez; together, we discussed our experiences learning how to communicate effectively in our New York City community. We encourage you to get in touch for further communication on these and related topics. You can find Kate online at katewadkins.com and Jamie at rockandthesinglegirl.blogspot.com.
New York’s geography lends itself to separating feminists as well as other social justice activists, and one of our main resolutions to this predicament is community organizing. We come from a music scene founded in a love of punk rock music, a genre that has been overwhelmingly maledominated and white-dominated since its inception in the 1970s. As feminists, we have built communities around punk and “queered” it, creating safer spaces for women, queer, and trans folks, hoping to cultivate an alternative to mainstream oppressions. Unfortunately, subculture is rarely ever free of mainstream cultural ideology. Our community utilizes “DIY feminist cultural activism,” methods of doing that include booking music shows (punk and otherwise), multimedia events like creative fiction or nonfiction readings, art shows, and even feminist conferences. Women play in bands, work as social justice activists, write zines, make art, own small businesses, and generally weave work and pleasure into an active feminist lifestyle. Through our experiences in the New York City DIY/punk feminist community, we have discovered that learning how to communicate effectively, on whatever level, is what produces the cultural change we want. It means changing the way we think by listening to each other, expanding our cultural vernacular and bringing previously marginalized voices to the forefront of a new narrative. Where I enter the story is here: I have been surrounded by seedlings of feminist community since my adolescence in the Long Island “do-it-yourself” punk scene. At sixteen, my closest girlfriends and I made our best attempts to combat the acrimonious attitudes embedded in our interactions
with each other by celebrating Revolution Girl Style Now! and later forming a group called the Long Island Womyn’s Collective. As the Womyn’s Collective quickly became my first real entry to, and honest engagement with activism, it also became the first site of many dilemmas. Becoming active in a predominantly white punk scene, surrounded by predominantly white feminists, it became apparent that though our organizing might help ourselves and our direct community, we might fall short in terms of genuinely diverse, broad-based social change.
As feminists, we have built communities around punk and “queered” it, creating safer spaces for women, queer, and trans folks, hoping to cultivate an alternative to mainstream oppressions.
As the Long Island Womyn’s Collective, we established an event called The Big She-Bang. The SheBang represented the collective’s goals to highlight and encourage girls’ and women’s voices. It included a full day of activity: vendors, tablers, and a “DIY fleamarket”; speakers and presenters; an art show; and musical performances. Fast forward to 2007. The Womyn’s Collective had dissipated naturally, as collective members dispersed upon graduating college, and lost our organizing space. In July of that year, an integral organizer of the LIWC, Jodi Tilton, passed away due to complications related to Crohn’s disease and Colitis. A few original members of the LIWC decided to throw The Big She-Bang once more, in Jodi’s spirit, during the summer of 2008. We connected with the feminists in our punk scene in New York to begin brainstorming; these included fellow ex-members of LIWC as well as new women who played in bands, made art, and were involved in various types of social justice work. After our first She-Bang in New York City, the organizers of the event committed to a fully active WWR 2011 3
feminist agenda. In October 2008, we chose the moniker “For the Birds” and wrote a mission statement with dreams to collect and disseminate feminist information (zines, books, art, pamphlets, music, and media in general) via a feminist “distro” – an informal and “do it yourself,” essentially nonprofit, system of distribution.1 This is what entails cultural activism for us, as well as booking womencentric music shows, art shows, and literary events; writing about local feminist happenings and current events on our blog, and connecting other New York City feminist groups. For the Birds’ collective process echoes that of my own. We aim to take the best of the feminist movements before us, but leave the rest, or “what didn’t work,” in the past. We are influenced by riot grrrl and we intend to take what we love about punk: more egalitarian modes of production, skill-sharing, and resistance to mainstream oppressions, and leave the rest. We want to take something rooted in punk and make its tools available to other marginalized communities.
Things felt hopeless, and collective members were palpably upset. Instead of letting the collective implode, we forced ourselves to address our feelings head on, which was terrifying. One FTB member had proposed utilizing guiding questions from a pamphlet On Conflict & Consensus to help us begin communicating about our internal group dynamics in meetings, when planning or working events, and generally in the collective. Though this was already part of our operation, we decided to zero in on it and cease planning any forthcoming events, focusing on inter-group issues only. We embarked on what would be about eight months of intense “processing” to figure out why and how we got to the place and patterns of interaction we were in. Aside from an unequal division of labor, an increasing 1. This kind of “do-it-yourself” distribution is common within grassroots music scenes, especially with the advent of the internet. See Bennett and Peterson, 7.
amount of tension arose regarding our lack of discussion, as a collective, on race and privilege. About a year into our existence as a group, it was clear that we needed to figure out a way to deal with this head on. “A How-to for D.I.Y. Feminism” was our theme for The Big She-Bang IV, and we had hoped to connect and introduce the diverse community of grassroots activists, art-makers, musicians, and writers currently making New York a better place. In the end, we felt our lineup fell short. There were not many people of color represented in our participants though we had attempted to connect with a wide array of groups, including those who specifically deal with intersectional issues such as race and sexuality. So what happened? Why were we finding ourselves in the same boat as many feminists before us, wondering why our forms of activism weren’t appealing to other groups?
Instead of letting the collective implode, we forced ourselves to address our feelings head on, which was terrifying.
Clearly, our own confrontations with these issues echo historical feminist dialogues. These are the challenges that faced us in our fifth year (For the Birds’ third year) of planning the Big She-Bang. We began implementing meetings nicknamed “Ally Birds” – a time set aside for specifically discussing race and privilege issues; having this space central to our group has enriched our ability to handle these issues when they arise, and to discuss them more readily and critically. Throughout the course of 2009 and early 2010, many For the Birds members began school in varied fields: creative nonfiction, social work, and women’s history; as students we discovered many new contacts doing similar and exciting work in the New WWR 2011 4
drawing by Kate Wadkins
The successes within FTB over the past year really lie in the feminist communication that occurred. While we desired to create feminist safer spaces through our events, we lost sight of maintaining the collective itself as a safer space. Specifically, organizing The Big She-Bang IV in 2009 was a difficult time for collective members. We stumbled when it came to “invisible work” (or, as some feminists before us have called it, “unsexy” labor). General maintenance practices like keeping track of finances, checking and responding to e-mails, and maintaining newsletters and various other online tools ended up falling on a small amount of collective members. During the heightened stress of She-Bang organizing, our dynamic personalities were augmented and it seemed that the folks who often took too much on continued to do so, while folks who tended to be more reserved about taking on tasks felt silenced.
York area. This led to us partnering with P.O.C. (People of Color) Zine Project, a project dedicated to archiving any zine ever written by a person of color, and Sistas on the Rise, a young mothers’ resource center in the South Bronx. Our activity as a group blossomed and expanded with our new connections, leaving us feeling better prepared to tackle The Big She-Bang once again. Our theme for 2010 was Feminist Communication and we took the struggles we grappled with the previous year, asking other feminists, womanists, and their allies, “How do feminists transmit our politics and ideas to ourselves, to each other, between groups, throughout history, across movements?” In contrast with the year before, the breadth of experiences and knowledge represented was great, leaving the panels feeling rich in content. The speakers themselves were diverse in a literal sense; panels were multiracial, including Black, Latina, biracial, and white women. The “Consent & Interpersonal Communication” panel was representative and inclusive of a wide array of genders and sexualities. The presenters opened up this panel by laying out certain guidelines, specifically about not assuming anyone’s sexuality or gender preference, and using “I” statements as to avoid generalizing – a tactic also employed by For the Birds. At the end of the day, all For the Birds members were on deck, cleaning the venue and packing things up in one way or another. Though exhausted, this time we ended the She-Bang on a good note, and as usual, planned on taking the next week off to relax after our summer of hard work. When we reconvened, the huge disparity in where we have evolved as a collective, and where we were a year ago, became completely obvious. In contrast to the year before,
any complaints seemed to be about outside issues and not internal conflict. What we learned is that the more we take our interpersonal communication seriously, and commit to learning how to respect one another, the stronger all of our work will be. If we are confident in the work that we do, the crises that arise will be that much easier to deal with, and we will be that much stronger in our responses to them. We are socialized to hide away from real connections and real communication; women particularly are meant to step on one another in order to gain notoriety in a patriarchal society. Racism is insidious in its construction of the way that people in this country and the Western world engage with each other. It is going to take a real dedication to not only fighting these oppressions on the surface -- but also within and between ourselves -- for our activism to maintain any staying power at all. I can only hope that For the Birds will be a tiny part of this process.
It is going to take a real dedication to not only fighting these oppressions on the surface – but also within and between ourselves. WWR 2011 5
Welcome. Peace and health to all present here. Now hear: I operate today From a place of righteous love And righteous rage. Process of change that unfettered I dare display. So please. Bear with me. Bear witness. My emancipation requires Your participation So let’s do this. I trade your excuses for deusas, Dancing in dunes on the shores of Oxun swim in and out of her sweet perfume Sanctified, revived as Yemaya croons Pero mi rumbo- sacred tuneis melancholy. Poder, tristeza en común I channel Oya, and Kali ... Madres genera-destructoras que me liberan from the tomb Foolish, you’d assumed Forgotten the promise Life from womb You expected mi muerte But I don’t rely on suerte So rather than doomed Esta mujer fuerte
Rises! toward full moon on alas Sube, escala And BLOOMS Fénix reignited el camino she resumes
by kristina clark
WWR 2011 6
THE SNAKE OF Jacque Larrainzar A THOUSAND HEADS Liberation Workshop and Conference Design
How can we take a proactive approach to create spaces where participants experience liberation and their personal self without second guessing the impact of “isms”? The Women Who Rock Conference workshop “Documenting Community” was a real breath of fresh air. From the beginning my co-presenters were open to talk about how to create a space where equity and liberation had the best opportunity to be expressed and experienced. As a lesbian, a woman, an immigrant, a non-English speaker living in the U.S., I have often been frustrated by those inevitable moments where privilege and oppressions collide at workshops and conferences which goal is to create space for collaboration across gender, race, class and other oppressions. Older, wiser organizers have told me many times that these moments are in fact good, and necessary. That these moments help the liberation process along, these are teachable moments were the one with privilege gets to hear the voices of those who lack privilege. It is an opportunity to increase their awareness and commitment to end oppression. For a while I agreed and I waited for these moments to happen. Oh joy! I am on the responding side. I am the one reacting to comments, and attitudes shown by people with privilege. Oh Joy? It has taken me a while for me to see this clearly: Privilege, the snake with a thousand heads always bites and poisons all around it. ALL! The power that privilege makes us feel a such a high that when we flaunt our class, citizenship status, education, heterosexism, ability, gender, race, whatever it is that makes us feel privilege , we forget the impact is has on the other person. I feel good- if only for an instant- I am better, I am on top, Oh Joy? In the U.S., oppressions have a hierarchy. Race and Racism create the foundation for other “isms” to connect and interact with each other in ways that maintain segregation and mistrusts. We keep hurting each other, arguing about who has the most power and privilege, or who is the most
oppressed. We get our dose of P&p ( Power and Privilege) and then forget that the reason why we came together in the first place was to create a different way of being, a better world, where everyone has equal access to time and the resources they need to satisfy their basic needs, enjoy life, love, and thrive as human beings. To balance power and privilege connections and interactions, our group first had an open discussion about how power dynamics were playing in our group. We discussed our areas of privilege- gender-male, gender expressionHeterosexual, Class-upper/middle class, Citizenship-U.S., Race and Ethnicity- White, Age-adult , etc… and also our areas of oppression: Gender- women, Gender expressiongenderqueer, lesbian, Class- poor, Citizenship- Asylee, immigrant, foreign born, and English as a Second Language Speakers, Race and Ethnicity: Chinano, Latina, Chamorro, etc, etc, and created a group process and agreements for participants based in our personal experiences of who P&p play out in class rooms and other groups processes we have been part of in the past. For example, students of color in a class room tend not to speak first, and white students tend to talk all the time. Our workshop agenda was designed with the intentional goal to push against the dynamics of P&p. Open Space In our session, we wanted participants to experience Open Space Technology. This is a tested approach to the enhancement of group effectiveness. It can be used with groups of 5 to 500. It is particularly effective when a number of people must address complex and/or conflicted issues in a short period of time, with high levels of innovation, ownership, and synergy. The Circle The chairs were arranged in a circle to signify that all were equal in our space --both as knowers and learners. Participants faced each other equally, with the opportunity to work together to discuss and share issues. In addition we held the following principles and agreements while we are in this session:
WWR 2011 7
Passion and Responsibility Open Space runs on two principles: passion and responsibility. Without passion, nobody is interested. Without responsibility, nothing will get done. Obviously, different people feel passionately about different things and it is also obvious that people will not take responsibility for something they are not passionate about. In Open Space, people come together around topics they care about. The Four Principles • Who ever comes is the right people. • Whatever happens is all that could have. • Whenever it starts is the right time. • When it is over, it is over. The Law of Two Feet The Law of Two Feet implies that if, after being in part of a session you are no longer interested in, you have permission to leave. The law puts responsibility for your own actions on your own shoulders. Bumblebees and Butterflies Bumblebees and Butterflies are for those people who wish to use their two feet and “flit” from meeting to meeting. These people can pollinate and cross-fertilize, lending richness and variety to the discussions. Workshop agreements
gender expression, ability, language, class, immigration status, age, political believes, religion, education, race, and ethnicity. To create equity and libration in this space we will: • Strive to understand a new way of viewing things. • Stay engaged. • If, when in racially mixed groups discussing race you usually hold back, speak up. • If, when in racially mixed groups discussing race you tend to speak often, take breaks. • Experience any discomfort that comes up as part of the growth process. • Expect and accept non-closure on long term issues; the work is ongoing. • Honor concerns - ask for suggestions to make things go better. • Do your part to keep the discussion on topic. • Speak from your own experience. • No shaming, attacking or discounting. • Maintain confidentiality – if you share about your experience in the process, refrain from using names. • Breathe and have fun! Our communities of Color and White have centuries of collective work creating spaces that bring us closer to equality and liberation. We should start applying these principles in all we do from the very beginning so these experiences become as common place as racism and oppression. Oh JOY!
Documenting Community- Agreements In this space we recognize historical practices that have marginalized some over others based on their gender, WWR 2011 8
Decima de Iris Iris Viveros Avendaño I wrote this decima to express the deep meanings embedded in the tarima as a way to communicate and connect with others. I consider the tarima a dignify space for women and the community to come together. In this decima I also mention the essential participation of women to make this communal practices happen.
Esta otra decima la escribí pensando en mi papa. Campesino originario de Alto Lucero, Veracruz, un hombre muy apasionado que me enseno a practicar la alegría, a no dejarme tumbar por “sencilleces” como el decia. Mi papa me enseno los primeros “pasos” de son jarocho. El partió con Dios el 29 de Noviembre de 2009 a causa de un paro cardiaco. Mi zapatear es su corazón, por eso el no ha muerto.
Dialogos en la tarima Fusion de ritmos de son Simbolos de la expresión Que en fandango nos anima
De jarocho y Oaxaqueña es mi ritmo en la tarima y este zapatear se anima como el fuego con la leña De cinco la mas pequeña heredera de alegría con mi padre como guía que revive en cada son percusión su corazón como luz de cada día.
Va la decima y su rima Exigiendo libertad Sin olvidar la igualdad Dentro de la diferencia ¡Mujeres somos la esencia! Fandango es comunidad.
WWR 2011 9
FILMING WOMEN WHO ROCK WITH ROCKING WOMEN WHO FILM The role of documenting the work of outstanding women who are situated across a wide variety of cultural production spaces is an invigorating and spiritually renewing activity. Not only is documenting these life stories and conversations an important contribution toward highlight their existence through long-term archives that will be shared for generations to come, but it is also important for sharing and communing with one another through the way we exist in the here and now. Working with a number of graduate and undergraduate emerging filmmakers and community radio producers, who are mostly women, we set out to document every aspect of the Inaugural Women Who Rock Conference visually and aurally. The initial planning to document the conference stemmed from three purposes: one was to document the conference in order to create a digital archive of the conference as a whole; the second was to create highlight videos and radio spots for public broadcast and social networking; and the third was to use the opportunity to record oral histories with visiting scholars and cultural producers while they were in town. The latter activity is part of the Women Who Rock Oral History Project, an emerging public scholarship project being organized by Professors Michelle Habell–Pallán and Sonnet Retman through the University of Washington (UW). Supported by the UW Simpson Center for the Humanities and the UW Libraries as part of the digital humanities initiative, these oral histories will be archived for at least 500 years and be accessible to the general public.
Women Who Rock Conference 2011 Testimonio
To prepare for documenting the conference and recording oral histories, we began filming our own planning sessions as we set up interview times, coordinated camera crews, scheduled interviewees, recruited filmmakers and radio producers, and determined how we would record both the collective sessions and break-out sessions over the two-day period. As a freelance filmmaker, I had one camera set up which served as the primary camera for oral histories and collective conference events. Kim Muñoz and Monica De La Torre, two graduate students involved with the WWR Oral History Project, gathered two more camera set-ups from UW’s equipment circulation desk. The rest of the students brought their own personal cameras, Flip cameras, iPhones, and whatever other recording devices they had access to. This group of passionate volunteer DIY and DIWO (Do It With Others) documentarians gathered at the conference and set out to record events as they unfolded.
“Unless you document your work, it’s as though it never existed” – Alice Bag (WWR Conference 2011)
The evening of the official conference-opening day was kicked off with a Film Festival appropriately named “Making a Scene On and Off Screen,” featuring short films about how some women are making social change by breaking rules, building community, and making music from South Africa to Palestine, Mexico, Brazil, Seattle and the spaces in between. Emerging filmmakers and seasoned filmmakers WWR 2011 10
were included in the line-up, as well as several male allies who are involved in documenting the significant work of women both locally and internationally. The full line-up included the following films – many of which can be viewed online in their entirety with a quick Google search: Poems from the film Masizakhe: Building Each Other (South Africa, 2008) Directors Scott and Angelica Macklin. Featuring Sindiwe Magona Fear of Change, Aviwe One Floor Above Me, and Tuleka January Child of the Soil. People Not Places (USA, 2009) Director Scott Macklin. Featuring: Invincible, Sabreena da Witch, Toni Hill, and DJ B-Girl. Excerpt from the film Un Poquito de Tanta Verdad (Mexico, 2007) Director Jill Freidberg. Maria Lira (Brazil, 2011) Directors Angelica Macklin and Jonathan Warren. Aldeia Cinta Vermelha de Jundiba (Brazil, 2010) Director Angelina Gradskaya. Traces (USA, 2010) Director Randi Courtmanch. Featuring Lasara Jarvis and Randi Courtmanch. Seattle Fandango Project (USA, 2010) Director Jill Freidberg. Convivencia on Campus (USA, 2010) Director Carrie Lanza. An interview with Yesenia & Amaris Hunter. Hidmo Means Home (USA, 2010) Director Jill Freidberg. Opening the conference with a Film Festival that invoked the spirit of what it means to be a woman who rocks, inspired our documentarians not only to be bold in our own convictions as media practitioners, but intensified the importance of documenting the generative work happening on the ground as it was unfolding before us at the conference itself. Camera shyness can happen both in front of the camera and behind the camera, but when the work of documenting is so imperative, it tends to dissolve one’s own sense of reluctance and replace it with confident necessity to “get the shot.” Granted we were all well prepared to make sure people we asked to be on film consented to participate as full DIWO partners. Monica De La Torre came up with the rocking idea to host a Radio Kiosk in a high traffic area of the conference so she and other students could do impromptu audio interviews with guests. This turned out to be a huge success. J Kehaulani Kauanui, Associate Professor of American Studies and Anthropology at Wesleyan University, AKA DJ Pineapple Krush, was so thrilled with the idea, that after being interviewed, she herself grabbed the mic and hosted an interview with Alice Bag, one of L.A.’s original punks
and singer of the band The Bags. The type of excitement exhibited through this spontaneous act of participatory media culture was the tone that followed all of our mediamaking efforts throughout the conference and subsequent days. It was rare to see such a welcome attitude toward the cameras and recorders and served as a transformative experience for all the documentarians. For Katie Grainger, a graduate student in the Cultural Studies program at UW Bothell, this was her first introduction to filmmaking. Her work documenting the stories of people she met was both an inspiration and an eye opening experience. Like many other people I spoke to, Katie said she had never been involved with anything that was as life affirming as this conference. It has propelled her into a deeper love toward her craft of film and also changed the way she understands why it matters who and what is filmed.
It was invigorating, confirming, and sometimes even brought back painful memories to record stories through the digital wall of the camera.
Conversations through the lens of the camera continued to create a sense of urgency as memories reflecting on life, careers, activism, love, pain, anger, struggle, barriers, breakthroughs, rewards, and a general sense of “F(eminize) the system” attitudes poured out in humorous yet serious tones. As participants in the interview process of nearly a dozen scholars and cultural practitioners, our documentarians were continuously astounded by what people had to say. For me personally, it was invigorating, confirming, and sometimes even brought back painful memories to record stories through the digital wall of the camera. In a two-hour interview between Alice Bag and Maria Elena Gaitan, AKA Chola con Cello, a musician, linguist and cultural worker, the two women spoke about everything from navigating spaces of difference, starting punk movements, building communities of cultural workers, managing dress codes and identities, holding a cello so it doesn’t mash one’s breasts, systematic and personal abuse, violence, balancing rage and creativity, activism, aging, and world events that shaped their lives, all within the context of experiencing these things as women. By the end of that particular interview, I was either ready to smash something or get out my old Gibson electric guitar, which I haven’t played in nearly twenty years since I was in the first all girl punk band in Israel. We split up after our first gig because our manager wouldn’t let us write our own songs. Most of all, listening to their interview filled me with a desire to one day be as composed, confident, passionate, humorous, WWR 2011 11
disruptive, constructive, and accomplished as these two Women Who Rock! Punk roots were widely present amongst participants in this conference. Many of the women we interviewed had taken paths from punk to academic scholar. Consistent for most were the common struggles navigating both the punk scene and the academic track as women of color and active cultural practitioners. Conversations revealed more clearly some of the ways punk culture and feminist infused scholarship share threads that stem from the need to revolt against a system that binds us in our youth and continues to bind us as we navigate academic spaces that systematically control the scholarship we pursue. The presence of these women in our universities is transforming the academy and the work they are doing is contributing significantly to the cultural spaces we all occupy. People like UW Associate Professor of Women Studies Michelle Habelle-Pallán and co-conference organizers Mako Fitts, assistant professor of Sociology at Seattle University, and Sonnet Retman, associate professor of American Ethnic Studies at the University of Washington have worked through these transitions together with scholars in the vein of Andreana Clay, associate professor of Sociology at San Francisco State University, Maylei Blackwell, faculty member in the César E. Chávez Department of Chicana
and Chicano Studies and Women’s Studies at UCLA, Daphne Brooks, professor of English and African-American Studies at Princeton University, J Kehaulani Kauanui, associate professor of American Studies and Anthropology at Wesleyan University, Sherrie Tucker, associate professor, American Studies, University of Kansas, and Tiffany Ana López, associate professor of Theatre at the University of California, Riverside. These scholars, who played a central role in this year’s conference, embody what is means to be Women Who Rock. In so many ways they have paved the way for emerging scholars and cultural practitioners inside and outside the academy. It is through their stories and experiences that not only they exist, but we are able to exist. I can’t imagine documenting anything more worthwhile.
WWR 2011 12
TESTIMONIO J Kehaulani Kauanui I have to say, my experience at the conference was first and foremost inspiring. I had an incredible time and felt fortunate to be part of the gathering—all of it—including the workshop on graduate students’ impressive projects-in-progress, superb film festival, fabulous opening performances, break out sessions, plenary, and participating in the Fandango! I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so much genuine warmth, happiness and solidarity throughout the entirety of a conference before. I appreciate the inclusive and supportive spirit of the meeting and the centering of women of color with an emphasis on decolonization in a queerfriendly environment. The ethical model of organizing – across racial lines – showed awareness, purpose and commitment. One of the remarkable memories I have from the meeting was the definite sense that almost everyone left the scene with a plan to “make a scene” or two in the way of future projects with new lines inquiry vis-à-vis scholarly, activist, and creative works, as well as innovative models of collaboration. Mucho mahalo! – J Kehaulani Kauanui, Associate Professor of American Studies and Anthropology, Wesleyan University, Radio producer and host, aka DJ Pineapple Krush.
WWR 2011 13
You want them listening to you.. A Conversation between Alicia Armendariz and María Elena Gaitán Editor’s Note: The following is an edited excerpt of a longer conversation between Alicia “Alice Bag” Armendariz and María Elena “Chola con Cello” Gaitán that took place the day after the first Women Who Rock Conference. The conversation was facilitated by Quetzal Flores. The sections that were cut for brevity were discussions that are largely covered in other writings on, or by, Armendariz and Gaitán. Rather than cover some of the more famous exploits that came up, I sought to include, for this publication, elements of the discussion that seem relevant to the theme and subject of the first Women Who Rock conference. For you, the reader, that means reading frank discussion about universal experiences of harassment as a teenager and learning to fight back against sexism, male domination and oppression through art and activism as a woman. Alicia explains the history of her song “Happy Accident” and María Elena tells us about navigating the entertainment industry. I looked for the stories that maybe we hadn’t already read or heard. I kept the discussion of experiences that are universal to women and men as witnesses in a society that devalues our being. I think these stories have something for everyone. Hopefully this Q&A will lead you to read or listen to the complete transcript of this discussion, dig up the writings on or books by both María Elena and Alicia and maybe seek these individuals out for guidance and friendship. Ultimately, I hope you find a new ally – George.
Alicia Armendariz: I have a 16-year-old daughter that is going through that whole feeling different thing. I really – it’s really fresh. All I have to do is just close my eyes and I remember what it was like, walking, across the Stevenson1 lawn and having an orange burst on my butt that somebody threw at me, right? And you just feel the humiliation, everyone laughing at you. María Elena Gaitán: That’s the age too that you are sort of… the hormones are starting to rage, and the voices are changing and little girls overnight get breasts, and all the sudden... so there is this hyper self-consciousness. A: Yeah!! Oh my God, I have these horror stories of Stevenson1 and I remember this woman, because you are saying these little girls that have breasts. She had really large breasts, and she’d come in, and she’d sit in the chair like this because she… you know? M: …to get close! A: The guys were just like – you know? She is parking her breast, you know? They just talked through the whole thing 1 Robert Louis Stevenson Middle School is a public school in East Los Angeles where Alice attended and Maria Elena worked in the early 1970s.
WWR 2011 14
will never forget that teacher taking that – shoving my boobs with that cello. A: I remember at school, it was a voice class that I was taking. And I remember the teacher coming up to me and saying: “Stand up straight” So I am standing straight as much as I can, and she said, “You are hollow here. Your chest has to come out” But you know what? That’s how I am. But she come behind me and pulled my shoulders back and tried to make my chest look like hers and it just didn’t look like hers. You know, it’s kind of sad. M: The humiliation in both sides: if they are too big or are too small, all of it, all of it.
María Elena Gaitán as if her breast had a personality. And one day we were at lunch, and a guy came up, and put the milk carton under her breasts, and said “I want a refill please” and she just started crying. And we were all sitting there thinking like ‘What can we do?’ because, of course, I am like the outcast. If I even go up to this girl, the only thing I would do is like bring her down even further. You are talking about now how we would react to that, and I think those guys were just – Man! I hope I don’t bump into them now because… I wish we had the tools that we have now to just throw it back in their faces. M: That’s what’s cool about getting older because then you face this whole thing about being old and that’s not good either. But I want to go back to the breast thing Alice, ‘cause the breast thing is very interesting. The sense of humiliation about the breast, each of us probably has some humiliation stories to tell about that. My music breast story is that I had an Italian teacher, a cello teacher, and he would take the cello and he would position it against my body in a way that men position it, which is about the boob level. So he would take the instrument and say “It goes right there” and he’d smash your boobs with that thing. So now you are playing like this, OK, because your boobs are in the way, and nobody, until later when I thought ‘I am going to play this instrument the way the hell I feel it’ which was to do what that little girl did, which is to shove your boobs on top, so the instrument is under, and now it becomes a part of me. A: Yeah! For support. M: So you could take it in. But that sense of humiliation, I
So, where is the vindication? Where does the healing start for you? M: When you put your boobs on the cello the way you want! That’s where it starts.
Quetzal Flores: So, where is the vindication? Where does the healing start for you? M: When you put your boobs on the cello the way you want! That’s where it starts.
A: Yeah - and when you just don’t care anymore and I wish there was a way to pass that on, that feeling like ‘you know what? This is my chest.’ M: And it’s a cool chest. A: … and is a cool chest and I am happy with it and I’d like to see someone throw an orange or a dog biscuit at me today. M: I’ll hold them and you smack them. A: You don’t have to hold them baby! M: Just smack them anyway. A: Or do something like that to a friend. Because some of that stuff wasn’t done to me, but just to witness it and to feel impotent and feel like — you feel the girl’s shame and you feel her embarrassment and humiliation and you can’t do anything about it. And now, I think – like yesterday doing the conference, I just I felt like, I felt real solidarity with all the other women, the young and the older women. I felt like we were all connected and that we really had each other’s back; and even though we don’t always agree on everything, but you know? I felt like we have each other’s back. We are all here for a common cause and let somebody try to disrespect us. I think we would all be… M: You know talking about how you would feel today if that happened, as a woman, how you would intervene and protect that child and push the other one away, or smack them, or try to find the place for this to heal or bring it WWR 2011 15
to light, but you would take the action, which is what we couldn’t do when we were children. We couldn’t take the action. The first time I remember really taking an action on behalf of another woman, physically, I was court interpreter, a single mother taking the bus home from downtown Los Angeles. I would park my car next to the bus stop because parking downtown was like twenty dollars or something. So on the way home, you know? I take the bus in and the bus back. So on the way home, you know? When you are surrounded by a lot of people, I think people in New York probably do this too, I don’t look at people on the bus; I don’t look. You don’t stare because you don’t want to trigger behaviors, right? I am at the back of the bus standing with that pole ready to get out when my stop comes and I am standing there. All the sudden the doors open for us to exit and a little face comes up from the street. A woman, and she says “Ayudame por favor”2 and there is a man who’s got his arm around her neck, Alice, and I am already one step down into the well; girl I don’t know where this came from – I used to wear a backpack all the time. I got a hold of the – I took her arm, and took my foot and kicked him away, and I yanked her on the bus. I am not like a real Kung Fu lady, but I swear to God that was amazing... even to me. It scared the hell out of me after it happened. And once she was in I could see her neck was all red, she was crying, everybody staring at us. So we got off at the next stop, I took her in my car, I took her home. And it turns out she’s been living with an alcoholic husband; she is a garment worker and in the evenings when she comes home her drunk husband has got all these men in there and they are harassing her and she’s… it’s just this horrifying story. So I just told her, “You need to go to a shelter. I need to take you somewhere you can be safe.” So we did that. And I am just saying, I think that is the difference between being a little girl, and then later when you actually can take action, because children are – their sense of power is so terrible. As adults... because they are so little and they can’t do it or they don’t know what to do. But they know something is really wrong. So as an adult you can smack some guy and yank the lady on the bus, right? A: It’s kind of sad because I have a very similar story to yours where I was driving and I saw woman and a man at the bus stop. And the man was actually beating her up and nobody was doing anything. I pulled the car over and I ran over to her. And I am like ‘leave her alone’ and she is like ‘No, he is my husband, this is between us, he is my husband’ She was telling me this. And I am like ‘Ok, I’ll leave if you want me to, but I am gonna’ call the police’ and then they are both yelling at me, and I just go back across the street, called the police and that’s it. That’s all I could do. But it was very depressing to see that she had… M: Male-centered woman. A: She was just so far gone in this relationship that she thought it was, they had to play out, you know? 2. Spanish for Help me please – George.
Q: Do you want to talk about Happy Accident? A: Happy Accident is a song that I wrote that has to do with this dream that I used to have when I was growing up. My dad was very abusive, not to me but to my mom. And he would beat her. Like viciously beat her, and just leave her bleeding. And the police would come to our house once a month or something, and they’d threaten to take me out of the house, or put him in jail and my mom just, you know, put up with it, basically. As a kid I think I felt powerless, and I’d have this dream, this recurring dream, that I walked into a room, I walked into my bedroom, and on my bed there is my father laying there, all chupado looking like he is gonna’ die. The windows are all draped and black. It’s very cinematic with, like, movie black taffeta curtains hanging on my window, and there is this old fashioned vanity with the round mirror and I look in it… and I am in there, but I am not me… well, when I am having this dream I’m maybe seven years old, eight years old, and I am grown up and I look like cat woman. I am all dressed in black leather and I have a whip. I proceed to whip my father to death and I think this whole dream was just like ‘I am killing my father, finally getting some kind of power.’ I wrote this song. It’s about a woman who shoots her husband and she is telling the story from her prison cell, and she is just saying I didn’t know… I just basically… she’d had enough and she kills her husband and she, then, even though she is in a prison cell, she feels like it was either this or die at his hands. So for me, I don’t think I thought about any of that. Once I got in my teens I sort of stopped and then my father got sick and he wasn’t strong enough to beat up my mother anymore… and I just kind of let all those memories go under and it wasn’t until I wrote this song this is where this is coming out, this is where the art is healing me. Once I wrote it, all these other memories started coming back, and then I started, recently I started writing, and Oh my God! And it’s surprising because I don’t remember very much about when I was a little kid, but when you start writing it’s like you have these movies in an archive in the back of your brain, and all comes back and it’s very healing. It’s just when I was writing not just a song but when I was writing the book that I am working on or that I just wrote, it was like re-living it. I physically got sick. I was crying – I couldn’t stop crying; I’d call my husband at work and said “I just wrote this page about my father” where he is, he runs after my mother my mother comes running out the door and my father comes out running after her, and he
Doing the conference, I just I felt like, I felt real solidarity with all the other women, the young and the older women. I felt like we were all connected and that we really had each other’s back; and even though we don’t always agree on everything, but you know? I felt like we have each other’s back.
WWR 2011 16
has this look in his eye like he is a predator, and she is like this terrified animal running down the street. He goes after her and in his hand he has this belt and he has the buckle side hanging down. He catches up to her at the neighbor’s house and he just starts clobbering her over the head with the belt buckle and you see blood coming down my mother’s face, and then he gets her by the hair and drags her all the way down the street like a cave man basically, and I am this little kid trying to kick, trying to hit. I am just feeling impotent. So, as I was writing this story I was just physically just feeling like I am going to be sick. And now I can talk about it with you guys and just feel like, ‘Ok, it’s just a story, but when I was… it’s just the process of writing and of letting it go, and of telling somebody is just, it really is healing… M: Your story always reminds me of Yolanda BroylesGonzález. I was at her house in Santa Barbara one time, and I was looking through her library and, you know, if I go to your house I am going to look at your books. I was looking through her books and there is a book on colonialism and indigenous experience in the Americas that I pulled down and it reminds me – your story reminds me of how there were formulas in colonialism of how they captured people and how they separated the genders. And I was fascinated by that, in a horrifying way. And what they would do is that they would capture a village, for instance. They would separate the children from the adults often, maybe they would leave them with their mothers, but the men and women were totally segregated and the men would be flogged in public, and beaten and castrated, and the dogs would bite or whatever horrifying thing they did to the men, was done in public, in full view of everyone; and the women would be beaten in private so that their screams and cries would not raise the passions of the men because the men were impotent to help them. And somehow, all of these old experiences, it feels, to me, that they have imploded in each generation. We don’t even know where this stuff comes from anymore, so the real horrifying behaviors in domestic violence, or violence that we see in women as well because we know that girls can also be really violent, we don’t really know where these stuff comes
from. This is like generational rage and behaviors that don’t serve us anymore, but we just don’t know that. That’s why the book of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome3, by this AfricanAmerican Psychologist – when I heard her talking about slave behaviors to survive, we are still doing them and they don’t serve us. Like the slave mother who has a ten-yearold son, and the slave master comes in and says “Oh, little Johnny seems like is going to be a strapping young men” and mother immediately says “Oh no; He is stupid, he is an idiot, he is good for nothing, he breaks everything, he eats too much, he’s sloppy.” What she is really doing – she is protecting him. But now the slave master is us, somehow. We’ve been taking that behavior in, and you know? Your story brought that to mind. A: Well it’s funny that you said that, with the slave master because I think in a way, and I know I am going back to my own personal experience, but I feel like there was a point in my life that I just decided I’m not ever going to be my mother, I am not ever going to let anybody beat the shit out of me; and I thought the alternative is then to be my father and I think I got – I just feel like I was a very violent teenager. When I got older I would get in a lot of fights. I wouldn’t take shit from people and it took a while before I realized that both things… It wasn’t that you had to be this or you have to be that.
I’m already a single mom, so I can smell some shit a mile away.
M: Not an oppressor or oppressed because all you do is switch instead of finding there is a middle way or a different way. A: But I found myself and this is another thing that I hadn’t realized until I wrote this thing, years later when I was a Punk. I was in the Canterbury and I had this boyfriend that I had cheated on and he slapped me, and I am like ‘That’s it; I am breaking up with you.’ He came to my door – I had moved in with a girlfriend – he came to my door to apologize and guess what I did? M: Slapped him back? A: No. I took my belt off and I hit him in the face. And I didn’t connect the two things. You know? And I was like, ‘You are going to hit me; I am going to hit you back.’ And I know because I’ve seen it, but I didn’t think about it. I have a story. I don’t know if I should say this…Angela, Teresa, and I formed a band called “Las Tres” and we started playing. M: And Sean4 was a big supporter of you. A: Oh yeah – Sean and Bibbe5, big supporters. And this record producer came in, and he is like “You know what? 3. DeGruy, Joy. Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: American’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing. 4. Sean Carrillo is Chicano film maker, former member of Chicano art collective ASCO and co-owner of the famous Los Angeles Troy Café. 5. Bibbe Hansen is an artist, musician and co-owner of the Troy Café. Hansen is the mother of Beck Hansen.
María Elena Gaitán performing at WWR 2011
WWR 2011 17
I want to do a record with some of these Troy bands and Bibbe Hanson… “Oh, let me look at these contracts,” and she is like: “Beck should be in here, he’s played at Troy” And the guys says: “Beck? No, he is not a Chicano, he doesn’t fit this thing.” He is like, “No deal, I don’t want Beck in here.” I bet he’s kicking himself now!! Hahaha!! M: I know, can you imagine? Q: It’s possible that Beck wouldn’t have become what he’s become, even for the better. A: I really doubt that he wouldn’t have become a big star. M: I remember the first time I had a real conversation with Bibbe. She always wore that blond hair, the lipstick, and always looked… you know, really nice. She looked at me and she said “My mother was a gypsy” and I thought “Oh shit, this girl is the real shit here!” You know? hahaha A: Bibbe… we used to do this. We used to do real stupid stuff because we spent long periods of time with nothing to do at Troy, and so, we made slam books. And one of them was “Who has the biggest dick at Troy” You came in second… hahahah!! Bibbe came in first!!! And I am like “Oh my God, poor Bibbe, look what they are saying about you.” “That’s good – that means I have power; that means that I am perceived as a strong woman” and I am like “Hey, she’s right,” I didn’t think of it that way! Bibbe Hanson is Beck’s mom, and she was the owner or part owner of Troy café. And she is just an amazing really strong woman, really, just very inspiring also.
Chilean songs of Victor Jara that I hadn’t been playing for a while. So it was a real eclectic mix. A:Yeah, it was. M: But your politics wasn’t gonna get you thrown out of there. If you had radical politics that wasn’t –you were invited; you were welcome. Your music was different, odd, whatever you were experimenting, cool, everything, I mean it was a good space; it really was a good space. Q: That to me is the key: the difference between what that space was and anything that I’d seen. What set Troy apart was that progressive vibe. It was not just a Chicano coffee house; it was a progressive Chicano coffee house.
For me it was the birth of taking my voice back as an artist, as a mature woman.
M: It wasn’t just artsy fartsy. It had some politics. You could have politics in there.
Q: Not just politics, I mean yeah, how politics play into art and with how are you doing art; you couldn’t just come with some bullshit there…Were you there at the curfew parties? A: The curfew parties? Q: They used to have curfew parties… M: That was after Rodney King, right? That’s ‘91… Q: After Rodney King, the National Guard came in and occupied...
M:…very clear about who she was and who you were and no apologies, no bullshit, real straight up. I like that about her.
M: The entire downtown L.A. –Talk about a war zone, ah? Two, three hundred fires in the city…
Q: She comes from that New York scene.
A: Yeah, I remember that night… how could you ever forget?
A: She was a factory girl. But she’s so much more than that. It’s funny because she is such, such a strong woman and I think sometimes I just said she is Beck’s mom. But I think a lot of times you say… Ok, her father was a famous artist. He’s a Fluxus artist Al Hansen and then her son is really famous. So, she is often defined by these two men in her life, but she is such a power house that I think she was probably like the sun that they revolved around.
Q: Talk about that…
M: It was an open space for all of us. I remember that it was one of the few places that it was like home. I felt very comfortable there, in part because there were so many Chicanos there. I don’t think I have been into a Chicano coffee house, per say, so going there and seeing everyone just felt like; ‘Oh, I am home. I am supposed to be here. This is a good thing and started seeing other talent around you.’ At some point you guys were kind enough to invite me to perform with you a few times, so I had chances to do stuff that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. And I brought other music there. And worked with Alison Picker, I did a couple of evenings there of all the Chilean revolutionary,
M: About Rodney King? Q: Just the time; about your experience M: Yeah, Chola Con Cello was absolutely born right after that, and the women’s – the old women’s building on Spring Street. Asco6 had a night. Whoever they invited, because there was no grant, there was no publicity agent; it was just a rave. Everybody and their mother came. The place was so packed that you couldn’t even get in. I don’t know how people told each other. This is something about having a whole network of young people who are involved in something and tell others and they all come. It was an amazing, it was that kind of an evening, and I was already on the county school board. God forbid, I was a Molina7 appointee… Don’t’ ask, I am not on the barbeque list. It 6. Asco is a Chicano Performance Art group from East Los Angeles. 7. Los Angeles County First District Supervisor Gloria Molina.
WWR 2011 18
happened because of Jackie Goldberg8… she… because I was an activist. So I was on the county school board in the day and at night I was wearing big giant wigs. To me, I looked like a weird sailor or something, and she had drawn stuff on my arm and I had this big hair. And that was the first time I did Chola Con Cello. My son videoed it, and what I did is – you know that Bob Dylan video where he is singing a song and holding up papers where he is saying “I love you” “Come Back Tomorrow” whatever he is saying. So I got that and I thought I am gonna’ do that. So I got the sound of a helicopter, and then I was holding up big pieces of paper that had statistics on the undocumented. And then after that I played a piece of a Bach suite – go figure! I mean, it was a performance art night, anything goes. But somebody from the Taper was there that night, I can’t remember her last name I am so sorry. And right after that she invited a number of performers to the Taper, but they wanted, the dramaturge, and directed, good lights and blab blah blah. But it was really born out of that. And the reason why I made that performance was because sitting on the school board already, Pete Wilson9 was asking questions like, ‘How many of your students at the County are undocumented, or illegal aliens!’ And I am like, ‘Oh my God!! This is what you have been working on since you were nineteen years old,’ so this is like, I can’t not respond to that, so I guess this is the first time I responded to it in art. And what an amazing feeling that is. What I just described seemed like a real disjointed evening. But it had its moment. For me it was the birth of taking my voice back as an artist, as a mature woman. And the politics in the art for the first time were like all one thing, and this is what it is. And there was a punk feeling to it, even though I wasn’t in the punk movement. This feeling of, this is what it is, the sense of truth telling in your own way. So I never experienced that that way. My whole experience in the classical music was extremely racist and repressive. I was often the only person of color where I went. Myself and Ronnie Cooper, African American cellist, we were in high school, the only people of color in the cello section. And it was brutal, there was nothing short of brutal, and I didn’t have a stage mommy who could afford the time and watch and make sure I was safe and all that. So I had to put up with a bunch of adult racist crap when I was a child or like I’d be in these honors orchestras. There were a few young people who were in the Pasadena symphony, maybe five of us. The kid next to me, his father was a neurosurgeon who sent him to Paris to study scales in the summer… haaaa!! You know?? My mother had to take a second job to buy me the cello that I still have today. So the class question was just incredibly... in classical music what almost destroyed me – or made me so happy to run to the Chicano movement and sort of give the finger to classical music big time, was like “Fuck you, I don’t need to be hearing all this crap” Here is this whole movement that I am a part of, that speaks for me. And also you idealize the movement which has a lot of its own problems, but there is a moment in which you take refuge with just 8. Former California State Assembly person and Los Angeles City Council member Jackie Goldberg. 9. Former California Governor from 1991 to 1999.
Alice Bag incredible glee, I don’t think glee is the right word, I don’t know you just feel like it’s a transformative moment for you at a lot of different levels. Classical music to this day is elitist and it is only becoming better because of the movement in Venezuela. The Children’s Orchestra Movement. Q: I’m going to throw out a term and you just respond to it, okay: Community artists, or community musicians; what does that mean? ‘Cause for me, I found myself at a point in my career where, I was on the fence, looking at both sides and I had to choose. M: Yes. Q: Clearly had to make a choice and was told by a record executive “If you want to make it in this business you need to leave your community behind you.” M: Oh God yeah. I’ve heard that before. Q: You need to like... listen to this: I’m telling you the truth right now... there’s no way around this. You either choose the access and leave your community behind or you stay with your community and you’ll never make it.” M: And be downwardly mobile. A: I think you have to make a choice. You have to decide: what is my definition of success. And if your definition of success is making a lot of money, then you are making the wrong choice, Quetzal. Q: Do you remember that moment or making that choice? A: I’ve never had to make that choice, because I’ve never WWR 2011 19
really had – I never felt like someone’s going to give me a contract and I’m going to be the next Lady Gaga... and I have to say “Whoa, if I had the opportunity to be the next Lady Gaga or be who I am, be true to myself, what would I do?” It’s so unrealistic for me to imagine myself giving up millions of dollars that I don’t really... I can’t even imagine having to make that choice. So the only choice I have is “Am I going to tell the truth in my music and in who I am, or am I going to join the millions of people at the bottom trying to claw their way up by being something that they’re not?” M: Giving up your voice – A: And giving up your voice.. yeah exactly, because really a lot of artists that are good artists end up becoming packages for goods that are being sold. You know they end up losing their voice, and becoming just the vehicle for a T-shirt or a brand of jeans, or a perfume. And I would never want to do that, no matter how much money I made. So, I’ve never even entertained that. But as far as what you are saying about being a community artist. I don’t know— what you do is different. You really have to be in touch with your community. And I think being in touch in a much more personal way than somebody who is up playing... you know a concert pianist or something, that is in touch in a different way. You thrive on that interaction. It’s different depending on what kind of music you are making.
was a porno film, it sounded nasty. It was by the guy who did “Star Maps” or something like that. And he calls me up and he says “Oh María Elena Gaitán... you were the ball... you know how people calling, kiss all over the place, you know it’s like “Okay, what’s the bull shit.” A: I like to call them “fluffers.” M: Oh, there you go, there you go. They fluff you up. And this guy’s saying “I have a fabulous part for you, we were thinking about you, so we wrote it with you in mind. I’ve seen you perform, blah blah blah.” And I said “so what is it... I’m a maid?” Girl! I heard silence on the other side!
Isn’t that funny that the costume is for your straight job, not for your art?
A: Oh my God!
M: And I tell him, “You know what, there’s enough other people who do maids, I don’t need to be your maid. My mother did not send me to no peachy music school to be your maid.” He goes “No, but you could be like Hazel.” Remember Hazel? The bossy maid; Ha ha ha ha. You could be the Chicana version of Hazel. I mean what am I going to do, get a viola and start smacking people around? I was just like... A: Chancla...
Q: Yes - but what does that mean to you? When I say community art or community music, what does it mean to you? What is your engagement? A: To me it just means somebody who is interested in interacting, reflecting, and giving a voice to their community… and being a part of it. M: I probably had, because of the instrument, a number of opportunities to go through that door. And they were mediocre at best. I never thought they were like... And even if they had been, I feel like you do Alice, I would have never sold my voice down the river. When Chola Con Cello first hit the big stage and did the Taper... After that night I described at the Women’s building. Pee Wee Herman’s manager came up to me. He had seen the performance and he said to me he really like Chola Con Cello and he had an idea for it. He wanted to spin it into a sitcom. So I met with him a week later. And I was really leery of him, because I had already been around classical music. I know about fast-talking people. I’m already a single mom, so I can smell some shit a mile away. But, you know, I wanna’ see what the guy has to say. So his idea was basically to neuter my work. No politics. He says “She’s great, I love the way she looks, love the way she plays the cello. Here’s my idea... she should be married to a white man... she should work in the courts, because that’s what I did anyway, and she should play the cello, they should have three kids. No politics, because that’s going to be poison...” And I said “Well I’m sorry then we can’t do it, because that’s what this is about... this is about that.” And in fact it is agit-prop…After that, an invitation to do “Chuck and Buck,” which I thought
M: Yeah a chancla and start flinging it around. It was just crazy! And then finally, the final one was “Mi Familia.” I tried out for the part of one of the family members. But I’m not an actor in front of the camera. I don’t do that. So if you don’t... they were looking for somebody with a name and all that. So, I didn’t get the part. And that was okay. And then in the end, the guy calls me back, and he says “We have another... it’s just a cameo... but you’re gonna’ it’s so fun... it’s a lot of fun!” You know what it was? A fat lady walking down the street and a kid takes a bow and arrow and hits her in the ass. I said “Okay... ah, I’m not doing that alright.” And then, one Madonna video; the one from “Evita.” And the MTV video was... you see an Asian, young woman, playing the cello, and she’s got this beautiful gown... next to the piano. Well I was invited to play that. But, I thought Evita was disgusting and I didn’t want to be part of that, and the young person who called me up was one of those fast-talking Hollywood ones. And the first thing he said was “I’m calling on behalf of this Madonna video, and you’ve been recommended... we are looking for a Latina who can play the cello, and I think you’re the one...” And then he goes “I gotta’ ask you a question... are you pretty?” And I said “well do you have a large penis?” A: Did you say that? M: Straight up. It just came out girl. See, I do have punker tendencies. And so the guy just lost his Hollywood fluff shit. And I go “You know, you do not call me and ask me... you can ask me for a head shot, you can do all that stuff, but you don’t ask me that question. I think I’m fabulous... but WWR 2011 20
A: Okay, can we not record this... this is going to be painful. M: No, no, no... It’s just that, you know they said this, and I wasn’t sure who that was and then somebody said your last name and I go “Oh, you mean Alice Armendariz, I know who that is from Las Tres. And then I realized that you had this huge following and a lot of respect from that whole experience.
(L-R) Michelle Habell-Pallán, Alice Bag and Tiffany López at WWR 2011 who are you! Who are you who’s asking this question?” So apparently I fucked it up a number of times, to the point where one of my more successful visual artist friends said “María Elena, you should just go in there and do stand-up with the titty queens. What the hell. Just be yourself.” And I said “I can’t do that. I’m going to be touring with these women to eight cities and somewhere down the line there’s going to be one of those...” Who was that girls who was an ice skater and the other one came a whacked her knee? A: Tanya Harding. M: There you go... we were going to have a “Tanya Hardian” and I was going to be the woman who got her knees knocked out. So I was not going to go there. So, anyway, that’s the end of my stories about the possibilities of becoming famous or infamous and turning them down, and not feeling anything about it, like regret of any sort at all. A: Of course not. M: Even if a so-called friend will tell you “Oh you are being downwardly mobile.” That’s the first time someone called me downwardly... he said “Well you’re just rejecting all these opportunities.” Opportunities for what? To bend over and kiss myself on the ass? Are you crazy! See, I do have punker tendencies. A: I like the way you used to say that you wore a costume to work. M: I still do. A: This is the real me, but I wear a costume to work. M: Yeah, to work I wear a costume and a mask. I still wear a costume. I have black pants and some kind of a decent blouse, and that’s it. That’s what I wear and don’t ask me to... power suits, you don’t pay me enough for that shit, so if you want me to wear a power suit you are gonna have ta triple my salary. I’m.. just, are you crazy, you know.... Chinga tu, chinga tu... somebody told me something about “Alice Bag” and I said...
A: I have these completely separate lives. It’s really strange. It’s kinda disjointed. It’s like people that know me, only know me as Mrs. Velasquez, or Ms. Armendariz, when I’m the teacher, and there’s people who know me only as the punk rock chick, and then there’s people who knew me from Troy that just, you know, know me in Las Tres and Goddess. It’s strange. M: What do you feel about that Alice, if you don’t mind my asking because I totally relate to this idea that you have these hidden lives. Like I had my life where I had this straight job and I’m a mom and doing all this stuff... and then I’m off with my friends and making art and acting crazy and totally feeling like, Oh my God, thank God for this. But keeping those two things... now I didn’t keep them separate, they just were separate. And then there are moments now though when the stuff starts to collide - like this very moment right now, this is one of them. Where the stuff overlaps and you just kind of take in all that you really are.
Then he goes “I gotta’ ask you a question... are you pretty?” And I said “Well do you have a large penis?”
A: I think for me, I found that it was... when I was younger, and I was teaching, I felt like I had to keep it separate because I was afraid that the parents would freak out, you know, like... M: That you said the F word on stage with Vaginal Davis.... went and sang Chinga Tu Madre... parents might not like that. A: And I definitely had to have the costume for work. That’s why when you said that, I thought, I have... There was a time in my life where I was living... who I was, was the same person, I woke up in the morning and I could step on the stage right then and I was that. And then when I started teaching, I had to sort of... M: You have to bifurcate... A: Yeah. And then I had... half the closet was things that looked like what I thought a teacher looked like; that were comfortable... The costume... yeah, you have to be able to sit on the carpet. M: Isn’t that funny that the costume is for your straight job, WWR 2011 21
Alice Bag not for your art? The art is like regular! A: That’s who you are right, your regular clothes. The thing is that, sometimes if you spend a lot of time at work, you start feeling like, I’m becoming this. M: Oh God yes! I keep telling myself that I’m in it, but I’m not of it. I’m in it, but I’m not of it! You know, I’m here to do certain work, but this is not all of who I am. And, these people don’t own me. The check is good, but... if I didn’t do Chuck and Buck, I’m not doing this, you know... Or, let me put it this way... We are doing it, but we are doing it on our own terms.
M: Not have my clothes be a distraction to the stuff I’m doing, because if I’m in that environment, I don’t want to stick out, I want to blend in. I’m blending in for a reason though. I’m not blending in because I’m subservient, or because I’m giving up my identity, I’m blending in so that I can do this work... A: More effectively. M: More effectively, and not create a distraction myself to the thing I’m trying to accomplish.
A: Well... see I don’t know then, because if we are wearing a costume, then I don’t know.
A: Yeah, exactly. I think that’s part of it. When I was working, I had this faux-hawk going where my hair was really short, but then I had long... but I could comb it in a way that looked really normal for school. And then at night...
M: Oh maybe on my own terms.
M: Punk it out...
A: There was another teacher at my school who’s come in, in a mini skirt and boots, and you know...
A: I could punk it out, make it stand up! But, you’re right, I think that was the reason, is that you wanna create a sense of confidence, and you also don’t want to be a distraction. You don’t want kids looking at your hair. You want them listening to you...
M: Cute. A: But she was not just cute, she was kind of out there right. And I’m like “What are you wearing? Why are you wearing that outfit?” M: Gonna’ flirt with a second-grader... A: But she was like “Oh... kids have to know that teachers come in all shapes and sizes and that we dress all different ways.” And I thought “She’s right, they do.” But you also... we communicate something through our clothes. If you see somebody put on a chef outfit, you just feel like “I’m gonna get some good food ‘cause that guy has a chef outfit on.” You want to communicate seriousness, like “I’m gonna do my job, I’m not here to like...”
Further Reading Bag, Alice. Violence Girl: East L.A. Rage to Hollywood Stage A Chicana Punk Story. Port Townsend: Feral House, 2011. Broyles-Gonzalez, Yolanda. “Performance Artist María Elena Gaitán: Mapping a Continent without Borders (Epics of Gente Atravesada, Traviesa, y Entremetida.” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies. 24: 2-3(2003): University of Nebraska Press. 2-18. Print. Spitz, Marc and Brendan Mullen. We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk. New York: Three Stories Press, 2001.
WWR 2011 22
stockholm syndrome I’m in shock, haze, what happened to my face, makeup defaced, dissociative fugue state, stuck in the mirror, I sank, horror, hate, eyes blank. Rocked me before rush in your Subaru, bright lights at night, city ignored my imploring, Jada Pinkett set off first it’s my turn to burn hell, fury, yell for the cops, no one came to my door at 4 in the morning. Late night, play joke, lights out, got choked, now what. But you scored, and more, despite scream and scorn, you knocked sight out my sockets, hysterical blindness, no rocket in your pocket tonight, it’s all you – Fight fists with bites, face spits, no time, just let go and try to be mine. Stole my soul it’s mine, your goal in sight, stuck to your post, left. Just a mattress and a ghost. Late night, play joke, lights out, got choked, now what. Stockholm Syndrome, I’m not alone. Stockholm Syndrome, I’m not alone. The rage you put me through I felt was a BELT around your neck, while you felt around my chest for the BEST thing you could find, what. I’m in shock. You could STALK me but you won’t. Could’ve LOCKED me inside but told me NOT to.
Johanna Buccola You snuck in the back door, delusion, God told you it was a game to rationalize away, plan actualized, dismay, a penciled-in passion play erased before written. Smitten with your actions. You created a monster, wants her to forget so you threw it to the wind, it bounced back, hit you in the head. Late night, play joke, lights out, got choked, now what. On my throne in the towel and I threw it at you. He took me home – No one came to my rescue when I decided to leave. I drove myself insane with a view of the harbor until I drove myself to the ER(-bhor). They wouldn’t look at my shoes in the emergency room. Couldn’t tell me what to do Incinerated my skirt at the SAU before it even got to the ICU. Late night, play joke, lights out, got choked, now what. Stockholm Syndrome, I’m not alone. Stockholm Syndrome, I’m not alone. See, they’re following me, aripiprazole, there’s a mole on my shoulder in case they find me in the morgue. They’re flirting with disaster, I’m scared, that when they find me I’ll have dirty panties Tight shirt and fancy. This could be dangerous, mysterious men on every corner. Could that be the coroner? I don’t know her, he said. I don’t remember. I remember you. A bid on where to slit me open, like you did. I’ll remember what you did. WWR 2011 23
NUEVOS ESPACIOS PARA MOVIMIENTOS SOCIALES NEW SPACES FOR SOCIAL MOVEMENTS Community-based music Música en Comunidad
Teresita Bazán Beltrán
The impact of social struggles/movements often depends on the unity of the community and an understanding of its context and connections to other local and global struggles. Two key factors make this possible: accessible spaces for dialogue and education. Both of these factors are being devalued by the current institutional structure. These days, the creation and maintenance of community spaces depends on the efforts of the community itself. Public Education has frequently been a space for people to acquire the tools for understanding, reasoning, reflecting and acting. However, due to funding-priorities and a renewed focus on standardized testing, education has become more of a means of maintaining the status-quo than teaching people to strive for the betterment of themselves and their communities. Music has long played an important role in strengthening cultural and community ties and has started to be used to fill the void left by institutionalized education by creating spaces to educate, communicate, and dialogue. Community-based music projects –such as conscious hiphop and spoken word circles - realize that music and poetry have become safe and empowering spaces for expression. These groups understand the need for such spaces to build a sense of community, which in turn can provide catharsis for social movements. The Seattle Fandango Project - based on the practice of Fandango from Veracruz, Mexico - brings community space and music together in a singular moment where people of different ages and backgrounds can gather and feel empowered. In doing so we build both the personal and community strength to craft a better place to live…and have a great time conviviendo too! Sometimes we get stuck thinking about what progress we have made as humanity…we need to also think about what we have lost in the process. WWR 2011 24
if the poets teach the children Stephanie K. Hazelrigg What could it mean if the poets teach the children? Everyone says we need structure But there’s no man-u-script to build’em Sturdy But without limits and hurting And still we won’t give in To anything Except the moment where beats but one human heart It’s every second I reckon Beat Then stop Then start Palpitation A heartbeat’s cipher or rotation Feel something Feel ANYthing Listen As if my words were golden leaves falling slowly from dying trees As if they were essence in the last air your mother was breathing As if I was the last child this lonely planet was conceiving As if I was the last life all humanity could believe in Finally Cause it is me And my throat is raw from screaming I am the last Finally Are you even listening to me? First out the gates I am out at last So LOVE me with everything I outlast Love ALL things with everything So this life will last Love me like that
Give Until your emptiness fills you And you begin to overstand the expansiveness of your capacity for depth Shining, brimming and stretched Then you must teach me Through the fountain of your mind and heart And we become Uncertain of where exactly lesson ends and starts It’s the circular nature of things So you’d better get to spinning Twisting the last drop of wisdom from your spirit As if the very existence of this universe depends on it Cause it does Listen For in a heartbeat you will hear it x-x-X Teach That all wisdom has no end That struggle and success are sisters That we are all and nothing’s kin Walk tall inside of that Teach us that reality and identity are constructed Because poverty and depravity Defy rules of nature like evolution and gravity Life Unto ItSELF Is architected and erected by humanity In vanity Separating us from all things living Teach us that reality and identity are socially constructed So we better get to building But be mindful of codes and encoding Rules and regulations be the laws of but one man bolstered by the bloody bills of people with bloody hands who live on hills and lands once holy WWR 2011 25
now grounds and compounds surrounded by fences and hounds for a few hundred who mastered the market on the beat down making billions upon billions the beaten, broken and buried, black and brown backs of brilliant millions upon millions of girls, boys, men, and women it’s inhuman Show us how to not live like that Show us that love is life sustaining Ask us daily Who tells the tree to stop growing? Show us daily That there are no limits to our knowing Honor us the seeds you forgot you were sowing We be resilient, wild, and hearty We adapt with the seasons of all your secret gardens And your forgetfulness of our existence both with and without you We are fruitful and beautiful We are full enough to feed you Fair-trade, made-in-the-shade, organically cultivated truths Sturdy branches bearing strange and abundant fruits Do not leave us For we are here for you to choose To nourish and help bloom Not merely admire and consume Do not neglect the root Do not forget the womb Your own unsown seeds now beseech you The radical and ritual must be exhumed Creative Power exalted Poets it’s up to you GIVE Like the very earth we rise up through Like you were prescribed to do For if the poets to teach the children Growth and metaphor would be wild and abounding Hearty haikus, odes, and prose resounding Resilient roots pushing through fertile grounding Bursting into brilliant truths until walls fell and our hearts and minds were free so it also follows that our bodies would be no wisdom out of reach while everything is still a mystery eyes wide in awe and curiosity living up to the infinite possibility of our futures while honoring our own ancestry authentically if the poets teach the children each moment would be inspiration each being would be a unique medium each day a canvas or a stone cast and we’d sculpt and paint them brightly and boldly in our creativity everyone would practice artistry and it would be heARTful and healing each new masterpiece manifesting fulfilling our destiny seeking multiple meanings in everything until they mean all and nothing
you’ll teach us that nothing always will be relating and creating infinite spaces for dreaming and recreating the fullness of life and that heartbeats and edges of knives are equally fine lines marking the passage of time in mere moments we’d all learn how to hold them together more holy whole, healing, and healthy cultivation and re-creation that is if the poets were truly teaching Because see if the poets teach the children Everyone would have to feel something Finally Through the lens of feeling we’d all begin to see multi-dimensionally still-life surrealistically Tool becomes weapon Pencil becomes knife Abstractly exacting and precise Unanaesthetized And alive Fully sensing what we need to thrive We’d keep our senses sharp practice feeling on a daily basis and in heavy doses with a stable prognosis of life at it’s fullest if the poets teach the children we’d all become poets eventually we’d be living metaphor metaphysically no need for professors or physicians we’d be educated and in healthy condition because we’d all be poets doctors and medicine men both fear and know it so they sell us narcolepsy and numbness but bait and switch dumbness they teach us lies their PhD’s a pretty heady disguise transparent to the poet’s eyes apparently martyred before sanctified like Saint Raphael and Cecilia and don’t forget ophelia you know that we feel ya see the poets and painters; live, love, and die we be, we see, and we sing with great faith in the world that our words and colors will bring we be believers conceiving shearing, spinning, and weaving blankets big enough for birthing and dreaming If the poets teach the children Each day would be an awakening Each heartbeat moving and quaking with life
WWR 2011 26
These feet keep moving These feet keep moving In step with the underground Like Soujourner I seek the truth Can you hear that sweet sound? Itâ€™s the sirens of freedom calling Voices once drowned Re-membering their song Endless motion No pause, no permission No ankle chains or submission Stomping hard, moving fast Blistered soles, working class Build this movement so it last Shouting loud, speaking slow Planting seeds, watch them grow Letting everybody know UNBOUND!!!!
Armed with hungerâ€™s ambition These feet keep moving Voices once drowned Re-membering their song Endless motion No pause, no permission No ankle chains or submission Stomping hard, moving fast Blistered soles, working class Build this movement so it last Shouting loud, speaking slow Planting seeds, watch them grow Letting everybody know
Quetzal Flores WWR 2011 27
Imaginaries A shift, a move, a sure We feel and manifest Slide from uncertainty And lunge into intent Interminable imaginaries Guided by ancestors strength Abide by no one’s government We below and to the left More We see more Who’s life is this for? Global affinities We work within our trenches We make love through local intentions Slow, chaotic and slow But that seed you forgot you sowed Is one day a tree Guarding you from the cold More We see more From margin to the core Will slowly Will slowly build Imagine now! Imagine now! Imaginaries Imaginaries Imaginaries Imaginaries NOW!
Martha González WWR 2011 28
TESTIMONIO Michelle Habell-Pallán, Sonnet Retman, and Mako Fitts WELCOME We convene because the music calls us. Women have been a powerful force in Seattle’s well-known independent music scene, as performers, promoters, writers, DJs, archivists and fans. In many cases, they embody the hybrid identity of artist-activist-advocate. Historically, in the Pacific Northwest, women have used their music and activism to create music scenes that anchor social justice movements. The present is no different. The Women Who Rock Conference, organized by the Women Who Rock Research Project and the Women Who Rock Graduate Student Collective, highlights both contemporary and past movements in and outside of Seattle by bringing together musicians, activists, writers, advocates, educators, and scholars to talk about questions of female representation and access for women within music scenes. In our conception of the conference, we have been particularly inspired by the ways that Chicana and Black feminist thought have expanded who counts as “women” and what counts as “rock.” In staging these conversations about women and music, we hope to build community and make our own scenes in the process. Though these conversations may prove to be challenging at times, we commit to them with our hearts and souls.
DIGITAL ORAL HISTORY ARCHIVE The conference is, in part, a response to the ways in which women’s participation in independent scenes has often been downplayed or unacknowledged. We are currently assembling the Women Who Rock Digital Oral History Project to archive the stories of women and women of color who have built community through the making of music in Seattle, the Pacific Northwest and beyond. The archive will be hosted by the University of Washington and made freely accessible to the public. If you would like to participate in the digital oral history project, please email us: email@example.com. We hope you find this collaborative endeavor as exciting as we do! We intend to create an open structure through which unexpected, transformative and even healing conversations might emerge. We look forward to engaging in rich dialogues and laying the foundation for new kinds of communities. What we generate in the next two days will shape next year’s conference. Rock on!
CONFERENCE STRUCTURE Conference goers will attend topic-focused breakout sessions that bridge a broad range of participants. Here, we’ve experimented with a conference structure that emphasizes dialogue in breakout sessions. In a departure from traditional panel sessions, participants will briefly introduce their topics and then open up conversations that otherwise might not take place, given the intersection of diverse audiences present at the conference. Later, we will meet as a large group to synthesize our conversations. At the close of the conference, performance artist Maria Elena Gaitan will perform with Martha Gonzalez and Quetzal Flores and that night, we will convene an open mike night and Fandango gathering. WWR 2011 29
WOMEN WHO ROCK CONFERENCE Title: Documenting Community Date: Friday, February 18, 2011 Time: 10 am-12 noon Presenters: George Sanchez- Writing Jaynina Mae Smith-Prince and Leslea Bowling- Photography Jacque Larrainzar – Music and song Location: Seattle University Bldg/Room: Administration 323 Workshop Process What to Expect In this session, participants will learn and participate in a group discussion technique called Open Space Technology. This is a tested approach to the enhancement of group effectiveness. It can be used with groups of 5 to 500. It is particularly effective when a number of people must address complex and/or conflicted issues in a short period of time, with high levels of innovation, ownership, and synergy. The Circle The circular chair arrangement signifies that all are equal here--both as knowers and learners. Participants are all facing each other equally, with the opportunity to work together to discuss and resolve issues, if they so choose. In addition we would like you to hold the following agreements while we are I this session. Passion and Responsibility Open Space runs on two principles: passion and responsibility. Without passion, nobody is interested. Without responsibility, noting will get done. Obviously, different people feel passionately about different things and it is also obvious that people will not take responsibility for something they are not passionate about. In Open Space, people come together around topics they care about. Voluntary self-selection is the absolute sine qua non for participation in the Open Space event. Stating the Theme: Documenting Community using: • Writing • Music • Photography I will introduce the open space model and make flipcharts for the following concepts for Open Space and remind people of our agreements The Four Principles • Who ever comes is the right people • Whatever happens is all that could have • Whenever it starts is the right time • When it is over, it is over
The Law of Two Feet The Law of Two Feet implies that if, after being in part of a session you no longer interested in, you have permission to leave. The law puts responsibility for your own actions on your own shoulders. Bumblebees and Butterflies Bumblebees and Butterflies are for those people who wish to use their two feet and “flit” from meeting to meeting. These people can pollinate and cross-fertilize, lending richness and variety to the discussions. The Topics: • Writing • Music • Photography The Community Bulletin Board I’ll create a community bulletin board so people can add possible discussion group topics for next year. Session Recording We should ask the group to determine if they want each session proceedings recorded. If so, ask for a volunteer to record the session. The volunteer will record critical and important ideas and points raised during the meeting. Documenting Community –Agreements In this space we recognize historical practices that have marginalized some over others based on their gender, gender expression, ability, language, class, immigration status, age, political believes, religion, education, race, and ethnicity. To create equity and libration in this space we will: 1. Strive to understand a new way of viewing things. 2. Stay engaged. 3. If, when in racially mixed groups discussing race you usually hold back, speak up. 4. If, when in racially mixed groups discussing race you tend to speak often, take breaks. 5. Experience any discomfort that comes up as part of the growth process. 6. Expect and accept non-closure on long term issues; the work is ongoing. 7. Honor concerns - ask for suggestions to make things go better. 8. Do your part to keep the discussion on topic. 9. Speak from your own experience. 10. No shaming, attacking or discounting. 11. Maintain confidentiality – if you share about your experience in the process, refrain from using names. 12. Breathe and have fun!
WWR 2011 30
Proposed Agenda Welcome, Intros and Overview of the Process Welcome All 10:05-10:10 Ground Rules What to expect Small Panel Presentations: Our Style of Documenting Writing Music Photography
Writing Music Photography
Writing Music Photography
George Sanchez 10:05-10-15 Jacque Larrainzar 10:15-10:25 Jaynina Mae Smith10:25-10:35 Prince and Leslea Bowling All 10:35-10:45 Hand on Sessions How can I use these tools in my work? George Sanchez 10:45-11:30 Jacque Larrainzar Jaynina Mae SmithPrince and Leslea Bowling Coming Back Together Share Ahas! Insights and Learnings! Couple of people from 11:30-Noon each session Couple of people from each session Couple of people from each session
WWR 2011 31