As a mixed race, Filipina, 2nd generation immigrant, Black, round, queer, 1st generation college student, daughter of farm workers from a military family, it was pretty hard to find my reflection in mainstream media growing up.
But I found another world of people who, just like me, did not “fit” with the mainstream, but were connected to each other online, talking and creating art about life on the margins.
I found other music and videos that, instead of re-traumatizing or reinforcing oppressions, empowered me with the belief that I had a place in the world.
The OuterSpaces Tour 2012: Power in the Margins coming to Seattle on Thursday night is a perfect example.
The tour unites Brooklyn spoken word duo Climbing PoeTree, Detroit based hip hop activist Invincible, and Cuban emcees Las Krudas into an “international, bilingual, pansexual, polyracial, multi-media, cross-genre collaboration of artists.”
All of these artists, with their mastery of hip-hop and spoken word, have decided to continuously push past the industry and release their own independent music. Their music highlights social justice, which allows people to grieve for the world we live in and simultaneously feel joy and celebration over individual and collective struggle, resistance, survival, and resiliency.
They embody the intersections of identities on the margins as queer, as brown, as “of color”, as immigrants. They take those identities and share stories through music, art, fashion, video, documentaries, and beyond as independent grassroots artists.
They use their identities to stand in solidarity with others to tell a collective story as one tour, one body moving towards liberation and spitting hot lyrics that make you want to dance and believe that liberation is personal, and is possible.
I had seen and promoted some of the artists in the past, connecting with them online despite the geographic barriers between us.
I first met Climbing PoeTree when they messaged me on MySpace about bringing their 2008 “Hurricane Season National Tour: The Hidden Messages in Water” to Seattle. The show highlighted the importance of water on a spiritual and political level for healing or destruction, drawing on Hurricane Katrina and as an unnatural disaster caused by environmental racism, as an example.
I met Invincible (who uses the non-gender-specific pronoun ‘they’) in 2008 when I was the Coordinator of the Ladies First Project. They lived in Detroit and were interested in checking out the Seattle scene. I was impressed with their docu-music-video, “Locusts” featuring Finale. The video used hip-hop to highlight gentrification in Detroit and was mixed with elders personal testimonies and youth dreams of rebuilding their city.
Lastly, earlier this year, my friend was visiting Cuba and connected with Las Krudas. The friend decided to Facebook me and virtually connect me to the group. They had learned about feminism and hip-hop from Asata Shakur, when she was in exile in Cuba because of her activities as a Black Panther. They came through Seattle circa Austin, TX seeking venues for their national tour. They also connect to the spiritual importance of land and food through their music and their diet.
These artists have converged together as queer powerhouses talking about complex social justice issues and how to draw power from their “marginalized” identities. From the centering of their stories individually and collectively as migrants and queer folks on the margins, they draw power in building communities through art, music, and transformation
Their work has taught me about the mis-education of marginalized communities and its connection to the prison industrial complex, the connection between gentrification in US cities and displacement of indigenous peoples. It has helped me understand environmental racism and what it has to do with me and my cultures.
Not only have their individual and collective artistry helped me to interweave and connect these seemingly distant issues, but also make them personal and tangible. They invite you to a journey where the destructive path of genocide and colonization in the present day can be witnessed alongside lyrics promising to fight in solidarity with people and build communities sustained by creativity, innovation, and imagination.
When they hit the stage on Thursday, they will be surrounded by community members connected by a belief in our power to transform the world, despite the distorted images of us presented in mainstream media. We shall speak from the margins as Billie Holiday and other musical Jazz R&B, and Hip-hop greats have done on 14th Avenue.
Come be a part of creating new histories in Seattle and have the vibrations and beats move you to dance, build community, sing, and understand that collectively we can change the world with the power of art and media.
The OuterSpaces Tour2012: Power in the Margins comes to Washington Hall Thursday, November 29th at 7:30pm. More info at http://outerspacestourseattle.bpt.me
Community sponsors of OuterSpaces include:
206 ZULU NATION, ALLYSHIP, BROWN PAPER TICKETS, HEALTH EDUCATION YOUTH OUTREACH (HEYO!), HIDMO, JEWISH VOICE FOR PEACE SEATTLE, LADIES FIRST COLLECTIVE, MEDIA ACTION GRASSROOTS NETWORK (MAGNet), ODDLAND, PINAY SA SEATTLE (GABRIELA-USA), QUEER SOCIAL CLUB, QUEER YOUTH SPACE, ROSCITO’S TAMALITOS, SEATTLE GAY NEWS, SOCIAL HEARTISTRY EDUCATORS (S.H.E.), THE NAKED TRUTH ON STEREOTYPES, THE NORTHWEST NETWORK FOR LGBTQ SURVIVORS OF ABUSE, THE SEATTLE GLOBALIST, WASHINGTON HALL, WHO YOU CALLIN’ ILLEGAL, WOMEN WHO ROCK COMMUNITY, YOUTHSPEAKS SEATTLE, ZENYU HEALING CENTER