E: What’s your experience so far living in LA? The good, the bad and the ugly? Give it to me! Would love to hear about your experience living downtown.
The city’s been good to me! My pops is from SoCal and I have a couple of half-siblings here, so I grew up visiting. I spent my first two years flailing, but it’s amazing what we’re capable of! I’m blessed to find myself in a community of powerful movers and groovers. So far, I’ve lived in K-town, East Hollywood, Echo Park, Boyle Heights, and now DTLA #eastsideftw haha Sometimes the sprawl still feels foreign and claustrophobic. I’ve had some bizarre gigs. Seen some bizarre thangs. Has me feeling like a shapeshifter. In a city so segregated, DTLA is a juxtaposition. Million-dollar units near Skid Row. Tents and Teslas. This is Babylon. I can’t financially afford to buy distance from the houseless crisis and I can’t afford to single-handedly end it but I help where I can and keep my heart open. Seems this is part of my spiritual assignment. Grateful to have a safe place to live, work, and love.
E: You have an interesting background and heritage and have grown up in a world of intersectionality, of “in-between-ness”. I’m fascinated by the juxtaposition between your strength and softness. How have you found your perspective, power, and unlocked your potential within the cultural marginalization you’ve faced?
My mom is indigenous (Lakota, Dena’Ina) and my dad is Black. They separated before I was born so my mom raised me alone in Tesuque, NM with the help of her girlfriends/aunties. The other kids and I would ride bikes, race, explore, and rough-house while our moms would unwind on the porch. She was a social worker and humanitarian. It was important to her that I know my culture and lineage. All of them. She advocated for me to participate in Indigenous youth conferences even though I wasn’t immediately digestible as an Indigenous person. It was clear that I had a responsibility to contribute to the well-being of my human and more-than-human relatives. That we were a small part of the ‘natural world’. Stinginess was ugly, generosity was the code. “Be a strong domino”, she’d say, encouraging me to abandon the status quo and stand up for the underdog. I was given Black barbies and surrounded by music, film, and television from people that looked like me. Admirable were her efforts to educate both of us about Black history since public education neglected to. As a woman of color, she was familiar with prejudice. I applaud her for addressing anti-Blackness when it reared its ugly head at her child. There aren’t too many Black people in NM so I stood out everywhere I went. She’d swat strangers’ hands away from my hair. I was called dirty and brown by my classmates. More than once, I was called Reeses or Oreo. My mom would tell me “They’re just jealous.” That was an over-simplification, but it gave me the strength to celebrate differences and stand proudly in the face of doubt. I’m not half-anything. I’m proud to be a full person. An Afro-Indigenous person.
E: I know origin is extremely important to you. Can you tell me a little bit about your background and origin story as an artist?
Generations of influence go into shaping an artist. My grandparents on my mom’s side met at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe as painters and photographers. My mom likedto sculpt, draw, and make art in the sand. Though he didn’t raise me, my father is a drummer, break-dancer, athlete, and artisan which had an impact on me, I’m sure. My house was a loud one, with music on and pots boiling. Food and music were the reasons for living. Everything else was squeezed around those. My god mom put me in ballet class when I was 2 because I wouldn’t sit still. That was my first craft, and I trained for sixteen years. When I wouldn’t be quiet, it was opera training. Then I gravitated toward musical theater. Played upright bass in middle school too. Guess I wanted to try it all. By 15, I was anxious to make original music so I joined a punk band called Emergency Ahead. What fun that was, destroying basements and being the bad influence. That’s probably why I had a stint as a graffiti artist as well, though a short one. These formative years forever weaved expression, protest, and music together in my process. I don’t know how to separate them. I pretty much just wanted to be on stage n have some control over the spectacle I already was. The stories we tell matter. Pinche ‘just for fun’.