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My lovely collaborator Ethan Shoshan and I did an interview with Visual AIDS (who we love) about the Wrrqshop.  Here it is in its entirety.  (actually believe it or not originally it was longer!!)  For me it felt good to articulate some of the thinking behind what we’ve been up to.  Here is an excerpt:

How do you see art, craft, fashion, and style as important for activist or community-building causes?

Quito: From the beginning the WERRRQSHOP was conceived of as a space for queer movement-building and collaboration. It isn’t *just* about connecting the young people to artists who can mentor them—it is about helping them understand the systemic forces behind their very personal struggles, and connecting them with groups like Trans in Action or the Audre Lorde Project who are organizing to address some of those issues. It doesn’t always work, but we try to seed the conversations we have while we craft with current issues or histories they should be aware of. We’re really excited about the upcoming Play Smart WERRRQSHOP with Visual AIDS on February 13, where we can be super explicit in discussing HIV/AIDS. The first one we did, last fall, was a blast, with some pretty vibrant cross-pollination.

For many of the artists Ethan and I have pulled into the WERRRQSHOP, being queer is an inherently political identity. Many of us are involved in one form of activism or another—the very way we live our lives is a form of resistance. How we present ourselves in the world as queers, the external markers of fabulosity or gender non-conformity that become part of our personal style, are a form of visual resistance to the dominant culture. Not to mention many of us are in one stage or another of questioning our genders. Providing encouragement and a safe space to make identity-specific drag is a form of activism we are delighted to provide.

Every time I read about another state deciding to allow gay marriage, I think about the young people. Our problems as a community are not over when the issues personal to one demographic are resolved. As long as there are young people who still show up at Sylvia’s for emergency shelter, we as a queer community are not fully mended.

We queers are supposed to be looking out for each other, supporting each other in healing from the lies and violence of our post-colonial world, sharing our skills and resources with each other. But the bridges between us are not always there, or can have fucked-up power dynamics attached to them; not everyone has worked out their shit yet. Family Dinners are great—we all have to eat, so why not eat together? Making things together at the Wrrqshop is an extension of that family time, another cross-community-building opportunity.

Ethan: I’m glad to be part of all this with you Quito. I would note though we are not living in a “post-colonial” world, in fact we are living in a very misogynistic, xenophobic, racist, homophobic, classist, economically disparate gender-biased patriarchal consumer culture which disconnects us from the very real impact and weight of our actions and words. In fact its very colonial. I think bell hooks says it best with “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy” because its the interplay of the social and political systems prevalent in the US and much of the world. Its like we live as 2 or even 3 different kinds of identities and sometimes have to fight with our own internalized destructive tendencies, self hate and shame on top of all the social injustices. Anyway this is a larger discussion and we try and let it all out creatively.

Read the whole interview here.


1

Friday Feb 12th from 3-7pm at the Wrrqshop!  Please come.

Wrrqshop is at the Joan Mitchell Research & Education Center, 137 West 25th Street, 2nd floor

From the Visual AIDS press release:

Visual AIDS is thrilled to partner for a second Play Smart packing event with the Werrrqshop of Quito Ziegler and Ethan Shoshan at the Joan Mitchell Foundation, Education & Research Center. Workshops, conversation and refreshments will be part of a fun evening that includes supporting youth and stuffing Play Smart condom packs for national distribution. Artist Rebecca Levi will be joining from 5:30-7:00 for a hands-on workshop on how to do basic embroidery techniques that can be stitched into almost any fabric. She’ll also demonstrate how she uses these deceptively simple stitches to create embroidered portraits, including the Play Smart card “Breakfast Bear.” Kristen Lovell, HIV Testing Coordinator at Metropolitan Community Church of New York Charities, will facilitate a discussion from 5:00-5:30 about how HIV affects the lives of youth and transient communities. Play Smart safer sex kits will be packed throughout the event from 3:00-7:00pm. Feel free to drop by for four hours,  four minutes or however long you’d like!


in case you have not yet seen the trailer:

screening at the Kent Theater in south Brooklyn Tuesday 12/30!

tickets here

SO EXCITED


image by Micah Bazant for Jewish Voices for Peace

image by Micah Bazant for Jewish Voices for Peace

Monday, December 15th, 2-10 pm
Great Small Works
20 Jay Street #214, in Dumbo, Brooklyn. (Studio is accessible by elevator but the nearest subway stations–F to York, A/C to High, 2/3 to Clark–are not.)
* puppets * patches * stencils * signs *
* cardboard * spray paint * broken lives *
* broken windows ~ broken hearts *
* sadness * anger * heal our hearts *this coming Monday please join
Jews for Racial and Economic Justice [JFREJ]
and
the The People’s Puppets of Occupy Wall Street
for an
ART BUILD
for
#ThisStopsToday

in association with 11 Days of Action
(or rather : the remaining 5 nights of action after monday)

open to protestors of all ages
(especially in the after-school hours)
no skills required

stop in before heading out to the streets
express your rage visually
build community with other artivists
cross-pollinate across movements

11 nights of action = a whole lotta signage

from 2-6 we will be slightly-more focused on materials for JFREJ and the Arab American Association of NY’s action on Tuesday night 12/16

after 7 the Puppet Guild does their amazing weekly thing, this time in support of #BlackLivesMatter and #ThisStopsToday

but really :
stop in anytime
stay as long as you can
make things
make change
make connections
make it happen


revolution” : a weekend’s worth of thoughts

sixth avenue, tuesday night after darren wilson was let off the hook for the murder of michael brown in ferguson

sixth avenue, tuesday night after darren wilson was let off the hook for the murder of michael brown in ferguson

These thoughts started on Wednesday, freestyled with two thumbs and no premeditation directly to Facebook:

I’ve been sitting here all morning listening to the rain, trying to write about last night’s revolution in the streets and mostly just thinking, gawking at the images and feelings burned into my consciousness, how many thousands of us were there last night? A swell of rage and support, two black women stranded in their vehicle on Houston, honking and screaming their thrill and appreciation. pushing through that internal wall of not giving a shit anymore, not playing by the everyday rules of traffic and public behavior, because these systems are racist and fucked and every day it makes me angry. art is a release, imagining and enacting a better world is power, I am doing the work but there is just so much of it, always. we live with that and keep going. but to see the guts of the revolution splashed open and spilled out into the streets last night… just a couple months after 400,000 of us were out there for the people’s climate march… the ground is shifting below our feet and all we can do is keep marching.

“Revolution” I reflected afterwards.

What a weird word to use so freely.

What does it even mean?

What does it mean to me?

So strong, so loaded, true or not true?

I made a page just for it in my book of ideas, so I could think about it more:

REVOLUTION

On the next :

IMAGINATION

IS

POWER

* * *

What would a queer revolution look like?

What would feminist leadership do?

How would this entire culture be structured differently?

Could a peaceful shift be possible in our liftetimes? (or maybe, like, NOW??)

What can we learn from Arab Spring / are there relevant parallels?

Is our government still effective at managing the needs of a society no longer willing to defer to the judgments of privileged white men?

Is it still possible to separate democracy from capitalism? What can we salvage from this rubble? What would we keep and what would get overhauled?

How would things run differently if capitalist goals (ie making money off each other’s backs for personal reserve) were rewritten in favor of collective/humanitarian goals?

What would be involved in a mass cultural shift away from capitalist values? Isn’t this already happening in queer spaces? What are we learning? Can any of it be applied to a larger cultural shift?  Or is it more reasonable to imagine a more contained separatist culture/value system?

And how on earth to deal with the prisons?

And people stuck in the immigration system?

What movements of the past are relevant to these questions, and what can we learn from them?

What is the difference between what flared up in the 60’s, what flared up after Rodney King in the 90’s, and now?

How do we deal with the very natural conflicts that arise between humans sharing a planet?

What if we just said NO? Who would be included in that WE?

What happens next??? Oh my gosh I want to KNOW.

* * *

What IS the revolution now?

The revolution now
has been going on for years
(for those who have been paying attention)
and is recently going
stronger than ever.

The revolution now
is thoughtful
slower
& wise.

We have learned how to listen.
We are learning how to listen.
We are listening.

We think down to the roots
of every belief and behavior we’ve been taught
and reconsider it,
knowing what we do now.

We practice basic human kindness,
which is a practice.

That means sometimes we fuck up,
and need to be accountable for that.

Anger is released without violence.

In our revolution
We are treated with respect.
We treat each other with respect.
We respect each other.

We respect ourselves.

We respect our planet.

We actually consider the future.

* I know there is more to this. The ideas are still coming. Drop me a note with yours? *

* * *

Conflict resolution

I often think our approach to conflict resolution is what will mark us as a movement, long-term.

Conflicts are a natural part of being human together on the planet.

In the current system, how are conflicts dealt with? Prisons, law suits, money changing hands. Shame, guilt, punitive measures rooted in a false hierarchy. Mass incarceration, emphasis on control not rehabilitation, support, understanding. No acknowledgement of the greater injustices at play.

In queer communities, how do we deal with conflict? What does accountability mean? Consensus process has its challenges but there are things we’ve learned from it over the years. But there are also flame wars on the internet, public shaming and shunning, intergenerational misunderstandings where we write people off instead of engaging in the bridge-building that could lead to greater understanding, deeper alliances.

Call-in culture is what interests me the most. There is a great article on the Black Girl Dangerous blog by Ngọc Loan Trần, a Viet/mixed-race disabled queer writer grounded in the US South, which describes their experience/understanding of calling people in – you should read it, it’s called “Calling IN: A Less Disposable Way of Holding Each Other Accountable.”

  • Here are some of the essential points Trần makes:
  • Allow mistakes to happen. Everyone fucks up, and we need each other.
  • Consider what makes your relationship with this person important. Where is your common ground?
  • When speaking with them – identify the problematic behavior, define why you are choosing to engage.
  • Prioritize your own values.
  • Invite them to think about theirs, and where the two overlap.

And then :

  • Talk about it with patience and compassion
  • But also keep it real.

Think about it. If THIS were how conflicts were managed – by people, as part of a commonly-held cultural practice – what impact might it have on the criminal justice system of the future? Could a system of care and rehabilition be created to prevent the prisons of the future? Could communities that hold different sets of values co-exist and thrive?

To be continued.

* * *

P says the word “revolution” makes her wanna barf. P is a salty femme who worked for years on the AIDS movement, then the human rights movement, then the sexual health & reproductive rights movement. Occupy Wall Street made her feel old and jaded (me too). She gets annoyed when I flippantly say “there’s a war out there in the streets.”

And it’s true, I’m being annoying, and going over the top, and yet there IS a shift going on right now, a confluence that I feel certain we will talk about for years. You can’t be transgender in 2014 and not know that things have evolved very rapidly, very recently.

And yet :
REVOLUTION.

I feel slightly uncomfortable and slightly dangerous using this word, yet it keeps slipping out of my mouth and I’m trying to figure out what that means. Influenced by images of Arab Spring – why is this word OK to use for things happening “over there”, when thousands flood our streets after Ferguson and there’s no proper word for what that felt like?

“Revolution” implies urgency, immediacy. But capitalism won’t end overnight, its values have been deeply stitched into the consciousnesses of more or less everyone on the planet. Ending violence is a multi-generational challenge; HIV/AIDS is an emergency that proliferates globally. It is easy for some of us to go about our lives while others are stuck in detention centers, government bureaucracy, the prison of their own bodies due to inadequate health care systems.

And yet – “revolution” implies total overhaul. Which is what this conundrum in its entirety requires. Which is what I sometimes sense we are on the verge of demanding, as the boundaries between movements collapse and our collective voices become ever more powerful. Which – in a way – is what we are doing when we create autonomous queer spaces, when we spill over into the streets, when we go beyond demanding the justice we deserve and just DO BETTER, ourselves, creating models for the future and finding better solutions for the challenges that arise when we try.

Ultimately – I don’t know if it’s better to use this word, or to come up with a new one that doesn’t have the same baggage.

So I’ll end this with an imagination exercise I thought up this spring. Try different combinations of these words like mad libs for further reflection:

What does a
queer/radical/trans/revolutionary
social/cultural/political/economic/educational/health
movement/revolution/language/vision
look like/value/consist of/feel like/do
?

* * *

ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE

IF WE CAN IMAGINE IT


Look! The trailer for Act One is up.  So is a web site for the film and so is the site to buy tickets to the preview screening on December 30, 2014.  SO PROUD of all of the work done so far, so excited to see the first half hour when it’s done.  Working like mad to get it done in time but it’s definitely coming together, and that’s really exciting.  This project is kind of ruling my LIFE and I love it so much.


Here are five things I’m still thinking about, five days after the People’s Climate March:

1. AIR IT OUT

AIR IT OUT banner at the People's Climate March

AIR IT OUT banner at the People’s Climate March

One of the things I keep coming back to, as I spend more time off the grid in places like Vermont, is the concept of TIME. The pace of the city vs. the pace of the earth. The time it takes to grab a dollar slice of pizza vs. making dough, letting it rise, and baking it yourself. The time it takes to actually heal from traumatic experiences vs. the expectations of demanding schedules. How quickly technology allows us to communicate with each other. The speed of travel from one place to another.

Humans have sped up, but has the planet? It seems the gulf between the pace of our lives and what it takes to sustain that level of consumption vs. the natural speed of the earth and her regeneration are rapidly widening. Alternatives are out there – but things just can’t continue the way that they are.

American habits might feel inevitable and unchangeable – how much oil we burn running errands, how much grain-fed meat we eat, the length of our showers – but the way we live now is not how it’s always been. And the people who feel the effects of our collective behaviors might not be us, but our grandchildren. Literally. Not metaphoric “grandchildren” but the babies of the babies being born in 2014. People in frontline communities are already feeling it NOW.

We have to remember that our snappy lives are just a blip in a larger continuum of time. The industrial revolution happened in the last 250 years and our increased reliance on fossil fuels – and the devastation its mass usage is wreaking – in the last 100 years. There are island nations that might cease to exist in our lifetimes; Miami might be under water by 2060. In the history of the earth and the continuum of her future, this very moment we are in is a pivotal one.

2. FIRE IN OUR BELLIES

working on the FIRE banner at the Queer Planet build

working on the FIRE banner at the Queer Planet build

How does collective work on climate issues fit with more urgent work addressing systemic inequities now?

How do we think collectively, intersectionally and movement-wide about organizing to dismantle prisons and transphobia and economic injustice and borders and homelessness, alongside longer-term work to dismantle capitalism and misogyny and the patriarchy and deal with their impact on climate change? (there is a LOT to do!!)

Can it all happen simultaneously? How does self-interest play into this? How do we support each other long-term and work together as a coordinated movement?

I am one person with fire in my belly. What can I do?

I am sitting with these questions – there are no easy answers. But it *was* interesting to set aside two weeks of my activist life to focus directly on the earth. Usually I balance my community/cultural organizing with emergency work with transient queer young people, with thinking broadly about movement-building on the Third Wave Fund board, with imagining pop cultural change through the movie I’m directing. Stepping back from all of this to work on an issue that underscores ALL of these other things was a paradigm shift for me, and I’m still working out how it all fits together.

3. ALL OF THE FEELINGS

water puppet – all of the feelings

So many feelings. The destruction of the earth is a terrifying, sad event. We are part of the problem. I am part of the problem. The loss of entire species and countries is devastating. We are partially responsible. I am partially responsible. I am held down by fuck-up systems that are held firmly in place in this society, though I do have the ability to resist those things. Yet sometimes it’s easier to go with the status quo. I am angry at the ways I am not in control of my own consumption. I am inspired by the sheer force and power I experienced at the march.

So many feelings.  So many more.  All of them true.

Marinating.

4. FEED EACH OTHER

"feed each other" on the fridge at Sylvia's Place

“feed each other” on the fridge at Sylvia’s Place

Every Thursday night at Sylvia’s Place, the emergency queer youth shelter established as the legendary Sylvia Rivera’s dying wish at the Metropolitan Community Church in Manhattan, a group of volunteers, staff and former clients make dinner and eat together at the shelter with the current residents there. Cooking skills and recipes are shared across generations and cultures, young people and former clients and queers of all stripes have space to be together, and we all eat REALLY well. It’s kind of a beautiful phenomenon on a lot of different levels.

Earlier this year, when we were just getting this program rolling, I drew a meditation that said FEED EACH OTHER and taped it up on the fridge there. Maybe six months later, a bit tattered, it is still there. I meditate on it still. When it came time to make the banner for Earth during the Queer Planet build, it was an intuitive choice for a defining slogan.

In the 1970’s there was book published called Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappé that unraveled the concept of hunger and scarcity, and how much grain we were feeding to livestock and how that related to the burning of fossil fuel, among other things. Last week Penny gave me a book called Hope’s Edge, written by the same author with her daughter 25 years later, that re-examined these questions and highlighted working solutions. In it she makes a case for how food, and how we feed ourselves and each other, as the central issue of how our world fits together :

“If we look at food, really look, our world can shift. We might just not only grasp for the first time the biggest ideas limiting our lives, but also discover for the first time whole new ways of seeing the world that release us from our march toward planetary destruction.”

There’s a lot more to it than that, but – I am pondering this still. And how food, one of the most basic human needs, relates to issues of climate justice and how through food, we might carry this need to DO SOMETHING into our daily, personal lives.

5. WE’RE HERE, WE’RE QUEER, WE’RE HERE TO SAVE THE PLANET

This video. Just this. Taken out of context, it’s kind of a hubristic statement.  How weird that in the moment of shouting it on the streets last weekend, it actually felt humble.

Something about queer power, something about dreaming big, something about wising up.  Something about purpose.  Right now it’s still just the chant, replacing T-Swift as the music in the back of my head.  I’m letting it guide my steps this week.

* * *

So those are the five things still rattling around. I’m sure I’ll have more to say soon, as we think through the WHAT COMES NEXT part.  Curious to hear what YOU are left with… interesting times we are living through, no?

me pushing the mobile reuse center in the People's Climate March

me pushing the mobile reuse center/glitter emergency cart in the People’s Climate March

my brilliant and talented co-conspirator Bizzy Barefoot marching with the puppets at the People's Climate March

my brilliant and talented co-conspirator Bizzy Barefoot marching with the puppets at the People’s Climate March

feedeachotherrrr

look how cute it turned out as a banner!