Sex, Death and Racism – Artistic Director’s Exposé
I’ll begin at the end. I started reading FB conversations about racism, seeing comments about white people, white pathology, white ignorance; every comment hit, hurt, a truth that lived in me. My responses on certain threads: white fragility poster child reactions. So I began to see the racism that hid in me.
I continued to listen and learn, talking to artist leaders in the black and brown communities in the East Bay. I cried, listened more, raged inside, then went back to my studio stunned to silence for hours, reading more – James Baldwin, Sonia Sanchez, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Michelle Alexander, Robin DiAngelo – shock and tears falling out of these blind, blue eyes.
I found myself standing on stages, open mics in Oakland, flashing my angry words, shame-shook poems that fell to the floor; then sitting down and listening to my fellow poets and rap artists slamming my thoughts and spitting my words back at me, fierce rebuttals that left me humbled and hated. I took my guilt, shame, and rage to the estuary, dancing as if moving my body would shake out my ignorance.
One woman, Jasmine Johnson, replied to my FB comments with a stern woke compassion, so I asked her out to lunch. Now, friends, she is teaching me, talking to me, and creating with me.
One man, Quiet Ninja, stopped my dancing with a trusting smile, so we shared our artistic dreams and visions. Now, friends, he is teaching me, talking to me, and creating with me.
Another woman, LaneyLayne, shared her soul-loving wisdom, kindness, she said, be kind. Now, friends, she is teaching me, talking to me, and creating with me.
I am honored to offer this performance art project to all of you, all of you willing to listen, to learn, to talk about the racism that lives in this world…the racism that lives in us, my white people.
Several years ago, I asked my husband if we could find a drug that would put me to sleep and let me die. I would gather all of my friends – chosen family – around me, laugh, tell stories, cry, and say good-bye. Needless to say, he did not fancy the idea. Some would say suicide is selfish, or a luxury, or insanity. Whatever your opinion, it is a possible reality meditated on by many people.
Although suicidal thoughts still find their way into my mind, they have less influence when I talk about them with others, they become beautiful poems when I write about them, and they have even begun to disappear as I stand on stages and share them.
At the Lost Church in San Francisco, there is an open mic night called You Are Going To Die, Poetry, Prose and Everything Goes. Artists from all around the Bay gather to sing, play guitar, tell stories, give poems and talk about death in a gently lit theatre that holds an intimate silence of respect. Nowhere else have I performed my greatest terrors while feeling alive with peace.
In New York and San Francisco, there is an annual week-long event called Reimagine End of Life. Theater, music, and workshops exploring, considering, and celebrating questions of death and life. This community brought me to friends on social media who are teaching me to bring levity, honor, and honesty to discussions of death. Thank you @killertit.
I am grateful for the opportunity to offer this performance art project to all of you, all of you willing to discuss death, to share the sweet remembrance of our infinity, the inevitability of our humanity.
My name is Erica Jones. I was molested when I was eight years old and raped when I was 16 yrs old. This is not some metoo exposure, I no longer blame those men. In fact, several years after the rape, I ran into the man at a bar. I looked him directly in his eyes and said, “what you did was not ok.” He met my gaze and replied, “I know. I’m sorry.” Enough.
Experiences like these leave a girl incisive and acute-minded. So I changed my name, moved every two years, and fell in love with sex a little too early. The pleasures of sex far outweigh the shame for loving something that hurt me.
Sex is beautiful. Orgasm is a glorious celebration of our humanity. So much of our society, and its religions, have sex twisted with evil and punishment such that we have become misguided through labyrinths lost until we begin to think that this is the way life is . I say reclaim the holiness of being horny.
And when caring, consensual sex is not available, learn to use that passion to set yourself on fire, so that you become lit by this life, wild inside for the next breath. Instead of moaning in ecstasy, scattering your dreams across the bed, dance, sing, paint, write and then write, paint, sing and dance some more. Creativity bleeds from lust.
I am excited for the opportunity to offer this performance art project to all of you, all of you willing to bring respect to sex, and to be curious about your own sexual creativity.
painting by AngeliArtStudios, BAE