Lemonade: Pinay Reflections on Community Creation for Healing and Empowerment for Ourselves, Our Ancestors and Future Generations

There are many reflections that have been floating through media and conversations on the ground after we as a society fixated on media were drawn in to the global release of Lemonade, Beyoncé’s newest communal creation. My first feelings around the piece is this admonition, it is so powerful because it is a reflection of what it means to have a village raise up a child- that child being a one hour cinematic album that has converted many who were not Beyoncé fans to the #BeyHive. As I took in the words of Warsan Shire, the masterful imagery from a team of film makers, listened to the strongly produced music, vibed to the vivacious choreo, took every artistic choice from location to wardrobe and make-up, and bore witness to the countless divine Black Wom*n that filled the screen, I was in awe.

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I am neither a Beyoncé fan nor am I a Beyoncé hater. I appreciate her way of creating art with so many surrounding her and lifting her vision and I appreciate her confidence and way of standing as a strong wom*n who has created herself in the eye of the public as an icon and admired artist figure. Lemonade reflected all the things that make me appreciate Beyoncé and then some, because this piece in particular showed how well she knows her community, how well connected she is, how she can use those relationships built and her stance as a iconic figure to create with a team around her own visions (Meet The All-Star Team Behind Beyonce’s Lemonade). And in this instance I am most moved by how much she allowed for a space where in particular other Black Wom*n and girls could be lifted as she rose up to her power in the center light of what I am recognizing is emerging so visibly- the elevation of Black Wom*n rooted in their path toward liberation after years of being oppressed in this country and globally. Lemonade is a call to Black Wom*n everywhere to rise up in the power that is inherently within them. In this moment in time Beyoncé took her role as the most visible Black Wom*n in media to make that call to her sistren around the world, and in particular here in the United States, where oppression of Black Wom*n has waged for centuries.

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I sat there taking in the breathtaking imagery, filled with ancient symbolism and calling for healing and reconciliation, where Black Wom*n Magic was bursting through the screen. And in this admiration I found myself recognizing that although as a Pilipina, Brown Wom*n, a Wom*n of color I could find some connection to what this creation stood for I understood that this work was meant specifically of my Black Sisters.

After I watched the full hour, I sat with my realization of what Lemonade represented for me as a non-Black Wom*n of color and when my partner asked me how I felt about the piece, I could not help, but respond that I felt saddened. I celebrated the Black Wom*n rising as I have seen this truth of current happenings everywhere, this reclamation of power, not only in the media, but on the ground especially because the weekend after the release I joined the sacred sisters of Harriet’s Apothecary for their 19th Healing Village in Brooklyn, NY, where Black Sisterhood and Spirit was so alive and vibrant.

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And I see it in the way so many neighborhoods in NY are filled with cultural, political, social and spiritual events that raise up Black Wom*n, and I know it’s because they have and continue to fight to be create and maintain and grow those spaces collectively. They re-member and re-envision themselves in a world that has told them they are the other and has created trauma to their spirits. Beyoncé in her visibility and placement as a iconic figure has stood up in leadership of that, whether folks always agree with how she does it, she has progressively stepped up to her role in being the most globally recognized Black Wom*n icon in today’s media.(Being visible does not inherently mean you are a leader, nor does it mean that others will lead you, but it means that you can lead). She is not the only one rising. I see it in other artists that I love and respect and I think on how it is not just today, but in the past we have seen those that have paved for Beyoncé to walk on. Then and even more in the present moment we live in, we can see that Black sisters have answered the call from their Ansisters to rise.
I admitted to myself how much more I longed for my ancestry to show up powerfully in this way particularly here in the United States, where we have and continue to experience the traumas of being a colonized peoples. In all this reflection, I fell deeper into what Lemonade represented for me- it was a call to action from her lineage in connection to my own.

I thought of all the Pinay who have influenced me, particularly in artistry and in leadership organizing our community and I envisioned a moment to be surrounded by all of them- powerful Pinay who were awaken to not just our oppressions here in the US, and as a colonized people, but that were also actively working to heal from it and create something greater more visibly, to touch our younger generations-together. I know that there are many groups and individuals who are doing this work, I look to the Center for Babaylan Studies who I have been called to create with on a daily basis and I am thankful for spaces like this that are working to connect to and remember our cultural, ancestral and indigenous stories, traditions, rituals and practices, but I wish it was not something that we had to dig for, because it took digging for me to create the path I am now walking on back to my ancestors and to my motherland. I wish we had more support uplifting our community to heal and to remember, I wish our community would find greater urgency to support our selves being uplifted in this same way we see so tremendously done by the our Black brothers and sisters in today’s society through a piece like Lemonade or a movement like Black Lives Matter. I have such a great respect for the Black community as I have seen how they have risen in all spheres of being in the past couple of years- the oppression still exists, but the community continues to let the world know that they will rise up stronger every time. Beyoncé has been criticized time and again, but she continues to create, she continues to show up and this time she called so clearly for Black brilliance to show up beside her. I long for this to happen for Pilipinos in the US in reflection of our own deep history here. All people of color carry a burden our past with this country, and we need to heal that.

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I don’t think we need a Beyoncé to do that persay, but what I know is that there are many Pinay leaders who are doing the work to uplift and empower us from the ground, but I wonder what it would be like to have someone, in this world influenced by media, to look to with the resources like Beyoncé had for Lemonade who could gather so many masters of artistry in music, visuals, craftsmanship, movement, organizing, and community cultivation around one project, relevant to the present day and that utilized all the advancements of artistry and organizing that could make the world feel the rising of other communities.

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I question what has stopped us from having that in my own community, when I am consistently surrounded by brilliant, prolific and masterful Pinay artists who are doing such beautiful work. Do we need a Beyoncé to make this happen? I don’t think anyone in this current day of celebrity and media could have pulled off the production of this communal masterpiece, but her. I know there is much critique around her artistry in relation to this piece, but also I know that she did it- all those people surrounded her vision and helped to bring it to fruition, to empower Black Wom*n everywhere. So I guess this is a call to all of us to begin seeing the truth of Beyoncé’s Lemonade that it is a communal created, supported and executed piece and it is our diverse communities that upholds it, praises it, brings it to our dinner table conversations. So, when will we all begin seeing the power of creating in this way for our own communities, to heal from our oppressions, to uplift and create for our future generations? No Beyoncé needed, just community gathering in their mastery to create with purpose- together.

Creating a Life Filled with Ritual- Intention Physicalized and Embodied in Committed Practice

I have encountered exchanges, as of late, that have inquired guidance in ritual practice and how I have come to learn and create my own for healing, centering and elevation of spirit.

 

My understanding of spiritual ritual is the physicalization and embodiment of a committed practice that holds a deep intention to manifest action and creation from self and other, to call forth clarity, upliftment, understanding of life’s wonders and to connect to greater divine beings of creation, ancestry and spirit.  The practice of ritual helps me to place all of these grand ideas, desires and beliefs in a small act that I can feel committed to. All of these can feel so overwhelming, impossible to tackle and sometimes even comprehend because they feel so much larger than ourselves, but if we can commit to even the small action of lighting a candle, connecting this repeated motion/action/practice to words of affirmation and intention, we can begin building toward larger creations and connections in our lives. If you cannot light a candle with grounded commitment every day, then how can you take on the larger intentions behind it.

 

The next level to this is to open your senses to experience the ritual in a way that stimulates multiple senses and activates and awakens whole being.  Like, when I light sage, I do not just do it keeping in mind the native practice that I have learned is connected to the practice of burning this sacred herb, but also in simple awareness. I connect with wonderment to the recognition of the shape and color and line of each leaf and stem, I see the smoke rise up in shape and movement, I smell the burning fragrance, I hear the light crackling of the fire creating ash and I feel the warmth of the smoke dance around me. Seeing these things does not have to connect with religious belief, it is powerful alone to just observe the miracle of the physicalized action of burning this herb. Then, when you allow yourself to truly open your senses to this power and dually connect your intention to clear away bad energy or to ward away what does not serve your being, it makes the physicalized action, the ritual that much more powerful.

I have exchanged many rituals with my sisters in “The Journey of a Brown Girl” ones that I practice in my own life as daily practice. Our core ritual takes place at the beginning of every gathering, we engage in physical motions of energy shifting in connection to the intentions of letting go what will not serve us in our space of creation and exchange and to offer to the group something that will serve us as a collective. We have also physicalized this through the burning of candles (black-for release, white- for manifestation). We have also written larger intentions and burned what we are releasing and placed on sacred altar what we are wish to bring forth for ourselves to see. Other rituals have been ones to connect us to one another, often linked to offerings that I have given them. I gifted each sister a bell, purchased from a dear friend who told me each bell is forged separately in a way where they all have a distinct sound that resonates through it. Sound can be so healing (as all things can heal if we learn to use them for this purpose), the ritual in this was that in moments of need and struggle when we are apart, to ring the bell as a reminder to self of connection and means of support.

 

I have recently connected to ritual with water. I have always had a fear of the ocean- of its power, of its mystery, of its magic. But this year I am making a strong intention to connect to all of this as a part of my deepened connection to the world around me. The healing power in the act of washing and recognition of how sacred it is to know water is all around and within us- earth’s bodies of water and our own bodies made primarily of water. These rituals help you feel rooted, help you feel oneness with all things, and humble you to your being only one fragment of a much larger creation.

 

Another ritual in every space we inhabit is to create an altar, which I learned to create from the community of the Center for Babaylan Studies. On each altar is representation of the 4 elements (water, air, fire, and earth) and a center container (bowl, gourds, box, etc.) that represents what is being filled with spirit, intention, prayer and light. The performance itself is centered around this large altar that we place items representing ourselves as Pinay, as women, as human beings- and that also call forth others we love in our lives to be held.
We create another altar with intention to hold the sacred energy of the stories being told and ask audience members to place a stone with a symbol representing their being on it so that by they’ve of our time together they can retrieve the stone which will now hold the energy cultivated in our experience together. The creation of a physical altar built in connection and reflection of my altar within.

I even see the way I dress and what I wear as the adornment as ritual in the building of my physical vessel as an altar;  #soulsurfaced. I often wear jewelry and clothing that has been crafted by artists, or by my self. I was drawn to each item because it spoke to my soul, in this photograph below I adorned myself with light in many forms, connected to my animal spirit the rooster- around my neck is the symbol of the morning sun created by Ray Haguisan of Malaya Designs (http://malayadesigns.bigcartel.com/), he explained to me when I met him in California that this was a guide to our ancestors, when placed with another to create a pattern becomes the “minamata” design- eye of the ancestors, and wen more are placed it becomes the “chain of ancestors” that honors those past and present and also representative of the python scales for protection/ When more are placed they become a weaving pattern of a basket or cloth that represents our community, our lineage of ancestry that holds us. The larger amulet is from my sister May designer and owner of NativeSol and one of the most lifted creators I know (https://www.etsy.com/shop/nativesol) when we first met I saw this large pendant and was drawn to it because of its sun shape, and as held it in my hand she told me, there is a design on the other side, I flipped it over and there was a marking of my spirit animal- the rooster calling to my heart. On my ears are a Rooster Feather earring designed by my hands and spirit connected to the energies of Gabriela Silang ( I create all my feathered earrings in inspiration of a wom*n leader, goddess or feminine power- no website, just requests when asked). And I paired it with a the face of Mother Sun I encountered on a walk in the city one day from a kind wom*n selling trinkets on the street. I combine these articles to help lift my spirit, with the intention of radiating light and warmth to others.

Ritual also becomes a means of centering amidst the craziness of the world around us is so important. Many constructs of this living bring ailments if we do not have ways to reflect, deconstruct and renew ourselves in these moments of heightened energetic experience. My train commute used to be excruciating for me, with so many bodies carrying the weight of the daily grind and grime of the city. Engagements in energy exchange often are intense, and ritual has become so important for me to protect and direct my energy in positivity and creation.  I fill my daily journey with ritual of drawing, writing and spiritual reading meditations that feed my being.  This blog entry itself was my meditation on this morning’s commute.

I am currently in the process of learning more rooted practice from my own cultural background, in particular looking to delve into my lineage as a Filipina born from parents of the Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur regions. This has become something significant for my growing in understanding myself deeper. I am beginning with learning more of the language and the history from my own parents- this itself has become ritual, phone conversations with my father retraining my tongue to speak in ilocano, it has been such a challenge, but extremely liberating- the release of words that have lived in my mouth and my vocal tract, but have not been released.  I hope this will help me in my explorations of our native and indigenous practices I am working to uncover for myself. My father has also in the midst of this learning, been sharing stories of his recollections growing up on the land, tilling it and laboring as a youth. This has been an added blessing gifted to me alongside my intentions to learn tradition of spirit from my ancestry.

I feel that is one of the most important things about ritual, that it is a means of commitment. Whether it be small momentary daily actions or larger collective communal energetic exchanges, if they are rooted in deep intention and you make the recognition of the power in committing to it- ritual will nourish, protect, activate and uplift your spirit and help you walk with more courage and centeredness in this living. In a way if we see all the ways we live as ritual, we begin to walk more wholly, body, mind and spirit- action, intention and connection for oneness with all of creation. Now, how will you live out ritual in your life? What will your commitment to spirit in action look like? Commit to lighting your candle, writing your passage- wash, burn, bury, plant, stretch, dance, sing your intentions, affirmations and connections out and create ritual in your life.

Tracing the HerStory of My Becoming- A Creator of Artistry in Spiritual Movement

My process of becoming the artist that I walk this world as today is deeply connected to my spiritual awakening. My spiritual practice and my artistry do not live separate from one another. I have with every choice of intention and investment to self as an artist chosen the path that would feed my spirit. It is because of this I have allowed my understanding of artistry as divine creation to unveil itself. We as human beings at our core are creators, look around you and embrace all we have constructed. I meditate on this often, taking in sight and sound and smell and taste and feeling stimulated by the creation of human beings- in reflection of the greater creation source, the great creator, God on high.

I have had the voice of an elder and inspiration in my life, Grace Nono echoing in my head the past couple of days speaking “You must find your embodied practice… When you are called, you must answer to do.” I think on all the moments I have been called to center my artistry in the spirit. I think on all the elders that have given to that and trace back the Journey of my becoming.

The root of my embodiment as an artist began at such a young age, my mother told me that when she was pregnant with me that she had cravings of seaweed, which she often attributed to my inability as a child to sit still. “Makuti” they would call me, always in movement always ready to get others up in movement with me. Intertwined with my curiousness and wonderment of the world and the courage to let myself be drawn away from comforts to explore and expand I was often ready to embrace all experiences and people. My family embraced my free spirit and often encouraged me to express myself and sometime “entertain” guests with singing on the karaoke and dancing hula for guests visiting on any occasion. But they didn’t expect me to become an artist because of practicality. “You’re so smart, you need to become a doctor.” The same story told by many 2nd generation artists of immigrant parents that wanted more for their children- stability, security, but this was not the path that would call to me.

I think of the moment when Cindy Little took the hand of a broken teenager, dealing with displacement and separation from family and introduced her to the power of theatre as the power of becoming. Embodying and honoring others in their life stories, and seeing how a piece of every being lives in us,. She taught me that we just have to dig deep into our memories to see where we can find understanding and connect. Upland High School was my fourth high school I attended in my Freshman Year alone and I was looking for something that would make me feel I belonged. I remember the first production I saw, left me in awe- the coming together of so many elements of artistry on one stage, and the mastery of the performers who made me feel alive in the way they moved my spirit. I never would have imagined myself drawn to be among them. That evening I sat in the student parking lot waiting for my sister who predictably was late, but in this instance her lateness was an act of divinity because in a moment of fate I saw the stage door cracked open, inviting me in which was my first call to walk the path of my artistry. I entered the paint room and saw stage fragments, puzzle pieces to past productions scattered amongst paint cans and tools. I entered the stage wing that would unknowingly become my sanctuary and felt a sacredness to the high ceilings with lights hanging above my head, I’ll never forget that moment. Nicole Reyes who was a Sophomore in the program at that time was sitting on a table outside Mrs. Littlest office. She watched me in my wonderment and we exchanged hellos. “Is there a phone I could use?” I asked. “Yea, I’m waiting for it too,” she replied.

We waited together and in that waiting she invited me to be open to the possibility of what I think my heart wanted to inquire of. She spoke to me of auditions for the classes for the upcoming year and encouraged me to audition with her guidance, a prophet who would help me take a risk in my becoming. Acceptance into the program became just a piece of my process, before I knew it, I was also acting as a teaching aide to Mrs. Little for the honors theatre class, having a free window in my schedule to take it on. She took me under her wing and trusted me to learn from her in apprenticeship and invited me to find home in the theatre that called to me serendipitously when I felt so lost and alone. I gave my loyalty in service to her throughout my 3 years of study and I remember her telling me time and again that I was “special”, that, I was “valuable” in my being. She gave to me the knowledge of understanding how to manage back stage and encouraged me to take center stage so the world could see me, hear me and feel me.

After high school, I felt so lost in the Bachelors in Fine Arts program I had been accepted into, the people I was surrounded by felt so connected only on the surface, relationships felt false. On our first day a professor said to us, “Look around, these are not your friends, these are your colleagues, not all of you will make it through this program. Decide if you want to be one of the ones who will.” The room shifted and walls rose up. I don’t remember that professor’s name, all I remembered was a small piece of me whispering the admonition that if the next 4 years would mean being at odds with those around me, then I didn’t want to be one of those people.

Who I do remember with warmth and a deep respect was Evelyn Case who brought Physical Theatre into my life and who told me that the way I moved so free made her see herself in me. She said that watching me move was “entrancing” that she could see me discovering my body and enjoying it, she could see how liberated I was in moving. And when I left that BFA program I carried that foundation of value in Physicality that she gifted us and the power of understanding our abilities to create character by connecting to breath- connected to movement, connected to voice- connected to spirit, into my artistry as a performer.

I transferred schools and ended up at the University of California, Irvine, where I began my path toward growing in consciousness of myself as Filipina. And I felt like I left a lot of my artistry in performance to gain knowledge in self through activism. In this time I was introduced to many artists who were uplifting the stories of our people through their song and word and imagery. One individual I pay deep homage to is Bambu. I still remember the day he and my powerful Ate, Kat Carrido asked me to take a role in support of his team to elevate his music in community. The organizing that I had given my life to brought him to see in me the supporting of his life’s work. I wanted to show them I was worth what he saw in my skill to support, even if I paid tiny roles, I gave all I could. And to this day that experience is still more than I could ever repay. He taught me to use my artistry to say everything I want to say, need to say, and especially what I’m told I’m not supposed to say.

Kababayan was the chosen family who taught me what it looked like to lead. This group of activists, learners, service men and women of our communities taught me that integrity was standing up for what was right and owning up to when I was wrong, they taught me to listen with awareness and understanding and learn when my voice needs to be heard and when silence is necesary. They taught me to manifest my words of commitment into reality. And they encouraged me to be a leader of others who lead. They held a mirror up to show me I was Somebody, who could change minds and hearts, who could change the world. They taught me all these things, that would feed into and activate my artistry in a way I never would have imagined. My art didn’t just move anymore, it was movement.

In the summer before my last year as an undergraduate student, I was given the opportunity to travel to Italy and deepen my physical theatre learning, investing in artistry of mask and body. Michele Bottini would guide us on this journey. This is where I learned true ensemble work, and the power of building in support of one another body, voice and spirit. The sacredness and ritual in our practice of mask spoke to me deeper than any learning I had experienced. The first thing he said to us in meeting was “Humans have lost their animals,” inviting us to return to our bodies and explore every dip and curve and bend and crevice of our physical being. He invited us to re-member our bodies, piece by piece and value the limitlessness of our whole selves. He told me that there was power in my movement, he told me session after session that watching me move was special- echoes of teachers in my past. And on our last day after our morning meal as I gazed out into the vineyards outside the villa we resided in he stood by me and looked me straight into my eyes and told me I had to continue to move, and that whatever I choose to do he would speak for me if I made the call. I vowed to continue giving to that movement of my spirit and make my artistry the center of my being.

1 month after my graduation from UCI I packed my bags and headed to New York, where my deepened practice manifested through the unveiling of “The Journey of a Brown Girl”. The project began as an empowerment piece, to talk through the voice of Pinay leaders about our herstory and the struggles we have endured; a piece speaking on patriarchy and misogyny and all the ills against Filipina wom*n that have and continue to exist. But then transformation came with the discovery of the Babaylan, and connection to a collective of elders who were working to build a network to share in the excavating of indigenous lineage, ritual and practice. I think on  Leny Strobel, Letecia Leyson, Perla Daly and and Baylan Megino who welcomed me to see myself more whole than I’ve ever known.

Letecia taught me to back into my tomorrow’s, back into my future carrying all that served my spirit of ancestry and experience abc understanding. She taught me to rise above sadness and sorrow, taught me that it is powerful to weep. Leny called me a healer once, and it struck me in humility so deep. She shared with me many readings, connecting to many Pinay sisters who were seeking to uncover our truths as powerful warriors, healers, teachers, and visionaries of our shared future. She expanded my mind and spirit to know my ancestry beyond our migration to the United States, remembering forgotten parts of me I never knew were lost. Perla gave me opportunity time and again, to share my voice in writing online for my sister Pinays- and showed me what it looked like to create a global network of support, how to own our identity- to take power to shape it, and that presence even if not in person can be powerful. And Baylan continues to invest in every moment I rise, invests so deep- just last night we exchanged over messaging. I expressed to her that I wish to root myself in embodying deepened practices, she said to me in affirmation, “Girlfriend, you already do that!” Affirmations, affirmations and elevation of my spirit. All their words, actions and breath I keep with me constantly and they whisper to me to remember my spirit is powerful and that if I take care of it, and let it live through my artistry that my movements will move others.

They began in mentoring me through their stories of becoming, but then became such support in my process of growth. In moments of isolation and feeling myself fall to pieces Letecia would ask me “When was the last time you danced?” And Leny would share with me the comfort of words written by others in their own times of reflection during struggle and being confronted with human heart ache. Baylan would encourage practice of prayer and remind me that I had the power within myself to uplift my spirit. They all lead me to connecting to a journey toward finding and creating my own spiritual practices. They helped me to listen to spirit all around me. Because of them I feel my connection to the Great Creator and all creation in such profound ways that manifest in my full being; in the way I think, and speak, and relate to others, the way I breathe in the world and the way I honor myself as a small part of a larger creation. This has become what “The Journey of a Brown Girl” is to me, the story of finding yourself and the process of understanding how to love and honor yourself whole. This would manifest in all my work.

I recall having my final interview with Co-Founder and Executive Director Frances that began my journey at El Puente nearly 4 years ago. Almost 2 hours of exchange, I remember telling her about a project that was deeply important to my being as an artist, and that connected us together in our Filipino Heritage.  As I sat in her office talking about my roots and the wom*n and artist that I sought  to become, I looked around me at the celebration of culture and community that filled her office and gazed at a banner quoting Francis Assisi “Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”  I knew I had arrived somewhere special- a place of possibility.

I have been blessed to call El Puente much more than my place of work, it has been sacred space of growing and creating self- a place in which I have been continuously supported in my growth as an artist, as a facilitator of community, as an activist and as a human being. Because of this I pay homage to El Puente because I know that the project I spoke to Frances about those years ago, would not have grown into the movement that it has become without the support of the many individuals who have crossed my path here. From Frances Lucerna who encourages us all to awaken our artistic souls as we walk through this living, to Maria Marasigan who continuously connected with me on digging deeply to re-member our Pinay selves in reflection of each other, to Gloria Zalaya who roots us all in spiritual wellness and grounding, to Afaliah Tribune whose path toward her dreams, her brilliance and her drive to bring her artistry to the next level always inspired my own, and to JLove Calderon who guided me in looking deep within myself to unveil all of my power and light to make possibility happen.

These wom*n among many other brothers and sisters at El Puente, all encouraged the creator within myself to see how my arrival at El Puente was not happen chance, it was necessary to bring my visions to fruition. El Puente would become the place where my largest supporters would be grown for that very project I spoke to Frances about in the first moment we exchanged in light. And also be the place where I would learn to share my practice with young people for future cultivation of artistry connected to spirit.  My students who make up the For the Movement Theatre Collective are an ensemble of 10 students who I have chosen and have chosen me to exchange in practice and presence with. The performance art we create is a result of all of my embodied practice and calls my students to explore and own the way they move in the world and how that is reflective in their artistic being. Recently they put on their first full length play, which was such a struggle for many of them, as their spirits face constant unwellness in reflection to the way that they react to life and its ills. I call all my teachers and their spirits beside me in the moments when I am seeking ways to uplift the young people I create art with. Our collective saying is “For eachother, For ourselves, For the movement.” Inviting them to see themselves in one another and connected to greater movements in life.

Below was my most recent letter to them as ritual for me is to write to each of them before curtain at every show- “You all have the ability to rise above everything and be Great. I see glimmers of all your magic every time you individually and as a collective move forward with your commitment to fill the stage with your voice, your bodies, your light. I am always so proud of all of you, and this moment is one of my proudest, because despite every challenge you all made it to today and you will shine because that is in your nature to do so. And you believed enough in yourself to let yourself shine tonight. You will move your audience today because that is what you all do. You have moved my heart and spirit time and time again.

These stones are to help carry what will not serve you as you breathe it out and let it go. And keep the negative away from your heart. I give you these stones as reminders, that you have the ability to be amazing, to be the light that we all see in you, you just have to believe you can, and then you have to speak it as your truth and just BE YOU- BE LIGHT.

I love you and I am so thankful you all are in my life.”

When I sit with them in communion, and we find ways to hold space to hold one another’s spirits in the process of creating art together, I find myself feeling so full of gratitude and humbled to all that has been given to me so I can give to them.

I think these moments of reflection are important, you have to be willing to consistently pull yourself a part in order to behold the pieces that make up your entire being and understand why they fit together to make you who you are. Every part of my life experience connects to how I see my artist self today and are rooted in the many learnings of self I gained from great teachers of living. They offered me their own processes and encouraged me to continue creating again and again.

In this moment of existence The Journey of a Brown Girl and the work that I do at El Puente remain the greatest and truest reflections of my artistry in this moment of my life and I breathe this in with such humility and love. They are constant reminders of how I want to create in its relation, communication and exchange of energy between all those engaged in its process, production and sharing of performance. It is this because it is a realized manifestation of my spirituality embedded in my artistic practice. And I pass this on to my own students all these learnings of ritual and speaking to the power of endless story of human being and understanding of the body connected to inner and outer spirit. The youth I teach are fondly known

I walk in this, I speak in this, I breathe in this- I am a creator of spirit movement through my artistic expressions and in deep reflection, I give thanks and love to all those who have and continue to give to my becoming the creator I live as today.