L.A. Womxn Artists of Color reflect on Womxn’s History Month: Part 1

by Tom Nguyen

For Womxn’s History Month, I wanted to check in with womxn artists of color in Los Angeles who are doing important work in our communities of color and immigrant diaspora, advocating for social justice and using their artistry and voices to uplift, educate and empower.

Alice Bag, Dj Sizzle Fantastic, Faith Santilla, Gingee, Klassy, Jumakae, Maya Jupiter, Sri Panchalam of Doctors & Engineers, Xochi Flores of Los Cambalache — These radical womxn of color are outspoken and fearless in their arts & advocacy, and through their artistic expression and activism, have been tireless in their fight to smash systems of oppression and the patriarchy. I asked each of these powerful, radical womxn of color to reflect on these 3 questions:

– As you reflect on Women’s History Month, #MeToo movement and the current political climate, what do you feel are the most important issues facing you, both individually and collectively as a community?

– As a radical womxn of color and artist, how do you express and/or address these issues in your art & activism?

– What advice do you have for young womxn or advice you wish someone had given you?

I am so grateful for their time and willingness to share their insight, their work, and their inspiring advice for young womxn. There are many more amazing artists I hope to hear from too, so this is the 1st of what will be a continuing series.

If you know of an inspiring Los Angeles artist of color, who is speaking truth to power, through their artistry and activism, please send them my way in the comments below.

Alice Bag:

“I feel the need to combat the extreme misogyny and xenophobia coming from the White House. When you have a president that considers talk of grabbing women by the genitals acceptable, he’s setting the tone for the nation. There have also been numerous reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault, against him. I will call these allegations for legal reasons, not because I have any doubt of their veracity, especially since he has at times, boasted publicly of his actions. When you have that flagrant disrespect for women coming from the very top, it’s bound to affect what others, especially those who support Trump, view as acceptable behavior.”

“I think we need to resist, organize and provide a vision for a future where women are seen, heard and respected as equal members of society.”

“Aside from doing all the things that many of us do to push back, in terms of protesting, letter writing, making calls to representatives, etc. I volunteer with Girls Rock Camp. Helping young girls harness their power in their formative years is extremely satisfying. It makes me and everyone involved in these programs very happy. When I feel anger and dissatisfaction, I channel some of it into my music. In the past few months, I’ve released several songs that have helped me express my feelings post-election. The first one was Reign of Fear”, which is a call for resistance in which my band-mates and I get to shout “We reject your reign of fear!”. Midway through Trump’s first year in office, I needed a song that reminded me to take time to focus on the positive things in my life because I was feeling overwhelmed by the daily barrage of negativity coming from Washington. I also wrote a song called “Blueprint” about taking ownership of the structures we create. Whether we’re working on ourselves, our communities or our world, we are architects who have the power to create what we imagine.”

“Love yourself, treat yourself with kindness and compassion, give yourself positive affirmations. Nurture in yourself what you want to be able to share with the world.”

Photo by Greg Velasquez

Alice Bag is a singer/songwriter, musician, author, artist, educator and feminist. Alice was the lead singer and co-founder of the Bags, one of the first bands to form during the initial wave of punk rock in Los Angeles. The Alice Bag Band was featured in the seminal documentary on punk rock, The Decline of Western Civilization. Alice went on to perform in other groundbreaking bands, including Castration Squad, Cholita, and Las Tres. She has published two books, including the critically acclaimed memoir Violence Girl in 2011 (Feral House) and the 2015 self-published Pipe Bomb For the Soul, based on her teaching experiences in post-revolutionary Nicaragua. Alice’s work is included in the Smithsonian exhibition, American Sabor. Alice’s self-titled 2016 debut album received critical acclaim and was named one of the best albums of the year by AllMusic. Her second album, Blueprint, was just released in March 2018 on Don Giovanni Records. Upcoming event: Saturday, April 7, 2018, Alice Bag Record Release Party at The Echo.

Dj Sizzle Fantastic:

“As an undocumented queer womxn, the most pressing issues that continue to affect the lives of my community and by extent, mine, are rooted in xenophobia, racism, misogyny, displacement, borders, and family separation. Sadly, the current administration encompasses and uplifts said issues in its daily operations. Giving that much more power to rogue agencies such as ICE/Border Patrol/Police a.k.a Polimigra, and the government as a whole, the power to continue to further oppress and criminalize the bodies of womxn of color, immigrants, queer folks, and black and brown youth.” Continue Reading →

Film crew tweet slanders East LA community center upset about Eva Longoria’s Low Rider film

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by Tom Nguyen

What is it with film crews working in our downtown and East LA communities lately? I live in Boyle Heights where there have been film notices taped outside my building and late night filming multiple times this past month. On Thursday night, while I was helping a woman spread the word on Twitter regarding a security guard who harassed her on a downtown location for Hand of God, I came across this tweet from Film Crew L.A., a film crew union:

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Now, full disclosure, I know many people at Eastside Café, an autonomous, progressive community space in El Sereno, which is very committed and invested in the community, offering classes, workshops and socially conscious events. It’s where one of my favorite East LA bands, Las Cafeteras, got their start (and so named after the center) and I was last there on May 14th for a Free West Papua event. Since that time, I hadn’t known about this sign nor the movie, Low Rider, being filmed in the area. I forwarded the tweet to Eastside Café’s Facebook page, which quickly replied that they would write a response to this. I then tweeted some East LA media and community members for their thoughts: Continue Reading →

Floricanto Center and Danza Floricanto/USA: Bringing Together East Los Angeles’ Artistic Communities

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by Katie J

Under bright strings of papel picado and colorful twinkling lights, an eager crowd mills about in the lobby of The Floricanto Center for the Performing Arts. The Center’s director, Gema Sandoval, softly glides through the crowd, smiling and welcoming the chipper guests. A warm and motherly soul, Gema has a history of bringing together families, artists, and diverse communities in the Los Angeles area. Tonight she has invited everyone for the 13th annual Fiesta del Dia de los Muertos performance, put on by her floricanto company. While the dancers prepare themselves in the dressing room, Mr. Sandoval ushers guests to their seats in the Center’s intimate theater space. The audience settles in, their excited chatter dimming with the lights, as Gema takes the stage to introduce the dancers and the company’s history.

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Gema and her husband, Frank Sandoval, are founding members of Danza Floricanto/USA, the oldest existing professional Mexican folk dance troupe in Southern California. “We started as an affirmation group,” Gema fondly recalls, “until we realized we were artists!” She chuckles to herself as she says this, and one can’t help but break into a smile with her. A lifelong educator, Gema has a gentle guiding spirit. She is a smaller woman with a calm demeanor, but within minutes of speaking to her, her matriarchal strength is obvious. Equally apparent is her deep love and respect for the art of dance, particularly folklorico (a collective term for traditional Latin American dances that emphasize local folk culture).

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Cry Now: Film set in Boyle Heights Premieres July 26!

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by Tom Nguyen

Cry Now, a new film directed by Alberto Barboza and produced by Cinético Productions, is premiering Saturday, July 26, 9:00pm, at the New Filmmakers LA Film Festival. The romantic feature film follows Vincent, an LA street artist, who falls in love with Luzy, a tattoo artist. Set in the culturally rich neighborhood of Boyle Heights, it’s great to see the eclectic Chicano music and arts community we love so much featured on the big screen for wider audiences!

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Chicanas Who Rock and more American Sabor at CSULA


Three generations of Chicana musicians, humorously calling themselves Las ChiChis (CHIcanas CHIngonas), joined in a historic collaboration tonight at CSULA’s Music Hall. The small theater quickly filled up with overflow seating outside in the lobby as Lysa Flores, famed Chicana activista, actresss and songwriter, opened the show backed by East LA Taiko. The unique pairing of Chicana rock with Japanese drumming ended with a rousing taiko set performed by all of them together.

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