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 →

14 Rappers, 14 Countries for UNICEF: Where are the Women MCs?

FRAME
by Tom Nguyen

Dear San E and UNICEF,

I was excited to discover your music video #HIPHOPISHIPHOP – Hip Hop for the World bringing together 14 rappers from 14 countries to express the unifying love of hip hop. I love that this video was made in the tradition of the iconic song We Are The World, to bring light on an important global issue: children’s access to education. Except for the venerable KRS-One, I love that I didn’t know any of the rappers. Thanks for giving talented rappers around the world a chance to shine!

Now, I ask…where are the women? I was quickly disappointed to see that out of 14 rappers, there was only one woman, YACKO from Indonesia. Why does this bother me? While every rapper in that video is talented and deserving and I applaud each of them, I have so many reasons for why this gender imbalance in your video upsets me.

Hip hop has historically been a very unfriendly and unfair place for women and it still remains so. Misogyny, homophobia and transphobia are big problems in hip hop songs, lyrics and culture. I’m afraid your video only reinforces the exclusion of women in hip hop. If We Are The World had better inclusion of women in 1985, I’m sure we can do better in 2015.

Since you are using hip hop as a platform for children’s education and your own statistics show that girls suffer greater disadvantage and exclusion from education in so many parts of the world, wouldn’t you have wanted to represent more women as role models? If you had included more women cyphers, I think your message would have been much more powerful and inspiring in your quest for gender equality in education.

After all, you released this video during Women’s History Month and right before International Women’s Day. I think you squandered a very good opportunity to not only address the inequality of access to education, but to also give strength to the message that the ones most affected by that inequality are girls around the world. You could have shown young girls everywhere that they have the same right and ability to succeed in any male-dominated space.

However, I have faith in an organization that is doing so much to achieve gender equality. We’re far from achieving equal human rights and opportunities for one half of the world’s population and it’s critical to keep empowering girls and women worldwide. There are no lack of girls and women on the front lines of society fighting for equality and freedom every day in every part of the world, and hip hop is no exception. In many countries, just being female, queer or trans in male-dominated hip hop is defiant and revolutionary. Below are just 14 of so many countless talented female, queer and trans rappers (in alphabetical order) who are not only rapping but doing so by challenging the status quo and giving voice to marginalized communities around the world. I hope you’ll consider them in a second hip hop video.

Respectfully,
Tom Nguyen

Continue Reading →