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FIERCE. BLACK.

JOY.

Featuring:

Déjà  Baptiste: Aug 3-7
Mirirai Sithole: Aug 10-14
Cherise Benton: Aug 17-21
Sadiqua Iman: Aug 24-28
Kwinette “Kwin” Harville:

Aug 31 - Sept 4

Final week featuring curator Meysha: Sept 8-12

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The world has been deep in conflict and transformation as we collectively move our way through a revolution to protect and advocate for Black lives in America (in the middle of global pandemic where we can't gather to share stories in the same way we used to). At "she is FIERCE", we've taken a hiatus as we navigate what our work as a vessel for storytelling looks like moving forward. We've individually been listening, learning, and finding ways to act against police brutality and white supremacy, and in support of Black lives and voices. 

After reflecting as a team, we decided the best way our platform can contribute to this movement is to produce an event that focuses on Black Joy. Because when we say a life matters and is a crucial and precious piece of the world, we mean all of the parts of that life. The trauma and injustice and struggle, yes, those things are important to honor. However, the three-dimensionality of a life is not complete without the pleasure, joy, celebration, humor, triumph, and love that makes up that life. 

 

Introducing a six week online event: FIERCE. BLACK. JOY.

MEET THE CURATOR:

MEYSHA

We could think of no one better to curate and lead this online event focusing on Fierce Black Joy than one of the people we consider to be part of the SiF family, the brilliant musician, performer, writer, mind, and heart - Meysha! If you saw our live show SECRETS you may remember Meysha's story on family and identity, or heard that story on our second podcast episode. You can hear a song of theirs on Spotify (Meysha) and find more of their work at meysha.com. They are a fiercely talented artist, and also a dedicated and loving friend and community member. We love them so freakin' much and are so excited to have them on the team and curating this Summer. Meysha will also BE one of the storytellers in this series, and we can't wait to share more of their work.

WEEK ONE: Déjà Baptiste

Déjà is a movement and word artist, historian, and storyteller by way of Okap, Ayiti. She is a multidisciplinary artist that speaks, teaches, authors, and demonstrates on culture, history and artifacts, dance, anti-oppression, and collective organization, and personal-spiritual wellness. Déjà can be found all over the interwebs (including Venmo) at @thedejaspeaks,$thedejaspeaks and paypal.me/dejabaptiste

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A NOTE FROM THE CURATOR

When The Déjà speaks, listen. I first met Déjà at an event & somehow was able to take her home after. She shared various little things with me and my sister. My sister and I love making people laugh and tag-teaming in this old comedic way that we’ve gotten timed down pretty well.  I’d like to think we had her cracking up! So let’s go with that. Déjà shared how she’d been making meals endlessly the week before for folks, and couldn’t wait to do it again the following week. And I’m like..1. how can I get parts of this mealery? 2. Who she making all these meals for? 3. How do I make myself available for this joy in meal form? Obviously I asked all of those questions and learned that this is who Déjà is. In beautiful harmony with all that she be, she is quite literally always making and creating something that brings joy to others. Whether you come by and she sends you home with a plate, some soul stories that give you that ‘lift your head up’ renewed type energy in yourself, or you simply witness her be, here dancing, creating, teaching, writing self Joyful.

"Choose yourself. You’re always worth it.

On the subject of joy, and my personal, fierce, Black joy, I want to encourage you: you’re worth your joy. Your pleasure is reason enough. Relief from what plagues and haunts and terrifies you, is reason enough.

And? Most of all?

What they withheld from you, what you were denied, the dignity and sanctity of your breath and your human life and the pleasure you were created to receive and revel in? You have the final say. You get to choose otherwise and beyond, what promises or expectations and desires anyone might have for you.

Choose You. You’re Worth It."

- Déjà

Pleasure

 

"The Messy Movement 6 Week Foundation Series is an open level introduction to healing our relationship to our body and sexuality through pleasure centered movement. This class provides a safe sanctuary for Womxn and Enby, Femme and Feminine Identified Folks, to be able to unpack and rewrite the way in which we show up and embody our experience of pleasure, rest and radiance in our bodies and lives.
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So what is pleasure centered movement™?

Pleasure Centered Movement™ is a concept that I developed over the last several years to address how we take up space with our bodies through restorative, gratifying, and joyful dance and movement.
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Pleasure Centered Movement requests that we first honor the internal GPS, desire + intuition of our bodies in movement OVER adopting a punitive relationship to what was inherently intended to be healing for our mind, body, and spirit. When we allow ourselves to experience Pleasure Centered Movement, we shift the narrative of what it means to embody the erotic. This shift disrupts the idea of solely activating the erotic or sensuous body within us for the sole purpose of being of service, entertainment, or pleasure to someone else first. The cishet white male gaze can only conceptualize sensuality and eroticism in the form of harmful pornography, which seeks to use the body as a dumping ground vs. a consensual and mutually pleasurable experience of intimacy that allows for all desires + needs to be met. My work with the lab is to cultivate a learning space where we can unlearn how we've embodied this narrative - especially as Black Womxn + Enby, Femme and Feminine Spectrum, People. This practice calls us to remember the erotic as integral to our sense of aliveness, pleasure, and radiance first and foremost for us and THEN to share from our overflow if we so choose...
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If you're ready to reclaim the narrative around your sexuality as your own and find new ways to reconnect to your experience of pleasure, then I want you to join me for The Messy Movement Series."

An interview between curator Meysha and Déjà. Transcript coming soon!

WEEK TWO: MIRIRAI SITHOLE

Mirirai Sithole is a multi-hyphenate force. Through her company AYEDEFY she facilitates safe and intentional storytelling spaces in Brooklyn, NY. 

Select New York Theatre Credits: If Pretty Hurts... (Playwrights Horizons), School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play (MCC) (Lortel Award, Drama Desk Ensemble Award), The Homecoming Queen (AUDELCO nomination, Atlantic Theatre Company), Suzan-Lori Parks' The Death of the Last Black Man... (Signature Theatre Company), Mother Courage and Her Children (CSC) (Rosemarie Tichler Award), Frontières Sans Frontières (Bushwick Starr), and Autumn's Harvest (Lincoln Center Education). Regional: School Girls;... (Kirk Douglas Theatre) Skeleton Crew (Dorset Theatre Festival), Our Town and Christmas Carol (Actors Theatre of Louisville). TV: "Black Mirror", "Russian Doll", “Bull," "The Affair,” "Master of None,” and “Broad City". She received her BFA in Theatre from Adelphi University and was a member of the Professional Training Company at Actors Theatre of Louisville. 

A NOTE FROM THE CURATOR

Mirirai's unshakable quest for finding herself draws people to her. What makes her joy so genuine is that there is not a lot of sacrifice of herself and who she is in varied spaces. She is always accessing for whether or not she’s living in truest self. A Zimbabwean born storyteller, actor, director, and producer among many things, Mirirai is known for sparking joy in others. 

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AYE DEFY, Mirirai's company, partners with individuals, collectives & institutions to: ask questions & offer solutions that help define & clarify stories in order to reach their desired demographic, while simultaneously advocating for equity, inclusion & empowerment in front of & behind the scenes of theatre, television & film.

“That Looked Fake"

"Joy In Failure: the art of the self tape! Most actors (especially now) have to put themselves on tape to get cast in films & tv & even theatre jobs sometimes. One of my *favorite* things to do is look at the outtakes from what is usually a stressful & cumbersome part of an actors job; because they’re usually very funny! Initially, i accidentally sent my agents a version of my self tape that didn’t edit one of these mistakes out 😬. (Don’t worry, i fixed it!) Here’s a “sneak peek” into some of my flubs and joyful mistakes and judgements of some of my acting choices!"

Wellness

"Yao! Have you taken your Ashwaganda today?! I’m blessed with a loving mom who is also a superhero Nurse Practitioner fighting these wild pandemic times with grace and love. She also sent me some Ashwaganda in the mail and boy-oh-girl am I glad she did!
🌱
“Ashwagandha is an ancient medicinal herb. It’s classified as an adaptogen, meaning that it can help your body manage stress. Ashwagandha also provides numerous other benefits for your body and brain. For example, it can boost brain function, lower blood sugar and cortisol levels, and help fight symptoms of anxiety and depression.”
📸: @katycarolla

Finding Joy in Failure and Silly Dancing

"My hips are v. tight (it’s where i store my trauma y’all) but we can joyfully dance it out! If you got anything from me this week I hope you put your wellness first: that is not a selfish endeavor. And! we all make mistakes and take wrong turns or think we can extend our leg super high and then can’t 🥴 but if we add some levity & joy to our “failures”, if we can laugh at ourselves and how wild it is in to be in a human flesh body...i believe we gon be alright! 💃🏾 👽 🕺🏾
music: Aether by Darren King (i don’t own it). P.S. started this day with my first trip into Manhattan for a Voice Over gig since MARCH 😳 and ended it ...elsewhere. Stay open, let life lead you, Sat Nam. 🙏🏾"

An interview between curator Meysha and Mirirai. Transcript coming soon!

WEEK THREE: cherise benton

Cherise Benton is an aspiring farmer living in Northeastern Ohio, where she cooks a lot, writes sometimes, and tries to cooperate with her therapist.

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A NOTE FROM THE CURATOR

As long as I’ve known Cherise, she’s been a writer and creator of delicious food, and powerful writing. I tell the story often of how In 7th grade Cherise would sell these personalized cheesecakes that were so damn good, I was a weekly customer and enthusiastic volunteer taster. She’s always had such a strong connection between earth and art. Cherise can grow anything. Her garden to table game is STRONG. She’s a farmer. A teacher. A poet. She writes vibrant poetry and stories involving food that leave you feeling filled and hungry for more. We’ve been friends since diapers, she is someone who I can always call on for advice or to put on root on somebody if they ain’t acting right. 

- mary oliver

"things that spark joy: a series

 

A

6 april 2019

things that spark joy (a series)

exhibit a: pancake bubbles

 

BCD

25 april 2019

thing that spark joy (a series) 

exhibit b: symmetry

exhibit c: perfectly hard-boiled eggs

exhibit d: perfectly centered yolks 


 

E

6 may 2019

the easter rejects’ day 11 at Bentonhouse: teacups

p. s. did you know tulips smell good? somehow this is the first time i’ve stuck my face inside any. also my car is full of pollen from reject lilies xxxo perhaps there is nothing to have against zombie jesus after all as he is the harbinger of Bentonhouse flowers which SPARK JOY. let’s count this as exhibit e.

 

F

29 may 2019

things that spark joy (a series) 

exhibit e: fat rendering

 

G

2 june 2019

things that spark joy (a series)

exhibit f: golden hour achievements 

 

H

15 june 2019

things that spark joy (a series)

exhibit f: bedroom blossoms

 

I

13 july 2019

thing that spark joy (a series)

exhibit h: windowsills. (show me yours)

 

J

1 september 2019

things that spark joy (a series)

exhibit h: other people’s enthusiasm for their hobbies and the weird results like absurdly clean cows and papier-mâché pigs jumping out of soup cans and mutant fruits

 

K

4 november 2019

things that spark joy (a series) exhibit i(?): the bacon grease bubbling around the caramelized onion cheddar pão de queijo

 

L

15 may 2020

in which i purchase a hand mixer specifically to get the whipped cream into my mouth faster, and am overcome with unprecedented JOY specific to eating unreasonable amounts of perfectly whipped cream without even having suffered whisk arm."

poetry by cherise

An interview between curator Meysha and Cherise (with captions).

WEEK FOUR: sadiqua iman

Sadiqua Iman performs as the character Namii and uses burlesque, storytelling, and dance to deconstruct issues of gender fluidity, relationships, and what it means to “strip down”outside of sexual connotations. She is  Founder/ Artistic Director of Earth Pearl Collective, a queer black womyns social justice non profit organization dedicated to healing communities through artistic collaborations. Sadiqua works as a freelance director, costume designer, teaching artist, and project manager in the Seattle area and around the country. She has directed an all woman of color cast of “A Streetcar Named Desire” to raise awareness of same sex domestic violence and created an interactive performances based on the dissappearance of queer black leadership in social justice movemets called “ We Be Dat.” In 2018 she premiered an original boi-lesque ballet called “Tail Feather'' that explored female bodied masculinity at Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute. Her most recent project was directing August Wilson’s  Gem of the Ocean  at Chattanooga Theatre Centre in Tennessee January 2020. Sadiqua Iman has just finished her Masters of Fine Arts in Arts Leadership at Seattle University and was awarded the 2019 Arc Fellowship award by 4Culture and used the funds to open the new Afro-centered healing arts center Nile’s Edge.

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A NOTE FROM THE CURATOR

I had a great conversation with Sadiqua as we were preparing for this project, they are really due any day now. It's exciting to hear such expectant and joyful energy. So many folks I know are so very steeped in the ever updating news of pain and death. Every damn day. Talking with Sadiqua made me almost feel like shit could be okay. Hearing them talk with such certainty and happiness of a good thing that they are doing in they world right now. 

Just wow. They glow was contagious.

A healer at heart and a storyteller by soul, Sadiqua is indeed Fierce👏🏾Black👏🏾Joy.

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Nile’s Edge is a healing arts center focused on de-colonizing health and education so that under-served communities can holistically flourish.

 

The center serves as an incubator to support African-centered practitioners who use creative, preventative, and sustainable methods to heal their community.

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Sadiqua is the owner and founder of What You Knead Massage & Wellness.Our bodies are constantly seeking homeostasis, and sometimes  we need a little assistance getting there. Whether you are in need of myofascial release from sitting at a desk all day, or chakra balancing to help you deal with depression and anxiety, Sadiqua will help you release the physical, physiological, and psychological tension that is interfering with you being in balance.

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Earth Pearl Collectives supports the work of women living at the intersections of the African Diaspora who are dedicated to healing their communities through creative collaborations.​ EPC supports dynamic women who use artistic expression to promote inclusivity and community healing for marginalized communities. They strive to be the global leaders in incubating new innovative productions and programs created by queer women of color from around the world.

Nature

 

"Sometimes I use nature as a soundtrack and the breeze as my choreographer to get in my body and dance with the energy around me. It’s amazing how much spirit can move you if you let it. It’s also amazing how much harder it is to move with 40 extra pounds of baby weight jumping into the meditative mix lol. But it’s all love and all divine. Heaviness can be transformed into depth if you let it." 

Body and Spirituality

 

"When you take your clothes off for a living (Burlesque/figure modeling) people assume you are not spiritual or modest. I find joy in all of my forms, and of course in the form I am forming. River reverence is a key part of my healing and therefore essential to my joy. #oshungoddess"

An animated transcript of the interview between curator Meysha and Sadiqua

(our video was lost because of some technical difficulty with Instagram).

Sadiqua and her partners, soon to be parents! Black Poly Love. 

WEEK FIVE: kwinette 'kwin' harville

Kwinette ‘Kwin’ Harville is a multidisciplinary artist (writes, paints, draws, performs, comic, producer) whose works center on developing & maintaining a strong mental presence, Black personhood, and the effects of religious trauma. Black joy is at the center of all she creates. The desire to tell the story as it is ‘no sugar coating please ’is  what makes Kwin’s art strike a lasting and needed nerve.

Cashapp $kwinnie31

Venmo @kwinette-Harville

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A NOTE FROM THE CURATOR

Join us this week as Kwin takes over she is FIERCE. A lifelong artist, Kwin writes from the heart, draws from life, and paints like there’s no tomorrow. I’ve known her for all my life, because that’s my sister!
I’m very excited to see her Fierce Black Joy. ✨🖤

"330 Youngstown Ohio

I wanted to honor my ancestors with this hair art and braid my representation of my hometown. Enslaved Africans used cornrows to transfer and even create maps to leave plantations. Here’s my “map” of Youngstown."

"I love making others look good, and feel good! Here are a few crowns I styled! More pics available on my website braidseattle.com Please support my friend and stream their music!

 

Follow @mr.hentvii for 🔥 tracks! My favs are “set up shop” & “Razor Ramon”."

"I definitely got my hair braiding skills from my mother who was known in my family as the master braider. She could braid any hair no matter how short! Growing up I would practice braiding on my sisters/cousins/friends/dolls. As an adult, hair braiding has provided me with an extra source of income and a means to save money by not going to salons. I braid my own hair, yes even the back! 🙂

I also offer braiding lessons through my website braidseattle.com. Braiding was very important in my culture as a means of escape from our oppressors. And with the current climate in America it may be a skill we need to use again! Please support me by taking a class, getting your hair braided or donating through the cashapp ($kwinnie31) or Venmo (@kwinette-Harville) braiding your own hair is fierce Black joy PERIOD!"

"My sister has been the sun in my world for as long as I can remember. Like a real sunflower 🌻 she continues to grow toward the sun despite any parasites nibbling on her leaves. A sunflowers bud is much heavier than the stem and once it gets a certain height it needs to be supported in order to grow correctly. When I think about the burdens my sister carries around with no support and the grace and beauty she holds while doing it... That’s @fierce.black.joy ‼️ my sister has inspired me to get back into my artistry after stopping for 15 years. She is the reason I know what happiness is."

"I call this painting “Upper Left Gloom”. Inspiration for this painting was drawn from my first winter in Seattle. In just a couple weeks we can all look forward to this again 🤦🏾‍♀️ available for purchase!"

KWIN'S WIND DOWN PLAYLIST

Self Care - Savannah Cristina

I Want You Around - Snoh Alegra

Change Ya Life Up - Meysha

Best Thing - Inayah

I'll Kill You - Summer Walker

Higher - $werve

Carefree - Mick Jenkins

Hopes & Dreams - Wiz Khalifa

You Ain't Goin' Nowhere - Young Buck

Do You? - Do or Die

"Lil Uzi Kwin on the track delivering y’all that 🔥 diss track aimed at corporations underpaying their employees!

Don’t forget to pay black femmes!"

"This next piece I painted was inspired by so many things but today I want to use it to bring awareness. ...
There’s an ignorant observation some have made about #lgbtq🌈 members. Growing up as a child I would hear things like ‘I knew he was gay by his lips’ ‘only dy*** whistle’ I never understood how someone’s lips could make them gay. But what can’t be understood can certainly be drawn out. I call this painting “Gay Lip Drip” and it is available for purchase 🤗 contact @awkwardbrowngal on Instagram to purchase.
Receive $20 off this purchase when you
1) follow @awkwardbrowngal 

2) like & share
3) use code: sheisfierce"

"Some days it’s hard to find my Fierce Black Joy 🤦🏾‍♀️ So I started creating a calendar to represent what depression looks like for me throughout the year. My purpose was to turn my depression and anxiety into something joyful. It’s still a work in progress but here’s what I’ve done so far. Also you will notice that writing is an important element in my art."

"Weed is part of my joy period! I love this painting I started of my joint tray."

INTERVIEW VIDEO COMING SOON

An interview between curator Meysha and Kwin.

FINAL WEEK: MEYSHA

Meysha is an educator, poet, storyteller, playwright, musician and solo performer from Youngstown, Ohio. And also - our brilliant curator for the whole FIERCE BLACK JOY project!

Cashapp $meysha

Venmo @meyshaharville

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A NOTE FROM THE ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, CESSA BETANCOURT

Meysha is one of those people that when you meet them, you feel both so intimidated by their solid sense of self and incredible talent that you can't believe they are even talking to you, while also feeling the most comfortable and at ease you have ever felt around another person. I could feel when I met Meysha that our souls already were old friends. I knew they were someone I wanted to stay connected to for a long time. And THEN when I heard their writing and music, and they performed with "she is FIERCE" in a show of ours last year, I was blown away by the unique power of their work. I've had the overwhelming pleasure of watching Meysha work with young people and collaborating with them multiple times now, and every time I'm exposed to the way Meysha moves through and sees the world, I am in awe.

When I started a new job, Meysha was the first person to make me feel comfortable there. They said good morning to me every day, making sure to ask how I was and really listen to the answer. That is the kind of person Meysha is. The kind of person that makes the people in their life feel seen, heard, and honored. That is what makes them such an amazing curator. They've made this project a place where Black femmes, women, and nonbinary people can share their joy openly and fiercely. They gave these storytellers and artists the undivided attention they deserve and now I am so ecstatic to direct all of our attention to them this week. I am constantly grateful for Meysha's friendship, perspective, and creative work. Thank you, Meesh. For curating this project, for putting your art and voice out into the world for all of us to bask in, and for allowing me to love ya. You are, and radiate, fierce. Black. Joy.

A NOTE FROM THE ARTISTIC PRODUCER, LINNEA INGALLS

The sound of Meysha’s music lights up your soul.

The glow of their smile makes you feel like you’ve discovered the joyful secrets of the world.

The gift of their friendship makes you understand the meaning of gratitude.

Meysha is too complex to write about in words, you can only experience their presence that warms you to the core of your bones, making you wish you could give them back as much genius, talent, and badassery as they give the world. 

Happy Meysha Week to all. 

Meysha's single "Change Ya Life Up" produced by Smooth Taka.

A preview of Meysha's upcoming track with incredible dance/music/theatre artist Randy Ford called "Issues" which will be released soon on Randy's EP.

Click here to watch their full conversation.

"I love performing✨
.                         

My first professional show, Don’t Call It A Riot! taught me so much. I found confidence in myself on stage that I’d never felt before. To say I miss it would be hella understating it. Posting this because the content of my monologue feels eerily too fitting these days.
.                         

Don’t Call It A Riot! Written and Directed by Amontaine Aurore. I played Reed, a member of Seattle's Black Panther Party, who must juggle the demands of a new marriage and a baby on the way, yet still find time to fight for liberation and dream of creating a better world."

"Throwbacks ⏰
.                         
Swipe through : 2019, 2018, 2020, 2017, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2016,
I have had HELLA style changes. Being genderqueer af for me means embracing all the ways I am feminine, masculine, handsome, cute, pretty…whatever I’m feeling atm.
.                         
I also noticed that I usually change my hair up every 5 years, and I’m now 5yrs with my Locs. 👀This year is looking real ‘get rid of what I don’t need’ ish. However I wear It next, I’ll be leaning fiercely into this forehead. 😂🤷🏾"

"Can I share sumin w/ ya’ll? 🧠
.                         
It’s taken me so long to feel okay within my self. I don’t say this like I’ve arrived at this perfect space of self acceptance. Because I’m not. I just know I feel wayyy more okay these days within myself. Several things have given me these snippets of fierce black joy. (Keep watching my posts over the next fews days to see more. )
.                         
Therapy is important and every black person deserves access to mental health care. 
.                         
I found my therapist through National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network (NQTTCN). NQTTCN is a healing justice organization committed to transforming mental health for queer and trans people of color. Check em out! 

https://www.nqttcn.com/"

INTERVIEW VIDEO COMING SOON

An interview between curator Meysha and their close friend Treasure (with captions).

VIDEO & ANIMATION BY ERIKA JACOBSON

We encourage you, today and every day, to find actions to combat white supremacy, anti-Blackness, and racism. Advocate! Educate! Protest! Pay Reparations! Volunteer! Contact legislators! Hire BIPOC! Donate to organizations that serve Black femmes and trans people! Find where you can be useful.

Stay fierce and stay joyful. Thank you for following this project!

Black Lives Matter. Black Joy Matters.

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