What a fabulous weekend! I got to see some of my oldest and dearest friends. I only wish I'd been able to visit all my L.A. pals, I tried. It was just a tad hectic, what with eating breakfast in Covina then rushing off to lunch in Silver Lake, then coffee in Montebello, dinner in Pasadena and then working on late night panel preparations. It was just crazy, fun but crazy!
I presented twice this weekend. On Friday at Cal State L.A. I did a workshop for MALCS, Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social (Women Active in Letters and Social Change). This is a group of Chicana/Latina and Native American women working in academia. These women are fearless. It was great talking to them and hearing how they take on the challenge of being women of color in the largely white, male dominated world of higher education.
Presenting at MALCS was one of the most challenging things I've done in a long time. I have an intense fear of public speaking. I can get up on a stage and sing and dance for you but to stand still and speak...well, it was terrifying. I am lucky that I have such wonderfully supportive friends. Teresa Covarrubias, Martha Gonzalez, Quetzal Flores, and Michelle Habell-Pallan performed a song with me and that helped ease my fears.
Martha and Michelle were co-presenters with me, the overarching theme was Community. I spoke about the sense of community in the early L.A. punk scene and the importance of community today. I also read a couple of excerpts from my upcoming book Violence Girl, but since I was taking the pieces of writing from a larger chapter and I only had a short amount of time I realized that I had to shorten my readings. Unfortunately I did not edit them down to the proper size before getting up to present. I tried to crop out parts that didn't fit the presentation as I read and ended up mucking it up. Now I know better. I'll dust myself off and get my shit together before the next reading.
Martha spoke about community activism and building relationships through music. She showed slides of her work with the Zapatista community in Mexico and shared a song-writing technique where she guided the entire group through collective song writing. It was phenomenal!
Michelle Habell-Pallan, Ph.D., spoke about becoming an archivista and performing the essential task of documenting and archiving our work. She should know, since she's written several books including Latino/Latina Popular Culture and Loca Motion, The Travels of Chicana and Latina Popular Culture. She also curated American Sabor, Latinos in U.S. Popular Music, an exhibit that is currently at the Smithsonian.
The presentations on both days were only slightly varied. We had some technical problems at Ladyfest, so Teresa and I sang an old Las Tres song called Nuevo Amanecer, accompanied by Quetzal while Michelle and Marta tried to fix the laptop/projector issues. Both days ended with the audience writing a collective song. That was the most fun for all, it got everybody singing and in a good mood.
MALCS had a more formal feel than Ladyfest but was no less exciting. Ladyfest is a community organized event, it's a grassroots DIY festival that celebrates womyn arts and consists of workshops, music, speakers, poetry, vendors and much more.
I was moved that some women came up to me to speak of abusive situations they had escaped. They said that my writing and singing about the subject had touched them. I felt an instant kinship with them. Thank you, ladies, for sharing a painful portion of your private lives with me as I have tried to do with you. There was healing in that exchange, I could feel it.
I could fill pages and pages with all the wonderful things I saw happening at both conferences. So many strong intelligent women banding together, what a powerful experience. I am truly grateful for having been a part of it.