Directed by Bruno Brothers Media wth the help of Queens Nation Films, this teaser for a mini-doc about my work as a diasporic writer, photographer and activist exploring the decolonization of travel culture is being released in conjunction with my crowdfunding campaign. With your donations and shares, I’ll be able to do produce more exciting projects that really delve into the issues I bring up here, because struggling with meeting my survival needs complicates that. The full doc will be released soon! Donate here and thanks for your support!
As I sit around a discounted hotel room in Romulus, Michigan, waiting for a storm in New York to abate so that I could fly in, pick up some stuff and head back home to Ecuador, it’s hard to believe that one of the best months of my life has just passed by. My travels in the East Bay for the VONA/Voices travel writing workshop for writers of color were blessed by new friends, old ones, sunshine, Pride, solidarity and love. I wanna say thanks to all the folks who made it possible.
First of all, to Faith Adiele for educating and inspiring the shit outta me, for taking me to a Russian bathhouse when I really needed some healing, for having my back/preserving the sancitity of the workshop experience from day one. To Djoser Imhotep (and Justin), Austin Pritzkat (and Carlos), Mish, Dreu Oko & the Chestnut house for being gracious-as-fuck hosts. To Jake Salt & Kelly for skipping the march and spending Pride Sunday chillin in a kiddie pool with sangria, watermelon, weed and barbeque on the sunniest day of my stay.
To Giovannié Núñez-Dúeñas for smoking me out pretty much every day, to Alan ‘FthemPapers’ for spinning me across the dance floor, rings flying everywhere, while we brought the house down with our salsa dancing at VONA’s quinceñera party (afterward, Junot Díaz gave me two thumbs up and a big smile; who does that?) and to the Ecuadorian crew for representing: Fernanda Snellings, Sonia Guiñansaca, Julie Quiroz and Emilia Fiallo. Mad love to my VONA travel sisters Anu Taranath, Adwoa Gyimah-Brempong, Adriana Páramo, Marie-Francoise Theodore, Lizzetta, Monique Sanchez and the Doctor, Sriram Shamasunder and especially to my affinity allies Celeste Chan and Cristina Golondrina Rose for being Everything. Finally, I wanna thank Kira Allen for them hugs. Really.
Not only was the VONA/Voices workshop a life-changing experience, but one I got to share with lots of beautiful folks in a truly gorgeous setting. I have my work cut out for me. [Hover cursor over photos for captions; click to enlarge.]
The observatory at Golden Gate Park
Beautiful signage is common in the bay
Black woman travel writers representin’: Eileen Lee & Faith Adiele
The gayest day of my life
Reconnecting with the one and only Jake Salt
Walden Pond Books in Oakland
With Junot Diaz at the VONA party
Graff in Berkeley
Reconnecting with Dreu at the Chestnut house
With one of my IDOLS, poet Patricia Smith & some folks in my travel writing workshop
heyy folks. i’m here, looking for day jobs during the day, cutting up black and white copies of celestial maps for the new zine by night, working on cover letters as i apply for guidebook gigs, watching my old copy of brother to brother on vhs (truly horrible audio, but i recommend this movie to all QPOC* artists!) and lamenting the end of 5pointz. New York is truly over for me, and any connection I might’ve had with my hometown can only exist in memory. lame.
in other news, i just put up a new “Work With Me” page over here for prospective clients, collaborators and anyone with a comment. get in touch! while i work on all this stuff at once, please support by simply liking the facebook page, following the tumblr page or ordering a zine. have good weekends! hope that condos don’t replace good art in your neighborhoods.
yo! i’ve been so busy recovering from shoulder surgery, getting locked out of my facebook account, moving back to new york from quito with 3 suitcases, a cat, one working arm and no money – alone – , and catching a violent case of food poisoning as soon as i landed! great, huh? also, also, also, there’s TWO DAYS LEFT to submit to my travel zine anthology for stories from latin america, which will be made available online and in print, in spanish and english, all over da world. SO SUBMIT. i’m looking for:
stories about traveling in latin america
travel-related art – DRAWINGS, photos, photos of graff/street art around the world
travel ephemera – train/plane/bus tickets, maps, handwritten maps, flyers, magic stuff you bought back from the road
from folks who are:
consider yourself among the latinx/chicanx diaspora
come from a spanish-speaking country, directly or 2nd, 3rd generations, lo que sea!
historias sobre viajes en latinoamérica
dibujos, fotos, fotos de graffiti / arte de la calle o cualquier tipo de manifestación artística relacionada con viajes
ephemero/recopilaciones de viajes – boletos del tren / avión / buses; mapas, mapas manuscritos, hojas volantes, cosas de magia que conseguiste en el camino
send submissions/inquiries/fanmail to firstname.lastname@example.org. yes if you need more time past the deadline that’s cool. si nececitas mas tiempo pasando el 15 esta completamente bien. if none of that stuff applies to you, you still can follow my beautiful exceptional one of a kind tumblr page and like this shit on facebook (on yr right) or order a copy of my travel zine everywhere all the time (all new orders will be sent out next week, loyal people who have ordered! if ya haven’t, it’s only two fiddy on etsy con free shipping) OR do all three. then you get a star.
SAMO Is Dead
I was born at home in a Brooklyn ghetto. After arriving late, our Taína midwife passed this Nigerian belief to my Ecuadorian mother: wherever the placenta be buried, there would my soul return after death. Uncertain of where to inearth my eutherial twin in the pits of East New York, she stowed it in a freezer until the summer of ‘88, when Jean-Michel Basquiat OD’d, a riot went on in Tompkins Square Park and the Burkina Faso filmmaker Gaston Kaboré shot Zan Boko, ‘the place where the placenta is buried’, about a farming family’s resistance against urbanization from the wealthy of Ouagadougou. Then came the blackout.
Imagine the stink of afterbirth three days into a power outage in August. A moving bruise making its way from the kitchen in waves. Naturally, my moms ended up chucking that shit down the tenement chute, Tupperware and all. Knowing that I’d be dawdling away the whole of eternity in a Brooklyn landfill with my other half, pursuing a life of long-term travel in my corporeal days seemed like the thing to do. Soon after turning 15, I ran away from the studio apartment where my older sister, younger sister, her father, my mother and I all slept on two mattresses on the floor divided by a three-panel ‘Chinese’ partition, leaving behind a note that read ‘’I’M DONE WITH CAPITALISM, I’M MOVING TO CANADA.’’ Then Portland, then China, then Ecuador.
Then back to Brooklyn. Brooklyn. Brooklyn.
Basquiat grew up middle-class in Park Slope and East Flatbush. He is almost always classified as ‘an American artist’ even though his moms was a black boricua from the BK and his father a Port-Au-Prince native with Ivorian roots. He sends a drawing of a gun to J. Edgar Hoover the same year his mother is institutionalized. By the age of 11, he could fluently speak, read and write French, Spanish, and English, and synthesized all three into the written language he so famously coded into his paintings, teasing the globe like a Rubik’s cube.
Jean-Michel spent his early teens in Miramar, Puerto Rico, where he becomes the victim of rape. Soon after returning to Brooklyn, his father catches him having sex with another guy and, after trying to kill him, kicks him out. He’s 15. Basquiat is arrested in Washington Square Park and brought back home, but after throwing a cream pie in his high school principal’s face two years later, drops out and lives on the streets full-time. He hustles: sleeps with men for money, loads up on All of the Drugs and sells postcards to tourists. He sleeps in parks, boys’ homes and girlfriends’ beds and forms one half of the street art project SAMO (Same Old Shit) along with City-As-School friend Al Diaz. “I thought I was going to be a bum the rest of my life,” he once said. His noise band, Gray, plays at the Mudd Club a lot.
At 20, he is invited to join Anina Nosei’s SOHO gallery and works in a studio for the first time. Artforum runs Rene Ricard’s The Radiant Child, an interview which brings Basquiat to international acclaim. While achieving maximum success in the great white art world, he becomes a millionaire. A junkie millionaire, actually; two important requisites if you’re looking to get paranoid. At 25, he takes his first and last trip to Africa for a show in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire and befriends Ivorian painter Ouattara Watts. They plan a trip back to the country together for a shamanic ceremony meant to save Basquiat’s soul from addiction, but he backs out at the last minute. After dying of a heroin overdose at age 27, he reaches legendary status.
In Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art, Phoebe Hoban writes about the late artist’s Brooklyn burial, where a CitiBank spokesman delivered the eulogy:
Blanca Martinez, Basquiat’s housekeeper, was struck by the alienated attitude of the mourners. “They were all standing separately, as if it were an obligation,” she says. “They didn’t seem to care. Some looked ashamed.” People began to leave the cemetery before the body was buried. Ignoring the objections of the gravediggers, Martinez tearfully threw a handful of dirt onto the coffin as they lowered it into the grave.
Boom For Real
I wasn’t a good Ecuadorian girl. Simple stuff like getting out of bed and readying for school were always quantum tasks that earned me the belt each time. Getting whipped across the back to the tune of that old NY1 theme song (with the sax) was my morning routine for years. Mami really blew up when I turned 12 and totally refused to return to school, leaving algae-colored bruises all up and down the right side of my body like I’d passed out on a lakebed somewhere. Her guilt eventually worked in my favor and I was permitted to stay home most of the year under the condition that I care for my new baby sister. By now I know I’m gay but think nothing of it.
We lived like nomads in Jackson Heights, Queens, moving every time rent became beyond unaffordable for my single, working, immigrant mother of three. When it got real bad, we were sent to live with our grandparents in Orlando, Florida, shuffling between the two states annually for the next couple years. The summer house had plenty of cubbyholes to hide from my grandfather’s wandering fingers, but results in an all-consuming claustrophobic. After getting into art school down south, I drop out and move back to New York.
The Lower East Side became my stomping grounds, when we all still called it Loisaida. I’d wander around talking to strangers in Tompkins Square Park, checking out the free punk matinees at ABC No Rio and reading zines at Bluestockings or St. Marks Bookshop. I knew no one my age. Finally, I drop the anti-capitalist Canada bomb and hitchhike upstate, starting at the Co-Op City projects in The Bronx where I’d been crashing. It is illegal to drop out at 15 or something and the cops are after my moms for neglect. After court, I’m forced back into high school in the hood, but take the train into the LES instead. When a blank report card arrives home, I’m kicked out. The thing about sleeping in Washington Square Park is them damn sprinklers.
We try homeschooling, then City-As-School, an alternative set up where you accumulate credits through internship programs around town, though a few hours of class a week is mandatory. My poor record disqualified me for fall enrollment so summer school became the only option – half in class, half at the New York Botanical Garden in The Bronx. I never went to class, but always showed up to the garden on time, eager to dig like I had a hot date with the earth. I take up graffiti, get arrested a few times, join a band and move away.
A new shopping mall, two apartment complexes and a park are built on a 297-acre landfill in East New York, Brooklyn. It is home to retailers like Bed Bath & Beyond, Staples, Marshalls, the Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Boulder Creek Steakhouse, Target, The Home Depot, and BJ’s Wholesale Club. But it turns out that the landfill in question – Fountain Avenue – ceased receiving refuse three years before my birth, meaning my soul will probably be rerouted to Fresh Kills in Staten Island.
After being admitted to the hospital twice in two days for my fourth intestinal infection in Life, I ate three cloves of garlic and smoked a cigarette, which is what you should do if you come down with this abroad*.
Last night, instead of editing or pitching I left my fate up to the internet and so began searching for meaning in my astrological birth chart. Here are some fucked up/funny insights.
You have a serious view of the world as being a difficult place to be in.
It is so completely natural for you to accept that there is more to the world than what is before your eyes, that you tend to presume everyone must be spiritually-inclined. Of course, you come to realize that this is not the case at some early point in your life.
You are not much scared of anything.
You have a taste for splendor.
Delights in exposing what she deems biases in others’ way of thinking.
You enjoy shocking others with your offbeat, original thoughts.
You seem to go out of your way to form relationships with those who are weak, sick, injured, addicted or troubled in some way or other.
In other news, the Zine page is up, so you have no excuse not to buy a bazillion copies of the first issue.