Elevate Difference

Mangos with Chili (7/11/2010)

New York, New York

I was thrilled to be able to attend a special Mangos with Chili show on Sunday night at Bluestockings in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. I was thrilled not just because I consider the founders, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and Ms. Cherry Galette, dear amig@s, nor because dear amig@s of mine have performed under the spicy sweet banner, pero because the center is queer, trans, and gender nonconforming artists of color. Sunday night, people packed the bookstore and activist center to bear witness to the words and work of Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Victor Tobar, Ignacio Rivera, and Jai Dulani.

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha opened the floor reading a piece from a memoir she’s working on about her life as a queer femme from Sri Lanka and creating community. Victor Tobar, in a series of stunning spoken word pieces, brought us to the Bronx and Brooklyn, and explored struggling against gentrification in those streets, what those streets demand of of their queer brown children, and how those children grow into adults, not easily, but wrapped in memories that constrain and free.

Brooklyn Black Boricua Ignacio Rivera used words to redefine the body as an answer to negative socialization and abuse and, in doing so, reclaimed kinky sexuality in his own terms. Rivera forced the listeners to confront our histories of violence and our daily interactions with it above and underground.

Jai Dulani closed the circle by presenting a film he has been working on regarding Caster Semenya entitled Caster Semenya: Wrong is Not Her Name. The film, through the use of news clips, looks at the invasive scrutiny Semenya’s gender underwent following her win in the women’s world 800-meter race. Dulani shows how race and gender biases collided and the history of the white, male, heteronormative gaze on the bodies of those who claim “woman.”

The artists in this Mangos with Chili performance reveal a breadth of talent fed by real life experiences rooted in personal struggles and continued survival. Some of their work will make you uncomfortable because of its frankness and raw reality, pero for many it will feel like someone opened the curtains in a dark secret room you were sitting alone in, let the sun in, and then threw a party.

It was all love.

Please follow Mangos with Chili as they decide their next tour and please follow all of the amazing artists. Arte, poesia y imagen can change the world.

Cross-posted at VivirLatino

Video credit: Sins Invalid

Written by: Maegan La Mala Ortiz, July 20th 2010

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