Marching with saints

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We celebrate All Saints’ Day. All Saints’ Day is a Catholic holiday. In the past, it rivaled and even overshadowed Halloween with parades of children dressed as patron saints or their saintly namesakes. When I was a little girl, my parish celebrated the saints’ parade. I only remember taking part once. I was St. Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. My mom made my costume.  I felt a connection to St. Elizabeth for years so much that I chose her as my confirmation saint and alluded to her story in my fiction writing in later years.  When I became a mother, I reflected on this holiday and how I might celebrate it with my daughter.

Our neighborhood parish still celebrates a saints’ parade. The nuns at my parish organize the parade every year and often commission seamstresses to make various costumes.  You can, however, create your own costumes and that is what we have done. I had always wanted M to participate when she got older. We talked about it for a few years and did not follow through. Then we finally decided she would do it. The first year she participated, she paid tribute to our heritage. M was St Rose of Lima. She dressed as a Dominican nun wearing a crown of roses instead of the traditional (and gorier) crown of thorns.

12027202_10153862934977784_2746629336698459820_oLast year, she asked to be the Virgen of Guadalupe, again paying homage to our culture and her Mexican roots.

20161106_085010This year, we wanted to continue honoring our culture.  We chose St. Kateri.

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In creating her saints’ costumes, I do have to make time to research and also set aside money for expenses. I have spent between $50 and $60 for a few years. The first year, I purchased the nun’s habit. She already had the floral headband. Last year, I ordered a royal blue cape and ironed on the stars. It was difficult to find a plain pink nightgown.  I also purchased some black ribbon for the maternity sash.  This year, I wanted to keep the costume simple. We chose a soft brown shift dress with black leggings, gold sandals, and a bead necklace, all from M’s closet. Grandma did her braids. I already have a beautiful tree branch crucifix that hangs in our living room. The one thing we purchased was the silk tiger lily. This year, I only spent $10 since she had everything else.

All Saints has become a special holiday in our home. It’s a beautiful tradition celebrating our faith. It allows us to take joy in who we are.

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I was a middle-aged zombie!

22791948_10156245630972784_979345719934812671_oSeveral years ago, I decided to participate in “Thrill the World.” This event used to be held in Oakland; it’s an annual event in which people around the world attempt to break the Guinness World Record for people simultaneously dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. It was an opportunity to celebrate MJ, the song, and Halloween. Though it initially appealed to me as a dancer through learning iconic choreography, my debut as a zombie meant more.

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One aspect I find intriguing in portraying zombies as characters is the rage. I struggle to express anger and rage.  Rage in and of itself is not positive. In my line of work, expressing rage is unacceptable and unproductive. Though my personality tends to be mild, I have had traumatic life experiences that have inspired rage. I have channeled that emotion into playing zombies. You might argue zombies don’t feel anything, they are simply hungry. In trying to understand what drives these characters, I think of situations that would or could make me react with brute force.  I’m not an overly aggressive zombie. I rarely take swipes at my audiences. I roar, growl, and gnash my teeth. Rage is at a low simmer, even when I’m a zombie. Still it has been fun.

To create my zombie characters, I have taken personas I have previously played, almost all from Dance Party, and killed them. Inca Girl was a chola I played on TV twice. 12184153_10153853658602784_2699615049298786497_o

I have gone back to the 80s as an undead  prom queen, b-girl, and preppie.

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I have been a runner.

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Any look can work; after all, it’s the makeup that makes the zombie.  Being around dancers with extensive makeup experience, I have gotten better in creating my zombie looks. I know have to step up the gore but I have improved.

Becoming a zombie has become an annual tradition along with celebrating Halloween and Dia de Los Muertos.   I’m all for traditions that involve self-expression and creativity.

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Thriller Night 2017 at Boy Division, Cat Club 

Yo también

The #metoo hashtag wasn’t simply a social media trend to me. It was an opportunity to voice concern for my daughter, to open up about my own experiences, and to express my disgust with sexual harassment and assault. It also reinforced my thinking after a recent occurrence

I had an acquaintance that would make remarks that he thought were humorous and/or flattering to several women in our circle.  Once I was even referred to as “carne asada.” 6941112b7abbd0b1a0ee31edfb2ed2ca.jpg

Sure, it was disgusting. But it was said at a distance as I was walking away with another woman.  Maybe it wasn’t meant for me?  Though it rattled me, I chose to not make an issue of it.  Then approximately four months ago,  I noticed I had an inbox message on Facebook from him. We did not interact online except to occasionally like photos or status updates so I thought it strange. When I opened the message, I saw that it was a sexually suggestive and inappropriate meme. My initial reaction was feeling that the floor came out from under me and I fell 50 stories.depth

Once I recovered from that all-too familiar feeling, I felt anger. WTF would he think I would accept this nonsense? Who the hell did he think he was dealing with? Meme-Paquita-Barrio_890621293_8751220_1760x1024

I took a deep breath and typed my response, “you must have me confused with someone else.” The person gave the excuse that it was meant for someone with whom he has a close relationship that happens to share my first name.  I wanted to ask, so this is how you talk to my tocaya, to a woman who plays an important role in your life?  She is okay with this mess being sent to her? The person also stated that he felt embarrassed.  Though I could have said so much more, I didn’t continue the conversation. I promptly blocked this person on Facebook. one-of-my-managers-got-fired-last-week-for-sexual-harassment-and-stalking-a-few-days-later--facebook-17778

Like many women, I feel as I have been conditioned to be nice, to shrug and not address offensive behavior. I did that for most of my life. While I have yet to knock anyone the hell out, I have come a long way in defending my boundaries.  How do so many men continue to live without consideration of other people? They don’t want to see how their actions are harmful.  I am baffled by the depths to which some people sink on a daily basis. Being a principal or a middle-aged mom doesn’t make me safe.  So I have to be clear that I won’t accept this kind of behavior towards me or my daughter. Not again.

An Urban Native Horror debut in Oakland

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Movie posters at IFH premiere

Movie review of The Smudging

I had the good fortune to see The Smudging in its Bay Area premiere. The film and event was hosted by Mike Marin, who grew up at IFH, the Intertribal Friendship House, in Oakland.  He began his film in 2015 inspired by his lifelong fascination with horror movies including the sleeper hit, It Follows. After seeing that film, he went to a restaurant and began to write his concept on several napkins. It is based on real-life experiences Mike and acquaintances had at the American Indian Center in Chicago which became the location of The Smudging. The film also pays tribute to stories he heard from family members and mentors.  Mike Marin is quickly becoming the face of urban Native American horror.

One of my dance brothers had posted on Facebook about this film and it immediately got my attention. I have written extensively about my love for horror film and fiction. I’m always excited to support Native American artists, artists of color, and Bay-Area bred artists.  While at the premiere, I met Mike Marin and Kevin Nez, of The Mac Nez podcast. I asked Mike a few questions about how long it took him to make the film and what his plans are in terms of distribution.  According to Mike Marin, The Smudging is his tribute to old school horror with the goal of bringing back moments of terror in the audience and getting away from modern-day Hollywood gimmicks of gore and sex.

The Smudging follows a group of Native paranormal investigators, the Night Stalkers, who are called to investigate The Native American Cultural Center in Chicago. The building was unfortunately the scene of lurid crimes committed by a serial killer.  Both staff and clients have been experiencing increased instances of paranormal activity including voices, moving objects, and general feelings of unease. The young children who attend the center are especially prone to experiences and are then unwilling to participate. Parents are pulling their kids out of the center to combat the resulting nightmares and fears.  The Night Stalkers decide to spend the night filming and learning what might be happening.  It’s a terrifying film. Even though the action mostly takes place in a massive four-story building, the first half of the film is claustrophobic. I was in a roomful of people yet I felt like I was crouching in a corner. The second half of the film brings in the hero figure who also happens to be a veteran and a healer.

As a horror movie aficionado, I enjoyed a film that was original and yet had an old-school feel. Despite its modest budget, this film captivated me for the 90 minutes of its entirety. My heart was racing and I held my breath for most of the film.  I also enjoyed the all-Native cast; it’s refreshing to see so many people of color in a film. The relationships between the members of the Night Stalkers were relatable and often humorous. The moments of humor helped balance the genuine horror the audience was experiencing. There were several cultural references which gave a uniquely Native perspective. The film also included horror movie musts like jump scares, scary music, and a building sense of dread. An underappreciated element of horror is the life lessons the characters gain; the films that resonate with me are those which highlight the best in people and in that respect, this film did not disappoint.  The Smudging met and exceeded my expectations.

After the film, Kevin moderated a Q&A session. We learned more about the process, heard some funny behind the scenes anecdotes, more about the individual cast members, and even some trivia about the props used.  I liked having an insider view of the film.  We were also treated to the trailer for Mike Marin’s next film, Moshego.  We were then encouraged to share our thoughts via social media and I was more than happy to oblige.

I am excited for what is next for #thesmudgingmovie. There is the possibility of another Oakland screening in the next few months.  This is a film we need to support. Whether you are from Oakland or a Native or a horror movie fan or a supporter of artists of color or any combination of these, please make an effort to see the film.

Mike, I wish you ashe and I’m excited to be a supporter of your film.

To learn more about the film, visit #thesmudgingmovie

 

 

 

Greener grass

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I started my new job approximately a month ago. I am energized, excited, happy, and hopeful. These are positive feelings which bode well for my new start.   This is my 22nd year in secondary education.   It is my first year as principal.    During the summer, my friend, fitness and leadership guru @dymeetworld (find her on Instagram!) posted that “the grass is greener under me.” I really liked that post and idea. So often, when we change jobs, end relationships or move locations, we do so out of the feeling that the grass will be greener in a different situation. The grass can be green, yellow, or non-existent, no matter where you go.

My mindset is what I bring to every experience I have. I go into a new situation with an open mind and hopeful heart. To be happy is an action, not a feeling. It’s not about feeling bitterness and resentment about the past; it’s about challenging me to take new opportunities. I consistently aim to be my best self.  The grass is always going to be greener because I’m always looking for the best in even the darkest situation. I feel lighter. I feel free. I feel younger.  My last experience prepared me well for the job I now hold. No hay mal que por bien no venga. All experiences are for my growth and progress. Change moves me forward.  The grass is green underneath me.

*Thanks, dear friend, for sharing your positivity and wisdom with us. You will continue to inspire me in this new phase of my career.

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Dance break

This year, I decided to celebrate by doing what I love, rather than having a party or gathering.  I spent my birthday with my family in Los Angeles enjoying good, though not pricey or fancy meals.  The rest of the week was dedicated to dance.

I got back into town Saturday afternoon.  Sunday, I had Bruno Mars flash mob performance day and a master workshop with the Hamilton choreographer(Taking my shot.) Monday was my weekly Beyonce Run the World choreo class. Tuesday, after 3 long weeks, was a return to my samba no pe workshop. The objective for that night’s lesson was endurance so we danced samba no pe nonstop for an 8 minute song, 7 minute song, and a 5 minute song, etc. (My calves and feet felt that for days!) Wednesday I had the privilege of seeing The Revolution on their reunion tour honoring Prince. They gave a show that was 100% wonderful. I was in the general admission standing room section, one row back from the stage, where we danced and sang along all night.

By that Friday, I needed a break. I had a ticket to Morning Mashups with Daybreaker but slept in instead. The thought of getting up before 7am on a Friday to commute to San Francisco to dance for a few hours was not appealing. My #summerofdance was not the best time to start training for a half-marathon.  My joints are indeed 45.  It’s important to listen to my body and get adequate sleep.  This is a work in progress.  With my job change, honoring my health will be crucial.

My #summerofdance not only brought me great joy but it helped me rediscover downtime.  I don’t need to go, go, go to remain stable and happy.  45 is a good year.  I am committed to keeping it so.

Taking my shot

19800753_10155851120687784_1554847163686573762_oThe Sunday after my 45th birthday was a day filled with dance.  My day began with Bay Area Flash Mob.  We performed our Bruno Mars medley at several locations in San Francisco. Due to Carnaval preparations and end of school year busyness, I only attended a few classes in preparation. But I was on a mission to be part of a special performance for a wedding anniversary and the flash mobs.  I practiced on my own and did extra rehearsals with my group. After four performances, it was time for a workshop opportunity through Pop Star Booty Camp.  I had my shot to learn choreography from Hamilton’s resident choreographer Derek Mitchell.

What I loved about this session was how our teacher explained the intent of the movements. It was Method dancing. Our teacher, Derek Mitchell, took the time to explain who the characters are, what the ensemble is feeling and experiencing as they hear the words of Alexander Hamilton, what is like to be moved by this group of revolutionaries and how each movement speaks to those emotions.  Derek also took the time to discuss the current political climate, how this particular song and this musical as a whole are relevant. I was moved to tears twice that afternoon. I felt the true overlap of where I am emotionally and mentally and where we are politically. Those thoughts and themes came together beautifully.

Derek explained the concept of ensemble in a way that struck a chord. He said that an ensemble is part of the scenery; individuals are not supposed to stand out. Too often, I have experienced competitiveness and showboating in dance communities.  There’s nothing wrong with being pushed to be at your best or wanting to shine. But I have a problem with environments that promote cliquishness, feed drama and create rivalries, conflict, and dissension. I want to be part of an ensemble, of a community where I am part of a greater whole, dancing for the greater good. Getting out there, shaking your thang, and having a good time is fun. But it is empowering to be part of a diverse group of people sending a powerful message about fighting for freedom and the right to be ourselves.

There was a section of the “My Shot” workshop that called for improvisation. Derek stated that so many of us show up, physically present, but we hide in the back row. It rang true for me. If you look at photos, I’m always in the middle or the back. I shy away from being in the front. I need to be more comfortable pushing myself. I was nervous about improvising a solo. He encouraged us by reminding us it was our moment and asked how we, as individuals, were going to contribute to make our country great.  In that improv, I was a school principal, a samba dancer, a writer, a mother, and a proud mujer. I felt powerful, beautiful, and worthwhile. It was exhilarating.

This day of dance illustrates what it is I have been seeking.   I am seeking opportunities that are positive, cooperative, and collaborative. I am grateful to my samba workshops through the Samba Queens Academy, to BAFM, and to the Hamilton workshops for the new opportunities. I am in a different place as a dancer and it feels wonderful.  I’m committed to continuing my growth in ways that promote my evolution and joy. #summerofdance