It is no secret that all though I am a West Coast girl at the core of my being, I am a sucker for the landscape of the North American Southwest. I wrote many a post of my roadtrip/vacation with my mother in places like New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah when this blog started. What you may not know is that I have a particular affinity for New Mexico and have spent a considerable amount of time visiting there and imagining my retirement. Like most tourists to the area, I started by imagining life near museum hill in Santa Fe, then an eco-friendly house with a view in Taos, and finally, like all radical people of color gravitated to the unpretentious beauty and politics of Albuquerque. I have a home picked out in the North Valley, near the friends I stay with when I venture out that way.
One of the amazing developments in Albuquerque lately has been the rise in black female owned businesses, from the black owned spa in Old Town run by an amazing storyteller and songstress, who has opened the space to artists of color from around the region, to the oddly shaped performance space Out Chyonda along historic 66, my “sistahs are doing it for themselves.”
For those less familiar of the New Mexico landscape than I, you may not know how significant these spaces are for the small black population in New Mexico and for the feminist community in general.
Out Chyonda is owned by black lesbian feminists who graduated from the University of New Mexico and went on to teach at the Community College TVI because they wanted to work in an educational milieu for the most marginalized among us. Out Chyonda, provides an event schedule ranging from plays, poetry readings, musicians, jam sessions, fundraisers for the queer community, etc. Their plays are often feminist adaptations of forgotten works by people of color or original renditions of them. As such they raise awareness about the longstanding tradition of literary arts in communities of color and remind that the oppressions of today were formed and perfected over time.
Their poetry and music shows often show case local artists of color and the GLBTQ community of color and white GLBTQ people. They give voice to women discussing motherhood, sexual oppression, gender oppression, racial oppression, and economic oppression AND also women celebrating their survival, their strength, and their amazing power. Some nights the works have been expertly laid out and others they are organic, unfolding and shaping over the course of hours before a live audience.
OutChyonda is also a staple in queer fundraising in New Mexico. They have a Halloween bash to raise funds for queer service providers and events throughout the city and in Santa Fe. They also open their space to workshops and fundraisers for service providers that do not otherwise have dedicated space of their own.
Like their teaching decisions, the location of OutChyonda represents the owners desire to honor the marginalized. The building sits in a neighborhood that someone described to me as “no man’s land” and another “the war zone.” It is amongst several other historic buildings and important fixtures in the popular imaginary of the community. It is also the location of the one time thriving black neighborhood in Albuquerque which is all but gone and a place where some of the most economically oppressed and stigmatized youth and families live. Homeless people can be seen in the area all hours of the day and night and sadly, Albuquerque residents seem to be particularly afraid of the homeless; I have never had a problem with them myself.
Whenever I am in New Mexico, I do two three things: 1. stop at the museum hill for some homemade pancakes (hopefully pumpkin) and a view of the sunrise over the mountains and onto the sculptures in the courtyard, 2. go to the pueblo and check in with some radical folks about the seed sovereignty projects they work on, and 3. stop at Out Chyonda. (Oh and of course I eat stuffed sopapillas and green chillis until I am sick, sick, sick, and then a little more.)
This past weekend Out Chyonda did something I have been trying to do myself and get my WS folk around the nation to do as well, they resurrected the play for colored girls when the rainbow isn’t enuf. Colored Girls was an important play in its time, with discussions about poverty, domestic and sexual violence, women’s strength and resilience, and a truly multiracial ensemble. It became the cornerstone of domestic violence month for WS Departments, Women’s Resource Centers, and feminist communities, particularly those with large numbers of women of color but also, and importantly, for all women. Then it was subplanted by the Vagina Monologues which notoriously recreated white ethnocentrism and transphobia despite its extreme popularity and performances that included well known white and women of color actresses. Then there was the infamous incident when Ensler herself and VM interrupted, overshadowed, and claimed to speak for the women of Juarez fundraising efforts during a families of survivor led fundraising weekend. To her credit, Eve Ensler went on to correct some, though not all, of the slippages in the text and issued an apology about the Juarez incident once they were pointed out to her.
During this historic moment, when Colored Girls made its return, reminding all of us of the powerful play, its legacy, and its import to the domestic and sexual violence movement . . . someone decided to rob Out Chyonda. Assuming they had not gotten the full take for the night, they came back Tuesday and finished the job.
Based on the thoroughness of the theft, there is some concern that this person has some affiliation with OutChyonda. Meaning, not only was a feminist, woman of color owned, lesbian owned, queer community supporting, feminist community supporting, people of color consciousness raising space, robbed it may have been robbed by one of its own!
If the funds that were taken are not recouped or returned, OutChyonda will not be able to pay this month’s rent and the valiant effort they have made to keep the place alive will come to a crashing end.
I am asking all of my readers out there to send them money. If each of you sends between $5-$10, OutChyonda will have more than enough to pay the bill. Do it because women of color businesses are few and far between. Do it because black owned businesses in Albuquerque are rare. Do it because feminism, sexuality, and raising awareness about intersecting oppression is at the core of what all of us should be fighting for and certainly what OutChyonda is about. Or do it, because you support the arts and there are so few art spaces reclaiming out words for a new audience.
You can send the money here:
OutChyonda 929 4th street SW Albuquerque NM 87102 Or call 505-385-5634; email: firstname.lastname@example.org