BHM: Josefina Baez and the Power of the Play

Josefina Baez is an Afra-Latina Dominican performance artist whose works revolves around the intersections of race, gender, sprirituality, class, and immmigration. In her most famous work, Domicanish, she explores the meaning of blackness in a Dominican and Dominican diasporic context through an examination of words, sights, and sounds. She also engages in shared storytelling as part of her performance process, using a grassroots method of meeting women in their homes and engaging in creative process together for a project she calls apartarte/casarte. She also engages in active street theater to encourage discussion of identity and creativity.

Excerpt from Dominicanish Performance

In 1986, she started the Latinarte/Ay Ombe Theatre troupe which draws attention to mixed media and performance art by Latinegras/os. It has been a critical space for black Latin@s workshopping their work and trying to reach new audiences. Like Baez’s own work Ay Ombe offers creative arts through alternative spirituality frameworks that focus on women, blackness, immigration, etc. Their missionis both healing and global in nature while still thoroughly grounded in the Latinegra/o experience:

Baez also works relentlessly at decolonizing major forms of creativity and knowledge. In art, she eschews distinctions between “high” and “low” art and “art” and “ethnic art.” She incorporates spirituality and street performance to encourage art as woc feminist praxis, healing, engaging, and always questioning.  Despite having the opportunity to teach at the university level, she teaches in high school and middle schools regularly to ensure the message of art as self-expression and knowing reaches the widest audience. Understanding that performance and art is often out of the reach of the very working class people she engages, she performs in poor areas in the U.S. and the Dominican Republic and also offers workshops on a sliding scale. Besides engaging people on the street and in the classroom, Josefina also operates a listserv that keeps people abreast of the work of Latinegras/os. And she is also always available for conversations about her work and her process to encourage the next generation of Afra-Latina artists to reach their dreams.

She has self-published two books in order to keep costs down for readers and make connections with people looking to buy her work. Those books are: Dominicanish, a non-linear poetry-play about identity, and Bliss Ain’t Playin‘, a collection of her poetry on women, race, immigration, and identity.

you can read reviews of  her work here

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