Formidable & Loved Part ii: Conversations on Identity & Belonging

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I love using food metaphor.

With that, I love ‘setting the table’ for friends and strangers to feast and feel safe enough to have meaningful and courageous conversations.

On the evening of August 17th in downtown Seattle, I had the immense delight and privilege to ‘set the table’ for people to bear witness to a lineup of formidable and loved artists whose bold, erotic, tenacious, and generous repertoires were offered as though we partook uniquely nutritious and delicious ‘meals’ that nourished and strengthened the crowd.

There were eight artists—artists who offered brave and vulnerable pieces of poetry, music, and writing that changed at least a life or two.

These are artists who have been (in varying degrees) silenced, pushed to the margins, harmed, and violated because of their respective identities, and even in such circumstances, they chose to be radiantly kind, and to tell the truth through their stories—for the sake of a safer, and more loving and equitable world.

Because we, the artists, are part of underrepresented communities, we are scarce (in varying degrees) in many of the privileges and benefits of American society, but we are not scarce in our friendships and the richness of love, resilience, and wisdom we learn and receive from one another. We are gonna keep our light shining through.

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Brian J. Evans is a Citizen Artist who unpacks the “moments of suspension” that reside in the spaces between spaces. He is a generous and significant multidimensional creator and leader in our community who has life-giving contributions to the realms of education, society, the arts, and in new friendships and collaborations. He is creatively substantial, and substantially creative. He is a maestro, and a renaissance gentleman. I find him very trustworthy in the discipline of intersecting social action with artistry. 

 

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Darnell Moore once said in his book that there are “everyday, ordinary magicians who learn to create life among death-dealing cultures of hatred and lies.” When I think about this line and about who these magicians are, I think about Heather Casimere. Heather is a non-fiction writer and painter from the San Francisco Bay Area. She wrote the book Brave. Warrior. Free.: Overcoming Anxiety Amidst My Turbulent Twenties
 The beautiful thing about Heather is that she made me realize there are people out there who have every reason not to be nice in this world, because of how cruel other people and systems are to them. And folks like Heather have been exposed to so much of it (perhaps even the worst of it), and yet, when we, her friends, see her, what we see is the most radiant light and a kindness releases more and more light.

 

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Ellen Cline is a multidisciplinary and multidimensional artist. She creates ceramics, symbolic meditation practices, visual art, and spaces of joy, kindness, and hospitality. Ellen is a Third Culture Kid raised in Central Asia, and so she knows how to inhabit the spaces “in-between” or the ambiguous places that not very many people have the capacity and the bravery to stay in. She also brings a lot of laughter and energy in the room, and I believe that the people who bring this type of joy in our lives are those who have the courage and resilience to also be in touch with grief.
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Daniel Addington is a visionary. His creativity and his curiosity are not only compelling, but also generative. There is a “more-ness” or a “muchness” to him—the more he tells you his ideas, questions, and dreams, the more your own ideas, questions, dreams emerge. His presence can stir, energize, and move you. Daniel, to me, is one of my allies. He helped me realize that the most humble and most trusted of allies are those who have the ability and strength to hold complexity, to hold the value in stories, and to see where beauty can reside and grow—even in seemingly broken places. Daniel knows how to see the beauty and dignity in things, and he also knows how to make things beautiful at the same time.
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Josh Swift has a Master’s in Theology & Culture, and he currently works as a Studio Manager for the fastest growing Native owned business in the US called Eighth Generation. He is one of the thinkers and dreamers who don’t necessarily seek for a better answer in this life, but seeks to ask the better and honest question that not many people have the vision and the boldness to ask. Whenever I am in Josh’s company, I feel like I could just breathe and just be—where I won’t be judged or in some ways, attacked, as I always do when it comes to my brownness and my womanhood. This dear and adventurous soul has always been a huge part of my formation and my becoming (or unbecoming). Josh naturally rekindles a love for poetry and earthly beauty. One of the metaphors I once described him is the water—the water that dampens the soil to make seeds sprout. And at the same time, he softens and nourishes hearts through his presence, imagination, and story.
Photographs of Zach Spoerl and Chris Lovings are yet to be uploaded here. In the meantime, these are my words about these beautiful humans:
There are people in my life who, whenever I hangout with them, I somehow feel constantly wooed and romanced by the earth, the Divine, or however way you name this transcendent being. Whenever I think of Zach Spoerl, I feel incredibly grateful that, of all the times I could be in Seattle, it was the same time he has set foot in this interesting city. What an honor to meet this kind and wise and beautiful man—who has a generative and loving presence that makes you want to create, feel, sing, and write more. And most of all, he makes you want to love more. If not for people like Zach Spoerl, we would not have nights like this. He is the one who introduced and reintroduced the word formidable to me. And in my season of struggle right now, he is one of the people who knew how to love me so fiercely. 
Chris Lovings is a percussionist who is dedicated to bringing the beat, bridging the gap, and being authentic in everything he does— and he does so very, very well. Just like me and Ellen, he’s had his share of living a geographically sporadic life as a military kid who moved so much growing up, which is a journey that might be easy to romanticize but I’m aware have hardships of its own. So, when he says he is dedicated to bridge the gap between people, I very much trust that, because he gets it. He is not only incredibly skilled in the things he does, but he also has a most hospitable and warm presence that welcomes me and others are they are.

 

Please swing by, donate, and share the campaign to help me stay in the US, which is the purpose of the evening: www.gofundme.com/help-Gabes-stay

 

Thank you to those who came to learn, receive, and satiate their curiosity.. but end up being even more curious!

We see you. We love you.

As ever,
G

Photography by Laurel Yae of Nour Images

Special thanks to Cedar & Spokes and Austin Huelsbeck