I spent much of my twenties fishing for Black cool. To go into the details just wouldn’t be PC. Let’s just say I didn’t get the name OR NAH for nothing. This soul-searching journey came full circle around the time of my Saturn Return. Only recently having been the most promising MFA Fine Arts candidate from sunny, suburban California, running mad through the urban jungle my sanity (and art career) were completely flying off the rails. I found myself making unfocused internet art like a sad, three-legged dog in a studio I could barely afford.
Lil Bance on My Based Gods, 2012, performative video sculpture
In hindsight I see that I was stuck in a perpetual cycle of shame and blame, comfortable being small, and angry at THE PATRIARCHY (and anyone who was getting ahead). Whether I was giving my power away to the temp job, the culture of compare and despair or the magical other, I wasn’t allowing myself to experience worthiness. Whereas in adolescence I had felt too fat, amongst my punk-PC feminist milieau I was too white. By the time I had finally learned to love my goddess-given form, I was too old. It’s not that I didn’t believe I would one day become a successful, self-supporting artist of world renown. I was just terrified of being seen and didn’t feel comfortable letting myself shine. This is the story of me creating a masterpiece of a life in the key of OR NAH.
One day I was ecstatic-dancing to Pharrel’s HAPPY (ironically) at my teacher Siri Rishi’s Kundalini Yoga studio in Harlem when ancestral winds of time eternal intervened. At the time I was reppin’ my queer sex-positive feminist on one side (half of head shaved) and down-ass chic on the other (pastel rainbow microbraids). The braids threw off my balance. The doctor called it a stripper’s fracture because it was a common break of dancers. I didn’t know it was broken for two weeks because I refused to stop working. Even though I was making mostly bad art for no pay and hating all my side hustles.
Swagophilia’s $ong of Fleshy Wind, 2014, performative video sculpture
The broken foot landed me on my Mom’s couch on the West Coast. Not bad considering her temporary lodging overlooked miles of aquamarine San Francisco bay. Her spot was filled with healing instruments from around the world and books on books about Goddess Worship. For over a month I did seated yoga, read about Matrifocal religion and materialized magical remote work that came to me despite my escalating scarcity mentality. I was forced to ground, and in the process discovered my roots. In books about Mother rites and rituals of prehistory, I made scintillating connections between what I perceived to be the sparkling aspects of Black culture I most cherished and externalized with my own lineage as a mixed European of Italian, Irish, Swedish, Danish and Norwegian descent. LIGHTBULB: At one point we all worshipped essentially similar archetypes and danced in reverence for the earth. We all come from complex and overlapping lineages of magic, ritual and art as life. Hobbling on one foot, I learned to trust the universe would provide. And I let go of the self-loathing.
Well, you know what happens next, right? Fast forward through more brutal years of artist bohemia to having my first child with the love of my life UNDAKOVA.
Shiva/Shakti photo by Laura Weyl
Having found my twin flame (a Black man who identified more with white girl swag) we would slowly go from SURVIVING to THRIVING. Sure It was a rocky couple of first years when our son Kali was born. I was delighted in many ways with motherhood and relished in the supernatural love that can only be shared between a Mother and Son. Tantric cross-pollination with UNDAKOVA was the blossoming of a sweet, grounded mature adult partnership. Working together as the pioneers of Hip Hop Yoga, we were an all or nothing, no back up plan *ride or cry* 😭 kind of Love.
Through mirroring and much vulnerability in the great dance of shadows and passion, we challenged one another to stop giving our power away. I let go of feeling guilty for existing, making myself small, people pleasing and giving my power away. I took hold of the karmic wheel and decided that – no matter what – I was going to be happy. I was going to be grateful for the true wealth in my life and stop measuring myself against this culture of hyper materialism, achievement and competition. I was going to give equal dignity to my role as a Mother and my role as the visionary, paradigm-shifting High Prieztezz OR NAH, pioneer of Hip Hop Yoga. I started by saying NO to the small stuff so I could say YES to the big stuff.
Blood Magik/ Birth Herstories: A Rebirth Ritual, Speak-out & Soundscape, 2017, Ultracultural Others, Open Source Gallery, “Reimagining Tradition” photo credit: Ajna Matthes
Was it hard? It’s still hard. I still get in my own way. I show up with all of this junk swirling in my mind, self-loathing, blaming others, anger, distrust, bitterness at the Man, my cultural conditioning and sense that I am powerless to achieve any real victory against the evil I perceive in this world. Ultimately what I gave up was the reactionary impulse. One slow, measured step at a time – I found my right rhythm. Together with UNDAKOVA I’ve built a grassroots, rhizomatic network of radical change-makers through our ULTRACULTURAL OTHERS urban mystery skool based in the principles of Hip Hop Yoga, a sacred arts modality we’ve co-piloted since 2011.
And slowly, people have started to get more and more curious about what we are doing. In the lineage of my Mom, who has long time served Women finding their voice, I began to walk the walk and teach by example, as Mother, Yogi, Artist and High Prieztezz OR NIZZLE (in all my ratchet grace) – unapologetically sharing my wisdom with the world in service of other agents of the divine. They don’t make an IQ test for empathy, creativity and cultural accountability but at the Urban Mystery Skool we long been counting amongst our blessings these and all the “healthy wealth” our culture at large disavows.
Blood Magik/ Birth Herstories, 2017
In 2020, as the Patriarchy continues to fall, we’re offering a 4-week High Priextexx Hip Hop intensive led by myself & UNDAKOVA. Click the link to learn more.