Rivers of Honey and Herstory: How Lesbians of Color are Underwritten & Where We Are Today

By Shawn(ta) Smith, Your Lesbian Librarian

*One day they will talk story about you
How you would dip the tips of your breast
in the soft mouth of a running brook
leave your fingerprints on the gray skull of a rock

Colored dykes sing, dance, and organize. But how would we know these things if in fact, it’s never written down, documented, showcased, or broadcast? In this historically relevant year for lesbian culture, the Lesbian Herstory Archives celebrates her 35th year, and the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies begins it’s year of memory in its series of Lesbians in the 70s programming. The GLBT Historical society has recent newsworthy publication of the Black Lesbian Herstorical exhibit called “Keepin’ On”, even though the exhibit lives at and has always been housed in its Brooklyn home at the Lesbian Herstory Archives (we’ll discuss the problematic at a later date). Where are the lesbians of color in the schema of a lesbian herstory? And how do organizations tend to monopolize on this ever-unanswered question?

How you would laugh
mouth open, legs spread to the sky
filling your belly with sun

Furthermore, where is she today? Where are our mocha brilliant sistahs? Our curry spiced lovers? Our loud-mouthed, and silent daughters? I ask, if a lesbian of color has an orgasm, but no one is there to celebrate, is it revolutionary?

“Daughter of Oshun”
they will say
you somersaulted over clouds
sweet curves of brown
swayed oceans with your hips

In the 30th year anniversary of the WOW Cafe Theater, the organizing of many dyke artists don’t bother to ask the question. Instead we perform, produce, and direct multiple orgasms, and the people come. During most of the planning, the question for where lesbians of color fit into the picture are abound. Except, these questions are asked only of the outsiders, for, those of us lesbians of color doing the work know that we had and are always, at the table. We are not missing. No one has lost us. We are NOT underrepresented. HERE I AM! Often, lesbians of color are erased from herstory yet, have always been active, present, and instrumental in the events that have lead us afloat.

“Sister of Oya”
they will say
you carried a sword between your teeth
and the four winds in your hair
made armies fall with your battle cry
Wove melodies together with time

One prominent example of lesbian of color work that exists today, right now, as in, on New Years Eve, and New Years day, and every first Friday of the month this year is the newly designated mecca of lesbian of color artists: Rivers of Honey, the women and trans artist of color Cabaret Theater held at the WOW Cafe Theater.

They will call you
Holy woman, singer, warrior, conjurer, dancer, poet, lover
Your names will be held sacred
Hanifah, Jaz, Ganessa, Chaney, Ashley, Nicki

Founded in 1999 by a group of women artists/activists (namely Susanna Cook and Hanifah Walidah) as a space that showcases and supports the art of women, then eventually trans, artists of color. Over the years, ROH has been promoted, managed, supported and passed down to many amazing women who have donated their time, talent and abilities to empower colored/brown/black/yellow/red women through the performing and visual arts and create a safe space for women to show their work and realize their creative visions. Recently, there have been consistent sold out shows. The June 2009 show, where Punk Rock artist, Tamar Kali, Spoken Word poet, Staceyann Chin, Urban Bush Women Dancer, Maria Bauman, Fillmmaker Ignacio Rivera, Puppetry Theater Showcase, the Sanctuary Collective, Blues singer, Chaney Sims, and creator of Cabaret Cataplexy, Ashley Brockington led a completely queer showcase having to turn away over 100 audience members due to overcrowding. “The line went around 2nd Avenue!” said long-time doorwoman, lesbian barber, and visual artist, Jaz Cruz. Rivers is the next best thing. Always women, sometimes trans, and mainly queer, the production is run by a dedicated collective of queer women of color.

Your names will be held sacred
because you carved out of bone
out of blood, movement and song
a place for your tribe to grow.

Meeting at each other’s houses, along with the WOW Cafe Theater’s Tuesday night weekly meetings, this power troupe has resounded strong into the New Year with visual art, performance, dance, and audience sex games like truth or dare where winners received Babeland toys and beer. The next show is being held at the WOW Cafe Theater. Tickets are sold at the door. $10 (more if/less if) gets you the women-seeking-women experience that you knew still and always existed.

Visit Rivers of Honey on Facebook

Poem: Free Women
*Dedicated to the foremothers of Rivers of Honey
– by collective member Cristina Izaguirre

Pictures by Rivers of Honey Collective Members: BJ Watkins and Shauntée Henry (pride pic)

One comment

  1. marti kheel says:

    […] Science. MSNBC -> Pet Health. BBC News -> Science & Nature. Animal Concerns Community …Paradigm Shift: Blog Archive Rivers of Honey and Herstory …January 13th, 2010Shawnta SmithBlog, Lesbian Librarian :: Shawnta Smith. By Shawn(ta) … Marti […]

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