BY MONIQUE QUINTANA
Being a woman and an artist is an experience that is constantly asked to be qualified. Add being a woman of color to the mix, and you find yourself challenging cultural and societal expectations of how women like you are supposed to behave on a daily basis.
As women of color, there is also the immense need to support your own discourse communities when they are creating and sharing their art, making the balance between domestic life and professional life difficult to maintain. To live up to one of idea of beauty and creation is taxing on the body and the mind, and ritual can often help us to cultivate our own personal wellness.
I used to struggle with the fact that I put on make-up every time I leave the house, but a friend pointed out to me that this was a ritual, that I derived confidence and personal power from that. I began to look for the other rituals in my life. I’ve realized that I wear sunglasses to keep negative energy at bay. I’ve researched the ritual of wearing black and learned that I wear it everyday because it’s the absence of color, a neutralizer, and so, is symbolic of protection.
Here are a few artists of color who are finding ways to cultivate their own growth and wellness and beauty in the flowers of their intersectional feminism.
Lauren Baker, Painter, Cartoonist, and Writer
"I use oracle cards for my own personal, spiritual practice. I’ve always had a fascination for all things magical, and I started practicing tarot during a really difficult time in my life when I needed answers the most. Tarot is an alternative method for seeking counsel—It’s an energy-based medium that enables you to receive guidance from the universe. It’s a way for you to look at a situation from a different perspective and make different choices if need be, and the messaged are always delivered with love and light. People mistake the tarot as an evil power, when in actuality, tarot has nothing to do with religion. It works based on pure energy—yours and the reader. And the end of the day, the tarot is simply a way to know yourself more and an affective way to teach yourself how to be introspective on your own life."
Cynthia Guardado, Poet
"Punk is something that informs many aspects of my life. It’s a fuck with the system attitude that is unapologetic about questioning authority, society and the system. I don’t normally think punk informs my poetry, but if I really think about it, many of my poems could be feminist punk lyrics that that push misogyny and violence in the face. They’re poems that don’t allow you to look away and force you to face the truth, and that kind of energy is what punk music is about."
Jackie Huertaz, Writer
"Coming from a Mexican family I was taught to never complain about anything and if we did have mundane moments with nothing to do my siblings and I made sure we found something to do to keep busy. My parents worked full-time and my mother had a second job.
A common question if you have laxed moments was received with: Why aren’t you working? When I was in community college, my parents told me I needed to get a second job. So I worked in an after-school program and worked retail in the Visalia mall. I remember falling asleep on the benches at College of the Sequoias, waiting for my next class to start.
In graduate school, I juggled multiple jobs. I scrubbed the toilets of old white ladies, I worked the fitting room at DD’s Discounts. I was a substitute teacher and worked at Dress Barn on the weekends. If I was lucky I had one day off a week. Which I usually spent getting shit-faced drunk due to all the stress of code switching throughout the week. So no, I wasn’t exactly taking care of myself.
It wasn’t until I started reading feminist literature that I started to learn about self-care. Of course, I went to the gym and attempted to eat healthy but putting my mental health first was something I never considered. It was something that the women in my family never discussed and I don’t think ever crossed our minds.
Because you know an expectation of all Mexican women is to be all dutiful and all suffering. Why aren’t you working? Why aren’t you cleaning? To put ourselves first is weighted like a sin.
When I graduated from the MFA program I started to put my mind and body first. I take long walks at a park a mile from my house. I started reading literature written by POC only. I’ve realized that’s it’s okay to take breaks and give myself credit, it was something I never did before. I give my mom and the women in my family credit too. Sometimes I’ll invite my friends for walks. I’ll repeat little mantras and tell myself it’s okay to not have it together, it’s okay to be a hot emotional mess sometimes."
Arielle Jones, Writer, Multi-media Artist, and Model
"When I get to a block in my writing, I sketch. I’ll admit, it’s more an immediate gratification when I can watch the lines grow up into shapes and movements. I see, or want to see. I find drawing meditative, tactile, soothing. By the time a drawing is almost done, a narrative can start forming in my mind and that often helps me get back to writing, eager instead of frustrated."
Christina Olague, Slam Poet
"I'm often fixated on the thoughts swirling around in my head that keep me awake, questioning and over-analyzing. I have to write them down in a journal entry or poem in order to release it from my mind and move on. Writing is my ritual of expression and self-awareness. Poetry slams fill me with energy in the same way I imagine church does for some people."
Kamilah Okafor, Writer
"I can’t imagine a day going by without satisfying my love for gaming. Video games, PC games, mobile games: they are essential to my daily ritual. Gaming immerses me into diverse video game worlds with good storytelling, loveable characters, and the thrilling adventures I need after a long and busy day at work. From catching new Pokémon to leveling up a hero on Fire Emblem to defeating a challenging enemy in Legend of Zelda, I hardly ever find myself growing tired of turning on a video game console and pressing 'Start'."
Brenda Venezia, Writer
"After years in a tiny apartment with shallow walls and unknown neighbors I was afraid to annoy, my piano and I will live together again in a house of my own. It's still there, it's been waiting, or not, for me to make my way back to the bench. The wood creaks beneath me like it didn't the last time I sat here, harmonizing with my fumbled chords, the sound of a body re-training for movement through the world as someone capable, confident, consistent, even as I feel like anything but.
It doesn't care if we get reacquainted through the sacred songs I learned on, long after my faith has gone, if my worship today is reserved for the music making itself, for the way muscle and brain remember, rewire, repair, working together to make songs, make sense, make me cry or giggle or groan, using all 88 keys to finally make myself at home."
Monique Quintana is the Beauty and Fashion Editor for Luna Luna and runs the literary blog, Razorhouse. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing Fiction. Her work has been published in Huizache, Bordersenses, and The Acentos Review, amongst others. She has work forthcoming in the anthologies, Retell It Like It Is: Fairytales Retold By People of Color and Tragedy Queens:Stories Inspired By Lana Del Rey and Sylvia Plath. She is a member of the Central Valley Women's Writers of Color Collective and is currently working on a Chicana gothic sci-fi novella.