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“Know Who You Are”: Interview with Spoken Word Artist London Bridgez

“The entertainment business is filled with snakes. They will try to make you everything you are not if you don’t know who you are.” This is London Bridgez’s advice to emerging artists and I’m sure many can relate. As women of color continue to be mis-constructed, misunderstood and unheard, London is at work as both an artist and activist. Her social justice performance credits include The Bayard Rustin Community Breakfast sponsored by the Aids Action Committee, Queer Women of Color Week- OUTSPOKEN, Provincetown Women of Color Weekend, Provincetown Women of Color Weekend and the Aids Walk Boston Opening Ceremonies.

Here London discusses the purpose behind her forthcoming anthology, Going Public, on black women’s relationships and experiences with love, her commitments as an activist and explains the importance of integrity and planning for artists.

Can you tell us what your name, London Bridgez, represents and why you chose it?

London is my name. I added on “Bridgez” because it summed up my creative process of transforming poetry to be listened to by audiences. In my art I attempt to bridge music and poetry. I believe that if you look at music within a historic context you will find examples of poetry and music being commonly fused in the creation of opera, yone poems, choral works as well as  in funk, jazz and early hip hop. It is only recently that the division has been created.

At the root of music you will find poetry and vice versa because tone,
rhythm, cadence, and lyricism, are the properties of both poetry and
music.  In my personal life I find great satisfaction in bringing
people together and bridging the gaps of isolation that often separate
people.

You are an artist and an activist. What social issues are you active in addressing?

I am an openly identified  gay woman of color. I  support many
organizations that are tearing down strongholds for LGBTQ equality
such as Queer Women of Color, Aids Action Committee of Boston, NYC
Heritage committee, Riverside Church NYC and a long list of others.

In terms of my personal engagement, my wife and  I am currently
co-editing  anthology of writing called Going Public: Black Women
reflect on love, relationships and coupling. In preparation for our
wedding, we began an ongoing discussion about not knowing many Black
lesbian couples, particularly married ones. Our conversation evolved
into a deeper discussion of how marriage and indeed “coupling” is far
too uncommon within the Black community.

We thought it would be insightful to hear the stories of other Black
women who have chosen to marry whether to another Black woman or a woman of another racial/ethnic background. As legal residents of Massachusetts, we recognized how fortunate we were to even have this discussion, as most gay and lesbian people do not have the opportunity to legally marry their partners in their own states.

We went on to think about coupling in general and began doing research on this issue. Via our research we found that Black women in the U.S. are the least likely to marry or to couple regardless of sexual orientation. Whether straight or gay, black women are less likely than any other racial/ethnic group to be married or living with a partner as a couple. This anthology will not only give historical presence to the voices of black women but also reflect on the social implications that stem from these statistics of black women and marriage. It is important for the voices of black women to be heard by larger society. We are not invisible. Our stories matter. Telling the stories of black women is vital to the black community and society at large.

I mentioned how much I like your piece, SHE.  How did SHE come about?

She is an interesting piece for me. I, oftentimes, secretly write
about myself in my work. SHE was the first piece that I publicly wrote
about myself. The sole message in SHE is that women do not fit nicely
into categorical boxes. It is about the intersections of diversity
that we all live at the crux of. One of my favorite lines is “She is your big sister
almighty/DJ spinning all night/The slam poet word line fighting/Mother earth rain thunder lightening POW.”

Each of us as people and more specifically as women carry with us a unique combination of likes, dislikes, interests and passions.  At the end of the poem I say: “This is for the girls labeled trouble for being themselves who refuse to sit on shelves and wait for the world to give them permission to come out and play/This is for me/This is for you/Our Fuerza/Our strength/Our truth.” I believe we as women are most strong when we give ourselves permission to be all of who we are.

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