Patrisse Cullors, Black Lives Matter cofounder, talks art, activism

Patrisse Cullors Black Lives Matter

Patrisse Cullors latest performance piece, “Respite, Reprieve and Healing: An Evening of Cleansing,” examines trauma, healing, and the resilience of a black queer woman. It will be staged Friday and Saturday at Highways Performance Space. Photo: Courtesy Patrisse Cullors.

Patrisse Cullors latest performance piece, “Respite, Reprieve and Healing: An Evening of Cleansing,” examines trauma, healing, and the resilience of a black queer woman.

“This piece is looking at black exhaustion, and the weight of anti-blackness on my body as a black queer woman,” Cullors says. “ And then the response to that, What is the healing?”

Highways Performance Space

Cullors, who co-founded Black Lives Matter, will stage her work on Friday and Saturday in Santa Monica at Highways Performance Space, the queer venue where artists experiment with content. Tickets can be purchased here.

Cullors performed at Highways for the first time in 2012 with “Stained: An Intimate Portrayal of State Violence,” a performance piece that examined physical abuse inside the Los Angeles County jails.

In her work “Malcolm Revisited,”Cullors had queer and transgender black people recite various Malcolm X speeches.

Cullors’ “Respite, Reprieve and Healing: An Evening of Cleansing” is scheduled as part of a month-long celebration of Highways Performance Space’s 30th anniversary and its three decades of supporting the LGBTQ community.

Patrisse Cullors

In an interview with Q Voice News, Cullors, 35, a freedom fighter, organizer, and artist, talks about her performance this weekend at Highways Performance Space and the intersectionality of art and activism.

Here are some excerpts.

Performing during Mental Health Awareness Month

“We are having a conversation and thinking about the emotional and mental impact this country, and the history of this country has on me, and black people as a collective,” Cullors says. “I really wanted to develop a visually conceptual, performance-art piece, that tackles this issue.

“And it’s going to be in the thick of LGBTQ Pride Month.”

History of black, queer women

“We will be looking at the history of black, queer women, thinking about people like Audre Lorde, who proclaimed, It’s a revolutionary act to take care of ourselves. What does that look like? How do we embody that? How do I embody that in my performance work?

100-year-old bathtub

“I sit in a 100-year-old bathtub for hours as part of an endurance piece,” Cullors says. “There’s a hair-washing piece where about a dozen black people will be getting their hair washed, and then there’s going to be a live orchestra.”

Black exhaustion

“As full-time organizers, full-time moms, and many times full-time caregivers, black women are not often given the type of space to heal, to have our own respite. We are everybody else’s respite, but nobody is ours,” Cullors says.

“This piece is looking at the kind of exhaustion that happens because of that, when you’re constantly caring for others, when you’re constantly doing for others, and yet nothing is being done for you.”

Art, activism

Highways Performance Space “is an intersection of activism and art, where we can live in a world where we don’t have to neglect our politics as artists,” Cullors says. “I want to bring this piece because it’s 30 years of this amazing institution who’ve incubated queer artists and queer artists of color at such a critical time in the queer arts movement.

“I feel like my work is part of the legacy of queer arts, but also the legacy of the black arts movement,” Cullors says. “I’m excited about that intersection, and what Highways can support in me and what I can support in Highways.”

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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