Though the Gathering of Nations, the largest pow wow in the United States, is renowned for its sense of spectacle and soaring spirit, Brad Charles, a Navajo Two Spirit man and co-founder of Bands in Action (BIA) says GON doesn’t tap into the vibrancy of underground queer counterculture. Thus, the Gathering of Queer Nations was born.
This marks the second year that BIA— a music collective based in Shiprock, New Mexico— will host the Gathering of Queer Nations, which will showcase musical artists, performance art, slam poetry, drag performances and a fashion show.
“The Gathering of Queer Nations is necessary because in some ways we are a separate nation,” Charles says. “In the Navajo Nation, for instance, we’re not granted certain rights. There’s no same-sex marriage allowed, even though there’s a basis for it in our tradition—the two-spirit idea. But modern people don’t accept it.”
In addition to the musical performances, and drag performances by Katrina Storm & Friends, there will also be straight talk about safer sex, photography exhibits and video art installations.
Fashion designer Jamal Tom will present his latest collection named Mila, which he says was inspired by contemplation of his one-year-old sister’s future in a world dominated by men.
“I’m all about the matriarchal approach to life,” Darin said, “and I want to honor our lineage.”
Nitasha Manning, a Diné two spirit artist and curator, says she’s participating in the alternative gathering because it offers validation, and a way to develop relationships through art.
“I’ll be expressing through spoken word,” says Manning, “touching on issues relating to abuse of Indigenous women, and the social justification of that abuse in a patriarchal society.”
Poet Brandy Montaño (Apache), who sees being part of GOQN2 as a way to escape the identity imposed on her by colonization, will perform her love poems:
I barely know your name love, I’m just staring at you from across the room
But I do know this right here and right now.
Baby…I would let you braid my hair.
Some of the other performers include hip-hop duo KBenally and Letsjusb, who were nominated for NM’s best music video of 2015, have opened for Wu-Tang Clan and Mykki Blanco, and were headliners at last year’s Albuquerque Pride Festival.
The Nizhoni Girls (“beautiful” in the Navajo language) will also be performing.
Ryan Dennison, an accomplished transdisciplinary artist from Fort Wingate, NM, will be offering a “noise” performance with handmade costumes and projections; and Eva Crespin, just back from the “Women of the World” poetry slam in Dallas will be performing works from Morena, her debut book published in March 2017 by Swimming Elephant’s Publications.
“I like to speak my truth, and I hope it will help someone speak theirs,” says Crespin, a self-described queer slam poet.
Here’s an excerpt from Crespin’s poem: Sometimes When You’re Brown:
So next time you tell them that you were here first. You tell them if they want a bloodbath, a battle, a crusade, a race war, that they have started one and you will win. Because your ancestors are buried in this dirt; they are still the roots, the trees, the air, and the water. Your blood is sacred and it is fire.
Another GOQN2 highlight will be a presentation by members of the Two Spirit Camp at Standing Rock.
Charles tells ICMN, that everybody is welcome to the Gathering of Queer Nations II.
“You don’t have to identify as Queer or Indigenous to attend our events. We hope that everyone will find something they like, that their minds will expand, and that we’ll all learn and be accepting about everything and each other.”
Gathering of Queer Nations II will take place on Friday, April 28 from 6-8pm and on Saturday, April 29 from noon to 8pm at Corpus Art Space, 123 7th St NW in Albuquerque.