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A Glimpse Into the Life of a Radical, Brown, Queer Family

Our friends over at Buddies In Bad Times Theatre asked amazing performer, mother, entrepreneur, and all around super-star Catherine Hernandez to write a blog post about what it’s like to be a radical, brown, queer momma. Here’s what she had to say…

/EMH

Originally posted on Buddies In Bad Times Theatre’s Blog, written by Catherine Hernandez.

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“MOM. WE’RE DOING THE HURON CAROL. AND IT’S BULLSHIT.”

RADICAL SINGLE MOM AND PLAYWRIGHT OF THE FEMME PLAYLIST TALKS ABOUT PARENTING HER DAUGHTER

It was close to holiday season, and Arden was concerned about us attending her school concert.

“Mom,” she said with sorrow while placing an equally sorrowful hand on my shoulder. “We’re doing the Huron carol. And it’s bullshit.”

I knew what she meant. She attends a rather privileged public school in a rather privileged neighborhood because she has been designated as “gifted” (which, is in fact a special need, it just happens to be celebrated in our society) and is schooled in a program suited to her intellectual requirements. I told my ten year old daughter I wanted to support her anyway. I was just going to gird my brown, queer, radical loins.

I entered the school with three of my home daycare kiddos in tow, all of them wearing drawn-on mustaches to keep them from picking their damn noses. Immediately some kid at the school pointed at me and said “You look just like my nanny!”

I lowered my Filipina face to her eye level so that she would never forget it. “I probably look nothing like your nanny. But whatever.”

We entered the school gym and waited for the moment when Arden was to hit the stage. We endured choir teachers indulging in singing louder than their child choir members. We endured watching hijab-wearing students roll their eyes while holding signs about Christmas. We listened to songs about Hanukah and Kwanzaa but all to the tune of Jingle Bells.

Then the real magic happened.

My child went onstage with her class and began singing the Huron Carol. Some white teacher stood before them at the lip of the stage and began drumming on a cheap-ass dollar store version of an Aboriginal drum, feathers and all to the playback music. Emphasis on PLAYBACK. I realized this bitch was miming her drumming, with her eyes closed like she was channelling her 1/18 Chippewa great, great grandmother or something, and doing it for nothing, because her cheap-ass drum wasn’t a drum at all. It was a prop. Which, is often the case when it comes to cultural appropriation: full of props but no truth.

Arden looked at me with an “I told you it was bullshit” face and we both began laughing. Like, full belly laughing in this room full of conservative racist fools. The daycare kiddos chimed in screaming “AHHHH-DEN!!! AHHH-DEN!!! WE WUV YOU AHHH-DEN!”

And there you go. A glimpse into the life of a radical, brown, queer family. Bullshit every day, the strength to fight it, the swag to laugh it off. We dance to the beat of a different drum. But let me tell you something: we didn’t get this drum from the dollar store.

— Catherine Hernandez

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Catherine Hernandez’s one-woman show, The Femme Playlist, will premiere at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre Oct 10-25 2014 as part of the afterRock Play Series co-produced by b current, Eventual Ashes and Sulong Theatre. She is a proud queer woman of colour and single mom. In 2007, her first play, Singkil, was directed by Nina Lee Aquino, produced by fu-GEN Asian Canadian Theatre Company in association with Factory Theatre and garnered seven Dora Mavor Moore nominations including Outstanding New Play, Independent Division. She wrote and performed the critically acclaimed one-woman puppet show, Eating with Lola (Sulong Theatre and Next Stage Festival) directed byPuppetmongers’ Ann Powell. The show was a major hit, having been first developed by fu-GEN Asian Canadian Theatre and then toured North Carolina’s Duke University and Bogota, Colombia for the Festival de Mujeres en Enscena in Spanish (translation by Mexican puppeteer, Amaranta Leyva). She was Theatre Passe Muraille’s 08/09 playwright in residence and was the theatre’s Associate Producer in 2009/2010. She launched Sulong Theatre, a company dedicated to producing theatre by and about women of colour. The Collective’s inaugural creation, Future Folk, was produced by Theatre Passe Muraille as part of its 09/10 season. Catherine as an individual was named Carlos Bulosan Theatre’s Ontario Playwright in Residence in 10/11 to develop Eating with Lola. Kilt Pins, produced by Sulong Theatre in November of 2011 in partnership with Kapisanan Philippine Centre for Arts and Culture has been published by Playwrights Canada Press. On September 21 2012, Catherine immersed herself in a lifeboat filled with filthy water for 24 hours without access to food. The event, named Operation Lifeboat, raised money and awareness for the UN-Natural recurring disasters in the Philippines. It involved more than 45 artists worldwide who performed each hour of the event and resulted in over 30 hours of watched video footage and more than 1100 viewers worldwide. She is currently facilitator of Cahoots Theatre’s Crossing Gibraltor program for refugees and newcomers to Canada, co-facilitator for the ARISE theatre program for LGBTQ creators and director for the U.S. tour of Honoring Our Heartbeats: A Tour to End Forced Marriage in the U.S.

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