By Hana Khalyleh, Feb. 12, 2015.
For three years, women and girls from all backgrounds and ethnicities have converged to express themselves and share art through musical performance, storytelling, visual art, poetry and writing.
This cross-cultural collective, Mujeres Del Sol, was founded by Yovani Flores and Michelle Ponce under the idea of starting – and continuing – a conversation about racial and sexual diversity in the arts and create a safe space for people of all orientations and backgrounds.
“In performance spaces and artistic spaces, you usually see a lot of straight white males,” Ponce said. “Being able to tell stories from a first-person perspective gives people an idea of how someone feels. How does it feel to be queer? How does it feel to be a woman of color? Getting people to hear these stories is revolutionary.”
Continuing this dialogue about race, ethnicity and sexuality is always the underlying goal when Mujeres Del Sol perform, said Flores, a Latina lesbian originally from Chicago.
“When I moved here, I noticed that there was a shortage of groups supplying outlets for underrepresented communities in Phoenix,” she said.
According to the founders, Mujeres Del Sol thrive on sisterhood, with all members working together to make Phoenix a more artistically diverse community.
“There’s power in numbers,” Ponce added. “People do want to go out and be exposed to this. We’ve been very intentional about being visible.”
For last year’s Individual World Poetry Slam, Joy Young, Flores and Ponce collectively facilitated a workshop, which Young said, “focused a lot on intersectional identity, including queer identities.”
The founders also worked with Young on a panel at the Association for Theater in Higher Education (ATHE) 2014 conference, to speak on LGBTQ Theater.
In February of 2014, Flores and Covarrubias opened for the Mangos With Chili show, “Whipped: QTPOC Recipes for Love, Sex, and Disaster.” The Mangos with Chili are committed to reflecting the lives of trans and queer people of color and use performances of varying genres to speak out against the unique struggles that queer and trans people of color face.
The latest endeavor to support this goal is The Convergent Arts Poetry Slam. Several members of the group, Ponce and Flores included, will host, perform and aid in the production of the new biweekly event, which will kick off Feb. 27 at Fair Trade Cafe at Civic Space Park.
The inaugural event will include performances by Young, Melissa Dunmore, local poet; Cynthia Rena, artist, poet and stage performer; Susanna Velarde Covarrubias, poet and musical performer; and artist and storyteller Anel Arriola.
Young commends the work of Mujeres Del Sol in bringing LGBT issues to the forefront of many of their performances and expressed excitement about working with them on the upcoming poetry slam.
“Their work tends to be incredibly family friendly while telling queer stories,” Young said. “That’s something I really love about them that is not really what I do as much.”
Flores and Ponce consider their art to be influential in the community.
“The minute we step on stage, the majority filling in the space is women of color,” Flores said. “I like to think that that, alone, is activism.”
Among Flores, Ponce and the other members of Mujeres Del Sol, there is a shared pride in Phoenix and how far it has come in representing a variety of sexual orientations, genders and ethnicities. But, Ponce said, the work isn’t done yet.
“Spice is the flavor of life. Allow humanity to show up in different ways,” she said. “[Find] some kind of creative outlet – whether it’s acting, singing, or poetry – just get those stories out there.”
For more information, visit facebook.com/mujeresdelsol.