The 2018-2019 Writers
flower of ancestry
In 1997, Leslie Feinberg wrote in Transgender Warriors: "I couldn't find myself in history. No one like me seemed to have ever existed." More than twenty years later, and sentiment still resonates. As a queer teen in the '90s, I also struggled to find queer community and history. I heard "lesbian writing is so niche" and 'real art is beyond small press writing by whatever oppressed minority you identify with." Nevermind that Sappho birthed modern poetry, James Baldwin spoke about race and homosexuality and in the '50s AND became a canonical writer, and Gertrude Stein gave us language poetry. What would our artistic histo. ries and imaginations look like without these, and many other queer and trans innovators? The truth is, queer art and literature has always been an essential part of our history, our collective heritage.
We create against the threat of erasure-from not being able to find our ancestors, to queer and trans youth committing suicide at 3 times the rate of straight youth. We write new narratives-we create cut-up poetry from The Wizard of Oz and envision what a queer or trans hero's journey could look like. We imagine ourselves as ancestors, inspired by Alexis Pauline Gumbs' In Your Hands Project. We learn from our literary mentors by reading and celebrating Audre Lorde, Alexander Chee, Chrystos, Cherrie Moraga, June Jordan, James Baldwin, Justin Chin, Randall Kenan, and beyond. As student Shannon Prasad says: "Queers have always been on this earth since the beginning of time, fighting back on the forefront for several different rights. We are a force to be reckoned with."
I am so glad that Katie, Queer Ancestors Project director, said yes when I approached her with the idea of launching writing workshops back in 2016. With SFAC and Foglifter's sup-port, this anthology features original work by 20 creative writing and printmaking students. We create together to reclaim the past, to find each other, to connect. This work takes us through pan dulce dipped in coffee, raves in Berlin, roses blooming around genderqueer faces, and a skeleton that cries "Let Me Be Me." Flower of Ancestry "maps out the painful yet beautiful journey of leaving the toxic to find something that helps you thrive" (Shannon Prasad). There is a beautiful queer world out there-we have only to find it.
I am so proud of the Queer Ancestors Project students, and this second year of collaboration between OAP, Foglifter Press, and SF Arts Commission. Many thanks to: Katie Gilmartin, Liz Ozol, Kyle Chu, Vanessa Hamill, Wendy Kramer, and the Foglifter Team-especially Miah Jeffra, Luiza Flynn•Goodlett, Lisa Galloway, and Wesley Cohen. Thank you for committing young queer/trans voices to history.