incarceration, prison system

Pushing the Envelope

This solo 2013 performance piece featured Patrisse displaying enlarged copies of the envelopes and letters that she and her father exchanged while he was in prison. After a series of emotional correspondence, the last envelope she presents is addressed to the heavens. Patrisse’s father died in 2009 just months after he was released from prison. Their relationship developed within the confines of his incarceration, a situation that ultimately contributed to his death. Pushing the Envelope also served as a way for Patrisse to give more agency to herself and her father. 

“I say that him being incarcerated most of his life killed him. I say that because folks who are on the inside age and their life span is over much earlier than those who are able to live on the outside and a healthy life. This piece is dedicated to him, it’s dedicated to me, it’s kind of like an ode to our relationship and it’s about giving me more agency to say ‘goodbye father and thank you for everything you’ve given me.’ He spent most of his life behind bars, I spent most of my life writing him while he was behind bars, so it was a really powerful piece for us.”

Watch a collection of performances including a short clip of Pushing the Envelope:

law enforcement, police brutality

Where Will You Go?

This piece is looking at the impact law enforcement declaration has on Black bodies. Performed at the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica in the summer of 2018.

art, cleansing

Respite, Reprieve, and Healing: an Evening of Cleansing

“As a Black queer woman living inside a world that is constantly trying to kill me…”

“Respite, Reprieve, and Healing: An Evening of Cleansing” was Patrisse’s 2019 thesis solo show. Elements of performance, live music, sculpture, and improvisation is the artistic foundation of this piece. Patrisse states, “I’m tired, and I’ve been tired for a very long time.”

When thirteen Black performers said yes to being part of her piece, “Hair Wash”, she felt nothing but gratitude. “Black hair is sacred. We don’t let anyone touch our crowns,” says Cullors.

Brianna Mims held the kind of space and gentleness required as the hair washer. Each person was a magic portal into the world of the diaspora. They used honey and coconut milk and salt to set the intention. To hold the container. And the rope. The rope ties their Ori together. One hive mind. Healing together.

resist, Black Lives Matter, fighting jail expansion

RESIST

RESIST is a 12 part docu-series coproduced by Patrisse and directed by Tani Ikeda, Mobolaji Olambiwonnu, and Nathalie Johns in partnership with digital media company blackpills.

The series follows the grassroots work of Los Angeles organizations fighting the county’s $3.5 billion jail expansion plan.

Primarily focusing on the work of Patrisse and other members of JusticeLA including Jayda Rasberry of Dignity and Power Now, Helen Jones of Dignity and Power Now and Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, Bambi Salcedo of TransLatina Coalition, and Johnathan Perez of Immigrant Youth Coalition, the series is a beautiful and inspiring look into the motivations and daily struggles of movement workers on the ground.

1992 Los Angeles Uprising, fighting oppression, building power

Remembering ‘92

In August 2017, two weeks after the attacks in Charlottesville and on the 226th anniversary of the Haitian revolution, Patrisse performed “Remembering ’92,” a moving tribute not only to lives lost and movements sparked in the 1992 Los Angeles Uprising, but also to revolutionary Black people fighting oppression and building power throughout history.

 

Taking place at the California African American Museum among their No Justice, No Peace: LA 1992 exhibit and with the musical accompaniment of Kimya Dawson’s “At the Seams”, Patrisse led a solemn funeral procession before using her body and a collection of protest signs to express a series of other events and emotions.

 

The performance was followed by a Q&A with Patrisse and the exhibit curator Tyree Boyd-Pates.

 

seattle, black experience, state violence, resilience

POWER: From the Mouths of the Occupied Seattle

In October of 2016, Patrisse brought Power…

 

From the Mouths of the Occupied to Seattle, a city often referred to as “progressive.”

 

Yirim Seck, Faisal Provincial, KT, Hodan Hassan, Monique Franklin, Akilah Franklin, Jah-Vi’ “SJS” Cotten-Cohia, Luzviminda Uzuri “Lulu” Carpenter, and Marcel Baugh told personal stories highlighting their experiences with local state violence and their resilience as Black people.

 

The cast performed 3 sold-out shows with rave reviews from the media including The Stranger, The Seattle Times, The South Seattle Emerald, and many others.

 

Malcolm X, Black Lives Matter, protecting Black lives

Malcolm Revisited

Patrisse and FOREMOST curated Malcolm Revisited, a tribute to freedom fighter Malcolm X.

This series of workshops, live performance pieces, and visual exhibits explored the life, legacy, and impact of this iconic historical figure, as well as his influence on the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

Featuring powerful retrospectives from Prentis Hemphill, Aaryn Lang, and Brayan Gonzalez, the performance explored Malcolm’s effect on each person individually as well as collectively.

#BlackLivesMatter has pushed the country to have a new conversation about what it means to protect Black lives.

Art allows for conversations to happen across generations, gender, race and ability. This piece served as a contribution to #BlackLivesMatter, Malcolm X, and the past and current freedom fighters in this movement.

hate, white supremacy, Black identity

HateisHateisHate

“HateisHateisHate” is Patrisse Cullors’ new art piece that expresses the challenges Black people face in a world of white supremacy.

Using 42 pages of hate mail and the FBI’s new Black identity extremism report, Patrisse developed an interactive installation where participants had the opportunity to follow recorded instructions in Patrisse’s voice.

 

They were asked to cut out words and statements and paste them onto butcher paper.


“Trauma is interesting to me not because of the pain it causes but rather the opportunity that arises from it,” says Cullors.

 

This piece is about hate and what we get out of it, how it is birthed, where it comes from, the ingredients of hate, why it exists, how it’s fostered, can and how we can transform it. Patrisse is interested in the impact hate has on our body and psyche.

 

She investigates how racism, homophobia, and transphobia aren’t just disruptive because of the ways they lock us out of structures, but also because they create an “other” and the other becomes dehumanized. Then, the process of dehumanizing allows us to cause violence and harm.

 

There is also a materiality to hate that interests Patrisse because she continues to witness the underbelly of society. She sees the impact it has on those who receive the vitriol on a daily basis.

 

She says about the piece, “I’m curious about how its shaping me, if i can beat it back, or is it just about succumbing to the reality? I want to dig into this shit, because maybe it’s the only way I feel like I have agency.”

racial trauma, social justice, queer, people of color, trans

AN EVENING WITH WARRIORS: Speaking the Unspoken

In July of 2013 Patrisse curated a pop-up piece performed outdoors on a U-Haul truck called “Warriors: Dressed in Queer, Cloaked in Now.”

Six months later at Highways Performance Space that piece had evolved into “An Evening With Warriors: Speaking the Unspoken.”

Often overshadowed by racial trauma and her brother’s jail trauma, Patrisse wanted a venue to express her and others’ queer trauma through a social justice and intersectional lens.

The performance highlights the stories of four queer and trans people of color – stories that are often untold. An “Evening With Warriors” brought family, friends, and strangers together to share in their stories.

Watch the post-performance Q&A below:

Los Angeles County Jail, Los Angeles County Sherrif’s Department, jail abuse

STAINED: An Intimate Portrayal of State Violence

In 2012 the ACLU launched a class action lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for abuses in the jail system.

Having read the 86-page report, Patrisse decided to create a performance art piece that highlighted her brother’s story of being brutalized in the county jail while dissolving the disconnect between the conditions inside custody and the community outside.

That piece became “STAINED: An Intimate Portrayal of State Violence,” a powerful and intimate performance where mere caution tape separated the audience and artists. A recording of Patrisse’s voice could be heard reading correspondence between her mother and brother detailing the beatings he was forced to endure.

Meanwhile, several people could be seen within the caution tape boundary displaying various behaviors from push-ups and escape attempts to laughing and crying uncontrollably.

The group would occasionally turn to the monotonous task of wheatpasting the ACLU’s jail abuse lawsuit to the wall. The piece stained the audience profoundly. After leaving the performance, viewers were unable to wash their hands clean of the abuse incarcerated people experience.

“STAINED” toured for a year around Los Angeles County – and ignited a movement. Audiences wanted to do more than watch the piece; they wanted to change the county jail system. The Coalition to End Sheriff Violence was born. Watch the performance below: