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Amy Jo Goddard

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Staging Activism: New York City Performing Artists as Cultural Workers

Performance as a political tool of visibility can be fertile ground for activating social change. Three accomplished New York City performing artists of color who identify as queer or lesbian, explore how their art and other cultural work operate to affect social change. Imani Henry, Susana Cook, and Diyaa Mildred Gerestant all produce original work that addresses cultural themes related to sexual, gender, ethnic, and class identities. For all three of these artists, creating connections across lines of difference is a critical aim. Their position as cultural workers allows them to bridge activist movements and communities that might not otherwise form alliances. The ways they build those bridges, utilize identities, and perform gender, specifically masculine identities that are parodied or disassembled, are explored. They elaborate on their dual roles as artists/activists, art as a participatory process, identification as a cultural worker or gender illusionist, and what makes performance function as activism.

cultural worker, artist, activism, performance art, social change, identity, solidarity, coalition building, gender illusionist, drag kinging, butch, queer, lesbian, political visibility, fourth wall

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 34, No. 1 (2007): 97-116