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132 CLA JOURNAL “The Satin Sisters”: Performing Afro-Filipina Women’s Intimacies through Felt Architectures Jewel Pereyna “The earth cannot move without music.” —Sun Ra, Space is the Place, 1974 “When Jessica and Ntozake performed their work together, with the dancers and the music, they could stir a crowd to an obsessive frenzy, the language hit such a chord in the time.” —Steven Vincent, The Poetry Reading, 1981 On Dec. 22, 1974, Ntozake Shange, Jessica Hagedorn, Paula Moss, and Elvia Marta performed the first showing of for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf. Shange’s famous choreopoem, which initiated as a four-woman performance piece set in the women’s bar Bacchanal (1369 Solano St. in Berkeley, California), turned into the first major Black feminist Broadway production at the Joseph Papp Public Theater in 1976. A celebration of Black feminist intimacy and girlhood, today high school and university students continue to perform for colored girls. Major theaters still sing the words that Shange first published in Oakland with Alta Gerrey’s Shameless Hussy Press. With dancers Paula Moss and Elvia Marta, Shange transformed the textuality of for colored girls into a piece intermixed with choreography, song, and dance. In addition, fellow collaborator and Filipina American writer Jessica Hagedorn and college classmate and Black feminist poet Thulani Davis were the first co-performers of this piece. Both women influenced Shange’s literary and theater career. Hagedorn, Davis, and Shange’s friendship and artistic collaborations demonstrate an overlooked narrative of Black and Filipina American feminist artistic alliances during the political and artistic emergence of the Black Arts, Third World Liberation, and women of color feminist movements. In particular, Hagedorn and Shange traveled and performed at readings together in the San Francisco Bay area and New York City. With poet Thulani Davis, who was one of Shange’s closest friends and writing partners at Barnard College, they formed a trio called “The Satin Sisters” and co-authored plays and poems together. Hagedorn and Shange’s coupled performances embodied Third Worldist visions for Afro-Asian racial and feminist unity. However, current scholarship seldom analyzes Filipino and African CLA JOURNAL 133 Performing Afro-Filipina Women’s Intimacies through Felt Architectures” American feminist solidarities, often privileging masculinist Afro-(East)Asian nationalisms.1 This article mediates these gaps by mining through fragmented archives—both print and expressive cultures that are archived at University of California Berkeley, Barnard College, and Emory University—that reveal political possibilitiesof “Afro-Filipina”women’sintimaciesthroughsoundandperformance. Hagedorn and Shange’s unique collaborations adopted what Shange termed “felt architectures”:sensorial spaces that center female intimacies and resistance through sound, touch, sight, and dance (Shange x). Mapping these felt spaces, where Hagedorn and Shange’s coupled performances contend with gender, sexuality, and race, this article analyzes their intimacies intertwined in the productions of for colored girls (1975) and their lesser known traveling cabaret performance where the mississippi meets the amazon (1978). Apryl Berney’s article “In the Basement: AfroAsian Teenage Female Alliances in Post-War America”focuses on the Afro-Filipino collaborations between singers Etta James and Sugar Pie DeSanto. Drawing from Gayle Theresa Johnson’s ideas of “spatial entitlement,” Berney’s article argues how girls in interracial music groups in the 1950s“used technology, creativity, and sonic spaces to construct new collectivities across racial and ethnic lines” in the Bay Area (Berney 1). Building off of Berney’s constructive work, this article uses the term “felt architectures” to examine how the “Satin Sisters” constructed these sites of intersubjective intimacy in their poetic performances by layering their voices on top of one another, giving eye contact, and ultimately alluding to each other in their poems, which were written as homages to one another. As playwright and former for colored girls actress Laurie Carlos explains, “[for colored girls] developed through an interracial, organic process of creating work from ritual, in which looking at each other, and loving each other in performance was as important as the words and the movement” (Dolan). Through their intersubjective aesthetics the “Satin Sisters” created, this article seeks to theorize and index the possibility of political Afro-Filipino women’s friendships within these theater spaces as acts of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2766-0265
Print ISSN
0007-8549
Pages
pp. 132-150
Launched on MUSE
2021-01-01
Open Access
No
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