Who We Are
We, the project creators, are forever students of queer women of color and indigenous thought, practice, creativity and politic. We are not the first, nor the last. We come from a legacy of teachers. We hold our teachers, and their ancestors, in extremely high regard. Many of them, their wisdom, and their tools will be featured here, directly from and by them.
Samia "Al rayis" Abou-Samra
Co-Founder, CBO (Chief Boat Officer)
Samia is captaining this boat - telling tales and reading stars.
Nia "La Sirena" Witherspoon
Co-Founder, CSO (Chief Song Officer)
Nia is the compass, the music in the sails, providing radical vision and direction.
Will is providing technology support to ensure a good ride.
Interested in collaborating? go ahead, get in touch here.
The Words: Baladé & Black?
Baladé (by Samia)
In many Arabic-speaking communities, the word “baladé” (spelled "baladi" in English) means: homegrown, local, indigenous, of the “country” (as opposed to the city), native, homemade. It also means: my home, my country.
As an adjective, the word “baladé” is traditionally used to refer to local products like fruits, soap, and bread. It is also a word used to describe particular South West Asian and North African (SWANA) rhythmic and dance styles.
When something is baladé, it is health, it is power, it is roots and soul. It is something we already know, and we’ve always known. When something is baladé, it is home.
I am reclaiming the concept of Baladé as a philosophy. One that applies to a way of life rooted in the recovery and preservation of indigenous practices in the SWANA region. It is a concept that will allow us to organize around indigeneity in our own cultural context -- a way to refer to our journeys home in our mother-tongues.
BLACK (BY NIA)
We think we know black because it is jazz and hip-hop and swing and Broadway and twerk and everything U.S. pop culture stole. Or it is bachata and blues and merengue or samba or the konpa dirék. Or the drum. Or the sensuous undulation of our song, body and sound that made everybody want to be cool, but we were always one, two, three, ten steps ahead. Because black is unknowable unless you know. And if you don’t know, now you know.
Some of us in the African diaspora are moving away from the word “black,” either because of aspirations towards a post-racial future, or the term’s violent origins in slavery. But Black is the closest thing we have to a tribe. Our tribe tells the story of our history and struggle, and thus our purpose. We were stripped of name, relation, tribal identity, and spiritual system, but we were given the power to resist annihilation with our tremendous ability to create. They want us to forget black. They want us to forget that we, too, are indigenous. They want us to do their bidding. But we know we have a tribe. And a way, many. And like water, we will drip out of the crevices of this system until it is dry. Black. Black is like the “X” of Malcolm but even more because. It is the source, the darkness, the soil, the night, the female, the womb, the stars, the mystery, the place where we come from. It is from this deeply feared and repressed place that we are crafted, and only from here, that we can find our reasons for being.
Baladé + Black = Baladé Black = BLD.BLK
In the name of Black and Arab solidarity. One that is slowly building.
In the name of reparations.
With an understanding of the massive Arab involvement in slavery, current and past -- the one that weakened the African continent doomed for a Western arrival.
With the vision of intra-indigenous, Baladé Black sharing and recovery. And all the other intra-indigenous South-South connections, because we need each other.
In the name of the Black that has been hidden, forgotten, mis-treated and subjugated by the Arab. In the name of the Black inside the Arab.
Baladé vows to follow Black’s lead, will make Black central.
MASKS CHANGE / ESSENCE REMAINS THE SAME
A. We reserve the right to change what we think, to refine what we believe, to evolve how we do things. We know for a fact that what we believe will shift as we evolve as people and as a company. But, what we believe will never lose its Baladé Black essence.
B. The people we feature may have differing views (masks), but we know we share the same commitment to the Baladé Black vision. We also know that different masks with convergent essences need to have conversations (intergenerational, intercultural, etc.) and that these conversations are important steps towards systemic change.
YOUR SONG = RELATIONSHIPS = LIFE
Your song is your purpose, your place in the world, your gift to it. It also determines the role you play in making and serving community. It is your ultimate wealth. Any system that disallows any soul-filled mechanism from living out their song is a death sentence. As such, we are pro-song. And we are very serious about it.
BEST SOLUTIONS → LEAST VISIBLE = MOST SACRED
Those of us who live in liminal spaces, in the in-betweens, in the cracks, at the interstices of life. Those of us invisibilized by systemic violence. Those of us who live as disciplinary bridges, professional connectors, creatives and the likes. Yes, we often have the most to teach, and the most thoughtful solutions. Remembering that will save our lives.
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