During the Rev Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Symposium on Social Change, 2020, in January, the LGBT Center was honored to host the first of its kind residency with Joshua Whitehead and Demian DinéYazhi’. For two days, Whitehead and DinéYazhi’ helped to facilitate dialogues around Indigeneity and social change as it relates to our current culture and movements of justice and equity.
On the first day, Whitehead and DinéYazhi’ spoke with SP2 students enrolled in the Understanding Social Change: Issues of Race and Gender, and Whitehead read pieces of his fictional work at Kelly Writers House. Later in the afternoon, they had a meeting with the Dean of SP2, Sally Bachman, and held a casual conversation with Indigenous faculty, staff, and students in the Greenfield Intercultural Center. On the second day, Whitehead and DinéYazhi’ read their poetry at a luncheon hosted by the LGBT Center, Greenfield Intercultural Center, and Penn Women’s Center. DinéYazhi’ then met with MFA students in the Fine Arts Department for MFA crits and later joined Whitehead, and Tailinh Agoyo, Director of We Are the Seeds of CultureTrust Philadelphia, for the Mark Gordon Lecture in the evening at Penn Law School.
The residency, titled, “Solidarity NOT Appropriation/Full-Metal IndigiQueer” was generously co-sponsored by The School of Social Policy and Practice, Annenberg School for Communication, Penn Dental Medicine, Penn Women’s Center, Kelly Writers House, Graduate School of Education, Greenfield Intercultural Center, The Department of English in Penn Arts and Sciences, Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies, Alice Paul Center, The Sachs Program for Arts Innovation, Penn Law School, Penn Law Office of Inclusion & Engagement, Penn Law Native American Law Students Association, and Lambda Law of University of Pennsylvania.
Demian DinéYazhi’ is a transdisciplinary Indigenous Diné Nádleehí artist, poet, and curator. Their practice is a regurgitation of purported Decolonial praxis informed by the over accumulation and exploitative supremacist nature of hetero-cis-gendered communities post colonization. They were formed from their mother who is a descendant of sacred beings that came to emerge from this world through the holy act of migration and from a people ceremonially devoted to cosmological harmony and balance. They are a survivor of attempted European-inspired genocide, forced assimilation, White fear, sexual and gender violence, capitalist sabotage, and hypermarginalization in a colonized country that refuses to center their politics and philosophies around the Indigenous Peoples whose Land they occupy. They live and work in a post-post-apocalyptic world unafraid to fail.
(Photo credit: Kali Spitzer)
Joshua Whitehead is an Oji-nêhiyaw, Two-Spirit member of Peguis First Nation (Treaty 1). He is the author of full-metal indigiqueer and Jonny Appleseed. Currently he is an ABD doctoral student at the University of Calgary (Treaty 7) where he focusses on Indigenous literatures and cultures with a specialization in gender and sexuality. His forthcoming book, Making Love with the Land, a creative non-fiction manuscript that details Indigeneity, queerness, and mental health, is slated to release in 2021 with Knopf Canada.