Dearest Lovers of Art and Liberation,
THANK YOU so much for visiting the fundraiser for The PleasureNess Literary Academy: Art & Spirit Medicine for Joy, Liberation and Change AND for Oakland SOL. We are so grateful for your interest, your support, and your commitment to PleasureNess, Accessibility, and Liberation in action. Your donation will allow us to develop the SOL Storefront Bathroom to be ADA accessible and the space to be a bit more comfy for community members who rent out the space or attend events we host.
Starting Summer 2019, Oakland SOL, PleasureNess Literary Academy, and so many other organizations and groups (maybe even yours) will begin hosting regular live events, meals, workshops, healing clinics, and more in Oakland SOL's newly accessible space storefront space.
PleasureNess Literary Academy directly supports the joy, liberation, craft and vitality of people in service of humanity, social justice, and the earth through art and spirit centered workshops, coaching, digital media, events and more.
Through our programming, we create restorative, courageous, and critical spaces for the compassionate weirdos, creative queerdos, deliberately non-traditional families, activists, artists, teachers, healers, and tender love spirits of the world to vulnerably explore the fullness of their own humanity, take their craft to the next level of intersectionality and transformative justice, reground in their purpose and liberation- values, and create the change that they want to see in their lives, careers, and the world.
We provide FREE digital media that not only explores how centering joy can be an act of decolonization, but that supports people as they explore how to apply the intentional practice of pleasure, self-compassion, and accountable self-reflection to their own liberation practices. Our digital media features the vulnerable and nuanced stories of people whose bodies, identities, histories and life-experiences are excluded from, sensationalized by, or harmed via mainstream media.
We believe that art – when flowered with the audacious bloom of love, watered with intentional joy and kindness, and seeded with an intersectional lens of liberation – heals hurt, saves lives, and creates a kinetic and tangible love energy that we all deserve and that our liberation movements absolutely need.
PleasureNess Literary Academy Components:
An upcoming Event that we're so excited about is the 2019 Ugly Conference.
The Ugly Conference is a free, intimate, day-long event full of facilitated discussions, performances, panels, and activities dedicated to unpacking ugliness as systemic disenfranchisement, white supremacy, colonial violence, capitalist exploitation, rape-culture, and more. We hope that this will be an opportunity to learn about the work others are doing to combat the oppressive history and impact of the ugly-beauty binary; to explore the intersections and commonalities in our personal stories of heartache, healing, resistance, and resilience; and to imagine creative solutions, societal interventions, and other steps forward.
The entire event will be video-recorded and edited to preserve the incredible stories, art, and ideas generated; to share them with community who couldn't be in attendance; to generate critical interest and excitement about this conversation; to apply for funding for research; and to begin the process of creating Ugly Conference 2020: The First Big Discussion.
Following the event and upon receiving funding, PleasureNess Literary Academy will host individual and small group story-based interviews to document an authentic and intersectional narrative. This narrative will be used to generate writing, art, funding, and other resources to bring about awareness, search for solutions, and create Ugly Conference 2020.
Why Does PleasureNess Matter?
We deserve to FULLY enjoy our lives WHILE we interrupt behaviors, systems, and ideologies of oppression. PleasureNess believes that a supported, interdependent, and community driven practice of joy and pleasure - the kind that doesn’t rely on the capitalist exploitation of other people or the land - helps our liberation movements thrive, and our artists and service workers grow in capacity, creativity, and imagination.
We absolutely want to help change the world to help foster societies where we can ALL access our needs and desires, to de-popularize the mechanisms and mentalities of oppression, and we want it to feel as good as possible in the process.
More than anything, we want to do it with the love, support, and the blessing of community. For now, that mostly looks like financial support.
Who's Involved With PleasureNess?
What Is Oakland SOL – Sustaining Ourselves Locally?
In the industrial concrete landscape of East Oakland, sandwiched between the roaring BART trains and the rumbling stream of traffic on International Boulevard, sits an unlikely earthen oasis where sun-kissed organic tomatoes ripen on vines, neat rows of two-story-high cornstalks and greens await harvest, and plump chickens pick at the ground, oblivious to the urban bustle surrounding them.
Founded in 2003, SOL incorporated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit in January 2018 that shares sustainable practices and promoting social justice through education and community building.
We are a collectively run volunteer organization of 6 members. We work on social justice and food justice by opening our doors to events, hosting urban gardening days, and sponsoring political education through a paid youth summer internship. Our 5,000 square foot organic garden houses eight rotating food plots, an herb spiral, greenhouse, chicken-coop, and natives section, and provides habitat for hummingbirds, a turtle, and countless other urban critters and insects. We host humans as well: community organizations, classes, events, fundraisers that are in line with our vision often use our space. If you are interested in renting our space, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Who Does Oakland SOL Benefit?
Our 3000 (est) square foot storefront hosts upward of 25 external events and workshops a year – predominately for groups who cant afford Oakland's increasingly expensive housing and hosting costs (including spaces that offer community solidarity prices).
We predominately serve QTPOC Community; individual artists, healers, facilitators, groups and non-profits who rent our space; the youth we hire as garden interns and their families to whom they bring home organic food they grew; and Bay Area folks who attend our events and visit our garden.
Once it's accessible for all the PleasureBugs who want to take our courses, Oakland SOL will be PleasureNess's official home – as well as multiple other small Oakland businesses and artists – such as Hella Latina, Afro Diasporic Project, and SO Much More. Our space will finally be ADA accessible to compliment how financially accessible it is.
Now you might be thinking, "Woah Vanessa, thats more than the $12,000 you listed!?"
It's true!!!!! It is more than $12,000, but I'm an optimist, an Aries, and full of hope. Can you help us meet our goals and then some so that we can do some fantastic and phenomenal things in community?
I'm a queer, fat, Black femme woman, activist, writer, performance artist, educator, conjuror, love witch, and Faerie Mermaid Gangsta for the Revolution from South Central, Los Angeles.
I live to laugh, play, have deep conversations, watch people shine, and think critically about how humans build joyful and loving relationships with each other and the world around them. I was bullied severely as a child and, as a result, most of my creative work is dedicated to eradicating how we internalize social hierarchies, prejudice, hatred, and superiority as well as creating more fun, nuanced, and healing depictions of people to often caricaturized into stereotype.
I grew up Christian and have retained a lot of those values (especially generosity, mutual aide, the possibility of miracles, love, and forgiveness), but I primarily practice an animistic spirituality today and identify as a love witch and a conjuror.
In regards to PleasureNess Literary Academy: Arts Education for Liberation and Change – I have been doing this work throughout my entire creative and professional career. As a child, it's what kept me alive. As an adult, its whats allowed me to grow, heal, and forgive. As an artists, it's what motivated me to keep creating. And now, I'm excited to centralize it all through this amazing program and develop it to include so many other artists, healers, creators, and dreamers.
*~Student | Dreamer | Activist~*
While I was pursuing my MFA in Creative Writing at Mills College, I was consistently told by students and teachers alike that my writing was too didactic, that it was more interested in educating and teaching people than in being aesthetic. I struggled to understand the critique because I found their reflection to be absolutely true. I loved writing and wanted to become a better writer, but I wanted to do it so that I could work to eradicate the cultural myths and attitudes that made life so difficult living while growing up as a queer and weird dark-skinned fat girl in South Central, Los Angeles. I wanted to create literature that invited people to explore their own mental health and prejudice, the way they treated others and why, and how that was informed by their access personal freedom and social training. I wanted to unpack joy and how to derive it from liberation and not at the expense of each other. I wanted to see characters who looked and thought like me, and who dealt with similar and dynamically different struggles as me, taking up erotic and fantastical space, fighting domestic violence and demons from outer space, cracking jokes and exploring their magical powers, making queer love and stripping themselves from lathers and layers of the gender binary.
But because my interest were so overtly connected to social justice, I struggled to understand craft and aesthetics as separate. Similar to how it was difficult for me to separate my Blackness from my queerness, or my sensuality from my intellectual expression. I needed a creative and academic program that created craft around the intersections, that recognized creativity and intellectuality as deeply integrated, that understood art as a quintessential tool for self-exploration, social justice, and processed catharsis. Most importantly, that knew how to meet me where I was at and introduce me to the writers and tools that would help me grow. Isn't that why most of us go to school?
While I did graduate from my MFA program, I did it purely due to the grace of my professors. My true learning happened when the program was over and I entered the classroom as a Community College Instructor and started thinking about the writings I wanted to teach and how I wanted to teach them. It was here, in the midst of action, leadership, and space-creation that I realized why I struggled academically. My educational experience was not created for people like me. I doubt my educational experience was even created for the professors who taught me, as we students frequently caught glimpses of their own institutional dismay. I started to see myself through the needs of my students, and as I worked to fulfill them, I better understood what was needed for my own academic and creative experience.
*~Educator | Theorist~*
My first teaching gig was at the College of Alameda, where I worked with an amazing cohort of culturally diverse English Instructors and Counselors to create the school's first Intercultural Learning Community. The class I taught was called AMANDLA, which means Power in the Nguni Language of southern Africa. This class worked to integrate Afro-diasporic Culture, basic skills reading and writing, and the development of self-esteem and self-efficacy.
I quickly realized that many of my students would not be able to thrive in the academic setting until they learned to heal from the institutional and systemic trauma they and their relatives incurred during their formative academic experiences. Further, I saw how this trauma was connected to so many other trauma's: gender based violence that conditioned some students to believe their voice wasn't valuable or worthy, historical violence that lead many students to believe that there was no room for them to thrive in the world - degree or not, self-suppression and insecurity that lead students to fear others seeing how uniquely brilliant and dynamic they were, and so much more. I realized my first job was to create a space rooted in developing self-esteem and efficacy, to ensure that my students encountered media that was a reflection of their experiences and lives, and to center & integrate their wisdom and emotional intelligence into the class structure and space.
I did this by allowing myself to show up full, whole, and vulnerably - by bringing my authenticity as a quirky queer Black femme invested in social justice into the classroom, by bringing my joy as a person who absolutely loves giggling, audacity, and storytelling into the way that I facilitated, and by bringing my passion for theater, collaboration, and self-inquiry into the way I designed curriculum and lesson plans.
Because I always hated the traditional way power and authority were wielded in the classroom and I do not like to lecture or fuss, l to chose give up traditional notions of authority to embrace an emergent leadership model that recognized the divine, brilliance, and leadership in all of my students. I encouraged them to be accountable to each other's ability to enjoy and learn in the space we shared together, to hold themselves to standards of excellence our system rarely expects of Black and Brown working class people, and to imagine what an empowering and pleasure-filled academic experience could be for them. This meant my classroom was alive; was informed by students needs for healing, connection, and understanding; was rich with socio-political discourse and emotional processing; was full of creativity and newness; and was lush with laughter and joyful expression.
Eventually, my students began recommending their romantic partners, parents, siblings, cousins, children, friends, and colleagues to take my classes. My classroom was the place to be and I loved it – except for one little thing. I hated working for a college. I hated working for the system. I hated having to qualify my students experiences with grades as opposed to creating holistic opportunities for them to grow and explore. I hated the limitations that working at a state school imposed on me, on my creativity, on the way I carried myself as a teacher and my personal freedom, and on the literature and media to which I exposed my students.
I wanted to teach, to really teach, to teach in a way that could transform lives and communities. And though many of my students say that I did, working through the school system felt like a soul-sucking limitation and I was constantly reminded of that with nearly every faculty or administrative experience I had. For a while, I committed myself to changing the system, but it was dampening my creativity, my imagination, and my love for teaching. Soon, I got the opportunity to teach in a different way.
*~Writer | Editor~*
My dear friend Mia McKenzie, author of The Summer We Got Free, reached out for feedback on an article she was working on. So impressed with my feedback, she offered me the opportunity to part time edit for Black Girl Dangerous. This position eventually lead to become the Co-Managing Editor for Everyday Feminism. I loved both of these positions so much!! I got to work with QTPOC writers of all different skill-levels and backgrounds on work and idea that united a whole generation of people across the internet. I worked with writers who were undocumented and disabled, who wrote openly about HIV and their experience in the prison industrial complex, who unpacked beauty and desire, who explored asexuality and rape culture, who spoke up about assault and micro-aggressions, who wrote from South Africa to India to Great Britain and it was so spiritually invigorating.
This work gave me the opportunity to really illustrate my love for writers, to support them in making sure their ideas were strong and conveyed in compelling and loving ways, to help generate the literature I was desperately looking for, and to coach people with the attentiveness and care that I craved from my college and graduate school professors. Even more exciting, I was writing, publishing, and helping other people publish the sort of writing that I was critiqued for in graduate school - and these writings were read by thousands and sometimes millions of people.
I realized that the world was hungry for what I was hungry for, and all we needed was to create space and opportunity for folks to consume it. For me, my graduate school experience was a constant repetition of what writers did and did not do. But as a teacher and editor, I got the opportunity to support writers, students, and thinkers figure out how to do what THEY wanted to do and how to do it well.
*~Playwright | Performer | Director | Producer | Visionary~*
For a while, working at Everyday Feminism offered me stability that I couldn't find as a Community College Instructor. At the college, I had to teach multiple classes at multiple colleges, and still could barely afford to survive in the expensive Bay Area. But, at EF, I finally got the opportunity to have stable working hours and income. This allowed me to once again think about my passions, my growth as an artists, and the work I wanted to do in community. I reached out to friends and created an organization called Congregation of Liberation, CooL for short. CooL was comprised of queer and trans, Black, multi-disciplinary artists invested in Black Queer Liberation. I supported our group to create theatrical vignettes, performance art, movement, and story telling to explore how Black queers heal themselves from the impact of intergenerational trauma and internalized racism. While the creation experience was rife with difficult learning curbs, forcing me to explore myself in ways that I did not anticipate, the art we created was phenomenal and I got a lifetime's worth of growth and self-reflection. The artists I worked with got to experience themselves potently, openly, and belovedly on stage and our audience laughed, cried, and swooned alongside us.
Later, facilitated by myself and my frequent collaborator and muse Ifasina, ThaHood AlKemist, who is a director for the Young Women's Freedom Center, Congregation of Liberation produced a second show and workshop called, "Black Rage\\Black Magic." We created this around the time that Black Lives Matter was visibly taking up space and creating very critical dialogue. As performance artists, Black Rage\\Black Magic was our way of participating in the dialogue. In this 15 week workshop, we combined artistic, expressive, and embodiment modalities to support queer Black people delve deep into the texture and narratives of their rage to find the healing and magical gems of understanding. We mined our hurt for healing, and used playwriting and theater to transcribe that healing into artistic medicine to nurture the healing of our communities, our friends, and our loved ones. We were blessed enough to witness people who'd never performed before share their words, their bodies, their hopes, and their vulnerabilities on stage.
This is the kind of magic we will be creating with PleasureNess Literary Academy.
- Written facebook statuses, articles, videos, and images that were shared thousands of times on social media
- Femmceed the San Francisco Dyke March in 2017, the 5th biennial Money for Our Movements: A Social Justice Fundraising Conference in Baltimore, This Is What Queer Love Looks Like (an event I co-created for Queer Youth alongside Our Space - Hayward in Baltimore, Queer Rebels of the Harlem Renaissance, and Peacock Rebellion's Brouhaha - Social Justice Stand Up Comedy
- Given keynotes at UC DAVIS, California Institute for Integral Studies, Notre Dame de Namur University, and other smaller and localized events
- Hosted Culture Fuck (A sex-positive, love based, QTPOC-centered open pic) for 7 years and performed at hundreds of other Bay Area readings, open-mics, book releases, queer cultural center events, and other interdisciplinary performances
- Co-founded Deviant Type Press with by best friend and helped publish a book
- Taught at Community Colleges for over 7 years
- Toured the West Coast as a poet with Sister Spit and The Poetic Liberation Collective, and
- Facilitated an abundance of workshops, such as anti-oppression trainings for non-profits and universities, to radical flirting and confidence workshops I co-designed with Shreya Shah of Saltwater Trainings, to medicinal writing and healing workshops, to digital writing and viral-article trainings online.
In the midst of all this, I finally realized that I finally found my creative path and work: creating spaces, resources, and opportunities for myself and other healing artists to learn, express, and (he)art more joy, liberation, and creative strategy into the world. We use art, entertainment, connection and education to shift our culture towards centering caring and joy, which leads to intentional and strategical collective liberation.
With this mission in mind and the encouragement and support of so many loved ones, I eventually created the project that has lead to this Kickstarter Campaign.
Thank you SO much for your love, support, and generosity!
Risks and challenges
The calendar will be shipped before February 1st. For orders after February 1st, they will be shipped every Friday starting the 2nd Friday of February.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (60 days)