The seats were filled, the stage was empty and a cross-media performance was set to invite the audience into a “productive, provocative, and inspiring conversation about the current state of class and its intersection with gender, race, and sexuality,” according to the program.
Based in San Francisco, Sister Spit is a lesbian and feminist spoken word and performance art collective whose work ranges from poetry and storytelling to singing and film-making. Founded in 1994 by co-directors Sini Anderson and Michelle Tea, the performance group is currently wrapping up the second half of its 2012 national tour.
Showcasing six gender-diverse performers, Sister Spit took the stage at the Porter/Kresge dining hall on April 4. Among the acts were readings of love poems about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) empowerment, stories of atypically-typical family dynamics and a blog entry about calling an insemination clinic for the first time.
Merrill College’s Lionel Cantú Queer Center, an LGBT student resource center on campus, organized the event. The center’s program coordinator, Tam Welch, said the importance of the group’s visit to UC Santa Cruz lay in its “dedication to class consciousness.”
“Our work done on campus is about creating a community or an identity for students. A subject often missed is the dialogue through class consciousness,” Welch said. “The idea of looking at and organizing a community through the lens of class consciousness is where different coalitions are created, and I think that’s one thing that Sister Spit offers.”
The performers used various approaches to merge themes of identity and class. Michelle Tea, for example, discussed the unusual process of working with members from the insemination clinic, dealing with the costs and difficulties of communicating the interaction with her partner.
Among the performers was Brontez Purnell, who used charisma and humor to merge the realms of class and sexuality in his fictional anecdote, “Blackout.” Purnell’s character intertwined class and sexuality by stating several rules, including the claim that “not having sex with someone for not having a house [was] discrimination.”
The event ended with a well-received performance by New York Times bestselling author Dorothy Allison. She embarked her readers on an erotically intimate experience of having sex with another woman, “frog-fucking” as she put it, as well as briefing a segment on being harassed by an individual carrying a bat, assaulting her with the word “faggot.” Allison’s sharp Southern accent and deeply emotional reading commanded the attention of audience members, bringing them to their feet for applause.
Following the performance, students were able to meet with members of Sister Spit and received autographed versions of books and other works written by the group’s members. Fourth-year literature major Sarah Deicke said the performance’s focus on a “distinct community” made her feel more human.
“Being an LGBT ally, I think I gained a better appreciation and understanding of the LGBT community from the performance,” Deicke said. “It makes me more empathetic toward others, and even if we don’t understand each other completely, I think we can gain something by trying.”
Sister Spit will continue their 2012 national tour with a stop at UC Santa Barbara, before making their way north through Washington.