Guys. Let’s talk about how SUCKY I’ve been at updating you about my time in Asia. Actually, let’s talk about how wack Tumblr’s new interface is when it comes to bypassing VPN. But I digress.
I have so many stories to share with you about my travels through China, and also Hong Kong, the Philippines, South Korea, and Thailand, many of which will come in the next chapter of La Vie de DRZZL when I move to Washington DC in June.
In the meantime, please enjoy my douchey photo adorning the flyer for my show tonight at the University of Oregon. Jetlag ensues. I love you all!
My eyes jetted to Dahlak and Nico from beside me onstage, cold drips of sweat lining up along my forehead like a nervous frontline under the hot stage lights. We were halfway through “An Old White Man Named God Told Me Not To Say Fuck,” a performance poem that’s typically met with roaring laughter and cheers. But this morning at Columbia University, in front of this crowd of 1,200, the response was lukewarm…to say the least.
And who could blame them? For many, the East Coast Asian American Student Union spring conference is a place for serious college organizers to gather, share strategies for fighting institutional oppression, and develop a community agenda for the ensuing year. But let’s keep it real. When you get college students from over 75 campuses together for a weekend in New York City – and they’re all staying in the same hotel – the last thing anyone wants to open the morning after the first night with is poetry.
After the ten minute set that felt much much longer, we sat like deflated in the green room. None of us had gotten any sleep the night before, I was still jetlagged from China, and at 11am we still had two workshops, a meet-and-greet, and another performance ahead of us. Sitting there, I pondered what life would be like if this day marked the last time the group known as iLL-Literacy performed. After all, the last couple of years only brought a couple of bookings here and there…budget cuts to student of color organizations made sure of that. By now, I hadn’t been onstage in six months, and hadn’t shared it with iLL-Lit for even longer than that. We hoisted our backpacks over our shoulders and made the long march to the room where we were to hold our workshops. But after that flat performance, we were sure no one would show up, and we were doomed to three hours of awkward smalltalk.
My eyes again jetted at Dahlak and Nico, this time twice as wide as they were this morning. OH SHIT! Apparently, lunchtime makes a difference! The crowd of morning zombies were replaced by a couple hundred bustling bodies, perking up as we walked into the packed room. A sudden rush of energy possessed us, and we breezed through the workshops like they were daily ritual. Agendas were set! Experiences were shared! Friends were made! By the end of our sessions, all my morning woes had been swapped with an aching to get back onstage.
Back in the auditorium that evening, the difference between day and night had never felt realer. It’s difficult to describe the high that comes with a performance where every line hits, every hand in the audience is up, and you can’t even keep track of the words leaving your mouth because you’re possessed by the moment. It’s a feeling I’ve had every time I’ve been honored with the chance to take an ECAASU stage, and one that felt all the much sweeter by my extended absences from my favorite friends and my favorite city.
Sitting on the plane back to Beijing, it didn’t matter that I was squished in the back, or that my legs were cramped, or that there was a baby who promised to wail for the next 13 hours. I had gotten my hit. A show like that is an artist’s nirvana. I’ll be riding this wave for awhile.
PS: Glad to let you know that we’ve gotten 10+ booking requests since then! Fingers crossed for more gushy iLL-Lit posts in April.
Special thanks to Efal Sayed for the fantastic photos!
I’ve been traveling the world, but still there is nowhere more exotic to me than Middle America. I hopped a flight from Beijing to Sioux Falls, South Dakota to rendezvous with iLL-Literacy for a show at Northern State University. This excursion only sounds mildly exhausting until I inform you that Sioux Falls is a four hour drive away from Aberdeen, the airport I was supposed to fly into. Who knew South Dakota was such a big state?