Drag queen Bella Muerte returns with Pride in the Blood, a playlist honoring their Native American heritage. Read their essay and listen to their playlist below.
I am currently back in my home state of North Dakota, and this week has been a rather eventful one. Tuesday saw our state primaries for the 2018 elections, where our current Congressional Representative, Kevin Cramer, a spineless sycophant, secured his party nomination to oppose our incumbent Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp. Kelly Armstrong, a State Senator, has obtained the GOP’s nomination to run for the House of Representatives, despite his racist, anti-indigenous advertisements and heavily anti-immigration platform. Tuesday was also the second anniversary of the Pulse shooting, the deadliest mass shooting in recent history and an incredibly vile display of the hatred that is still so pervasive against the LGBT+ community.
However, this weekend brings with my hometown of Bismarck’s Pride celebrations, where our rather small population can find community and welcome queer people from all over the state. I will also be travelling to Twin Buttes, a small town on the Fort Berthold Reservation, to celebrate at the Twin Buttes Powwow. We will be singing, dancing, celebrating, what it is to be native in this modern world, keeping traditions alive even as they try to destroy us. We will be honouring the memory of Edwin Benson, the last fluent speaker of the Mandan language who sadly passed in 2016. Our language is now classed as extinct, but we are working hard to revive it. Languages cannot ever truly die in these connected times, only rest.
These times we live in today are absolutely terrifying. There is no way to sugarcoat it. We have white supremacists in the White House, Nazis in the streets. Five Nations Arts, a store that has been a cultural landmark of the city of Mandan, ND and that showcased works from indigenous artists from all over the region is being forced out of its location, replaced with a beer hall, because of the racism that has become more and more outspoken and open in our state since the 2016 #NoDAPL protests ended. We have an increasingly militarized police force conducting extrajudicial killings against people of color with impunity. There are attempts at creating laws legalizing the murder of protestors, because freedom of speech and freedom of assembly only means freedom of hate speech. I look around, and I no longer recognize my country. Her corpse is courted along as a broken trophy for those whose God is Power and Greed.
I have always lived on the fringe of the common society, a outsider always looking in, never quite belonging anywhere. I have at many points in my life felt nothing but hatred, shame, anger, and fear because of my identity as a queer indigenous person in a world that would rather I be dead, invisible. I have spent many nights awake, crying, praying that I could be different, anything else, normal, whatever that means. But I have learned to dance in the fires of hell, to use them as fuel for my ambition. I have learned to love every aspect of myself, all the strange and weird parts that have always set me apart. I have learned to love my queerness, for it fills me with love. I have learned to love my indigenous heritage, for I am of the blood of the strongest of my ancestors, and I will be able to survive any trials this life throws at me. My ancestors have survived worse. I have learned to find the beauty in the darkness in the world around me, to find happiness in the smallest moments. It is difficult at times to remember this, but I try. I try to remember, to grow, to become better, to make amends.
This world has always wanted me to be silent. For me to hide in shame. I will not let it.
I am indigenous.
I am queer.
I, too, am America.
“Americans” is easily my favourite song from Janelle Monáe’s most recent album Dirty Computer. A reminder to keep dancing and to keep the love alive. A sermon that moves to tears.
I will forever be an Azealia Banks apologist, as she is a queer black woman navigating a world that would denounce her for misstepping even as they excuse a white man who repeatedly acts in ever more egregious ways. Though at times she has been wrong, she always apologises, and her points are often very well-founded. You cannot deny her talent.
Brooke Candy and her Fag Mob were one of my first stepping stones into the world of the underground scene from my home in the middle of nowhere. She also has a lot of missteps, but I admire her artistic vision, and this track, though incredibly pop and unlike a lot of her prior work, is a beautiful anthem to self-empowerment.
Iskwé is of mixed Cree, Dené, and Irish heritage. She has pale skin, blue eyes, but grew up raised by her mother’s side, the native side. Her music seeks to bridge the gap she felt between both sides of her identity. As native people, we must walk with one foot in the past, one in the future, a tightrope walk impossible to navigate. She marries tradition with the modern, this song a gorgeous circle dance and ode to community. Wii do kaaw way Anishinaabe.
SOPHIE’s work is surreal, and this is perhaps one of the lightest tracks she has produced. Nostalgic and playful, a summer lived through rose-tinted lenses.
“Electric Chapel” has always been one of my favourite Gaga tracks. For many queer people, the club is indeed our church, a place of healing, of love, of beauty. It is there where many of us first find acceptance. Where we first see queer people embracing themselves and loving one another without fear. These spaces are necessary and we will always find safety in them, no matter how they may try to terrify us to stay out of them.