Anayelsi Velasco-Sanchez | Artist & Organizer
My first SonicFeminista interview, and I’m over 20 minutes late, but it’s my first time in D.C and thankfully, AnaYelsi is completely understanding. (Apparently, “Sunday Times” is an international philosophy for all mass transportation.)
I first heard of AnaYelsi Velasco-Sanchez through “Secret Lives of Feministas.” A fitting name for all those times I felt feminism didn’t fit through one POV and that I couldn’t possibly be the only person to feel this way. I had no idea there was such an open and welcoming community of latina feminists. On the Facebook group, started by the artist and organizer from “The Reformation Project,” AnaYelsi Velasco-Sanchez, you come across activists, scientists, bloggers, journalists and many more people from various backgrounds. Unlike other FB groups i’ve encountered, this one actually responds to my random posts, and seems to take an interest in how I create my identity as a latina feminist. So much so that members from this group have started to meet and are actual friends who encourage each other to explore the many facets of the Latina Feminist identity.
Anayelsi’s online group and website, Brown-Eyed Amazon, has gathered groups from mixed backgrounds who identify with the feminist movement. AnaYelsi herself is a christian artist and activist “who works to change the way churches think and act when it comes to the LGBT community by training Christians to support and affirm lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. ”
I obviously had to meet the woman who started this online community and who encouraged my SonicFeminista project.
My first step was to randomly out-of-the-blue email her (beware fellow Latina feminists I will probably be doing this to you too) about my site and what I wanted it to be. She eagerly responded and was quick to work out a schedule, she being in DC (salvi central) and me in NYC. Luck would have it, this summer brought me to DC and I had a breakfast date with the founder of Brown-Eyed Amazon.
Read our Conversation Below:
WHEN DID YOU REALIZE YOU HAD FORMED A COMMUNITY AND WHAT WAS YOUR RESPONSE?
I think i realized secret lives of feminists had really solidified as a community when people started showing that ongoing support for one another, where it’s not just a place for fellowship or relationship, but where it’s a chance for latinas who don’t normally get their efforts and their work the recognition they deserve in mainstream media. Suddenly, in this space, people were doing that for one another.
One day someone posts hey I just did this incredible series, hey I just worked on this incredible project-and next thing you know, people are pushing out through tweets. These people are congratulating and sharing like affirmation, offering opportunities to participate in one another’s work. That to me was when it really looked like as a community.
WAS YOUR IDENTITY REINFORCED OR AMPLIFIED BY THE WORK YOU DID?
Reinforced? absolutely, but Definitely amplified and I think deepened. I’ve mentioned how I’ve had self-doubt about my validity as a latina and part of that is from no longer being spanish-speaking, part of that is from colonized and being displaced from Venezuela, and feeling separate from my own community. And suddenly I was part of a group where I feel fully embraced by these people and it’s encouraged me to push deeper and to start questioning things things that I have just accepted as being lost to me. And they’re not lost to me, they just take a lot of effort and time and relationship to retrieve, but they’re not lost and that group has helped me realize that.
WHAT IS THE LEAST RECONCILABLE ASPECT OF YOUR TWO COMPETING BELIEFS?
Well my challenge would be that these are not competing beliefs. I would say, a patriarchal white-centric christianity that’s sold here in the United States – That’s contrary and competing with my identity and my beliefs. But christianity in of itself, I would argue, is not, its reinforced, its strengthened me. There are incredible stories in scripture, of women, women of color- women who are in marginalized groups being strong and empowered doing phenomenal things, culture shifting things. We don’t talk about them in the church. so for me its not competing, it encourages me.
DO YOU GIVE PRIORITY TO ONE BELIEF OVER ANOTHER IN CERTAIN SITUATIONS?
Yes. I wouldn’t say I give priority to a belief, I would say I give priority to an identity. So, for example, In The Secret Lives of the Feministas group, I am very cognizant of the fact that we have a group of women who identify, or represent a broad collection of beliefs. So not everyone in that group is christian or even a person of faith, not everyone in that group is english speaking-only, like I am. Everyone doesn’t identify as feminist, for some that word has horrible connotation or is painful or isn’t fully grasping how they identify. I’m very aware of that in conversation. I’m not going to come into that space starting things with “so, in church this morning, this is what we talked about-and through that lens I want to discuss the following” because that’s not going to be approachable for everyone. So, i’ll give priority-I know i said i don’t do that but now I’m saying it, being all things to all people bringing a part of myself that are most necessary to make connections, and those are different parts in different spaces.
WHAT KINDS OF COMPROMISES HAVE YOU MADE TO MAINTAIN A LEVEL OF AUTHENTICITY IN YOUR WORK OR OVERALL MESSAGE?
I definitely have a reputation in all of the circles that I move in of being very outspoken and being unapologetic about what I think and what i believe, and sometimes thats a compliment and sometimes that’s an accusation – but I think, for me, the compromise, which has been a healthy one, is realizing that just because I think it, believe it and feel it needs to be said doesn’t mean I’m the one that needs to be saying it and that’s very hard for me. It’s good for keeping me humble and it’s good for maintaining relationships.