“Bodies of the Desert” is a multi-media performance and visual installation by Mai’a Williams that combines poetry, anecdotes, essays and borrowed texts to explore Black traditional life, afrofuturistic pathways and visions toward liberation through the lens of African/European migration experiences.
The performance will be on November 17, 2018, at 6 p.m. at Outpost Winona.
This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts & culture heritage fund.
Mai’a Williams is a writer and poet and lives in the U.S. with her daughter, Theresa. She worked in Quito, Ecuador, in 2014 and 2015 as a journalist for teleSUR English, the global Venezuelan revolutionary news agency. In 2013, she lived in Berlin, Germany, and worked as a writer and editor.
From 2009 through 2013, she was a community organizer and journalist in Cairo before, during and after the Egyptian revolution. In January 2009, she spent three days in Israeli detention with her one-year old daughter during the bombings on Gaza, and after being freed from Israeli jail, she moved to Cairo and organized outreach programs with Sudanese teenage refugees/gang members.
She lived and studied in Chiapas, Mexico, in 2007-08 for six months and attended the Zapatista Women’s Encuentro with her baby daughter. In Minneapolis in 2007, she worked as a doula (birth assistant) for working poor Black American and recent West African refugee young mamas.
In summer 2006, she was a print and radio broadcast journalist for International Middle East Media Center, during the Israeli-Hezbollah war. In autumn 2005, she researched the effects of the war on local communities, especially on woman, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. That year, she also worked on staff as the anti-oppression consultant and training director for a peacemaking organization. In 2004, she lived in Jerusalem, Hebron, and the village of at-Tuwani in the southern Hebron hills, Palestine, accompanying communities under the threat of Israeli military violence.
It was her living and working with Palestinian, Congolese, and Central American indigenous mothers in resistance communities, that initially inspired her to become a mother and continues to guide her as she practices this life-giving work, “radical mothering.”
She is author of two chapbooks of poetry, “No God but Ghosts” and “Monsters and Other Silent Creatures.” She is the instigator of the Outlaw Midwives movement, zines and blog, which shifts the discourse around birth, life, death and healing by offering a vision of radical empowerment and accountability. In 2008, she published the Revolutionary Motherhood anthology zine and the corresponding group blog, a collection of writing and visual art about mothering on the margins, which became the inspiration for “Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines.” Her memoir, “This is How We Survive: Revolutionary Mothering, War, and Exile in the 21st Century” will be published by PM Press in autumn 2018.
In “This is How We Survive: Revolutionary Mothering, War and Exile in the 21st Century,” Williams shares her experiences working in conflict zones and with liberatory, resistance communities as a journalist, human rights worker and midwife in Palestine, Egypt, Chiapas, Berlin, and the U.S. while mothering her young daughter, Aza.
Inspired by the legacy of radical and queer Black feminists of the 1970s and ’80s, “Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines” places marginalized mothers of color at the center of a world of necessary transformation.
The challenges movements face working for racial, economic, reproductive, gender, and food justice, as well as anti-violence, anti-imperialist, and queer liberation are the same challenges that many mothers face every day. Oppressed mothers create a generous space for life in the face of life-threatening limits, activate a powerful vision of the future while navigating tangible concerns in the present, move beyond individual narratives of choice toward collective solutions, live for more than themselves, and remain accountable to a future that we cannot always see.
“No God But Ghosts,” published by Dinah Press 2015, includes poems that are not about the revolutions and uprisings Williams witnessed and participated in. They are in response to living them out. They are a record of how intimate a firefight can be. How hope can be more violent than a bomb.
“Monsters and Other
Silent Creatures” published by Dinah Press 2015, includes poems that were written in response to the Wikileaks video, “Collateral Murder,” which showed an Apache helicopter in Iraq opening fire on civilians, including two Iraqi journalists. This pamphlet explores the paths of war, love, trauma, desire, wanting, distance, and memories through the voices of a U.S. soldier and the lover he leaves behind.
Visit https://www.maiawilliams.net/ to learn more.