An End of an Era – MichFest’s Last Year

Remember when you could have a GO! Magazine on your table and not get chastised?
Well, this past weekend, at the LGBT Rainbow Book Fair, I’m tabling for Lambey Press, and up walks a blonde author, finding me, the one of three black women tabling (two of which were at my table, including me). This person approached, I hope attempting to flirt. Instead,  I was given something of a non-consensual spanking. From this deep voice, I was chastised. By a “trans-masculine” identified author, because I had a GO! Magazine on my table, I was shamed.

Apparently GO! Magazine had a full-page Michigan ad inside.
Why had the verbal rapist even known that?

For days, I was plagued by words exchanged. Fists wrapped around our own books, we smiled at each other, disagreeing, but not holding back, each exchange, their body moving closer to my table, me backing off. Wanting to convince this person of the Michigan I know, instead I found the horns they’d painted onto me, through their fire-red gaze.
“What would a young trans-woman of color feel if they tried to go on the land? I’d fear for her safety!” They retorted this, trying to play the race card.

“Which young trans-women of color would be gearing up to go to Michigan? Does she even know about it? I doubt your fictional token youngster will care very much about the $500 trip to the woods. She may have other concerns.” That was my response. But I didn’t like it – being placed into this world of the hypothetically oppressed.

I should have said, “Fuck off, white boy – go fraternize with your own!”
I should have said, “Have you ever even been to Michigan?”
I should have said, “Please back away from my table, you anti-community FBI plant, placed here to ensure we have nothing!

And I woke up this morning, three days later, knowing we were at an end.
An end of an era of community distancing – the closing of spaces, the complete destruction of women, genocide. Who is a lesbian? What is a woman? This is indeed an end.

Thank you Lisa for your reaching. We will see what comes next, now.

Screenshot 2015-04-21 18.57.10———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival <Michigan_Womyn_s_Music_Festival@mail.vresp.com>
Date: Tue, Apr 21, 2015 at 6:29 PM
Subject: Letter from Lisa Vogel
To: shawntasmith@gmail.com

Dear Sisters, Amazon, Festival family,

It has been my honor and privilege to produce the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival for 40 years.  It has been my life’s work, my deepest commitment, my constant challenge and my most profound joy.  Every single thing of value I have learned in the world I have learned in the process of being part of building this beloved community.  Almost every friend and family member who I cherish I have met on that hallowed ground, and every single way I have learned to put my mind/heart/shoulder into the purpose of creating something beautiful that honors womyn has come from the sweat I earned on that Land.

I am writing to tell you that the 40th Festival will be the last Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival.  The spirit of this community will live on forever, the friends and family we have found on the Land are eternal.  Everything we have created together will feed the inspiration for what comes next.  It’s possible that I will come back with something else, or that other sisters will take the inspiration of the Michigan community and create the next expression of our Amazon culture.  What is true for me is that now is the time to bring this 40-year cycle to a close, stepping out on joy at our most incredible anniversary celebration.

We have known in our hearts for some years that the life cycle of the Festival was coming to a time of closure.  Too often in our culture, change is met only with fear, the true cycle of life is denied to avoid the grief of loss.  But change is the ultimate truth of life. Sisters – I ask you to remember that our 40 year Festival has outlived nearly all of her kin.  She has served us well.  I want us all to have the opportunity to experience the incredible full life cycle of our beloved Festival, consciously, with time to celebrate and yes, time to grieve.

There have been struggles; there is no doubt about that.  This is part of our truth, but it is not–and never has been–our defining story.  The Festival has been the crucible for nearly every critical cultural and political issue the lesbian feminist community has grappled with for four decades.  Those struggles have been a beautiful part of our collective strength; they have never been a weakness.

For many of us this one week in the woods is the all too rare place and time where we experience validation for our female bodies, and where the female experience presides at the center of our community focus.  A place to lay our burden down from the misogyny that pervades our lives from cradle to grave…a place to live in intergenerational community, and to live in harmony with Mother Earth.  I know this is true for me.  And I have a deep trust that each and every one of us can take what we have experienced on that Land and continue to create space that feeds our spirit, creates diverse community, honors our experience and supports our struggle as womyn making our way through the patriarchal world. Please take what you love about Michigan and use it to create something new and beautiful.

It is important that each and every one of us knows she is empowered to build on what we have experienced together on the Land. Everything you feel on the Land, everything you see – is something of spirit, and love, and passion for female empowerment….for womyn’s community.  The Festival’s 40 years of culture and community are a powerful seed and our communal experiences have created fertile ground to plant in. I know that we will find inspiration and vision to create our next time and space.

For those of us who will be gathering for our 40th anniversary this August – let’s joyously hold up our incredible community and allow ourselves to be strong enough to consciously let go of this incarnation of her, with all the love we each hold in our beautiful hearts. Let us gather this August knowing that what we truly cherish about the Festival lives on in each of us, and more will come from this fertile ground.  Let’s do this up together – Amazon proud!

I will meet you there in August – my eyes meeting yours, heart wide open.

With all of my love and respect,
Lisa

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