Kenya (Robinson)

I am not a nice girl. I resist the performed ignorance of whiteness and reject blackness-as-victimhood; y’all know what you’re doing and we are strong as hell. My femininity and blackness is a suit of armor, a purple velvet cocktail dress, a Tyvek paint suit and a pair of Hanes Her Way period panties, all rolled into one.  There was time where I longed for the conventional, happily applying a packaged set of expectations to my life. But I kept “accidentally” missing the turn at the next light, or oversleeping, or dining on my own foot and getting kicked out of the members only club.  For sure I wanted to do the “right” thing, because I was raised “right” – all southern fried and sanctified – groomed to be a college educated professional.  But then I dropped out of college and moved to Los Angeles, imagining that I might be a fashion designer, or something more interesting than Gainesville Florida.  At Los Angeles Trade Technical College, I did in fact become a fashion designer. A “nice” one – lots of big & tall menswear, swimsuit cover-ups for elderly ladies, American Apparel skivvies and bedazzled Marc Ecko polo shirts.  I was working for mass-market manufacturers, whose ultimate goal was a Wal-Mart account, while my ultimate goal was to live a chocolate version of Sex In The City.

I am not a nice girl, nor am I chocolate (obvs), but I am the type that will apply to an MFA program without an undergraduate degree, just to see what happens.  And, for my first grad school critique, I’ll re-fashion a scrub brush with synthetic blonde hair, and wash the floor with it muttering, “all them fairytale bitches had to work!”  Or I’ll couch surf for 13 weeks; call it Art, and then dare you dismiss the performances of domesticity executed by my hosts.  I’ll then make a wearable framework of PVC piping, shroud it in black glitter spandex, give it a drag name and convince friends and strangers to step in inside the box (the booth?) and become CHEEKY LaSHAE: Karaoke Universal.  I’ll even claim a 3½-inch plastic figure, an executive with a briefcase, as my personal totem, using its assumed white male privilege to remind me of my own. I’ll join an old-made-made-new obsession with booty shaking (via YouTube vortex) and reframe it with an ass-eye perspective. On my birthday.  Uncle Luke would be proud. And of course, urban fiction is art material – Jesus Be A Lacefront and Baby Daddy Knows Best 3.

Nice girls don’t fart in office chairs.  They don’t critique large-scale sculptures covered in sugar or question online petitions against critic Ken Johnson.  Nice girls aren’t studio squatters or YMCA shower-ers.  They don’t write muthafucka in artist statements.  Nice girls don’t realize that a booking number is mostly a consequence of economic circumstance and skin color, not criminality.  Nice girls don’t resist categorization, nor do they vocalize that the notion of competition between artists is hooey – like comparing apples to orangutans.  But the woman I am is nothing nice.  I actually believe I have an important job to do while in on this planet.  Living a willful life, doing what I most want to do, per Zora, Ida, Audre and Rita and Lindsey.  It feels like a hero’s journey and heroes aren’t nice. They are valiant, truthful, tenacious, teachable, collaborative and resourceful.  Slaying the Minotaur by following a singular thread.  All of my makings and markings and fartings are in fact a string pulled real tight.  On a bow, for the arrow.