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Mala Forever Magazine
”Miss America” | Issue No. 1
Nov. 2018

Editor’s Note

With the upcoming midterm elections, we’ve been thinking about what it means to be American, and where our power lies as creative womxn with intersectional identities and experiences.

This is the first issue of our new radical feminist digital magazine. The title Miss America is named after Ramya Ramana’s spoken word poem of the same name. We saw Ramya perform this piece at the opening of the People’s Forum in New York City, and she cast a spell on us. We knew that her storytelling and voice perfectly distilled all of the ideas, complexities, struggles and joys of American identity that we wanted to explore for you. We are delighted to share Ramya’s work here, alongside the many brilliant women of color, immigrant, and queer womxn who contributed to this collection.

 Nina Davuluri, Miss America 2014. Wikipedia.

Nina Davuluri, Miss America 2014. Wikipedia.

Miss America

by Ramya Ramana

Ramya Ramana performs her spoken word poem “Miss America” written in response to racist tweets after the announcement of the 2014 Miss America, Nina Davuluri.

Sadly, Ramya’s words feel more relevant than ever.

Tweets after the announcement of the 2014 Miss America, Nina Davuluri:

1. Miss New York is an Indian. With all due respect, this is America.
2. Miss America? You mean Miss 7-11.
3. Congratulations Al-Queda. Our Miss America is one of you.
4. Miss America, foot-long buffalo chicken on whole wheat. Please and thank you.

I’m a first generation Indian American from New York. My family is from South India and we speak one of the 398 living languages in our country called Telugu.

Nina Davuluri is a first generation Indian American from New York. Her family is from South India and they speak one of the 398 living languages in their country called Telugu.

When this soil is all you know,
Do not hesitate to make sand castle out of chest.
When their mouths flail like sneezing guns
At the epitome of your bloodline,
Do not fear the consequence of pulse.
Simply stand firm-staying still is one of the hardest things mankind can do.
Use the esophagus of your eyes as weaponry.Talk to them in chatter box format-
Tell them this soil is yours.
This flag is yours. This birth certificate is yours.

Speak of Caste systems, Speak of Gandhi, Speak of Nehru,
Speak of women being held like Jonah in
Belly of a world that does not speak well of its own body.
When your body becomes a half flashback of the twin towers being bent like scoliosis,
Remind them of all the pelvic bones broken because
Their ancestors wanted to conquer what did not belong to them.

When they say, “You, are a terrorist Nina.”
Say back: “No, we are all the ground you could ever wish to be.”
Say back: “No, this land does not vomit our limbs. It cages them like young child of home.”
Say back: “No, your great grandfathers, raped, killed and
Oppressed every race in the world. You are the biggest terrorists I know.”
People will always tell us that we are not American.
Smile and show all the red waiting to be sprawled out in our gums.
Open our eyes and let the whites of our pupils splash out like volcanoes.
Give our hands tantrum method and let it be known the blues of our veins
Wants to sing its voice like the vocal chords of a
Homeless man who’s been silenced into genocide.
Show them the flag that tattoos its mantras all over your body.
Show them that walk that you do. That Indian thing that you do.
Keep dancing Nina, keep dancing.
Stomp your feet like resurrected rhinos getting shivers to movement.
Do that dance, bring all that motherland you can in here.

When they mock us, keep dancing. When they laugh at us, keep dancing.
When they mold us into animal construction site, do not stop moving your feet.
Let them rise, make them dance with us. Make them do that hip turn with us.
When they hate us, when they kill us, when they terrorize us,
Dance, sing, stomp,
Say “Here’s your foot long buffalo chicken on whole wheat. You’re welcome.”

 

Mixed Girls in Cars Getting Café Con Leche

Talk Show

Move over, Jerry. We’re picking up some badass mixed-race ladies and taking a ride to discuss the life and times of mixed girls in America.

 

Making sense of my personal identity as a biracial Mexican Jewish woman, as someone who is both white and of color at the same time, has been a lifelong process. Some of the most healing experiences in cultivating a sense of wholeness with myself, despite widespread cultural invisibility of my existence, have been intimate conversations with other mixed-race women. Back in August, I went on a road trip from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe with Coco Peila. For a little over four hours, we just talked. We talked about what it’s like to have a mom of a different race, familiarity with whiteness and privilege, dating, and so much more. No music. Just two mixed girls in a car. Mixed Girls in Cars Getting Coffee was born from that experience. Taking a dig at Jerry Seinfeld was a bonus – his show guests are 83% male and only include one woman of color over five seasons (yes, I did the math).

 

Anthem

Music Video

A sonic-visual portrait of black and brown unity in solidarity with the “take a knee” movement launched by Colin Kaepernick in protest of anti-black violence and police brutality.

This is our anthem – a peaceful and emotional statement on anti-blackness, immigration and latinidad, gentrification, and racial violence. We recorded the “Star Spangled Banner” in Spanish and captured the visuals in Echo Park, a heavily gentrified Latinx community. To wrest the definition of “American” from the hands of white power, as well as interrogate colorism and present a literal image of solidarity among diasporic and colonized communities, the video features two performers standing side by side – separated by language and country of origin, yet existing in the same beautiful moment together.

PS: I hope this pisses off as many racists and xenophobes as possible.

 

Juana

Documentary

Juana, a retail laundry worker from Guerrero, Mexico, led a campaign for just workplace conditions at the laundromat where she has worked for over ten years.

What started as a small seed grew into a movement, and together with Laundry Workers Center, Juana is helping to transform the retail laundry industry city-wide.

99 percent of laundromat workers are people of color, 86 percent identify as women, and 79 percent are immigrants. Justice for laundromat workers is immigrant justice, gender justice, economic justice, and racial justice.

I want to express profound gratitude to Rosanna Rodriguez and Mahoma Lopez, the co-directors of the Laundry Workers Center, for the transformative work that you do, and to Juana F for sharing her power and her story with us. To support their work, please visit laundryworkerscenter.org.

 
 Photography & Art Direction by Kayla Jones.

Photography & Art Direction by Kayla Jones.

 

Kayla Jones

Artist Spotlight

When you look up “rad femme” in the witch-ionary of all things powerful and fly, we guarantee that Kayla Jones is listed as the definition. Oh, you don’t have a witch-ionary? Well, Kayla probably does. We were lucky enough to get Kayla’s thoughts on everything from cultural resistance to childhood crushes. In addition to being an all-around badass artivist who creates beautiful and thought-provoking visuals and environments, Kayla is also the mastermind behind Mala Forever’s logo and branding, and we love her so so so much.

Check out more of her work on instagram: @dame_danger

 Kayla Jones | Photo by Patrick Aguilar

Kayla Jones | Photo by Patrick Aguilar

Q: Do you identify as a radical femme?

A: Yes I do!

Q: Tell us about what you do.

A: I am a graphic designer, art director, and activist.

I primarily work on building brands from the ground up (strategy and positioning, copywriting, and logo development), illustration (everything from hand drawn pieces to iconography), digital applications (social media suites and website design), as well as larger scale brand activations (environmental design, experiential design and installations). I also direct and often do photography for client photoshoots! I have hands in almost everything a brand touches.

As a queer, black woman, I have chosen to work almost exclusively with marginalized communities, organizations, and initiatives. My design and branding work often centers racial justice, women’s empowerment, and queer identity.

My personal work explores the intersections of design as art, art as activism, and activism as cultural design.

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Q: When did you know you wanted to be a designer?

A: I have wanted to be an artist for as long as I can remember. I drew, painted, worked with clay, wrote short stories, and staged mini plays with my friends all through my childhood. I don’t know if I had any language to describe art direction, but my favorite activity as a little girl was creating small dioramas or elaborate scenes with my toys that included handmade elements and imaginary backstories. I’d spend hours arranging things and then pull my mother in to come see while I talked her through what was going on. As a teenager, I began tinkering with digital tools: designing covers for my freshly-burned Napster compilations or tricking out my Myspace page. I taught myself html and made really bad websites. My sister and I would pose our friends in local parks or sets we made and shoot polaroids around our suburban hometown. I spent a lot of time laying out scrapbook diaries, zines, and collages while listening to music. I was still thinking I was going to be a classic illustrator until I took a tour of the Academy of Art my senior year of high school. When we got to the graphic design floor, I saw everything I was doing with my spare time. I knew I was made to do this.

 ‘My Vote Is My Voice’ by Kayla Jones for Amplifier and the Women’s March Power to the Polls Campaign

‘My Vote Is My Voice’ by Kayla Jones for Amplifier and the Women’s March Power to the Polls Campaign

Q: A creative work that inspires you, and never gets old:

A: Right now I’m obsessed with a video piece by Arthur Jafa that SFMOMA just acquired, Love is the Message, the Message is Death. It’s an expertly cut seven minutes of footage from various aspects of the black american experience: from Obama singing Amazing Grace, to snapchat twerking videos, to the Million Man March, to police brutality, to Serena Williams C-walking after a victory. The journey it takes you on is immense. It excludes almost nothing: our highest highs and lowest lows—all set to a gospel-inspired Kanye song. The choice of Kanye alone is a lot to think about. I really felt like we were held by loving hands, in all of our complexity and contradiction and beauty in that 7 minutes. I’ve been to see it three times and think about it often.

 
 
 
 Select posters from Jones’ Download This Poster project. Free, brutalist protest posters are available for download at  downloadthisposter.tumblr.com

Select posters from Jones’ Download This Poster project. Free, brutalist protest posters are available for download at downloadthisposter.tumblr.com

 

Q: What is the role of design in political resistance and social liberation?

A: My job as a designer is to bridge the emotional and the functional. It’s easy to conjure up images of resistance from the civil rights and anti-war movements because they had an emotional and cultural impact. Though working within commercial art, I believe designers should be conscious about how we add to the cultural conversation, how we use our tools. This belief determines the jobs I take, the photography I choose, and the messaging I employ. As a queer woman of color, I’m particularly sensitive to the inclusion of minority voices and perspectives. I have a well-seasoned background in multi-million dollar corporate design and it’s amazing how little attention goes to addressing implicit bias in the creation of the visuals that surround us every day.

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To manifest an inclusive culture, we also have to honor that all parties are both creators and receivers. That the separations and roles are less rigid than we have previously assumed: artists can be augmenters of accessibility. Audiences can be influencers. Institutions can be advocates. We must understand that the movement of ideas is not linear but circular. Social perceptions, communities, movements, and conversations influence culture. And culture influences them in turn.

Design is always about using aesthetics in a strategic fashion to meet a particular goal: the dissemination of information, encouraging or discouraging behaviors, creating emotions around ideas, people, or products.

 Un/Seen Jacket concept. Photo by Darrin Baldridge. Jacket construction assistance from Michelle Uberreste & Niki Waters.

Un/Seen Jacket concept. Photo by Darrin Baldridge. Jacket construction assistance from Michelle Uberreste & Niki Waters.

As a branding specialist, I often discuss relevant differentiation with clients. That is: does your brand address a relevant need or question for your audience? Does it do this in a way that is unique from competitors? Essentially: are you creating a relationship with your audience based on listening and adding something necessary to the conversation? A successful brand does, and will often be disruptive in its field. I believe if we apply this thinking to design for social (rather than commercial) gain, we will start conversations and support movements with visible and far-reaching impact.

We cannot position art and design outside of the social fabric: this cripples its ability to serve as a catalyst for social change. Artists are not separate from the communities they live in. Institutions are not faceless entities—they are made up of people. Dialogues, spaces, and social relations should reflect this if we are to create the relationships necessary for working toward a collective dream of justice.

Q: What’s something in your self-care practice that everyone should do?

A: Self care is by necessity very personal, so I always encourage people to find what actually works for them. Sometimes self care is taking a break, and sometimes it means working through discomfort to the thing that is actually good for you, you know? Self care for me can mean pushing through anxiety and making a dentist appointment, and other times it’s letting myself watch Netflix all evening when I’ve been working really hard. As a workaholic, one practice I’ve enjoyed is pouring myself a hot bath with scented oils and fancy soaking salts, lighting candles, and then listening to the Brown sisters’ How to Survive the End of the World podcast. I have a hard time taking time out to do things that aren’t considered “productive,” but you really can’t take the phone and computer into the tub. The podcast focuses on survival, particularly that of marginalized bodies, through different types of apocalypse, and their voices are calm and familiar. It gives me a focal point and perspective. Plus, knowing that I have the exact time-span of one episode, I can actually relax. Focusing on a single, time-specific, activity satisfies the need to do something productive and actually lets me let go in the moment.

Q: What’s your dream project?

A: One with unlimited budget and creative control! I think the older I get the less certain I am about working for a particular company or institution or person: you learn that everyone (even cool organizations) are just people. I’m more excited about having the resources to explore issues that matter to me and the communities I inhabit: queer, black, femme. I’m dreaming up more physical spaces and experiential design as of late.

Q: List 5 things that are currently feeding your spirit.

A: The Power, by Naomi Alderman (the idea of young girls electrocuting assaulters with their hands is the only thing that got me through the Kavanaugh hearing)

Those mini dark peanut butter cups at Trader Joes

Killing Eve (I just rewatched the whole thing with my sister and I love it and Sandra Oh so, so much)

Making my own juices

It’s finally summer in SF!

Q: Childhood crush:

A: Unfortunately, if you babysat me between 1994 and 1998 I probably had designs on you. Also, because I’m as old as the hills, my original childhood crush was Tula from Pirates of Dark Water.

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Q: What are you working on right now? What’s next?

A: With midterm elections around the corner, I’m deep in creating art to galvanize voters! I’ve been working with She the People, Acronym, and Amplifier on visuals that speak to women of color in particular, to try to get people out to the polls in a major way.

I am also busy collaborating on a zine with with Napaquetzalli Martinez that features my photography and her spells for queer healing and self-love. We’re going to be selling the zine, my affirmation cards for QWOC, and lots of other witchy goodies and prints at Queer Magic Makers in Oakland December 2nd.

I’m also researching a project around Black migration, space exploration, and extrasolar planets inspired by Octavia Butler, Sun Ra, and Marcus Garvey. This has been sketched out as part web portal, part physical installation but right now it’s just piles of research!

 Identity and business card design for Indigenous healer Napaquetzalli Martinez

Identity and business card design for Indigenous healer Napaquetzalli Martinez

Thanks for being a radical femme, Kayla!

Again, check out more of Kayla’s work and life vibes on the gram (sorry ladies, she’s taken!):

Kayla Jones
@dame_danger



Ana María Archila

Activist Spotlight

Mala Forever in conversation with “elevator activist” Ana Maria Archila, who captivated the nation when she confronted Senator Jeff Flake in an elevator (and on national television) at the Kavanaugh Confirmation Hearings.

I was gutted when I saw Ana Maria Archila and Maria Gallagher stop Senator Jeff Flake in an elevator on National Television during the Kavanaugh Hearings. The rawness and power of this interaction was profound. It was a moment that resonated deeply, for so many of us, for so many reasons. It was a moment that helped me to access my own grief, rage and power.

It was an honor to spend time speaking with Ana Maria about the impact that that moment had for her and for so many of us. She says it beautifully, that this moment “is not just about individual experiences, but rather that we are telling a collective story” and we need each other in order to heal.

 

Thank You For Watching.

Building an audience-supported model through Patreon allows us to keep our production equitable and our content accessible to our community in the long term. With your support, we can continue creating films and content that reflect our diverse and underserved community, while creating real economic opportunities for marginalized artists.

 
 

Credits

We want to acknowledge the immense amount of physical and mental labor that went into creating Miss America. Many women of color, queer women, and allies donated their time, talents, and equipment in order to make this magazine possible.

 

Mixed Girls in Cars Getting Café con Leche

Featuring: Nina Reyes Rosenberg, Marlo Su, Sarah Louise Wilson, D’arby Rose

Director and Editor: Nina Reyes Rosenberg
Director of Photography and Co-Producer: Jonathan Rosenblit
Producer: Mahelet Gezachew
Camera Operator: Adam Abada
Camera Operator: Sasha Klupchak
Sound: Stephen Sharrod

Ramya Ramana “Miss America”

Poet: Ramya Ramana

Director and Editor: Jessie Levandov
Creative Producer: Nina Reyes Rosenberg
Sound: Sana Azim

Anthem

Featuring: Angelica Quiñonez, Jason Valerio

Director and Editor: Nina Reyes Rosenberg
Camera: Kolepa Phy
Music Production: Jason Valerio
Spanish lyrics based on translation by Alvaro Valencia

JuAnA

Featuring: Juana

Director and Editor: Jessie Levandov
Camera: Anna Barsan

Ana María Archila

Featuring: Ana María Archila

Director and Editor: Jessie Levandov
Camera: Anna Barsan

Special Thanks

Kayla Jones
Nicole Kim
Coco Peila
Arnold Rosenberg
Ben Saltzman

Rosanna Rodriguez and Mahoma Lopez of the Laundry Workers Center.

Join Us.

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