The Goddess Walk, an Anti-Street Harassment Rally, returns this Saturday in Fulton Park, Brooklyn from 12pm-4pm. Chiquita Brooks, founder of The Goddess Festival: Oshun Returns and The Goddess Walk, is an actress, burlesque performer, and performance artist who was fed up with her treatment on the streets of her own neighborhood and decided to do something about it. Slutist interviewed Brooks about her inspiration for the walk, how she approaches empowered sexuality, and damaging sexual stereotypes about black women and LGBTQ folk.
Has your background as a burlesque dancer allowed you to approach your sexuality in a more empowered, shame-free way? Are the two connected for you?
Before discovering burlesque I was already on a journey of courageously embracing my sexuality. Through the events in The Goddess Festival: Oshun Returns, I was constantly releasing negative stereotypes around my sexuality. These stereotypes, such as Over Sexed Wild Woman, Jezebel, Video Ho, Mammy, Tragic Mulatto, and Sapphire have been ingrained in society for centuries to shame Black women.
Performing burlesque was more of a creative outlet than anything else. Creating Shades of Burlesque, a show that features all Black burlesque performers, is a way to collectively share redefined ideas of Black women’s sexuality. Shades provides space for the many & varied Black woman experiences. There is no one Black woman experience. We all approached our sexuality in different ways that speak uniquely to us as individuals.
What was the last straw for you before you decided to start the Goddess Walk in 2012? What incident prompted it?
The incident that prompted me to organize The Goddess Walk was when I was harassed and pushed. I was on my way to the city. I was on my own block when a guy says “hey baby…” I turned and said, “My name is not ‘baby’ if you want to speak to me just say hello Miss.” Then the whole group cursed me out. I wasn’t afraid even though there were about six guys yelling at me and threatening to steal my phone. Probably because they were teenagers, I have a teenage nephew & two younger brothers so I wasn’t too concerned until one of them pushed me. It was the first time I was physically assaulted during street harassment.
By this time I had already been creating work and safe spaces for Black women to share their experiences via the Goddess Festival: Oshun Returns. Adding an Anti-Street Harassment Rally that addressed the issues of lack of respect for Black Women & Queer folk in the community was simply in alignment with what I was already doing.
Have you noticed any improvements in the way you are perceived in public since starting this movement?
I notice that I am more confident because I’ve learned, created and practiced tools to help me feel in control even in situations of street harassment. So men who harass me on the street know that I am not afraid to speak up for myself or correct them about how they address me.
But how I am perceived as a Black, Queer woman on the street goes much deeper than the Goddess Walk. Racial stereotypes, colorism, and warped ideas around the character of LGBTQ folk greatly influence how I’m perceived by the outside world. These factors “speak” before I can speak for myself. When the media constantly portrays Black women as sexually promiscuous or so tough that nothing can hurt us, people digest those messages. They treat us according to those images, especially on the street. And even though I and other Black women & LGBTQ folk understand that this is not our truth, it doesn’t mean that others care to think otherwise.
What can people expect to see and take part in at the Goddess Walk next weekend?
The actual walk that is happening at 1pm. There will be chalk writing in the park before and after the walk, sign making, and group activities around ending street harassment! So remember to bring roses, wear what makes you feel Good about YOU. I hope to see you there!