Thursday, January 02, 2014

TransGriot Ten Question Interview-Kokumo Kinetic

Let's get 2014 started properly with another one of my  TransGriot Ten Questions Interviews.

Many of you have been asking me as I've been out and about in the community or e-mailed me requesting I do more of them.  Consider it a New Year's resolution to you dear readers I'm determined to make happen.

Here's the first one of many in 2014 featuring the beautiful and multitalented KOKUMO, the 'revolutionary artivist', CEO and Founder of KOKUMOMEDIA, Inc.  

She is the founding organizer of the T.G.I.F.(Trans, GNC, Intersex Freedom) Festival, the Midwest's first trans and intersex themed pride event, was one of the people named to the inaugural Trans100 List and part of the Chicago event revealing the initial names.  She's garnering well deserved attention and name recognition inside and outside our community as one of our dynamic young trans personalities. 

It's time for KOKUMO to answer the TransGriot's Ten Questions.

1. You're one of nine Chicagoans that was named to the inaugural 2013 Trans 100 List.  What is it about the Windy City that produces all these great trans activists?

K- With all due respect, Chicago doesn't have the glamour of L.A., or pretense of New York City. We don't have Hollywood and the MTV Awards. We don't have these ostentatious industries that characterize our city or the Midwest. We just have each other. We just have our collective unmet needs and denied rights. We just have our work. Thus and such, we get busy! P.S. East and West coasters yawl know I fucks wit yawl!

2  You described yourself in one interview as an 'artivist'.  Can you elaborate on that for my readers what an 'artivist' does?

KK-There was a time in my development when I identified as an activist. That time was when I foolishly thought I could destroy the government by using government funds. That time was when I worked in the non-profit industrial complex. And that time has passed. If I have to identify as anything as of now, it will be a revolutionary. In regards to my pedagogy, an activist is concerned about a specific cause, whilst a revolutionary is concerned about all causes. Since I no longer identify as an activist, subsequently I don't identify as an "artivist". However, I do operate as a revolutionary artist. And as a revolutionary artist, my mission is to indict and dismantle racist capitalism via the mediums of music, film, and literature. Ultimately, I plan to leave a template for how to use art and entrepreneurship as tools for revolution for future generations via my production company, KOKUMOMEDIA INC.

3. When did you transition?
KK-At the age of 17 I began my mental transition. While it wasn't until I reached 21 did my physical transition begin.

4.  How did you choose you name and what's the symbolism behind it?

Under the tyranny of racist capitalism, Black trans/cis women are not entitled to happiness. Still to this very day, whenever I am happy I feel an urge to see if someone is maneuvering to steal my joy. So when I finally was to rename myself, I had to give myself a name that didn't describe the person I was, but the person I wanted to become. And I want to become immortal. Not in a vainglorious way, but in a revolutionary way. After my flesh has rotted, I want the truth I believed and lived to be understood by the world. What is that you ask? I believe that as long as racist capitalism exist there will always be oppression. Why do I say that you ask? Because racist capitalism is so omnipotent that it broke the nose off the Sphinx, made Cleopatra white, Columbus a hero, Malcolm X a villain, and made Castro, satan. And racist capitalism even went so far as to make transwomen of color invisible and disposable. KOKUMO is Yoruba for, "This one will not die". I embrace and respect death, but I don't embrace or respect racist capitalism and it's history of erasure. Therefore, I named myself KOKUMO because I am determined to make sure my truth lives beyond the idiocracy that is racist capitalism. Our truths, must live beyond the idiocracies that are all oppressive governments.

5. Who were some of your transfeminine role models growing up and who are some of the people (both transmasculine and transfeminine) you look up to in our community?
KK-Sylvester! I was born the year Sylvester transitioned. I believe the universe sent me to further what Sylvester did, as it sent Sylvester to further the liberation work her fore bearers did, so forth and so on. Therefore, I believe when I transition the universe will send someone to continue the work it sent me to do. Aside from Sylvester, Angelica Ross was the first Black transwoman I saw who was a musician, and she was fly! I found out about her via and couldn't comprehend her existence. She literally, was everything I was taught couldn't be. She was a transwoman musician, she's an entrepreneur, and she wasn't a show girl. And with the opportunities for transwomen in life being so limited all I had ever known were show girls. I respect and revere show girls but I had never seen an alternative. And I longed for an alternative. Drag is so widespread I thought that that was what I had to become because society wouldn't except a transwoman singing her own songs. White supremacy is interesting like that. I feel that the world will accept Madonna co-opting Black transwoman culture before it accepts an actual Black transwoman. And that's where Sylvester and Angelica Ross came into play for me. Sylvester and Angelica Ross taught me that being mainstream is relative and actually not needed in order to be successful or impactful. As a fat, Black, dark-skinned transwoman, the only way I could ever be palatable to mainstream (White America) would be if I completely nixed my pedagogy and existed for their entertainment and not my liberation. Sylvester and Angelica Ross were my biggest Black/transfeminine influences because they taught me that it's not about being mainstream to White America, but the people who look, live, and are oppressed just like you. But the most important thing that Sylvester taught me was that, "Nobody can conceptualize me, because I am the concept".

6.  As a beautiful and full figured dark skinned woman, do you believe we focus too much on how we look in the African American trans feminine community versus what's between our ears?

Thank you so much. And the feeling is mutual Mama Roberts! In nature, there is duality and equilibrium. In civilization and unfortunately, most movements, there is ultimatum and dichotomy. I posit that racist capitalism has taken enough of Black people's agency as it is. Therefore, Black people don't need any more ultimatums and dichotomies. Black people shoving ultimatums and dichotomies on other Black people can't possibly help revolution, because having said tools of oppression imposed on us is what necessitates revolution in the first place. Furthermore, I rebuke any notion that trivializes or attempts to dictate to femmes/women. Femininity may be an antiquated tradition to some but it's an act of resistance and a form of spirituality for others. And the sanctity of Black/POC customs should be respected. As a proud Black, dark-skindid, fat, femme transwoman I understand the urgency of having to carve out a niche for yourself, to develop traditions and culture for yourself. Especially when your original traditions/cultures were stolen and replaced. I understand the urgency of carving out a niche for your body and your identity in a world that holds your very antithesis as the axum of beauty and subsequent worth. I don't believe the work is for Black trans/cis/POC femmes to stop prioritizing the work of defining, comprehending, and harnessing their beauty. POC femmes reconstructing, and revering our own beauty constructs is an act of revolution. I believe the work is for the government to stop imposing its beauty pathos on the bodies of people of color. I would much rather see Black trans femmes engaging in radical acts of self-love than acquiescing acts of self-abandonment such as facilitating toxic relationships where we are abused due to our sequestered proximity to the beauty construct. I think the government efficiently tricks us into always blaming each other for the reason we're oppressed, when in reality it's the government's fault. I see this argument no different than the whole pull-up-yo-pants-and-racism-will-end disposition. Oppression isn't somewhere smoking a cigarette saying, "Why don't they realize dat I'll leave em alone as soon as they stop getting $200.00 sew-ins"? Black trans femmes/women, don't need to choose between being beautiful or revolutionary. We must realize that being revolutionary is beautiful.

7. What projects are you currently involved in?
KK- As the CEO/Founder of KOKUMOMEDIA INC a Black transwoman run and operated production company. I am overjoyed to announce the projects KOKUMOMEDIA INC. has coming in 2014. We will once again do the TGI State Of The Union Address, T.G.I.F (Trans, GNC, Intersex Freedom) in July. And in 2014 the theme for T.G.I.F. will be, "Unshackling My Body". We want to have a gathering where TGI people of color talk about what our freedom will look like since we already know how oppression does. Also, KOKUMOMEDIA INC. will release my sophomore EP, "After The End". After The Ends explores what would happen if God came back not as a cis white man, but fat, Black trans woman. After The End will be a multimedia project that'll culminate via an album, play, and short film. I'm elated to announce that I'll be doing a North American tour in support of After The End. The film will be released for free via Youtube but the album will be $10.00 via iTunes. The release and tour dates haven't been solidified but if you frequent KOKUMOMEDIA.COM you'll know everything. KOKUMOMEDIA INC will also finally release my 30 minute docuplay/visual memoir, "The Faggot Who Could Fly" exclusively for purchase and screening via KOKUMOMEDIA.COM in 2014. The Faggot Who Could Fly is my story of confronting sexual abuse and racist capitalism in order to actualize my Black transwomahood. And last but certainly not least, Summer 2014 is the launch of KOKUMOMEDIA INC.'s seasonal digital publication KOKUMO. KOKUMO magazine will be dedicated to all things black, trans, and revolutionary. KOKUMO magazine will offer original content from black, trans visionaries such as Dr. Kortney Ryan Ziegler, Laverne Cox, Louis Mitchell, and Janet Mock just to name a few. We even have gotten confirmation from the revolutionary Monica Roberts. I don't know if you've heard of her or not, but she's kind of a big deal. Stay tuned for updates for all KOKUMOMEDIA INC. is doing via KOKUMOMEDIA.COM. And thank you to everyone who supports what we do now!

8.  Since Chicago is producing all these great trans activists, who are some of the people you believe are up and coming trans activists we should be paying attention to?

K- There are so many QPTOC doing great work across the country: Sasha Alexander, Sasha Kaye, Kylar Broadus, Laverne Cox, Dr. Kortney Ziegler, Trisha Lee Holloway, Shayden Gonzalez, Janet Mock and that's just to name a few. We are on the precipice of a QTPOC Trans Renaissance! And I'm happy to be alive to witness it!9. Now you get to flip the script on me and ask me a question you been dying to find out the answer to.

KK-What's next for you Goddess?

TransGriot-That's always an interesting question for me.  Besides continuing to expose the world to the news, views and history of the trans community from an Afrocentric perspective via TransGriot, do have Creating Change 2014 coming up and the first of what I hope are many panel discussions and speaking opportunities.  

Janet Mock and a few other t-community people have been gently nudging me to write my own book, and I may explore the possibility of doing that. 

Will probably be involved in helping my hometown finally pass a trans inclusive NDO then fight like hell to keep it on the legal books.  I'm slated to make an appearance at the BTMI conference in Dallas this April, at Houston Splash (our Black Pride event in H-town) have a keynote or two here internationally and make 2014 a better year for me fiscally.   

10  Where do you see the Black trans community 10 years from now? 

In ten years black trans people will become the new Hollywood film stock character. And our lives will become generally interpreted by everybody accept us. The only way we can prevent this artistic genocide is by creating our own work, branding ourselves, launching businesses, and developing industries run, operated, and most importantly regulated by us. We must set the standard for what's acceptable in regards to our media depiction just as much as we are adamant our lot in the government. The mass media industrial complex is nothing more than a by-product of the government so we must understand this approach them in tandem since they work in tandem. We can no longer have everyone profit off of us, except us. Black trans revolutionary entrepreneurship is what I'd love to see.

Happy New Year!  Thank you KOKUMO for your time and answering the TransGriot's Ten Questions!

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