Love & Saying No: Five Questions with Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi
Five Questions with Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi
EDITOR’S NOTE: Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi is a Goddess, healer, performer, and literary powerhouse. Her advocacy and art are a beacon for trans and gender non-conforming people of color to find (the) God(dess) within ourselves. We are honored to pour into and celebrate her work. Don’t hesitate to keep up with Dane through her website, Facebook, and Twitter.
1. How would you describe your spiritual or philosophical perspective?
I’m a priestess of the Orisha and practice several Goddess based traditions. An umbrella would be Indigenous African practices that focus on the divine femme and ancestors. Ultimately, I am a Goddess; my spirituality reminds me that when I am operating from Goddess space all things are possible.
My being is older than time and in many ways we're all one. I believe that where there's love there is always room for reconciliation. That's a quote from [my novel] Yemaya's Daughters. I think about spirituality as separate from religion. Religion is a set of rituals that people have agreed upon, while spirituality is about your relationship with deity, God, ancestors, and with your mind, body, and soul. Spirituality pushes you to become the you that you’re most in love with. Spirituality should be a form of healing that reminds you of who you are.
When trauma comes my way it is in fact, not my fault. It is not my fault that people inflict violence on me, it is not your fault that people inflict violence on you.
2. How has your spiritual or philosophical perspective evolved over time? What kinds of opportunities and challenges have shaped your perspective?
My father is a devout Muslim from Nigeria, my mother is a Cuban and Indigenous evangelist. My mother's father converted to Christianity and made sure that my mother and her sisters grew up in that path. I grew up with a Christian perspective on spirituality, but there was also ancestor magic passed on that you didn't call magic. We celebrated Indigenous ways that secretly seeped into Christianity. I know now that it's magic, and I can call it what it is.
In my trauma, and trying to understand what had happened in me, I wanted to feel better. I tried religion, I tried alcohol, I tried men, I tried being mean to people, and none of them worked because they weren’t affirming of who I am. What spirituality is meant to do is uncover the veil so that there is clarity. Many of the Christian tenets are steeped in misogyny and focus on patriarchal ways of being seen.
In Yemaya's Daughters, Maryam, Mother of Jesus, says "Even though the Prophetess sees Through the eyes of God, it does not mean she understands all she sees.” That means that where we are in life determines how we will interpret divine information. I do not believe that deity or ancestors or God or the Orishas want us to suffer. So much of our suffering has come for the benefit of the patriarchy. My perspective has evolved from believing we need to suffer, to believing that we need to do better by ourselves and each other. Being betrayed by some friends, mentors, and people I trusted helped me zero in on the type of person I don't want to be. It has allowed me to honor who I am naturally: a loving being.
3. How do you see your work (vocation, calling, advocacy, role, etc) in the world? How does your spiritual or philosophical perspective relate to your work?
I’m a Goddess and a healer. Goddesses and Gods are mirrors of themselves and for others. We are God made flesh, and mirrors for each other. My work reminds people who they are, including myself. Healing is the reminder that you are powerful, you are whole, you are loved, and you deserve the good things in life. The healer activates the remembrance of divine self.
When I'm sitting with my mom and I'm holding space for her to talk about her day, that is a form of healing. I'm a black trans woman and being myself, and learning how to love myself is a constant renewal and a form of divine work. Remembering who you are is divine work.
4. When do you feel the most vibrant and alive? What resources or practices do you draw on to nurture your own resilience?
I feel the most vibrant when I am operating within the gifts of my divine self: when I'm singing or performing, advocating for my community, spending time with people who I love, and when I'm writing.
The resources that I use to nurture my resilience are love, and saying no. When you are a black trans women, people often want you to put your body, heart, and time on the line. Sometimes people are so astounded by the vibrancy of divine purpose that they forget I have flesh, and I get tired. People often want us to do the work, love on them, and hold space for them, but never ask "How are you, sis? How can I pour into you today?"
I have back problems; I just started to be honest about it. I have anxiety, and sometimes I don't want to leave the house. Learning the power of no is part of my spiritual practice because I was taught as a child that I should want to deplete myself for others. But if I'm not ok, what does that mean for my work?
5. What kinds of issues or concerns do you think need more attention in the world?
Honoring blackness is something that needs to be poured into. Honoring trans and gender non-conforming folk, especially TGNC people of color, for continuing to be awesome in this society that tells us that we are nothing. The humanity of trans and gender non-conforming people and black people need to be uplifted.
We need to remember that we are stronger than those who want to enslave us. We must make sure the most oppressed is ok because when we do it's like a geyser: it breaks through the ground and sprays up, but it starts at the bottom. As it goes into the air it becomes a waterfall and sprays the whole area. When we are honoring the most oppressed it shifts everything.
Dubbed the Ancient Jazz Priestess of Mother Africa, Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi is a Nigerian, Cuban, Indigenous, American Performance Artist, Author (Yemaya’s Daughters, Brew, Baltimore: A Love Letter, Wither, Remains: A Gathering of Bones, Keeper and The Blood Of A Thousand Roots), Teacher, Choreographer, Oracular Consultant, Priestess, Advocate, A Founding Member of Force Collision, Curator of La Ti Do’s annual Celebration of Trans Artist and Capturing Fire’s Alchemy. She is the Director of Global Initiatives for The Trans Women of Color Collective. She is A 2016 Helen Hayes Nominee, the first Trans Woman of Color in DC to publish a work of Fiction, the first trans Playwright to be chosen for Theater Alliance’s Hothouse Festival, having her play Absalom read at the Kenney Center’s Prelude Festival, and one of the first artist to do an artist residency at Princeton for their Inaugural Trans Artist Residency . From Baltimore Maryland, and growing up singing jazz, she has been utilizing art as a tool for healing, revolution and liberation since she was a child.