As I worked on creating new routines and improving old ones, I had planned to write about some things I had learned on this burlesque journey. They mostly centered on self-esteem and accepting one's body even if one doesn't always like certain aspects. However, recent events have pushed those posts aside.
A couple of weeks ago, I decided to skip dance class to go downtown and join a protest hosted by Mothers Against Police Brutality in response to the Ferguson grand jury's decision. I've been keeping my burlesque Facebook page free from most political statements. It's something beginners are advised to do, particularly when opinions are polarizing. Not that I haven't touched upon politics— just looks at a couple of my posts in the past.
As I had gotten tired of just sitting around when I saw the invite to the protest, I have decided that I cannot stay silent any longer. After all, a burlesque classmate was the one who invited me to the protests, and dancers like our illustrious Queen has made a post about Ferguson and the bigger problem at hand. It made me realize that the burlesque dancer known as Hana Li is part of the same identity that includes the social justice warrior (I wear that label proudly although I consider myself more of a rogue).
The fact that I am a woman is political. The fact that I'm a woman of color makes it more so. Being a burlesque dancer means that I take my politics to the stage, and it's something that I have tried to include in all my routines. Even something seemingly innocent "Black Glasses" has hidden messages addressing certain social issues (in that case, the politics of being a female geek). I am constantly inspired by dancers who do tackle issues head on in their routines or are willing to openly speak about it, like Tangerine Jones, The Shanghai Pearl, and the ladies of Brown Girls Burlesque. They push me to try harder to start a dialogue, and as happy as I have been with the local community, I think we should continue to keep the conversation going and let our audiences know that they are part of it.
I know that I have a good deal of privileges too. It's become particularly evident in the past weeks. Therefore, while many of my politically-inclined statements involve the racism I've faced as an Asian, I cannot let my darker-skinned sisters and brothers be overshadowed. Their voices should be heard; their lives matter.
I'm linking "Race and Burlesque" again because if you want to know where to begin as a member of community, this is a start. Learn the history, read the interviews, and know that we still have a lot of work to do.