Mica Rose: Trust deserves to grow. Trust deserves a long time and a lot of space and a lot of different ways to grow that we can meet each other through many faces and learn through that. It can grow into accountability, these bonds and remembrances that we have to one another. I’ve been really learning that they cannot be left on autopilot; they require this intention.
Chorus: [sings “Remember”]
Yura Sapi: Welcome to season three. Welcome to our liberation. Welcome to the Building Our Own Tables podcast. The Building Our Own Tables podcast is produced for HowlRound Theatre Commons, a free and open platform for theatremakers worldwide. This is Yura Sapi, here to support you on your journey of creation towards our collective liberation. How exciting is it to transform our future and be the future ancestors we’ve dreamed for? May you receive that witch supports you on your journey and release that witch does not. The universe expands as we do. Nature evolves as we do. We remember. We remember. We remember.
Chorus: [sings “Remember”]
Yura Sapi: Let us call upon the four elements that support us: The fire that burns within igniting our imagination, our ability to see into the future. The water that holds us and holds within our memory. The air that lifts us up and carries our stories across to meet each other. The earth, which provides us sustenance, repair. To support us on this journey, let us welcome in all of our ancestors.
We’re learning from visionaries who have built their own tables, receiving gems of wisdom to support us along our journey. In today’s episode, I interviewed the visionary Mica Rose. They share beautiful offerings and examples of how to live in right relation in daily practice. They share about moving from morning routine to waking ritual, stories about organizing in the Boston theatre scene, and a grounding meditation for us to reconnect with the incredible energy of the earth. Get ready for this evolutionary episode.
Mica: My name is Mica Rose. I’m a honey-eyed Gemini child of wonder. I guess I start with the place that I feel I make the most sense to myself, which is in the space of asking and not for answers but for the joy of being in wonder together—like wonderful, so that we notice what is miracle. The root word of miracle means wonder, and so I think about the kind of attention that I hope to grow in myself and help nurture in communions, the communities around us, so that we may experience miracle. I am a niece, a nibbling, a cousin. In Tagalog we say pamangkin for niece and it’s a shortening of a phrase actually, which means like close to mine, and I also just love that the word kin is in there. Kin.
I currently practice storytelling and poetry, learning and teaching together, creating workshops, spaces, or other little temples for us to play together, figure out what the pronouns we and us can mean and do, making dreams come material. I organize with organizations here and abroad. I’m in so-called Roslindale ancestral lands of the Massachusetts, Patuxet, Wampanoag, many, many more peoples, and these waterways that were filled in to create the land here are full of long lineages of queer and trans, Black, Indigenous, and other peoples of color, other solidarity-unified peoples who have come to build worlds amidst tremendous violence. Some of those names that I join in lineage with now are The Theater Offensive; Chinatown Pao Arts Center; Liyang Network, a local to global organizing in Philippine diaspora empowering Sabokahan, the Unity of Lumad Women back home in the Philippines, Ma-Yi, Las Islas, Lusong.
With my college bestie, Sarah Shin, we co-founded Asian American Theater Artists of Boston (AATAB) and since then, largely through her incredible leadership, Sarah and AATAB as a community has grown to be a producer of work, a convener for difficult conversations, a place for people to articulate back to the people who control what stories get to the stage in Boston. And that has been a joint build with peoples including and not limited to CHUANG Stage, HowlRound Theatre Commons, Pao Arts Center, and Asian American Resource Workshop. We had a vigil for the Asian women and peoples who were slain in the massacre in Atlanta in spring of 2021. On that activation by Asian Coalition MA, all youth, Asian, Black, and brown-led organizing with support from some of these partners, we had a march that convened in Dorchester first, began with grounding, began with breath and poetry. That’s how I was called into this space, and it began with agreements and decisions to commit to one another for this time together.
And then we marched, and we flew and hung a banner on a bridge crossing the interstate into Chinatown, knowing that that very paving of the highway into Chinatown was part of the histories of violence against the communities who have built migrant home here. The youth, Jenny, led us on an incredible tour of Chinatown, speaking of each phase of displacement, of how Tufts bought up the land and then we arrived through that people’s history, knowing each parcel, knowing what ground we were walking on at the Chinatown gate where we yelled, where we created an altar, where we burned incense, where we had lion dance, where we heard gongs and symbols and drums and we heard each other. We heard and felt and grieved and moaned with one another.
That’s one of the amazing things we create when we get really inventive around what the concept of an action or the intention behind an action can be; that a protest can be a lunch, a potluck. A protest can be a prayer circle, can be a mass public altar. Protests can be this dance, this music, and has been for so long, and we don’t learn this out of nowhere. We learn from tradition of course and build on at our own. That’s a piece of the work that I feel very proud of.
Yura Sapi: Absolutely. It reminds me of these themes that are coming up, living the liberated future we dream for in day-to-day life. There are ways in which we do that and we are able. We can be manifesting the futures we wish to see by living them today and every moment can be an opportunity to do that, to reflect within us and our actions and decisions, what we wish to see for the rest of the world.
Mica: I think of the most intimate, where the keys and the treasures are toward that manifestation you speak of, the forest all grows with nature as an OG teacher. We can learn so much of how change and life actually moves, flows when it is not constructed literally and metaphysically upon; when we don’t extract from the land and instead pour into what just makes sense. And so that’s why I love turning to the daily, the little tings from adornment, all of how I get ready in the mornings, or how I continue getting ready through the day. Maybe not even treating any part of my day as a space to be ready and set for but that I’m always in a cycle of preparing, resting, doing, acting, learning, coming back, going out. There’s always this ebb and flow of journey.
Sophie, their Instagram handle, it’s like “astrology chismis” or something, I just love the way they tattle on the stars and what we can learn from them. She says, “Routine is the gentrified form of ritual.” As soon as she said that, it really put language to mean to something I’ve been experiencing so much. I loved treating the act of waking as special, as sacred and not sacred as like, “Oh, it has to be this huge big thing,” or that it has to be done the same every single way. I think that’s something I’ve had to unlearn from how religious was put onto me and how I carry that on, that the traditional, the sacred are not repetition, just doing it, doing it, doing it, doing it, is not inherently the way to be in relation to the divine. When I wake in the morning, I’m waking to music that, to me, is a prayer, music that calls out something to the universe.
I lay my hands on my body and from Ifá teachings that remind us that we are born with a deity in inside us and that deity houses in our crown chakra, our orí, our head, that we can pray to ourselves and name and return to ourselves each time we wake, each time we return from the dream world, from sleep portal, back to this waking reality. I name: I am Mica Rose. I am soft. I am fierce. I am learning. As Bell Hooks says, “I’m breaking with old patterns and moving forward with my life.” As my friend, Nic Masangkay says, “My power, even when seems futile, transforms.” And as Gwendolyn Brooks says, “We are each other’s business. We are each other’s harvest. We are each other’s magnitude and bond.” Think with loving minds and thoughts, intentions. Love with a willingness to sacrifice the ego self without abandoning me. You are me.
Yura Sapi: Time is not linear. You are not alone. You were never alone. We’ve been through the cycle before. We’re working from the power of our past fighters from before and time isn’t linear. Connections happen for a reason. There’s a reason I am here where I am. So bask, indulge, refuge in the happenings of now, the happenings of past which will guide to the future, which is also really the past.
The Building Our Own Tables podcast is produced in partnership with Advancing Arts Forward, a movement to advance equity, inclusion, and justice through the arts. We create liberated spaces like this one that uplift, heal, and encourage us to change the world. Check out advancingartsforward.org to see our gatherings, courses, coaching, and artist residency program. You can also donate to support this podcast in other spaces.
Mica: And then, I stretch or I dance. I let my body sort of tell me, “Yo, what’s up? Do we need to go see the sun? Do we need food right now? Some tea?” Tea is part of my every waking, the smelling of it, the preparation of it, pouring herbs into a vessel to hold the tea, receive the water. And then when I adorn myself, I like paying attention to what I wore and where I got it. I love wearing hand me downs. As someone still emerging in their expressions of gender and how I like to play with presentation, hand me downs have been such a gift to me, especially from the femmes in my life who have given me stuff that I put on my body and can say like, “Oh wow, I had no idea. I could not have imagined how glorious I feel in this, not even in the mirror, but the way that I touch my body in this clothes on an everyday level.”
Think consciously about like, oh yeah, where is the food I’m inviting to my body? The clothes I’m inviting to my skin? Are we buying from local craftspeople? From local fashion? Are we buying from places that specialize in recycling, turning over clothes? Where are we making those vital investments that say to this alleged free market, this market-driven consumer based economy, “Yo, this is where we are sending our attention and intention.”
Yura Sapi: What a great clear way to share how decolonization is that reconnection with who we are, where, our ancestors, the land that really is a way of life, being able to practice ritual, the making of something sacred. For example, the clothes we wear, leads us to be able to have a clear and deep relationship of what we choose to wear and what we choose to exchange, our work, our sweat, our contribution to community. And then saying, “That’s why we’re passionate.” Really at the core, it’s actually a connection with nature and ourselves in a way that is not about anger and is not about leading from this place of unresolved grief but rather a profound joy and gratitude, desire to be and to connect, just brings it from a different place that I think is where we’re going to help others understand why this is so important, why it’s so important to be in right relation with earth, with everyone else, it’s not about that unresolved grief that becomes expression of anger. It’s actually about our love.
Mica: Yes, the armor, what we wear, cast as protections for ourselves actually become entryways to the stories, the teachings you’re speaking of. This remembering becomes embedded and woven into these earrings. When someone says like, “Oh, I like your earrings,” or, “Those are so cool,” I can say, “Oh my gosh, thank you. My friend Elizabeth made them.” Elizabeth James Perry crafts these in a Wampanoag tradition of wampum and deer antler and you can check her out, here’s her website. I’ve been thinking a lot of prayer and how prayer has been taught to me in the sort of Roman Catholic descended tradition that my mom picked up upon migrating. We’re from the Philippine Independent Church that was founded to separate from the Spanish colonizers’ implementation and enforcement of Catholicism.
And so instead of letting that God be a god of capital, I think of advertisements. Those are little prayers being flashed at us all the time. Commercials saying, “Put your attention. Take your money. Go here. Go here with it.” I want us so dearly to return to praying as is in the teachings too. Pray to one another, as us all being divine or spirits or souls, however we want to name it, that there is something so sacred and wondrous and divine in each of us—in the orí, to the way my friend Juju describes non-binary people as each having our own goddess that we all kind of pray and worship and take on these shapes and forms and shifting through them because we’re honoring and getting closer and closer to that deity, that goddess, that non-binary biddie baddie that is us in the sort of spirit-made flesh translation of idea to word to reality.
Even in saying grace, what if we actually thank the labor and the energy that it took to bring a plate before us? This “blate,” this bowl-plate of dragonfruit before me, I say thank you to the workers at the supermarket on the corner of Adams Street. Thank you to the shippers who delivered this dragonfruit from where it was born. Thank you to the laborers and farm workers. Thank you. Thank you for your hands, your sweat, and your organizing against the extraction you face. May us in eating and connecting distantly through this food be a way that we return to the power of we, to the power of we. May we return to one another. Salamat dragonfruit. Salamat earth for making her possible. Salamat body for knowing how to take these nutrients and turn them into my next actions. May my next actions remember to all have expressed the gratitude and honoring and humility here, of and in. Siyá nawâ.
Yura Sapi: Yupaychani. Thank you so much.
Chorus: [sings “Star Seeds”]
Yura Sapi: You shared a lot of practices there that folks can potentially apply in this process of building our own tables. Is there anything else that comes to mind that you want to share with someone looking to build their own table?
Mica: Get excited by scale. In wintertime, I am really thinking of how this season invites us to modes of hibernation, so I’m paying special attention to the small, to the little glass spider on my moisturizer this morning in the shower, just pawing its little legs into its mouth, dribbling in some water; paying really deep attention to the intimate, from the food and the adornment to meditation and practices that help us in the presence. And I think that that can grow in magnitude. Everything I’m saying here is scalable. When we are doing the work, organizing locally to globally, that we notice and know who we are paying attention to, where the energy, as well as the money flows and so that we can be witness to the hard realities of trying to come together, trying to figure out what a space is.
I’m part of this experiment called the Cultural Equity Incubator. It’s a space that unifies value aligned from small to mid-sized arts and culture orgs devoted to creative justice to all people’s living creative and expressive lives on their own terms, intersectional racial justice and decolonization. The first commitment we made was to share space. Some of the learnings I’m taking from that experiment is how trust deserves to grow. Trust deserves a long time and a lot of space and a lot of different ways to grow that we can meet each other through many faces and learn through that. You can grow into accountability, these bonds and remembrances that we have to one another. I’ve been really learning that they cannot be left on autopilot. They require this intention, really deep fullness of us so that we can join into the work and figure out what are the strategies that take us there?
For example, the Popular Education Spiral is a seed I want to leave and share as what has been my biggest guide to begin with people’s experiences and then notice patterns. What’s happening here? What are we trying to change? In Liyang Network organizing, we start with the experiences of the Lumad non, the indigenous peoples of Mindanao; Sabokahan, the Unity of Lumad Women who have been the front lines of environmental defense against mining and bureaucrat capitalism and militarism, the echoes of colonization and imperialism in the Philippines. We start there. Then we noticed the patterns. We say, “Oh, this is what’s happening here and this is how it’s akin to our siblings in Palestine, in the Congo.” Then we add and remember ideas and information—that’s the next step of the spiral. So we bring in teachings from all of our cultures and from all of the cultures that those cultures have met along our journeys. Then we practice skills, we strategize. Liyang hosts teach-ins. We throw concerts to sell rallies. We hold panels and other conversations, on Facebook to in-person.
I sometimes go to queer resource centers at colleges. I teach parts of my practice and all of the money we charge up big because the institutions, they got it. These places with endowment, they got it. And we take all of that money and we find the ways to get it back to the communities facing the direct violence and oppression of the state. And I see this happening all across the neighborhoods of Boston from Violence Inc. Boston to Unbound Bodies Collective, tracing the histories of queer, trans BIPOC sacred space in so-called Boston to Boston Ujima Project, working on solidarity economy. It’s all been formed through the strategy. And then learning in action, the final step, learning in action of the spiral.
And then you return that process of start with people’s experience, notice the patterns, add and remember ideas, practice the skills of strategize, and learn in action. And return and return and return to that cycle and process so that hopefully there is more iterations of places like the Cultural Equity Incubator, there is more iterations of Liyang Network. That all of these projects and collaborations do that vision work you spoke of earlier, manifesting seven generations into the future that we can actually have the land, grow the land, be in connection with the land, and the people who have originally stewarded it come into stewarding it. How can we all get into that right relationship through the pacing and timing that is right? Don’t got to rush this. There is urgencies; that’s something to notice, adapt, and respond to versus just take as the singular truth. There’s none of that. There’s no singular truth or timeline.
I love circles and I love random zigzags. I love portals. I love jumping through and being like, “Oh my gosh, here’s a dancing elephant and that’s what I want to care about in this very moment.” My friend tells me the secret of chaos magicians, which is nothing is real so everything is permitted. And I don’t know about all of that, but the essence in there of how perception is often illusion, that not nothing is real, but everything is. Everything, everything is real. All the many stories that we might see or experience in our one time has infinite more stories within that, that I was not the glass spider on my moisturizer bottle in the shower tells you there’s at least eight more arachnid lenses on that same story. And so may that infinity of many stories help us get to stronger decisions of truth that meet our material needs so that we can do the deeper, deeper work of the spiritual.
Into the ground, the earth beneath us, from the smallest little nook and cranny of gravity’s weight tethering us to this planet that we belong divinely and sacredly on. I just breathe and feel into that breath and channeling those elements of fire and air and water and earth. I mean, all the iron and other nutrients coursing through our veins from any place that feels core to us, maybe our lungs and our heart, our ribs, our solar plexus, a magma of our body, a heat pool, energy pool, letting the breath carry as messengers and as boats to all parts of us. That inner power into any places that are feeling any sort of sensation; pleasure, tension, ache, long-standing ache and new ache, and even the sensation of peace, our awareness to greet the peace within us.
And then we also invite the presence to extend, ripple out into the space. We carve through the air, maybe beginning to send movement, gestures into the space, remembering our part and the balance and the balance of air, presence, that air is also presence. Invite us to honor the above; the heavens, the sun, the moon, that which is celestial, high, high up. To feel into where it’s around us. The water is of our present reality, what is material and flesh experienced by our senses.
And then finally extending that awareness and presence into the gravity that soaks us into our planet source, that we may ask to flow up through us, that we may ask to catch us when we fall, that we ask to humbly ground in the mystery and that sweet, sweet little mystery of: Wow, here we are on a rock floating through an infinite and expanding universe. And as feels right for where you and all of you are, I invite you to return to the space of relationship—not that we ever left. But that this is a practice of remembering and meeting, re-meeting.
Yura Sapi: Wonderful. Like you started: full of wonder.
Mica: Yes, wonder-filled. Thanks for going on a journey with me. Oh my gosh.
Yura Sapi: In so many ways. Everything is real. Everything is possible and so yeah, really grateful for you for joining me today, for the platform that we have, the opportunities that we have, the future connection that we have, the past that we have, and the present moment that we have.
Mica: Siyá nawâ, Salamat, Salamat. Thank you, Yura Sapi for making it happen and for inviting me to this. It’s really amazing and I’m so excited to experience what happens next after this conversation.
Yura Sapi: I love it.
This podcast is produced as a contribution to HowlRound Theatre Commons. You can find more episodes of this series and other HowlRound podcasts on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever you find podcasts. Be sure to search and subscribe to receive new episodes. If you love this podcast, post a rating and write a review on those platforms. This helps other people find us. You can also find a transcript for this episode along with a lot of other progressive and disruptive content on howlround.com. Have an idea for an exciting podcast, essay, or TV event the theatre community needs to hear? Visit howlround.com and submit your ideas to the commons.
There’s a reason our art is of the heart. We transform and transcend, share love and share truths. Creation is the cure for destruction. Storytelling is liberation. Communing is power. Evil wins when we learn how to dehumanize. Instead, we must decolonize upon us as an undoing of great feats. So let people in, be stronger together, because there is a weakness in solitude. This is Yura Sapi. You can find out more about me at yurasapi.com or follow me on Instagram or LinkedIn @yurasapi. Thanks for joining us.