Hey! It's time to meet the Angry Reader of the Week, spotlighting you, the very special readers of this website. Over the years, I've been able to connect with a lot of cool folks, and this is a way of showing some appreciation and attention to the people who help make this blog what it is. This week's Angry Reader is Erin O'Brien.
Who are you?
Genevieve Erin O'Brien. I go by middle name, Erin, but usually use my full name to distinguish me from the other Erin O'Briens of the world, of which there are apparently many. Some people call me GEO. Most people call me Erin O'Brien, not simply "Erin" but the whole name "Erin O'Brien."
What are you?
I'm a Queer mixed race Vietnamese/Irish/German/American woman. I am an artist, a filmmaker, an organizer, a cook/private chef, and a friend.
Where are you?
I am in my artist studio in the City of Angels. I love this city. It is the first place I chose to call home as an adult and the place I chose to come back to again and again. I am in a very deep, long-term, committed, polyamorous love affair with Los Angeles.
Where are you from?
Nowhere in particular. I'm not being cagey or coy, just honest. It's a question that takes a little more time to explain. My dad is a career foreign service officer, so we never stayed in one place very long. He met my mother in Saigon, Vietnam where I was conceived. I was born in Alexandria, Virginia and lived in Lorton, VA before we moved to Manila, Philippines. We moved back to Virginia, this time to Springfield. We lived in Yaoundé, Cameroon and Damascus, Syria and then came back to Northern Virginia. From there we set off for London, England for a few years and then ended up in Napa Valley, California. I spent a year in Ancona, Italy as an exchange student and came back to graduate from high school in Napa. I went to UC Santa Barbara and was fortunate to be close to the sand, sun and ocean for 5 years. I spent a quick minute in Portland, Oregon but was soon called to Los Angeles. My friends told me there was a revolution happening and that I was needed, they offered to help me score a job and had a room for me in Echo Park for $280/month. I know $280!?!? It was such a long time ago. I lived in Los Angeles for 8 years before I wandered away. I lived in Eugene, Oregon and Champaign, Illinois before setting my sights on Chicago. After Chicago, I headed to Saigon, the place of my conception, now called Ho Chi Minh City for a few years. I have since returned to Los Angeles the place I have called home, the city I have spent the most years of my life in and when people ask, "Where are you from?" I respond with, "How much time do you have?"
What do you do?
Well, I do have advanced degrees in make-believe, so, I can make whatever I want and call it art. I make things -- art, film, trouble, food and fun. I use art to address social and political inequity and reflect the world we live in and to imagine a world we dream of creating. I am an artist and a storyteller by trade. Visit erin-obrien.com if you want to see more about my conceptual performance art that I don't get paid to make.
And I make sausages. I know that sounds a bit out of left field, but I assure you, these are social justice sausages. I have a performance series where I honor friends and family by crafting an homage out of sausage -- because statues are so last century. I use encased meats as a form of narrative storytelling. I try to capture the spirit and essence of my friends in the flavors and put that into sausages. I create an ethical product, using organic ingredients where possible, with no antibiotics, no growth hormones, and all natural meat. It's not just the animals that should have rights - I pay my workers a living wage. I actively hire queer, genderqueer and trans people who so often are subjected to discrimination in the workplace elsewhere. You can see more about Meat My Friends on my website eatmeatmyfriends.com. Right now I'm doing pop-ups and catering events and soon will be able to take regular orders. And popcorn. I make Postcolonial Popcorn -- making radical politics digestible. This is a performance piece representing my politics through food. Everything is made with Non-GMO "rainbow ladyfinger" hulless corn kernels so it's Queer inside and out and won't get stuck in your teeth. Tenderly popped in small batches and packed by queer hands in the City of Angels.
I have 3 flavors:
Orientalize This! This is Asian American Feminist popcorn. There's nothing subservient or demure about this flavor. The organic white cheddar pairs with the sweetness of honey but the ginger is sure to check you with an unexpected kick and the Yuzu will queer your citrus world.
Curry'O! Inspired by the revolutionary spirit of the global south. Curry'O is an Indian and English encounter of reverse colonization. Curry dominates the English cheddar this time around.
Unicorn Union! This is the Queer Woman of Color Intersectional approach to popcorn. Savory lemongrass gets a little social justice movement self-care with hints of lavender, the intersectionality comes together with browned butter, nutritional yeast, chinese chives, and, of course, a little pink peppercorn for queer glittery sparkle. The magic is dusted with green tea salt for long life because the movement isn't 9-5. geopostpop.com
What are you all about?
Right now I'm all about food, art and politics. I have spent the last four years teaching Asian American studies as an adjunct professor and I have barely been able to pay my bills, even though I was working full time teaching at three different colleges and universities. I was tired of driving 15-20 hours a week to get to and from work. I spent five years unsuccessfully on the tenure track job market and while balancing my artistic practice and career and teaching. I was tired of the academic hustle that left me personally, financially and emotionally drained. I was tired of fighting to get into a party that as a queer mixed race woman of color wasn't set up for me and the kind of work I do.
This year, I made the decision to leave academia and focus on food, art and politics. I am all about food, art and politics or any combination thereof. I'm all about making political food based art. The idea that starting a food business and being a working artist might be more sustainable than being an adjunct professor is an indicator of the sad state of higher education today. At the very least it has offered me more joy and that says quite a bit. I'm all about using food as a way to think about race, culture and ethnicity. I spent a decade organizing low income, immigrant community members, youth and workers around environmental justice, social justice and workers rights. These values reflect in my art practice and connect food, not just as a marker of place or cultural identity but in a larger context of power relations, globalization, and capitalism. I am curious how memory, nostalgia and self become mediated and negotiated through a relationship to food and culture. I play with alternative forms of narrative storytelling. I use food, humor, narrative and conceptual structures to develop work that is invested in collective engagement, to further social justice and cultural understanding. I'm all about social justice.
What makes you angry?
I am so full of rage and expletives today. I want to be angry that the vet suggested yesterday that my senior dog, already on a handmade food diet, switch to a diet of Purina Senior formula or some other kibble crap. I want to be angry that someone stole my two bikes. I want to be angry that the DVR didn't record The Great British Bake Off this week or that The Bachelorette was just a repeat. I want to be angry about inconsequential stupid things but I just can't. I have a pet that eats better than the majority of Americans. I had not one but two bikes. Really, if anyone is mad about reality TV, they need to seriously adjust their priorities. Frankly, today, I have the privilege of being alive, with a roof over my head, well fed and a crappy A/C. So, what am I really angry about?
Honestly, I guess it's just 2016 that makes me angry. It makes me angry that in 2016 white supremacy is the law of the land. It makes me angry that in 2016 patriarchy and misogyny fill our hallowed halls of justice and "democratic" government and our schools and our homes. I am angry that in 2016 toxic masculinity is acceptable behavior. I am angry that in 2016 we have created a world so full of homophobia and transphobia that we are bursting at the seams with senseless violence. I am angry that in 2016 we continue to protest and demand justice.
I am angry that in 2016 we still don't know how to talk about race, gender, sexuality, class and difference in real and meaningful ways. I am angry that in 2016 Asian Americans are used as a wedge between white people and black people. I am angry that in 2016 Asian American police and Asian American communities are barely grappling with entrenched anti-blackness. I am angry that in 2016 state perpetrated violence against people of color, women, LGBTQ communities, and especially against black people, hardly ever faces public accountability. I am angry that in 2016 a black woman can be arrested for federal lynching at a peaceful protest less than 2 miles from my house. I am angry that in 2016 white privilege and legacy offers more protection to rapists than any survivor of sexual assault has ever been afforded.
I am angry that in 2016 people can legally buy semi-automatic weapons. I am angry that in 2016 internalized homophobia can be so extreme that said semi-automatic weapons, procured legally, can be used to massacre 49 beautiful black and brown queer souls. I am angry that in 2016 being shot is an occupational hazard for students and professors and doctors and nurses and workers and clerics and just about anyone who goes out in the world in the Unites States of guns. I am angry that in 2016 just yesterday a young 4-year old Latino kid was shot and killed on a front porch in a drive-by a few miles from my house. I am angry that in 2016 some of the very people who advocate for guns are the same people who shoot and kill their family members in their own home.
I am angry that in 2016 my heart is aching every single time I hear about bombings and attacks on Muslim people around the world, especially during Ramadan. I am angry that in 2016 right here in the United States, Arab and Muslim people are beaten, attacked, stabbed and shot for speaking Arabic, for looking foreign, for going to the mosque for fill in the blank.
I am angry that in 2016 there are 100+ anti-LGBTQ bills pending in states around the country. I am angry that in 2016 in 6 short months 14 transgender people, predominantly black transgender women, have been murdered. I am angry that in 2016 police have already killed 123 black people and only 188 days of the year have passed. I am angry that in 2016 each new day requires a new hashtag to address violence. I am angry that in 2016 even when people are caught in the act of rape they aren't held accountable.
I am angry that in 2016 we have to bear witness to systemic and structural state violence, repeatedly. I am angry that in 2016 even with footage of police shootings there is no accountability. I am angry that in 2016 police are put on paid leave when they shoot and kill someone. I am angry that in 2016 even if police officers that have killed black people are brought to trial they are not convicted. I am angry that in 2016 white people with weapons are arrested without being shot and killed.
I am angry that in 2016 we are consistently exposed to and subjected to racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, ableism and more. I am angry that in 2016 a hate-mongering presidential candidate uses his platform every opportunity to fuel racism, sexism, homophobia, classism and ableism.
I am angry that in 2016 people don't know their history. I am angry that in 2016 the effects of colonization and imperialism are still visible to me. I am angry that in 2016 gentrification of the neighborhoods that surround me fosters a new form of colonization. I am angry that in 2016 there are hundreds of thousands of refugees who need food and shelter. I am angry that in 2016 workers are being exploited in the name of profit and capitalism.
I am angry that in 2016 people are distracted by microaggressions and individual acts of racism, sexism, misogyny, and homophobia without acknowledging and working to dismantle the institutional and systemic nature of oppression. I am angry that in 2016 all the work we have done to build community and fight for social justice can be made to seem insignificant every time another life is taken. I am angry that in 2016 I am told that I am courageous for the work I have done. I am angry that in 2016 I should fucking require courage to merely be myself and live my life. I am angry that in 2016 people are beaten, shot and/or killed for being themselves. I am angry that in 2016 I have so often found myself at a loss for words, or crumbled in a heap of grief. I am angry that in 2016 we are still fighting for liberation. I am angry that in 2016 we still aren't free.
I am angry. I am so angry. Are you angry? Why aren't you angry too?