With Valentine’s Day just a day old, it is fitting that our DreamGirl, Lenée Voss, is a fierce advocate of love, self-love, and intimacy. Unlike Valentine’s Day and its push for cheesy, cliche, and commercialized gestures of love, Lenée asks us to put on our big girl panties and big girl “thinking caps” to challenge and expand our understanding love in the context of social justice, sexual self-awareness, feminism, queer advocacy, and hip-hop culture.
It was a pleasure.
You are a radio personality, a fierce advocate for the LGBT-of-color community, and overall radical intellectual. How is www.hiphopisforlovers.com a reflection of that?
My work as a site contributor and show co-host on Hip Hop is 4 Lovers Radio demonstrates my personal commitment to justice in my community and elsewhere. On the show, we critically affirm Hip Hop music and culture, discuss topics relevant to a wide range of people, especially people-of-color, and make it a point to encourage personal reflection amongst the people who listen to and engage with our programming.
What other topics do you cover on www.hiphopisforlovers.com?
We talk about Intimate Partner Violence, consent, kink, Bondage, Discipline, Sadism & Masochism (BDSM) , divorce, marriage, and co-parenting…some of everything that falls under that greater umbrella of intimacy. We talk about self-love and self-care a lot, too! There are some things on our agenda for 2013 that we haven’t yet explored, and I feel that all of it is really fascinating stuff. This year I hope to expand our subject matter to include topics that folks are often reluctant to discuss. These conversations need to happen — acting like they don’t doesn’t help anyone.
We met twice– at an idealist.org graduate fair and at the Sisterhood Summit for the Black Girl Project, where we both facilitated workshops around the themes of Pleasure, Sexuality, and Transformation. I thought it was wild that in some instances strangers, meaning us, were the first to be seriously talking to teenage girls about AIDS & HIV, their sexual self-worth in both theoretical and concrete terms. What are your thoughts on this?
I totally agree! I find that parents and caregivers are often so disconnected from their own selves (especially pleasure in general, not just sex) and their desires that it practically never occurs to them to speak to the young folks in their lives about these things. I love being able to share with these young folks the things that I believe they need in order to take the best care of themselves and each other as they explore intimacy. It saddens me deeply that more adults don’t feel compelled to even begin these very necessary conversations, but I understand the source of their hesitancy. So, I hope to engage caregivers in these conversations, too — maybe they can get in touch with their own desires and work some of their stuff out, too.
How can we encourage more dialogue within our communities around topics of sexual wellness, sexual self-care, and community activism for all women-of-color, but especially the LGBT-of-color communities? That is, how can we look to each other as sources of support in our immediate families and sister-circles?
The late Audre Lorde said in A Litany for Survival: “it is better to speak/ remembering/ we were never meant to survive.” It seems to me that, as part of these marginalized groups–people of Color, women of Color, LGBTQ people-of-color, persons with disabilities–that so much of our treatment depends on our silence. That is, we are silenced repeatedly, our histories and narratives erased or rewritten by outsiders, and eventually we have to re-learn self advocacy. We have to re-learn what it is to take up for another person — to stand in solidarity with them. And, because self-advocacy–as an outward demonstration of self-love and self-care–has been systematically stripped from our communities; it’s paramount that we learn first that the change and healing we want begin with us. Of course, it’s easier said than done. But even the smallest movement toward wholeness has a ripple effect in our communities!
Lenée Voss is a thirtysomething creative professional. A media maker, blogger, visual artist, and aspiring DJ, she hails from Philadelphia and has made New York City her home since 2009. Connect with her on Twitter @dopegirlfresh Tune in to her every Wednesday, 8-10pm.