Interview by Lauren Ash. Photography by Tonika Lewis.
Since the launch of our online publication, I've enjoyed interviewing Daymakers—people of color who cultivate their crafts and live in ways that inspire self-care, self-love and confidence. So far, I've featured my barber Manny, the Hyde Park Dacha and the beautiful folk who navigate that space, and artist and jewelry designer Katra Awad. In Issue 005: Celebration, I'm thrilled to spotlight Felicia Holman, who I finally got to meet at a friends' birthday party. Her smile is tremendous, as is her energy. As one of the members of the Chicago-based collective Honey Pot Performance (HPP), Felicia creates, cultivates, and performs the richness of black-woman-centered knowledge(s) and experience(s) in creative ways including workshops, theater, and dance. I trust that you'll be inspired by all that Felicia and her fellow HPP sisters represent! Please join me at one of their upcoming events!
LA: Who are you, in this moment?
FH: I am an "in-demand" creator/connector/conduit...Thank God!
LA: Indeed! Your mission is spectacular: "Honey Pot Performance (HPP) is a woman-focused, collaborative, creative community who is committed to chronicling and interrogating Afro-diasporic feminist and fringe subjectivities amidst the pressures of contemporary global life." Wow. If a five year old black child walked up to you and asked you your mission, how would you break it down for her?
FH: I'd explain that we tell stories of everyday people, but especially, we tell the stories of everyday black women & girls who do a lot with a little.
LA: That’s beautiful and important, Felicia. I, too, have performance in my bones, and know the spiritual experience of having revelations about identity and culture through the power of performance. Once, during an African based movement session, comprised of all black women, one woman continued to dance in the center of the drum circle. It was clear that she was dancing from her soul. She was frantic with her movements, beautifully wild. She began weeping and we all danced on the margins in awe and support. Can you share one of the most liberating experiences you have had while performing? And, also, while watching someone else perform?
FH: I've had so many liberating and validating moments while performing, especially with HPP… this is gonna take a while. Okay … from an artrepreneurial standpoint, my most liberating performances with HPP were during our self-produced 2011 world premiere run of The Ladies Ring Shout (LRS) at Dfbrl8r Performance Gallery. Not only was that work generated from the informal weekly creative writing and movement workshop we created and facilitated during the summer of 2009, but the entire production seemed to have been organically ordained! From our costume, set, and marketing design teams, to Dfbrl8r's venue support—shout out to Joseph Ravens!—to the fiscal sponsorship of Links Hall, to our enthralled packed houses, everyone involved with the production of LRS was there for the love of HPP!
Outside of my work with HPP my most liberating performance as an adult happened last year, during my role of 'Khan' in Gorilla Tango Burlesque's parody, The Rack Of Khan: A Star Trek Burlesque. I had a quasi-solo and a climactic dance-off with Kirk to Britney Spears' "Work Bitch." SO much fun!
As for a liberating performance I've witnessed? I gotta say that Darling Shear gives me life every time I watch her dance but she floored me with her performance at this year's Chicago Home Theater Festival, the South Shore edition. Anyone reading this who was also there can testify!
LA: I’m so sad I missed this year’s CHTF. I’ll be at multiple performances next year! So, what does liberation mean for you? As an artist and as a woman of color?
FH: For me, as both an artist and woman of color, "liberation" means de-prioritizing others' expectations for my life. At this point in my life, my quality of life aspirations are based on my own tailored metrics of success.
LA: I have to snap my fingers to that! That’s so beautiful. Can you describe one way that you have tailored your life according to your own metrics of success, and not someone else's?
FH: One primary metric of success I've customized for myself, personally and professionally, is developing my "Conditions for Connection" (shout out to Tara Gentile!). These are mostly informal and internal tools I use to assess whether a project or partnership is a 'good fit' for me. Is it meaningful or valuable enough for me to say "yes" to? Does the proposed project or partnership meet my conditions for connection with the prospective audiences, donors, community and/or collaborators? Does it feed any of my other passions and projects? My conditions for connection assessments have saved me from saying yes to opportunities that, upon closer inspection, are truly only based on my level of desperation. As an artist and a woman of color, I work diligently to banish desperation from my life.
LA: You just gave me so much life. All of these questions are deeply important and certainly help us make values-based, life and career affirming choices. Thank you so much for sharing that. So, obviously we’re all about self-care and self-love for women of color, Felicia. It may seem obvious, but how is Honey Pot Performance related to self-care and self-love?
FH: The better question is "how are we not?!" Every HPP show, every HPP public humanities program, every HPP project or event starts from the consideration of improving quality of life for our communities, our audiences and ourselves through artistic means. We are a creative and reciprocal feedback loop, or "Win/Win/Win" ven diagram. That quality of life consideration often shows up in elements of our productions (from altar-making to acknowledging and celebrating the sacred and the spiritual, sharing important-but-not-widely-known data and research via our script, hugging our audience to start the show, then ending it with a dance party, etc).
LA: Goodness, ya’ll are so multidimensional, I love it. What ways do you personally cultivate wellness, besides performance?
FH: Some of my fave wellness approaches outside of performance include quality time with loved ones, laughing, journaling, reading, arting around, traveling, volunteering, modified yoga, good conversation, good food and good sex.
LA: And to that I say amen. Thank you, Felicia!