Junauda Petrus-Nasah (She/Her/Hers) is a writer, pleasure activist, filmmaker and performance artist of Black-Caribbean descent, born on Dakota land. Her work centers around wildness, queerness, Black-diasporic-futurism, ancestral healing, sweetness, shimmer and liberation. She is the co-founder with Erin Sharkey of Free Black Dirt, an experimental arts production company. She is the writer and director of "Sweetness of Wild" a poetic-episodic film series themed around Blackness, queerness, biking, resistance, love and coming of age in Minneapolis. Her first YA novel, The Stars and The Blackness Between Them is out on Dutton Children’s. She lives in Minneapolis with her wife, child, and family.
My work and journey as an artist has always been deeply in alignment with justice and a need to transform the world for healing. It is a lot of what inspired Free Black Dirt (Erin, Lisa and myself) to come on board to help guide the work of the next phase of Heart of The Beast Theatre a year ago. In the last year, so much more had become apparent as to why our decision to do this work was serendipitously timed.
While my community is swiftly and deeply gentrifying, and experiencing the impact and intersection of multiple societal oppressions we wanted to figure out how can we galvanize our work at HOBT to ground in a radical, soulful, imaginative and magical transformation. One that could protect and salvage this community for the Indigenous, Black, POC, low-income and immigrant communities who have made it who it is over generations. How do we use the platform and power of this arts organization that has such a tremendously beautiful and in some ways problematic legacy, and reimagine it into a force that helps heal the generations and eras of wounds and disenfranchisement that has existed in this community? How do we get to the root and not just talk about oppression but end it in real and deep ways?
I call these times Octavian in that they recall to me a time that Octavia Butler continuously warned us of what was coming in her books. A time where the police state, corporate and political greed, and rampant disease would leave so many of us desperate and on the brink of survival. She taught us that we would need to lean into the change and the seed of magic that is our very existence towards a new way. In a way, I had been reading about and preparing for these times and was still in awe when I saw the truth of it spark so close to home and ignite so many here and across the world, through the violent ancestor-hood of George Floyd.
I believe that the work that is happening at HOBT is making it so that we can have a world that would nourish and acknowledge the dreams and history that is embodied in the George Floyds and countless others who have been disenfranchised and villainized in their need.
At this moment in time, I witness and feel, and do the work and practices that bring us closer to a new world. Take it all in, all of the change. All of the things that felt immovable and permanent in a subconscious way are now gone or changed forever in my world of South Minneapolis and have become crumble and bricks and burned out. May we rebuild it back for the people with imagination and power, and not let it be bought out by the greedy who don’t know or love us in these streets.