Drag Performer with the Imperial Court of Los Angeles and Hollywood. Photo: T. Saarelma/ACTA

Queering California Traditions
A Pride Series
At the Alliance for California Traditional Arts, we aim to support diverse forms of traditional cultural expression in California.

These traditions are not just defined by shared ethnicity or geography--rather, we understand the traditional arts to be those cultural forms that are transmitted and engaged as part of the cultural life of a group of people whose members share a common identity, aesthetics, and practices. Over our 20+ year history, this has included the LGBTQ+ artists, organizations, and cultural forms of our state.

Dancers from Reach LA perform at ACTA's 2012 event celebrating the opening of ACTA's LA office. Photo: A. Gutierrez/ACTA
We recognize the cultural expressions unique to the queer community such as ballroom, drag, vogueing, and other forms as traditional arts that are deeply rooted in and reflective of the shared values, experiences, and standards of beauty that are passed down and play a critical role in the wellbeing of queer communities.  Beyond queer cultural forms, ACTA recognizes that queer artists and culture-bearers are in leadership roles within traditional arts in diverse communities across the state as teachers and innovators, broadening the lens of cultural expression and queerness. 
This June, we are sharing insights and reflections from some of California's many Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Queer traditional artists in our new Pride series called " Queering California Traditions." Throughout the month we have been sharing stories, videos, and other contributions from LGBTQ+ artists who are exploring how their queer identities intersect with their traditional arts practice. 

Join us as we celebrate Pride, examine its many intersectionalities across social movements, and learn from the contributions of the LGBTQ+ artists of California!
In the Series...

Nikiko Masumoto and her wife Nichola DeNatale. Photo courtesy of Nikiko Masumoto.
Profound Grief and Radical Joy

"I am queer, I am human, and when I embrace traditions and a sense of home, I also open myself to wounds. There is no other way. I cannot be whole without both."

Central Valley farmer and storyteller Nikiko Masumoto dives deep into the complex reality of profound grief and radical joy that defines her life as a queer woman. Read the story.

Mary Alfaro. Photo by Jenny Graham.
Con Tu Verdad Sales Adelante

"With your truth you get ahead. It costs a lot, you suffer a lot, but you come out ahead."

Los Angeles-based guitarist, singer, and music educator Mary Alfaro Velasco shares how her practice in musical traditions of Mexico, including requinto romántico guitar, have offered a pathway into expressing her lesbian identity in a genre that is traditionally dominated by male cisgender voices. Read the Story.

Coming Up...

Photo courtesy of L. Frank Manriquez.
A Conversation Between Two Spirits (Live Tomorrow!)

Join us for a live conversation between artist, scholar, and indigenous language activist  L. Frank Manriquez (T ongva-Ajachmem/Rarámuri), and Sipu Whittle (Lenape/Caddo). Both Two-Spirit leaders, L. and Sipu will be discussing the relationship between queer identity and Two-Spirit identity from an indigenous perspective.

Friday June 26 | 12 pm
ACTA's Facebook page

Image courtesy of Patrick Makuakane
Māhu: Transgender Healers of Hawai'i

Patrick Makuakāne, founder and Kumu Hula at the dance company and school Nā Lei Hulu i ka Wēkiu in San Francisco, shares the story of four renowned healers who traveled to Hawaiʻi centuries ago and were beloved by the people for their miraculous cures and for embracing nature. History tells us these gifted individuals were Māhu (transgender), but their gender identity was often hidden.  Stay tuned for the story and an original chant about the Māhu healers from Patrick.
(L to R) Naomi Diouf and Zakarya Diouf (photos © RJ Muna); Hugo N. Morales (photo courtesy of Radio Bilingüe)

California Leaders Awarded NEA National Heritage Fellowships
Zakarya and Naomi Diouf of Oakland and Hugo Morales of Fresno Honored

Congratulations to the beloved California artists and advocates honored this year with the 2020 National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts: masters of West African drumming and dance Dr. Zakarya Diouf and Naomi Gedo Diouf  of Diamano Coura West African Dance Company in Oakland, and founder of Radio Bilingue , Hugo Morales of Fresno!

The NEA's National Heritage Fellowship is our nation's highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. These lifetime honor awards highlight the "breadth and excellence of the artistic traditions found in communities all across the United States." We are excited to see cultural leaders with close ties to the ACTA family honored this year.

"We are thrilled to see the inspiring stories and contributions of Dr. Zakarya Diouf, Naomi Gedo Diouf, and Hugo Morales recognized by the NEA," says Amy Kitchener, Executive Director of the Alliance for California Traditional Arts. "Each of these awardees have been leaders in their field for many years, representing the deep cultural practice and robust leadership within the African diasporic and Latinx communities across the state of California.  These awards affirm the beauty, creativity, and national relevance of the artists, practices, and histories of these communities."

ICYMI: ACTA Stands in Defense of Black Lives

The Alliance for California Traditional Arts stands in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and all those showing up to defend the value of Black life, here in our California communities and beyond. 

We mourn the losses of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others murdered by the police and/or by those who uphold white supremacy. These policies, practices, and systems of oppression are a direct result of white supremacy, serving to dehumanize and criminalize Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color. 

We stand for community-informed alternatives to policing that are rooted in care, equity, cultural knowledge, and an understanding of systemic oppression, and for the reallocation of those resources towards equitable systems that transform housing, criminal justice, education, arts and culture, and mental and physical healthcare.
Traditional Artists Speak Out

Karen Collins. Image courtesy of Atlas Obscura
"Everything old is new again. What my artwork shows is not ancient history. For us, we go through the demonstrations, the protests and such, and it never changes for us. NEVER. I'm proud of those standing against inhumane treatment. To all of those hurting in this present moment: Be steady. Be resolved. This is the end of inhumanity. This change is for next generation."

- Karen Collins, African American Miniature Museum (Compton)
2020 ACTA Living Cultures Grantee

Rhodessa Jones (L) and Uzo Nwankpa.
"We're talking about collective grief. We're talking about the grief from COVID-19. We're talking about grief from police brutality. We're talking about grief from structural racism, xenophobia. We're talking about grief from violence."

- Uzo Nwankpa, 2020 ACTA apprentice in African American storytelling
in conversation with mentor artist Rhodessa Jones (San Francisco)

Wanda Ravernell. Photo courtesy of the Menlo Park Library
"We heal in this practice. This is also a way that we are able to articulate to ourselves who we are. There is so much about being Black in America that is about being told who you are. And suffering because of who we are. To actively engage in the things that we were told were negative or backward or primitive--these things are really important."

-Wanda Ravernell and Tobaji Stewart, Omnira Institute (speaking on the significance of Lucumí traditions; Oakland)
2019 Living Cultures Grantee
Resources for Traditional Artists and Organizations Affected by COVID-19

In an effort to support traditional artists and organizations affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting loss of bookings, programming, and income, ACTA has compiled a  shortlist of funding and readiness resources. This page will be continually updated as new funding and support resources become available.
The Alliance for California Traditional Arts is the California Arts Council's official partner in serving the state's folk and traditional arts field.
Like us on Facebook  View our videos on YouTube  Follow us on Twitter  View on Instagram