Arianna Gil founded Brujas, which is Spanish for “witches,” in 2014 in order to create a space for female skaters. The mission statement for the group on Facebook reads, “We are Brujas. We are the descendants of strong women and of people connected with the earth. We are here as a cause of colonialism. We are part of a diaspora. These events have left our ancestors and their culture broken. We are a cause of this lost culture. The loss of not knowing our ancestral knowledge. Nevertheless we have gathered to retake our history and our power as scared women.” Founded in the Bronx, the group is rooted in the Latina heritage of its original members, prompting a growing focus on activism since its creation in 2014.
An audience of mostly women filled several rows of chairs in the Horn Gallery Friday afternoon to hear from Gil, a musician who graduated from Oberlin College last year, and Alicia Gutierrez, who works with professional artists to develop their brands, about their experiences as Latina women working in creative careers. A day earlier, students had learned that popular recording artist Destiny Frasqueri, known more commonly as Princess Nokia, would not be in attendance at the discussion or for a show at the Horn Gallery on Friday night as scheduled due to adverse weather conditions and a resulting cancellation in her transportation.
Despite Frasqueri’s absence, the discussion allowed students and faculty to learn about issues of diversity in the music and visual art industries. The conversation centered on each individual’s careers and experiences as women of color in the creative working world. Gil, who plays bass and has been involved in Princess Nokia’s band, spoke about her frustrations regarding the sexism she had witnessed both from a distance and personally with colleagues on tour. “I worked really hard to create something that is handed to men,” she said of creating and expanding Brujas and of her artistic collaborations with other women. “They just literally exist in a world where they can collaborate with each other and feel really inspired,” she said. Gutierrez, who is now 31, discussed the problems she has experienced with the general population’s perception of women of color, a topic she addresses in a book she is currently writing. “Oftentimes women of color are deemed ‘emotional’ any time they try to speak what they think,” she said. She is currently interviewing women who have encountered this issue in the workplace in order to give light to their perspectives.
Brujas holds meetings, skating groups and parties to promote its mission and draw support. Schulman met Alicia Gutierrez, the second discussion participant as well as event producer and curator, at one of these parties, which she attended with a friend, over winter break. She worked in conjunction with BFC funds, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, LGBTQUIA+ funds, the Mesaros Fund, Sisterhood, QDUBS and Adelante in order to bring Gutierrez and other members of Brujas to Kenyon in the hopes of providing examples of young, successful activists and creatives, of which she believes there is a deficit within the Kenyon alumni network. “My goal for this is that the conversation at Kenyon surrounding post-grad opportunities and how we can be activists will not be separate conversations, especially for women, for individuals who are marginalized for their race [etc.],” Schulman said in the week before the event. Gil expressed disappointment that Frasqueri was unable to attend and mentioned her experiences on tour and in Brujas with the recording artist fondly.
The talk was substantive but concise, enabling students and faculty in attendance the opportunity to speak with Gil and Gutierrez individually before and after the event. Despite reflections of their frustrations as social minorities in the creative world, the two women ultimately offered a message of positivity and hope. “Since I created an art project specifically to prioritize women in the arts, I have had the most beautiful moments of creation with other women,” said Gil. “Actually producing art with other women together … is enough.”