#Mutiny2Unity x Intersectionality
Dear Social Justice Seekers/Flame Keepers/Faith Leapers/Friends,
Frock! I’m so honored to be included via my first novel Born Confused in the glorious gift-that-keeps-giving Sanaya Set movement.
So, with much appreciation, this one goes out—from protagonist Dimple Lala and me—to YOU:
In celebration of intersectional feminism, social justice, self-care, and inclusion—all Sanaya Set themes too—here’s the Deep Blue She #Mutiny2Unity #MeToomusic video/remix/PSA project.
Background: I wrote the original song “Deep Blue She” with Marie Tueje in memory of Nirbhaya [Jyoti Singh], for my ‘booktrack’ album Bombay Spleen(songs based on my second novel/sequel, Bombay Blues). Also referred to in the track is Section 377—the recriminalization of homosexuality in India—and sections in the penal code there that do not treat marital rape as a crime. Two years after the book/album were completed, on the day of the US election result in November 2016, I began work on this music video/remix project, in a kind of spur of the mindfrock moment: After a morning spent ramblingly assuring my stunned daughters (then 11 and 7) that things were going to be okay, that a positive force always rises up to push back, transform the negative … I felt I had to do the very thing I told them in order to comfort them and hold the hope: Make a little piece of positive force.
What I thought would take a month or so…took nearly twelve (sometimes it’s a blessing not knowing how long projects take upon embarking! Shoutout to video editor Atom Fellows and remix producer Dave Sharma for sticking with me as it all kept expanding in content…and time). Thing is, life, of course, wouldn’t stay still. And the project demanded inclusion and intersectionality—of humans, and the myriad multifaceted ways to be one. And of events (for example, footage from the Women’s Marches in DC, NYC, London and Standing Rock is included).
See, even though the original track was set into motion by Nirbhaya in India in 2012—and the remix/video by a 2016 morning in the UK, when I was bowled over by something going on in the US…and the release of the video a year later during the resurgence of the #MeToo movement…
It all felt like part of the same unacceptable continuum.
The roots of the issues—the problems—are intertwined. And so the solutions must be as well. The fight for social justice—for women’s/LGBTQi/human rights, racial equality, gender equity—is one that must be fought together. And I wanted the video to reflect that: to be as inclusive, intersectional, diverse, and personal political it could be, drawing from my world (which deepened and widened wonderfully in the process; what a gift!). This in terms of race, religion, gender, sexuality; also ableism and age (hence in utero footage up through the elderly).
And I wanted to celebrate the WE! In all our splendid messy inspiring empowering magnificence. And so the project kept evolving, growing as the year went on.…until 364 days later, we wrapped with 100+ artist/activists, mostly women/teens/girls of color having taken part in this dance of intersectional comm(unity).
Many survivors are in the video, whether they talk about it or not (some didn’t want to discuss but did want to dance it out). My beloved parents are in it, and my own mergrrrls too. And many a brave, bold, unabashed force-of-nature, including double-dutiers (in video and on remix): Anoushka Shankar (on sitar), Amita Swadhin (on testimony), Valarie Kaur (on Night Watch), and Jon Faddis (jazz trumpet).
The project was filmed by us, mostly on cellphones, all over the world, over the course of a year. The idea being that we decide the frame, the angle, the dress, the dance. We tell our tales ourselves. Give voice to the issues—and then bring it back off the page, the screen, the stereo…and offer concrete ways to help (all artist proceeds from the remix to charities, beginning with The Mahendra Singh Foundation, founded by video participant and activist, philanthropist, acid attack survivor, MoniCa Singh; pick your price!)
Listen. Your voice, our voices, are vital. And we’re a resounding force-of-nature chorus when we bring our voices together. When you and I connect, intersect—amplify, honorize—and make WE.
In a way this video is a literal record of a tumultuous and often tormented year—and a kind of womanifesto to keep on keeping on, our Mutiny towards Unity, into the future. To nevertheless persist, resist, insist. Love our daughters more. Raise our sons to lay down swords. Stand up for ourselves and each other. Love who we want to love. Be who we want to be. Make room for and celebrate each other.
And create safe spaces for that embrace. East, West: All the world round.
The winds are changing. And now is not the time to give up, fellow dreamers/doers—but rather, all hands on deck and get on board! Turn that heartbreak to heartmake. Be the change.
We Are Here. And ain’t going away.
And thank you for that.
Tanuja (& Dimple)
TANUJA DESAI HIDIER is an award-winning author/singer-songwriter. Her pioneering debut BORN CONFUSED —considered to be the first South Asian American YA novel — was named an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults and became a landmark work, hailed by Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone Magazine, and Paste Magazine as one of the greatest YA novels of all timeon lists including such classics as To Kill A Mockingbird, The Catcher in the Rye, Little Women, Harry Potter, and Huckleberry Finn.
To celebrate the book's recent 15th anniversary, the hashtag #BornConfused15 was launched along with a Brown Girl Magazine series: essays by ten authors on what the book/protagonist Dimple Lala has meant to them along their own writing journeys. The novel was recently featured at Shondaland as a top 7 pick for books by women of color to add to your bookshelf at any age.
Tanuja’s crossover/adult novel BOMBAY BLUES is recipient of the South Asia Book Award. It launched at the National Book Festival in Washington, DC (chaired by then President Barack and Michelle Obama) and the Zee/Jaipur Literature Festival in India.
Tanuja is also a songwriter/singer. WHEN WE WERE TWINS, her album of original songs based on Born Confused, was featured in Wired Magazine for being the first-ever “booktrack.”
Tanuja recently produced and released the DEEP BLUE SHE #MUTINY2UNITY #METOOmusic video/remix/PSA: a grassroots women’s/LGBTQi/human rights and racial/gender equality project featuring more than 100 artist/activists, mostly women of color (including Anoushka Shankar on the remix as well as onscreen), original art, and real-news footage. A year in the making, the project was filmed by participants themselves, all over the world, on their phones, in an act of musical intersectionality. All artist proceeds from sales of the remix to rotating charities. Outlook Magazinecalls the project “The ‘We Are The World’ of our times, with a desi edge.” Says BookRiot:“[Tanuja] is a writer, musician, and activist who works tirelessly building cultural bridges and bringing awareness about pressing issues relating to women at the intersections of race and class to the forefront.”
Tanuja is currently working on her next book and album. For more info, please visit www.ThisIsTanuja.com.