WCW Michelle Castillo Cover

Introducing our Womxn Crush for this Wednesday, the 3rd day of March, 2021.  Michelle Castillo is an artist, writer, educator, chef, and community organizer. Castillo founded the feminist creative community space, Wyld Womxn & Filipino food and art project, Lola’s Kusina. She is one of the co-founders of Bayanihan Desert, a civically engaged space connecting communities of color. Castillo has designed and produced various multidisciplinary arts and cultural programming with galleries, arts nonprofits, and museums. Her personal & collaborative practice and organizing work include working at the intersections of race, class, gender, and accessibility. Through social practice, alternative spaces, and meaningful exchanges, she utilizes her leadership and the arts as a tool to cultivate, bridge, and build inclusive communities.

Michelle took some time today for a quick interview with Gay Desert Guide’s Jeff Denean Jones:

• My first opportunity meeting you was in 2015, you were hosting the spoken word/slam poetry event, Connected, facilitated by the Coachella Valley Art Scene’s amazing pop up space in Cathedral City. The event and the space provided the safe, welcoming, and nurturing space for folks to explore their individual creativity and find their voice. Was this a primary objective; with a particular outreach to offer a stage to folks whose voices are under represented, or may not have had any platform?

“Before starting CONNECTED with CVAS, I came from a background of teaching and public programming in community arts. Locally, I started the reading series, Bohemian Cafe in Indio, sensory nature readings, and poetry readings at Koffi. Most of the work I do in the arts & culture, and community organizing is centering and uplifting marginalized voices. One of my goals is to bring together an inclusive and diverse group of folks from various lived experiences to express and be themselves. I enjoy co-creating community spaces where everybody can be seen, heard, and can share their stories. Spaces where we can connect authentically and celebrate each other!”

• You grew up in Palm Springs’ Veterans Tract neighborhood, but spent time living in Northern California. I’ve noticed a great deal of folks that were born and raised here may go away to college, or live outside the region for a time, but come home to Palm Springs and happily make their lives here, and even thrive. Would you say this describes your experience? And if so, what do you think it is about Palm Springs that does this?

“I moved back to the desert because I felt the need to give back to the community I came from. Growing up here, I did not always feel represented in the local landscape, so when I came back to the desert- my goal was to create those community spaces where marginalized voices and people can come together, grow, and thrive.”

• Your roots from family and friends appears to be growing to include community/political/civic roots, i.e. your service leadership has several local organizations, through social justice action, and even as a chef. Wyld Womxn is one such organization which you founded. It has some components that are reminiscent of Connected. Tell us about the Wyld Womxn’s mission.

WYLD WOMXN is a community-based feminist org that serves a community of intergenerational womxn and non-binary folx from diverse lived experiences and backgrounds in the Coachella Valley and beyond. Our programs nourish our multifaceted selves as artists, activists, and community leaders by providing accessible arts & wellness programming, and resources. Wyld Womxn curates feminist public community art programs from our artist talks, exhibitions, workshops, panels, & performances!  We’ve developed professional and creative opportunities for our community to be part of our programming.”

• Tonight, Bayanihan Desert, a community action group you are part of is connecting Filipinos and other communities of color through civic and social engagement is hosting a virtual townhall, Anti-Asian Hate, at 6pm. Share the importance of tonight’s town hall discussion and how folks can participate and learn about other events and discussions with Bayanihan Desert?

“Tonight’s event is important because people need to be aware of the Anti-Asian violence that continues to happen across the nation which has spiked since the COVID-19 pandemic. Becoming aware, educating yourself, and taking a stand against racism and xenophobia are steps we can all take to help create positive social change.”

You can follow Bayanihan Desert at http://facebook.com/bayanihandesert

• Lastly, what is your favorite quote from bell hooks? And, Why? And, when can look forward to the next Lola’s Kusina pop up?

“Embracing love ethic means that we utilize all dimensions of love- “care, commitment, trust, responsibility, respect and knowledge”– in our everyday lives.” -bell hooks

That is one of my favorite quotes from bell hooks because it embodies the need to create deep trust, accountability, ongoing commitment, and mutual respect when it comes to creating sustainable and inclusive communities that grow over time.

Lola’s Kusina is getting ready to pop-up again and is looking forward to sharing Filipino food with the community!

You can follow along at http://www.instagram.com/lolas.kusina