Updated: Jan 28, 2019
The tradition of Samhain originating from the Celtic/Irish. Diá de los Muertos from Mexico/Central/South America. These holy days come from places far from each other, but share a main similarity: they are both traditional Indigenous days to honor the dead, the holy people, the ancestors, and the changing of the Earth from the longer warmer days to darker colder nights.
The word “Halloween” was derived from “All Hallows Eve,” a term the British forced upon Celtic people along with Christianity and the assimilation of Samhain into a holiday to celebrate Christian saints.
Awful racist costumes like “Poccahottie,” and “Sexy Indian” contribute to the oversexualization of Indigenous womxn, 1 of 3 of whom will be raped in their lifetime and who face the highest rates of sexual assault and missing and murdered than any other group. Indigenous womxn are portrayed as sex objects in costumes, Black People in horrific black face, and other cultures potrayed disgustingingly stereotypical, inaccurate ways.For some this turns them off to Halloween altogether.
I myself celebrate the tradition of Samhain while working to bring awareness to the modern annoying, unnecessary, racist aspects of the commercialized version. Which brings me to my story.
I recently attended a friend’s birthday outing. It was a “Black and Red party,” so when deciding on attire, I immediately thought of one of the most interesting, and my personal favorite, super hero/villian (more on that in another blog): Classic Harley Quinn.
Black dress, black leather leggings, and black leather boots in tow, along with the makeup shown below.
Personally, I am so used to being harrassed when I get dressed up and go out, which is rare, that I often opt to wear toned down outfits when I’m not with male family and friends. There have been too many creepy encounters, and I’m not there to pick up dudes. I’m there to dance and have fun with friends.
So what happens when a Black Native womxn goes dancing in a club in Scottsdale, Arizona, all dolled up with first-time, accidentally horror gore Harley Quinn makeup? Something very interesting and powerful, my friends...💄
I walked onto the night scene, up to the club where the birthday girl was. As I passed the crowds of people, I mostly walked unnoticed, as the strangers laughed and drank and stayed fixated on those of opposite or same genders. I walked with my make up Harley Quinn “masque“ into the building. None of the womxn seemed fazed. In fact, throughout the evening, some even complimented my makeup. But the men. Oh, my. The look on their drunk faces when they eyed me toe to head, and then finally when their eyes met my eye: pure terror. One man with dreads literally leaned all the way forward with his eyes large and mouth open. I danced and laughed at the gawking eyes of the men who would usually have jeered and lorded their power over me in an attempt to capture and control me. I danced past them as they flinched and dodged me, as if my hands were blades as sharp as the painted dagger over my eye.
I left the club and walked down the alley way. Usually I am the one looking over my shoulder for shadows that stalk and seek to steal me into the night. But tonight, everything was different. Everything was new. I walked behind two young white men. One casually glanced behind his shoulder upon hearing my boots on the pavement. He did a double take to see if his eyes hadn’t betrayed him: they hadn’t. He whispered to his friend, though it was loud enough for me to hear, “Did you see her face??” The friend turned, his eyes widened and they immediately made a wide turn and walked off in the opposite direction. At first I was confused, then I realized: They were afraid. I laughed aloud at this strange joyous discovery, as they walked faster back where they came from. I walked safely unbothered back to my car.
You see, racism and misogyny fear what they cannot understand or control. This is exactly why “Sexy Poccahottie” costumes exist: the Patriarchy attack Black, Indigenous, + other Womxn of Color by oversimplifying, demeaning, and demoralizing us.
But when we take back our power and shatter preconceived patriarchical notions and roles of femininity, when we stay true to ourselves and our identity as human beings: strong, fierce, beautiful, intelligent, capable, resilient...That scares the shit out of them.
Because in that way, we are honoring those who came before us, and those who will come after. Because we are taking the our power back.
And that my sisters, is what everyday is all about.
Dominique (Afro Sappony/Norse-Irish/Polish descent) is a poet/spoken word/hiphop artist, short story writer, clothing line boss babe, + aspiring recreational therapist. She is also the co-founder of Indigenous Womxn In Solidarity Empowered + Rising. She is currently working on her B.S. in Nonprofit Leadership Management with an emphasis in American Indian Studies, and lives between the southeast + southwestern U.S.