I have two massive crushes on Magogodi oaMphela Makhene (pictured above) and Cleyvis Natera (pictured below). From reading their writing alone, one would develop a crush, but having met both of them in person and seen the joy they bring to everything they do, well my love for them just grows every time I see their names in my inbox.
Their friendship, teamed up with joy, and a want to combat racism, has produced an ongoing arts-infused virtual festival called LOVE AS A KIND OF CURE.
From July 12th – July 19th they will be hosting the next festival, which is a freedom festival that we wanted to feature on DORÉ because we believe wholeheartedly in its message. You can learn more about it and purchase tickets here.
I asked Magogodi and Cleyvis about their friendship, idea behind LOVE AS A KIND OF CURE, and their want for the future. Enjoy these two phenomenal women.
First off — can we talk about your friendship? How did the two of you meet and realize you’d make such great partners in work?
Cleyvis: Our mutual friend is De’Shawn Charles Winslow. We met at his debut book’s launch party, « In West Mills », a great summer read btw! It was basically love at first sight. We all headed to a bar after his reading, to toast to De’Shawn. I purposely sat next to Magogodi because she had this laughter which reminded me of myself. We both laugh really loudly. Being writers and being in a lot of these publishing spaces, you don’t really get to connect with other Black women often, so I felt very drawn to Magogodi. I think it was a mutual thing. We laughed that whole night and ended up going to get ice cream a month later and we just started developing a friendship.
Then, in August, just two months after we met, Toni Morrison passed. That cemented our friendship and our purpose in a way that I’m very grateful for. We really believe that Toni Morrison–who was our literary Living Ancestor–brought us together. She knew what she was doing, LoL! Immediately, we wanted to do something equal to her, to honour her legacy and indelible mark in both our lives and in American letters. And so the Toni Morrison Festival was born, which we launched this year on our Queen’s birthday at the Brooklyn Museum. It was a cold NYC February night but people were already lining the building to get in, before doors opened! We were so humbled by the love in the room! It made us double down on our mission to keep Morrison’s words and work alive for future generations of readers and to continue challenging white supremacy and patriarchy in the arts. I mean, in the Nobel Prize’s 115 years of literature laureates, only 15 have ever been women! Toni Morrison remains the sole black woman to win a Nobel literature prize. To say nothing of the media landscape at large, where 79% of the publishing industry is white, less than 40% of print and digital bylines are women’s; and a paltry 4.8% of TV writers are black!
Where did the idea for LOVE AS A KIND OF CURE come from?
Magogodi: When we saw how hard the pandemic hit our community–black and brown people in NYC and around the world–we knew we had to offer a salve, no matter how small. So we put together LOVE AS A KIND OF CURE, a digital « cure » for Covid-19, focusing on Covid x Inequality. We wanted to spread light and love amidst the sea of our collective grief and anguish. Remember, bodies were literally piling up in NYC. Those body bags were filled with people who looked like our grandmothers, our uncles and sisters. That shit hurt. Especially when you coupled the losses with how much more ongoing exposure black and brown communities still have to the virus. In Cape Town, where I was sheltering in place, thousands of black people still have no way of sheltering in place and feeding their kids, let alone washing their hands often without indoor plumbing, with only one shared communal tap in a yard of say 12 people. Everyone was in pain. So we wanted to activate kindness. We also wanted to help people see the through-line between the many hundreds lost and deep, systemic inequality. Why were Latinx people more susceptible to Covid-19 exposure? Why were multiple members of the same families being taken out in concentrated black and brown zip codes?
Was it always going to be a virtual festival? Or has it morphed into that due to COVID-19? Do you find any benefits from making it virtual?
Magogodi: The Toni Morrison Festival is an annual in-person festival. Our first gathering, in early 2020, before Covid hit, was a sold-out celebration at the Brooklyn Museum. LOVE AS A KIND OF CURE, which is a separate sister brand, has grown out of living and loving through Covid-19. LOVE AS A KIND OF CURE is a joyous digital gathering of big-hearted troublemakers. We use art to take action on issues critical to our communities. Right now, we’re focusing on activating our community toward practicing anti-racism, both as part of the global movement for Black Lives and as a personal commitment to change ourselves from the inside out.
There are tons of benefits we love from being all-virtual. For one thing, we can double down on inclusivity. Racism is not a U.S. invention and it’s far from an exclusive U.S. problem. Every country on earth is battling this disease. Hosting conversation and activations online means my family living in South Africa can participate, as well as Cleyvis’ people in the Dominican Republic. Both our families come from long lines of enslavement and epic race-based oppression–participation for people like them is important to us. That’s also why we’re emphatic about making the whole program free for anyone if the only thing stopping them is money. We didn’t even have a paywall until about a week ago. That’s all on-purpose. Inclusivity is not just about colour and gender, it’s also about class. And those things are historically intertwined, again, on purpose. Being a digital community, we can also stay in folks’ ears about ways to engage with the issue on a day-to-day basis, long before our gathering.
Right now for example, LOVE AS A KIND OF CURE is offering a free instagram 30Day Anti-Racist Challenge leading up to our Freedom Festival, Jul12-19–to dismantle white supremacy. Just by following us @lovekindcure, women from Edinburg to Israel and Boise, Idaho are learning how they can show up to create the kind of just world all of us are hungry for.
What do you hope your participants walk away with after attending Love As a Kind of Cure’s Freedom Festival?
Cleyvis: We want people to walk away with very clear, actionable steps to practicing anti-racism. Anyone awake to this moment understands our culture is living through a revolutionary, seismic shift. We want to help you understand your role in this revolution and give you the tools you need to live that purpose out loud. And since we’re two shit-talkers who love a good time, we also want you to understand how integral joy is to doing this work! Our ancestors survived genocide and state-sanctioned terrorism because their fight was rooted in love and joy. It still is! So expect music, live interactive art, and even a Freedom Food cook-along as part of the Freedom Festival. We don’t shy away from tough and substantive and uncomfortable conversations (and some tools on how to tackle those!) but you better come ready to laugh from your ribcage, to grow and learn something new and to expand your heart. Our hope is that each participant of the Freedom Festival walks away joy-filled, love-rooted, and electrified toward real and sustainable anti-racist action.
What is your hope and vision for the future in one sentence.
Our fight is for a love-rooted revolution. You cannot combat hate or violence with anything but Love–a radical and revolutionary love that has the power to heal hurt and redress centuries-old wounds without flinching from the tough work ahead. If we reach just one more heart with this truth through LOVE AS A KIND OF CURE, then we know we’re pretty damn badass!