Art–whether it be dancing, painting, drawing, film–creates a space for self-examination, helping us to envision possible futures, and better versions of ourselves. And the Jewish month of Elul is traditionally an opportunity for introspection before the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Recognizing the power of art to be transformative, Lilith is highlighting Black Jewish women artists in this time leading up to and through Elul. On Lilith’s platforms you’ll have a chance to experience, share, buy and celebrate their work.
You can also participate by letting us know (at info@Lilith.org) Black Jewish women creators we should include!
Jessica Valoris is a multidisciplinary installation artist who weaves together sound, collage, painting, sculpture, and facilitated ritual to build installations and experiences that have been described as sacred, intentional, and activated. She’s inspired by Afrofuturism, metaphysics, and historical memory.Instagram: @jessicavaloris
Who are your people?
Woi, what a beautiful question. I have many people, some whom I have chosen, or been called towards, and others who have claimed me. I come from Black ancestors in South Carolina and Louisiana by way of West Africa, and I come from Jewish ancestors from Lithuania and Russia. I come from Indigenous ancestors who’s erasure leaves a gap in my ancestral lineage. I come from people who were weavers, tailors, teachers, foot reflexologists, community theater performers, candy-ladies, farmers, custodians, counselors, teachers and nursing aides. I come from people who are recovering addicts, and have transformed trauma into beautiful examples of community care.
My people are roll-up-your-sleeves, do-something-good, put-respect-on-my-name type people. My chosen people, with whom I build community, are Black and queer and woman and sister and artist. My people are feminist, and pro-Black and anti-racist, and co-creating ways to dismantle capitalism in all its manifestations. My people are pseudo-astrologers, spiritual alchemists, deep sharers, and can nerd out with me. My people are a complicated bunch, navigating privilege and marginalization at the same time. My people are a remembering and reimagining people. My people make music when they speak and transform two-steps into mystical moments. My people ask questions, reflect, and are still finding their way.
When was the last time you said no?
I’ve been practicing saying no all summer, specifically in preparation for this immersive creative retreat that I’ve designed for myself in August. It’s been an incredible practice in creating a clearing: where I can be free of commitments to other people, and have the space, time, and emotional capacity to explore what my spirit is feeling called towards. As someone who is passionate about being in community with other people, I have struggled with creating the boundaries that are necessary for me to actualize my full self.
There will always be something important that needs to be addressed, mediated, serviced, facilitated. There is always more work to be done. Saying no is a practice of pausing, recalibrating, and saying yes to myself. It is a way for me to cultivate a deeper listening that goes beyond the urgency and crisis of the moment, so that I can be present to the truth and power that is always available to me through my intuition and the ancestral, planetary, and plant allies that exist to hold me and my community.
What is the world calling you to be/do in this moment?
The world is calling me to do my work. And that can mean multiple things on multiple levels. It is asking me to be more intentional about how I show up in community. Sometimes that means examining and reflecting on the ways I can practice accountability. Sometimes that means giving myself unapologetic permission to follow my joy, desire, and curiosities.
Ultimately, I am being called to reconnect with the spiritual practices and rituals of my ancestral traditions to guide me in connecting with source and fulfilling my purpose. It is a practice of balancing what I feel called to do and what I feel positioned to do. It’s definitely a double-consciousness that I am living into: acknowledging the reality of the violent constructs we live in, while digging towards a deeper, life-sustaining truth.