by Fabliha Anbar
Meet the radical brown womxn behind Xingonas in the Pit! Xingonas in the Pit is a D.I.Y. (do-it-yourself) decolonial feminist punk collective aimed at creating a network of safe radical music/art spaces in San Antonio. Their mission is to build safe spaces for marginalized artists to reclaim their identities, their art, and their collective liberation. They have had three successful festival crowdsourcing campaigns including the second annual “Black and Brown Punk Fest TX” which received international support from supporters and allies including acclaimed poet and cultural critic, Hanif Abdurraqib, and alternative rock icon, Shirley Manson. Xingonas in the Pit has been featured in The Guardian, Maximum Rocknroll, The Wire, the San Antonio Current, and The Austin Chronicle.)
Fabliha from Sorjo chatted with the incredible founder and fest curator of Xingonas in the Pit, Daisy Salinas, to learn more about this revolutionary collective!
1. How was this collective created? What was the initial spark and experiences that led up to the creation of Xingonas in the Pit?
Moving to San Antonio was the first time in my life I was not considered a racial minority. But to be real, I used to be ashamed of being from Texas because of the conservatism, but then I realized that the politicians in power who have occupied Turtle Island don’t represent us. I have now come to embrace my Tejana (Texan of Mexican descent) identity. During this move, I learned that Texas actually has a long history of working-class resistance, radical organizing, and even a rich punk history. I thought this could be the perfect place to start something.
It all came together when I met Houston-based punk artist Jazzmin Readeaux of the band Ojos. We began having conversations about the alienation we both experienced growing up as punks of color. We joined forces in January of 2018 when we both had a vision that a POC punk revolution in Texas needed to happen.
We were hugely inspired by the wave of DIY POC fests that were springing up including Chicago’s “Or Does It Explode: Black, Brown, and Indigenous Crew,” Oakland’s “The Multiverse is Illuminated,” NYC’s “No Flowers For Yt Powers,” Philadelphia’s “Break Free Fest,” Atlanta’s “Punk Black,” New Orleans’ Deep Cuts Festival,” and London’s “Decolonize Fest.” Influenced by their non-corporate DIY philosophy, we wanted to be part of the larger DIY movement geared towards building more inclusive spaces for punks/alternative people of color but in the South.
2. Tell us about your work! What type of events has Xingonas in the Pit have done in the past?
In January 2018, we began organizing shows in San Antonio under the name “Xingonas in the Pit” which has now become a decolonial feminist punk collective aimed at creating a network of safe radical music/art spaces. I organized a couple of small fests at my house venue Casa Sin Vergüenza and then Jazzmin and I co-founded Texas’ first “Black and Brown Punk Fest TX” in October 2018 with the purpose of uniting punks of color across Texas.
For us, Black and Brown Punk Fest TX started as reclamation of the DIY roots of a subculture Black, Brown, and Native people helped create. Xingonas in the Pit began promoting punk not only as an anti-authoritarian genre of rock music born in the 70’s, but instead as a radical subculture. We were unapologetic about putting the political back into punk.
For our festivals, we invited Black and Brown punk bands from all corners of Texas including Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, McAllen, and San Antonio. For the first and second annual Black and Brown Punk Fests TX as well as Afropunk in the Pit, we have also had vendors, zines, and visual art all hosted at La Botanica, an all-ages queer-owned Mexican vegan venue bar and grill.
Xingonas in the Pit has also hosted DIY workshops and we even started up a safer space crew for our events. The goal of our Safer Space Crew is to create supportive non-threatening environments for all participants. We felt it was important to actually put a safer space policy into practice. The Safer Space Crew of volunteers began reading Shawna Potter’s “Making Spaces Safer” pocket guide as a resource. We began enforcing a safer space policy which means that our events are meant to be a space free from any discrimination or oppressive actions of any kind. By attending XITP events, attendees agree to avoid racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, fatphobic, ageism, classist, xenophobic & other oppressive language and behavior. Engaging in such behavior will not be tolerated. If attendees are experiencing harassment or discrimination of any kind at any of our events, they are encouraged to locate one of our Safer Space Crew members for assistance which can be identified by our “Safer Space Crew” buttons. We help with things like de-escalation, emotional support, accountability, and more. We are even looking into starting up restorative justice/accountability processes if we can gain enough volunteers.
With the help of fat positive distro Curvy Cariño, we also co-hosted the radical, body-positive, & sustainable plus-size clothes swap “Thick Bitch” in September 2019 and we have our second one coming up this Spring. We are also starting up self-defense classes with the proceeds going towards purchasing kitty keychains (self-defense knuckle weapons carried for protection) for XITP members and the community.
3. How did you first get into the punk scene and what was it like? Were there other punk fans of color?
I was born in South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley but grew up a brown kid in a white suburb outside of Nashville, Tennessee in a primarily all-white neighborhood and school system. Having had experienced racism growing up, I found solace in punk. I had a lot of anger and punk was the healthiest outlet for me to express it. Everything about punk excited me. Not just the aggressive music, mosh pits, mohawks, and tattoos but it’s rebellious attitude – it’s non-conformist disobedience against authority.
Unfortunately, the punk scene in Nashville at the time was a white boy’s club. Along with the sexism in the scene, there was also racism with bands sporting tattoos of confederate flags on their arms and in their logo designs. When I tried to confront a dude with a confederate flag tattoo, he tried to justify it by saying that it represented southern pride and had nothing to do with slavery. Some guys would even casually use racist language for shock value or to purposely offend but anyone that called them out would be dismissed as being “too sensitive.” So it was definitely alienating to be one of the only punks of color in that scene.
4. The punk/alternative scene and music are oftentimes seen as “a white thing” by other people of color. Punk fans of color are also labeled as an “oreo” or that they’re “too white” or “white-washed”. This racist stereotype can be extremely isolating. Have you ever experienced feeling like this?
Yes, I hate the stereotype that punk is white and it is something I have had to struggle with. For Xingonas in the Pit, punk isn’t just about the music; punk is a radical subculture we use as a tool to resist our oppression and build self-sufficient communities. Punk is associated with the angry expressions of some of the most marginalized and displaced people in society but it is primarily assumed to be white, male, and straight by default. This is entirely false. Over time, it has become more clear to me that the irony of all of this is that punk was founded by people of color, women, and queer folx.
5. What struggles and hardships has the collective endured when it first started?
I’ve been organizing shows and festivals for the last decade and I usually did so by myself and it was a lot of labor. Part of the reason I wanted to expand Xingonas in the Pit from a festival to a collective was that it was no longer sustainable to do it alone. It takes a lot of commitment and energy. It’s a lot easier said than done. So I would say the biggest obstacle is not having enough volunteers to help pull off the events. As Xingonas in the Pit is a collective now, we now have a handful of volunteers on deck to organize so that has been a huge help!
6. What is the most memorable moment in an event that Xingonas in the Pit hosted where you find yourself gleaming when thinking about it?
Witnessing young teenage girls of color fearlessly take up space and mosh at the front of the crowd was a highlight I vividly remember from our first Black and Brown Punk Fest TX in October 2018. That made all the hard work and labor of love behind the scenes worth it. It was a really special moment where I imagined myself moshing at that age and it made me feel so grateful that I am able to create the spaces I needed when I was younger. To aspire young women and people of color is a cyclical experience that happens intergenerationally. My ancestors went through so much so that I could have the opportunities to build the life I want today. I want to pass that forward. I have so much faith in today’s youth to lead the next generation after so that one day everyone has the freedom to be who they are.
7. The alternative scene can oftentimes be a place filled with extreme misogyny, which is why it’s so incredibly radical how this punk collective was created by brown womxn! Why and what made you create Xingonas in the Pit with decolonial intersectional feminist values?
Thank you! I think a lot of our mission stems from our own personal experiences with sexism in the punk scene. When I was involved in the Nashville punk scene in my late teens, it was through my association with men that I felt I could contribute to the scene. At the shows I frequented, the girls (who were majority white) in the scene always played “the girlfriend,” “the fan,” or a supporting role to the band. We were relegated to the sidelines. The men were the gatekeepers of the scene and we didn’t question the rampant misogyny – it was just normalized.
Then my world was turned upside down when I discovered the Riot Grrrl movement. I began to understand the language to articulate the racialized misogyny I had experienced, whether internal or external. The raw sensibility of punk coupled with the “no fucks to give” feminist attitude I had come to cherish gave me the confidence to follow my dreams of music, even if I lacked the expertise. But I was faced with a dilemma: I was a Brown Feminist Punk in a majority white male music scene. Unsurprisingly, my excitement and passion for feminism was met with complete hostility and backlash. The feminist politics I had come to embrace were not welcomed into a scene I considered home. I was bullied by white punk dudes in Nashville who called me a “scene slut” when promoting my benefit. They told me that I was bashing men by saying that I wanted to promote women artists and that a benefit would do nothing to help survivors.
White women took their side saying that I was making women in the scene look weak. They bullied me for weeks on an online message board and tried to drive me out of the scene. I was completely broken. The punk scene is what I lived and breathed – it was my life. I became disillusioned with trying to fit into a music scene that claimed to be inclusive while also shaming women and being racist towards people of color.
After this experience, sexism and racism never went away. I think for women of color, especially queer women of color and nonbinary and trans people of color, finding a home in punk can feel near to impossible. That’s why a lot of us leave the punk scene and I honestly don’t blame those that do leave. That’s why I started Xingonas in the Pit. I didn’t fit into the scene I was in so I decided to create my own. It took years to develop the courage and confidence to though. I don’t want to romanticize this as being easy at all. This shit didn’t happen overnight, and it takes a thick skin to face bullying, harassment, and even threats of violence which we have experienced as a collective. I’m forever grateful that my younger self didn’t give up on punk and that I was able to find a community to help me reclaim punk.
8. Although the alternative scene is seen as “white”, famous punk trends and music have been stolen by artists of color, specifically black folks, and are not given proper credit for their contributions to punk. What do you hope this collective can do for black artists and other artists of color?
Almost every aspect of DIY culture and the punk aesthetic has been culturally appropriated– anywhere from mohawks, tattoos, and piercings, which makes the exclusion of people of color from punk spaces even more ironic. What it comes down to is that people of color have always been the creators of culture. We are the backbone of everything punk but our contributions to DIY often die or are reduced to a white man’s footnote. Xingonas in the Pit has helped artists of color not only feel represented but we have also provided a space so that we can redefine punk for ourselves. Toxic masculine bro behavior is not punk to us. For us, punk is about ethically caring for each other. It is about resistance after centuries of invasion, colonization, and multi-generational rape. It is the answer to surviving insurmountable odds. Our entire existence is punk. It is in our blood. That is something that no one can take from us and I think that is what is so powerful and really resonates with the community.
9. What is “Afropunk in the Pit” and why is it important?
Afropunk in the Pit was a small DIY fest we hosted in March of 2019 in where we flew filmmaker James Spooner to San Antonio to screen his legendary film that started it all Afro-Punk. In addition to the film, the event we held also included a handful of Black bands from across Texas. One memorable moment of the evening is when James Spooner got really emotional after his artist talk and told us how proud he was of us. It’s as if he was handing over his baton.
All of the positive feedback from the artists, attendees, and news media was disrupted when we received a “Cease and Desist” Letter from AFROPUNK the festival’s legal counsel threatening to sue us for the use of “Afropunk” in our event even though Afropunk in the Pit was associated with Afro-Punk THE FILM, not the AFROPUNK Festival (which the film existed first and we had permission from Spooner). As AFROPUNK the festival has had several allegations made against them including abuse, anti-LGBTQ discrimination, and performative activism, we felt it was important to be transparent by making their legal threat public knowledge. We posted their “Cease and Desist” letter and released a full response with no idea what to expect.
To our astonishment, we received hundreds of messages, comments, likes, and shares from the POC punk community and allies showing their solidarity. The support helped push us to keep going as a collective. It has even brought a lot of us in the POC punk community closer as a united front. The global underground punk scene continues to rise and for Xingonas in the Pit to receive recognition and support from those who have inspired us for years gave us a lot of faith to continue our work. At the end of the day, the power of working-class punks of color prevails over the corporate bullshit.
10. Why was it necessary to create a punk festival specifically for the black community and not for people of color in general?
If we really want to fight against structural racism in and out of the scene, this includes fighting for black liberation. Xingonas in the Pit felt it was important to honor and uplift Black artists because they are not given credit for their contributions to punk and are tokenized and underpaid for their work as creators of culture. Even though there are more artists of color in San Antonio than places I’ve lived in the past, I was naïve to think any music scene could be egalitarian.
San Antonio is a beautiful and welcoming space as an artist of color but only to a certain extent. I feel that there needs to be accountability among brown and Latinx folks when it comes to issues of anti-blackness which is a huge problem within Latinx communities. I noticed Black people in the community always supporting Brown people but that same support not being reciprocated. I think non-black Latinx folks need to acknowledge our privilege, unlearn oppressive behaviors, and speak out against anti-blackness in our communities. These issues will not be solved if we refuse to see ourselves as part of the problem. Afropunk in the Pit was about centering Black artists and bridging the gap between the Black and Brown community.
11. What is in store for Xingonas in the Pit’s future?
We want this momentum we are building in Texas to be part of a larger DIY POC Punk movement geared towards building more inclusive spaces for folks of color. Our hope is that we can encourage people of color to know the real inherit value and power we have – of what a real threat we are to the powers that be. Our hope is to encourage people of color to take pride in ourselves and honor our own uniqueness in the struggle. And lastly, our hope is to encourage people of color to imagine a new world into existence. Because it’s possible.