Artist Statement

Firas Nasr  (they/them) is the Founding Organizer of WERK for Peace.  Photo by: Gabe Jacobs

Firas Nasr (they/them) is the Founding Organizer of WERK for Peace.
Photo by: Gabe Jacobs

As a first-generation genderqueer Arab human, the divisive rhetoric that has been spewed by the Trump administration and etched into the minds of brainwashed Americans has demonized my existence, that of immigrants, and that of all people who are not white. The supremacy of whiteness - literally materialized as walls, borders imprinted into our lands by white, capitalist, imperialist powers, and laws that seek to criminalize, shame, separate, and execute us - must fall. Among many things, this supremacy has served as a means to excuse the complicity of the US government in disenfranchising and destructing whole peoples and nations while enjoying, without consequence, an economic fruit with juice that is our blood.

#WERKNotWalls is an ode to the celebratory history of the immigrant/refugee/POC/oppressed queer and trans community in the face of oppression and marginalization. In times where our communities are being attacked, we celebrate our existence. And in that celebration, we find the resilience to heal; we find the strength to continue the work; and we declare our conviction to survive and thrive. We are here and we are not going anywhere. And we demand respect for our existence.

It is also an ode to the queer and trans bodies that we live in, those that are criminalized, victimized, and violated by a system that seeks to define us and repress our being. This vast, expansive, expressive, celebratory body will not and cannot be limited by the borders of your comfort and understanding.  

Our celebration is beautiful. And it is the biggest threat to white supremacy and imperialism. I am here for it. This is my celebration. I am celebration embodied. I am.

A note on twerking:

I want to acknowledge the complexity of being a non-black person of color and utilizing twerking as a form of dance in the launch video. I want to be clear that my intentions were by no means to appropriate twerking, but rather to honor its roots as a form of celebratory dance. To my knowledge, the origins of what we now call twerking trace back to Mapouka, a dance originating in Cote d’Ivoire. Mapouka is traditionally a celebratory dance. The term “twerk” came out of the New Orleans bounce scene in the 90s, with attribution to the music video that accompanied DJ Jubilee’s “Do the Jubilee All” song. The bounce scene was and is led by and centers black people, and became a cornerstone of southern black queer and trans culture, especially with the emergence and popularity of Big Freedia, the queen of bounce, and especially after Hurricane Katrina, which tore apart poor communities and communities of color in New Orleans. As a non-black person of color, I feel it is important to name dances and study the history of the dances we do, especially when their roots are in marginalized communities and/or communities from which we don’t come/belong. Given its roots of celebration and it being a dance of individuals in times marginalization, I seek to honor the history of twerking through my use of it rather than appropriate it.