Matriarchy Takes Flight Under Roots and Wings
By Oscar T. Basulto
I was nine years old when my uncle was murdered while selling oranges at Whittier Narrows Park. It was an early experience that made a long lasting impact on me. Most notable is the memory of my grandmother at the funeral. She had suddenly lost her son in the land of opportunity and was inconsolable. I can still hear her lamentations fill the high ceilings and wide walls of Divine Saviour Church. I had never, nor since, seen anyone in more pain, and it broke my heart. Up to that point I had dreaded losing my parents. Other kids I knew had experienced that at an early age. As a child, it was something I could not imagine. In seeing my grandmother grieve her murdered son, I learned there was at least one greater trauma, and that the bond between mother and child is something I will only ever understand empirically and through empathy.
On Saturday August 30, the Roots and Wings Project presented, Matriarch, a reading of monologues in progress written and performed by women. It was one of Writ Large Press’ “90 for 90” series of 90 literary events in 90 days held at Traxx in Union Station. Jesse Bliss, founder and artistic director of The Roots and Wings Project, contacted colleagues, women both with and without children, to write monologues exploring motherhood in ways not usually considered. The result was a diverse set of pieces by Bliss, Sigrid Gilmer, Ramona Gonzales, Kristine Leach, Selene Santiago, Kristine Leach, and Patricia Zamorano.
The readings illustrated how the mother-child bond is not a homogeneous experience. They included Zamorano’s true life account of a daughter who becomes mother/caretaker after her mom is badly burned in an accident, Gonzales’ ode to the Amazonian chingonas in her family, Santiago’s memoir of being a cancer survivor who was told she would never bear children and Leach’s hilarious and poignant exploration of what an adopted woman would say if she ever met her biological mother.
Bliss, who became a first time mom a little over a year ago, said that the origins of the reading occurred when her husband, Peter Woods, a partner at Writ Large Press, asked if she could put together a reading to fill a spot in the 90 for 90 series. The title of the event is a result of Bliss’ desire to use a more politically charged term which encompasses more than the traditional notions of motherhood. The title is a challenge to patriarchal society, which expects women to fulfill traditional motherhood roles but at the same, does not do enough to support them. After contacting the other writers, Bliss quickly realized that this reading deserved to be more than a one night event. Currently, as the writers hone and complete their pieces, she is hoping to add a piece by an incarcerated mother and another one written from a transgender perspective. She is working to produce Matriarch into a show, which she hopes to open this fall.