We had the good fortune of connecting with Courtney Ariel Bowden and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Courtney Ariel, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Taking risks can be a means of discovery and resistance. Risking has allowed me to find homes in various places, people, and within my own voice. Many of my interests from childhood into adulthood have been things that I didn’t see many Black girls & women doing: as a kid that looked like skateboarding, later on that looked like writing and singing folk music. So there was an element of risk in existing authentically for me. I think there is also an element of The Divine in existing authentically—and also magic.
There were avenues that I wanted to walk down—rooms I hoped to walk into—and I quickly learned the risk of entering into spaces where the fight against invisibility is a taxing climb. This is often the case for Black women (uniquely for Black trans women and non-binary folks). As a cis-gendered woman, risking allowed me to venture into enough rooms that I found a place where I could be heard, sometimes I could also be seen. And despite a lot of the messaging that I received in my early years living in Los Angeles, being heard didn’t come from being louder.
For me, resisting erasure, invisibility and mischaracterization, came from listening more deeply. It happened in quieter rooms with some of the loveliest folks I could ever hope to meet. I listened to the communities around me. I began to write articles about how White liberalism often suppresses the awareness of White-body dominance and racism within White liberals. The livelihood and the ability to even dream of taking risks for marginalized bodies is almost always directly connected to our willingness (or unwillingness) to endure and navigate oppression.
I write and sing, while learning and un-learning in community, in hopes that it might contribute to a world of more expansive possibilities for those of us whose existence is a risk—and whose existence is magic.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
What gives my art purpose and meaning is that I am not at the center of it—not me alone anyway. I write stories that are born out of communal experiences, stories that aim to highlight and center connectedness. I am grateful that I’ve found a way to resist some of the harms of capitalistic competition and find abundance in collaboration. Asking artists what sets them apart is to imply that everyone creating art is abiding by some formula. I am grateful that having an article circulated by CNN and Harper’s Bazaar feels just as “successful” as taking a walk with a loved one or writing a quiet song on a Sunday afternoon.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Anyone who ever visited me in Los Angeles was taken to my favorite little diner on Sunset Boulevard…and before I continue this is a really difficult question! Sharing the name of places you love can be wonderful for the business and also for newcomers. However, it can be a guarantee that the place will become over-saturated and entirely unfordable…I’ll say that I love driving around Los Angeles at night: the DTLA skyline, century city, south LA, along the coast at sunset—stunning!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
my family, friends, community—everyone who offered me a couch or a kindness—I thank you; I love you & miss you. You’ve allowed me to dream in ways that are abundant, which is simultaneously one of the bravest and most loving things that I can imagine.
Photos in striped black & white top were taken by Torri & Alex Blue. (: