In April of 2016, I attended a SAAPM event at the Union Arts DC building and met with the organizer Elise aka “Cyborg Shawty” after the event. As a male rape survivor and sexual violence educator and speaker myself, I was impressed by her coordination of this incredible event. After the event, I asked if she would consent to an interview. Elise enthusiastically agreed and that interview follows below:
James: So, Elise or would you prefer Cyborg Shawty? By the way, is there a story behind “Cyborg Shawty”?
Elise aka Cyborg Shawty: Either works, I guess. Elise is my real name and Cyborg Shawty is more of an AKA, online presence thing so whatever resonates with you is fine by me. Some people still call me Calypso or Shuxie. My pseudonym changes come frequently.
Cyborg Shawty came about a few months after I decided to stop going by Calpso Wilde. I got hit by a car in LA around Halloween and broke my fibula and tibia. After surgery, I was working on music with my friend Selecta and I told him I felt like a cyborg with all the metal hardware in my ankle, crutches and boots and he started chanting “Cyborg Shawty” so it just kinda became a thing.
James: I wanted to say that I thought your recent rape culture event and fundraiser for the DC Rape Crisis Center and MCASA — Operation Consent — was incredible and the turnout was impressive. I’ve been to many fundraisers and awareness events on sexual violence and would consider Operation Consent among my favorite.
Elise aka Cyborg Shawty: Thank you! That makes me really happy. The community I Cannot Complain draws from has been so beautiful and inspiring. I really wasn’t sure how it was going to go over, it’s a tough subject to conquer so I’m glad for the energy and safe space that people were open to create for each other.
James: What was your inspiration for launching this event?
Elise aka Cyborg Shawty: My friend Anisa reached out to me about a previous show that I Cannot Complain put on called Operation Gaza (we raised money for the refugees in Gaza back in 2014) and wanting to be involved in the next show we put together. I Cannot Complain is an open community. I just facilitate it. So after Operation Gaza, I had a compiled a list of social justice issues we should tackle, rape culture was at the top of the list. It’s so prevalent everywhere and understanding consent is something I just figured out myself. So I asked Anisa how she felt about a show on rape culture. With Bill Cosby’s trial underway and the Ke$ha vs Sony/Dr. Luke case, it seemed like the most unfortunate perfect timing.
James: There was a great deal of raw emotion expressed at this event. Self-care is always important after such an emotional experience. Do you feel comfortable sharing how you process through the strong energies created by events such as Operation Consent?
Elise aka Cyborg Shawty: Breathing A LOT. I spent 2 months fasting; no meat, only water, no sex, no substances. I meditated daily, on the train, at work, at home. I was constantly adjusting my own energy and making subtle attempts at manipulating other’s. But it was pretty easy to stay grounded at Operation Consent because people were so open.
James: I’ve had a chance to look at your website and found it very interesting. What are your goals behind the creation of that website?
Elise aka Cyborg Shawty: I just want to keep people updated. This is a community and in that, I want to be very honest and open. I’m not really good at stuff like this. I want to be more informative, I’ll have more time this summer so I’m working on content. Eventually I want to do artists and organization spotlights. A pirate streaming source. Sustainable living articles, etc. I’ve got ideas.
James: I have a lot of respect for what you’ve started with Operation Consent. How did it feel to pull that off successfully?
Elise aka Cyborg Shawty: I feel like with everything there’s room for improvement and growth and I’m just humbled to be able to facilitate such a space where people can feel safe and heal together.
James: I’d like to know a little more about you. Could you tell me what Cyborg Shawty is all about as an artist and a person?
Elise aka Cyborg Shawty: There’s no separation of artist and person. I am all about raw organic process. My best friend once told me “your body is designed to move”. I live by that. I am a philanthropist, musician, artist, curator, human, cyborg, cat lady, traveler, appreciator of looks. I’m a disconnected romantic with a heart for helping people and praying my jokes don’t fall flat (they usually do).
James: You talk affectionately about the DMV on social media often. What is it about DC that has your attention?
Elise aka Cyborg Shawty: I grew up in Fort Washington, MD going back and forth, then living in the city (DC) for a while. I’ve lived in a few different cities (and plan to travel more) but my favorite people I meet are from my area. There’s just something about the way we dress, talk, interact. The talent, diversity, and intelligence that comes from such a small area is beautiful to me. I love being from there and wouldn’t want to have grown up anywhere else.
James: So, what is next on the agenda for Cyborg Shawty and Operation Consent?
Elise aka Cyborg Shawty: Well I just moved back to Los Angeles. I’m working on some music and branding for myself, doing some traveling. Operation Consent is coming to LA in an exhibit called “Teach the Babies”. People are insanely miseducated about how the body works. Artist submissions for that just opened and are open until June 5th. I have big goals for I Cannot Complain and the Operation Consent Series. Artists in residency programs, nonprofit applications, workshops, safe homes, community gardens, music events, international shows. This community is going to grow.
James: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me and I wish you all kinds of crazy success with your latest production in Los Angeles. I look forward to seeing the photos online and watching the website grow.
You can follow her work and that of I Cannot Complain online at:
I Cannot Complain: A Communal Collective: http://www.icnntcmpln.com/
I Cannot Complain on Instagram:https://www.instagram.com/icannotcomplain/
Cyborg Shawty on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cyborgshawty
Cyborg Shawty on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cyborgshawty/
James A. Landrith is a Syndicated blogger, civil liberties activist, rape/MST survivor and rape crisis worker, public speaker, publisher of The Multiracial Activist, and Marine veteran.
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Image Credits: Getty Images