A Day In The Life: Junauda Juanita Petrus

Junauda Juanita Petrus. Photo by Ngowo Nasah

Name: Junauda Juanita Petrus

Where did you grow up? Phillips, South Minneapolis, Dakota Land, baby! My parents are from the Caribbean, so I also feel connected to that part of the world in my heart (My mother is from Trinidad and my father is from from St. Croix, Virgin Islands).

Where do you live? Powderhorn Park

Who do you live with? My partner, Ngowo, and her brilliant and wild four-year-old daughter, Isley, who we have part-time.

What is your occupation? Filmmaker, soul sweetener, writer, performance artist, alchemist, runaway witch, and Cosmic Bag Lady. Formerly, and maybe once again, Black Aerialist. And also co-founder with my bestie, Erin Sharkey, of Free Black Dirt, an experimental artist collective. We are screening parts of our debut film project, Sweetness of Wild, on October 3rd at the Parkway Theatre. It will be apart of an installation, bike-riding and poetry experience. It’s a fundraiser so we would love our community’s support!

When did you come out? It’s hard to pinpoint when my “coming out” was, because it continues to be a process. My queerness is just part of my existence, and I decided I didn’t need to explain or qualify it.

That being said, I did “come out” to my mom at 30 after moving back to Minneapolis from New York City, however I do wish I had come out earlier, because dating women in Brooklyn woulda been epic!

How’d that go? Sweet, accepting, awkward and nosy a little bit, because, I told my mama and she was like, “Really? Hmmm… Ya kiss a woman, Junauda? Hmm. That is interesting… I wouldn’t have known. Really? So you want to be with a woman?” My mom has always had close friends who were lesbian and gay, so she was cool with it. She had questions which was understandable and cute, but it kind of felt like it was an implicit invitation to be all in my business in a way my previous perceived heterosexuality never did. I didn’t necessarily want to reflect with her about my journey through my sexual awakening, but I have really appreciated her willingness to learn more about queer issues and support me and my partner.

I made the decision to come out because I was all in my feelings, listening to Frank Ocean (of course). I was inspired by his opening up about his sexuality on his Channel Orange album. That album was so dreamy, sensual, free, and reminded me of the sweetness and hope I felt in queer relationships of all kinds, platonic and romantic, and I wanted to live in my full truth for me. I had dated many cis men most of my life and I realized that although I was attracted to them, the alignment was off. I hated the boring and antiquated dynamics of most cis-heterosexual relationships that are fueled and operated by some degree of male supremacy, yet I was trying to fit my yummy queer soul into some configuration of it. I had internalized that being queer would impede me from being accepted. Instead I’m in bliss from just the sheer fact that I accept my entire self.

I decided to never “come out” again. I just started doing me and loving women aloud, and letting people sort they own feelings out about it, since I have already sorted out mine. I feel like the notion of “coming out” is kind of dramatic and traumatic sometimes and not always inherently comfortable in certain cultural spaces, mainly amongst indigenous and folks of color. I think coming out is a shapeshifting, ongoing. It shouldn’t rest on queer people to process the emotions around LGBTQIA+ existence for cis-het people in their lives as a default function.

That being said, I’m out to most of my family and they love and accept me, including my religious Caribbean family, which has been sweet. My partner is Cameroonian and her beautiful West African and religious family loves and accepts us too, which I think has healed us on a soul level. It’s a blessing. We are inspired by the LGBTQIA+ people and activists from both of our regions who are reclaiming their sacredness and living their lives. They are also doing policy work and advocating for LGBTQIA+ immigrants seeking asylum as well as overturning antiquated, homophobic colonial laws and insisting they be respected and allowed to love in peace in their homelands, which is so inspiring!

When do you wake up? I am an early riser, typically up between 4:45-5:30 a.m., 6 to 7 a.m. if I was up late. My body wakes with the sun. I’ve been this way even when I was a kid.

Phone alarm or old school alarm? Phone alarm, but I usually wake up before it.

What’s the first thing you do in the morning? For years, I would usually lay in bed thinking anxious thoughts, then go pee and start working. Nowadays, I lay in bed and focus on healing affirmations to assuage my early morning anxiety, and then I pee. After that, I wash my face, brush my teeth, make tea and then I sit at my altar and give thanks to the universe, higher power, ancestors and ground in my visions for life.

Breakfast? Yes, tea and fruit and eggs most days.

Coffee? Usually fresh ginger tea and/or turmeric and lemon juice in hot water with honey. But sometimes I’ll get a coffee later in the day.

Cream or no? Always cream in my coffee and sweet. Ideally coconut milk creamer, vanilla flavored.

How do you spend your commute: I listen to podcasts if I am driving, or a soul/R&B mix if I’m riding my bike around town. I work with my best friend Erin Sharkey a lot, and if we are riding around together we listen to trap music and talk shit. It’s funny, because when I met her she was into Ani DiFranco and soul classics, but now trap. She is a very layered, ever-evolving person.

If your job were like a yearbook, what would you be voted? (Class clown, best dressed, most annoying, etc.) Most likely to fall wildly ass backwards into magic and make that ish blossom into abundant dopeness.

What inspires you? Nature and magic and revolutionary thinkers and activists who are working hard to transform themselves and this world. I’m inspired by astrology and my ancestors. I’m inspired by the future and the beautiful dream I am making it into.

Do you eat your lunch while working or take a break? It depends on the day. I kind of eat all over the place: sometimes a homemade meal, sometimes on the go. I would like to create more structure around that for some more consistency in my life.

Is your work space tidy or a hot mess? Haute mess. Tee hee. I write on a laptop and I tend to sit on my couch with my laptop on my lap. But I have a really nice desk and it’s piled with layers of thangs. I need help.

What’s been your favorite job? I have had such great jobs! I loved the jobs I had working with kids in Harlem, New York for four years teaching vegetarian cooking, yoga, dance, theatre and gardening. I loved being a waitress at the airport and talking about people’s travels. I love working for myself with Free Black Dirt and doing writing and filming projects. I love working with my family with Ingridients and making Trinidadian food for the people.

Who are your heroes? Octavia Butler, Harriet Tubman, Angela Davis, Thomas Sankara, June Jordan, Toni Morrison, Missy Elliot, Sylvester, Bessie Smith and all queer blues women, Whitney Houston. All my LGBTQIA+ ancestors and family worldwide who are attacked in society for our magic. Serena Williams. People who are struggling through suffering and creating new worlds. The writing students and teachers in Minnesota Prison Writers Workshop.

Favorite weeknight meal: Go out, take out, or cook in? Cook in with my boo, Ngowo. I love cooking as an act of affection for myself and my love. We are a good team because she will do all of the prep work so I can cook and then we will clean up together. We cook food from our cultures, mainly veggies and fish with curries, coconut milks, plantains, tamarind, avocado and all of the greens as well as a quick pickled onion and pepper to put some respeck on that flavor.

Most embarrassing moment: I have so many because I was teased relentlessly as a kid for being different. I’ll take a pass on this one…

On a usual weeknight, you are doing what? Cooking dinner. Writing. Snuggling with my partner and my bonus kid, Isley. Occasionally Netflix.

Bedtime: Take a warm shower, brush my teeth and shea butter my body. Read, drink tea. Talk with my partner about life and dreams.

Favorite weekend activity: Riding my bike with my partner and pulling our little one in a burley and eating some yummy food. Going on a date with my partner to see some music, art show or a performance, I have a lot of incredible artists friends and love seeing them shine as creatives. Chilling with my mother and siblings, family and friends.

What are you most proud of and why? I’m proud of my beautiful life and my work as an artist and healer. I’m proud of getting a book deal and writing my first young adult novel as well as writing and directing my first film project this year. I’m proud of the place I am with my mental health and my self-acceptance. I’m proud of Free Black Dirt. I’m proud of being queer and being in love and being the best bonus mama, friend, daughter and sister I can be.

Words of wisdom to share: I try to live my life so that the eight-year-old in me feels affirmed in her wild dreams and also live so that the 80 year old me has no regrets.

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