Empowering the Marginalized: A Conversation with OVA Pam Velazquez Avila
Ovarian Psycos Cycle Brigade member Pam Velazquez Avila came to Honolulu to spread the message of the women of color, female and community empowerment movement that has swept through Eastside Los Angeles.
Her speaking appearance was part of the 2017 Women of Wonders Film Festival presented by Hawaiʻi Women in Filmmaking and made possible thanks to the generosity of the Hawai‘i Women’s Legal Foundation. Ovarian Psycos, the call-to-action documentary following the members of the Ovarian Psyco Brigade (OVA) in which Pam is an active leader, was the feature film that concluded the two-day festival.
During the conversation facilitated by HWF’s Dani Ortiz-Padilla, Pam explained the role the Ovarian Psycos have in the community and why it is important to continue doing the work they are doing, especially for women of color.
“We wanted to take up space. We need to take up space and continue to take up space in order for us to start talking about the most uncomfortable points that people of color, specifically marginalized folks, go through,” Pam said.
The OVA offer programs for women of color, such as psychotherapy, self-defense classes, open-mic night gatherings, fundraisers and community bike rides. The focus always goes back to how they can serve the community.
They opened a collective called La Conxa, where they share space with Corazon del Pueblo Womxn’s Circle, Warrior Womyn Self Defense, Nalgona Positivity Pride‘s Eating Disorder Support Group for People Of Color, and act as the Clitoral Mass L.A. headquarters. By doing so, they ensure a safe space for their future generations.
“We’re going to put the children in the frontline all the time,” Pam said. “This isn’t for us, it’s for them. This is something we need to break through and break the silence in order for them to have something to work with already.
The OVA have also been reaching out to the community at large to come into their space and brainstorm ways in which they can empower themselves.
“We’ve been canvassing the community and asking them to organize themselves. So it’s not only about the tools and showing people how to do it, it’s also telling them they have the power and they have the means to do it already,” she said.
In addition to serving as the starting and ending points for the Ovarian Psyco monthly Luna Rides, La Conxa has opened its doors to groups such as Serve the People LA, Defend Boyle Heights, Comida No Bombas, East LA Brown Berets, Backyard Brigade, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, Con Fuerza Collective, Immigrant Youth Coalition, Red Guards – Los Angeles, L.A. Zinefest, Q Youth Foundation, Guerrillera L.A., Chingona Fire and Semillas y Palabras.
Throughout their seven-year existence, Pam said that they have been approached by others asking them to open chapters or to be less exclusive. Currently, OVA is only open to women of color. Opening it up to others is believed to defeat the very purpose of their existence: empowering the marginalized.
“It’s taking away from the point of our struggles. We need to unite ourselves first in order to even open the doors to that idea,” Pam said.
The OVA takes pride in being fully sustainable. Their collective is funded solely by donations from the community and does not accept any government (federal, state and or local) nor corporate funds. Retaining that autonomy is vital to their mission in doing justice for their community.
For more information on or to support the Ovarian Psycos Cycle Brigade, visit their website ovarianpsycos.com.