On December 11, 2015 I was given the tremendous honor of being granted official permission from the Pueblo of Zia in the land now called New Mexico to use the Zia in my logo to represent my music. The following is the letter that I sent to the Pueblo of Zia introducing myself and explaining my use of the Zia to represent my music:
November 8, 2015
My Use of the Zia Symbol
My name is Katherine Pia (last name omitted here). I am from Boston, Massachusetts. On my father's side, I descend from Jewish immigrants who came here fleeing violence and persecution in Eastern Europe and who just barely missed being victims of the Jewish Holocaust. On my mother's side, I descend from Finnish immigrants and English colonists that have been in New England since the Mayflower landed. To my knowledge, my Finnish people lived and prayed indigenously until the Inquisitions of the 13th Century, approximately; my indigenous ancestors of the British Isles were conquered and forced to abandon their way of life much earlier. By the time they came here, they were Christian colonists. I walk knowing that I would not be alive if not for the kindness, love, and generosity of the Native people who received us, and also that there are no words for depth of the betrayal and cruelty committed by my people upon the people of this land. I would like to start by thanking you from my heart for considering allowing me to use the Zia symbol in the logo that represents my music.
My artistic name is “Asliani.” The name “Asli” came to me as a teenager when I was working at the Somali Development Center in Boston. My Somali coworkers told me that it meant “original.” I came to know that it meant the same thing (original, of the essence, pure, true) in many languages spoken from Indonesia all the way to Morocco and down into East Africa. As I came to understand the meaning of this word, I came to understand what an honor it was that this name had been conferred upon me. When my path required that I choose an artistic name, to “Asli” I added “ani,” which means “I” in Hebrew. The basic meaning of my name is thus “I am real/of the essence.” I am not claiming to be perfectly real, but expressing that my goal in my music (and my life) is complete authenticity.
I make hip hop music in a spirit of healing and saying the things that need to be said. My hip hop voice was born of my need to express deeper truths that I had no other way of expressing as a young woman struggling to find her true self. My first raps were direct communications to the men in my life with whom I had to balance the scales of power. From there, I began to write rhymes on many things that were in my heart to say. Today, I have songs about many things: the journey of healing the wounds of sexual abuse; the process of making peace with the internalized voice of cruelty; the healing of the human family wounded and divided by racism; the rebalancing of male-female relationships after years of distortion by patriarchy; the healing of our relationship to Mother Earth and the necessity of the return of our collective indigenous understanding; the return of the feminine power after years of suppression by modern Western culture and colonialism; the need to wake up our spiritual power to fight the forces of destruction that threaten all that is sacred all over the world. I believe wholeheartedly in the essential goodness of humankind and in the power of our prayer to invoke Creator's help. The most beautiful compliment I've ever received is that my music gives people true hope.
The logo of my music is of a phoenix emerging from a fire and looking up at the Zia. I had this tattooed over my heart ten years ago. This piece represents the rebirth that I'm working toward in this lifetime. As a child, I shut down my heart and ability to feel. My life's work is learning how to live in my heart again. At 23, the Zia represented the following to me: 1. this land now called New Mexico, where my healing had begun, where I'd begun to face the reality of my blocks and limitations and also seen that a way of living in the heart was possible; 2. the sun, and 3. the four directions. Creator opened the way to me to go to Lakota sweat lodges when I was in my early twenties, and the Lakota Red Road has been central to my spiritual path (that now also includes Judaism) ever since. At 23, I didn't know much, but I knew that praying from my heart and honoring the directions, Mother Earth and Father Sky, as I was learning to do from my elders on this path, was changing my life profoundly for the better.
I chose to use the same image that is in my tattoo- that of an phoenix emerging from a fire and looking up at the Zia- to represent my music because my music speaks of both my own and our collective process of emerging from the cages of trauma and colonial delusion and rising up: toward the sun, toward truth, toward true love, toward Creator. My music speaks to the journey we are all on together to find our way back to a heart-based way of living, our collective t'shuvah (Hebrew: “returning to the right path”). I call my music “Hip Hop for the Healing of the Human Family.”
I know that the Zia represents many things that I do not know. I only know them to be deeply sacred. As this symbol is now in my flesh, above my heart, I pray to live my life in a way that is worthy of the Zia, to earn true spiritual permission to have this symbol in my skin. My music is a direct product of my life and of my healing. It is an essential part of my spiritual path to make the music that I do. So as I pray to be worthy of the Zia in the way I live my life, I pray to become worthy of the Zia in my music and the ways I share it with the world. My intention for my life and for my music is to be of service to Creator and to do my part in the healing of the world.
I know I went ahead and made my business cards and all of that before I asked permission of your Pueblo, and for this I apologize for real. I learned that I needed to ask permission after I'd already had my cd's, stickers, and business cards printed. If the Pueblo of Zia does not grant me permission to use the Zia in my logo, I will do whatever is needed to do right by your Pueblo.
Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to express myself, and for your openness to considering my use of the Zia in my logo.
Kat (last name) aka Asliani