Creative Interviewing Creatives: Jackie Lipson, a Los Angeles based pop singer-songwriter interviews queer creatives making waves in their field of artistry.
Chani Nicholas is a Canadian-born Astrologer and New York Times best selling author of You Were Born For This: Astrology for Radical Acceptance. Much of her work and writing centers around queer identity, politics and activism. I was fortunate to be introduced to Nicholas through a fellow musician friend named NISHA (check her out on Spotify!) and since discovering Nicholas’s Cosmic Playlists, a collaboration with Spotify, I’ve been an avid follower. I asked Nicholas about her new book, any advice she has for queer youth and what she’s learned about activism from Black leaders. Here’s our conversation:
Jackie: I love your Spotify Cosmic Playlists! How did they start?
Chani Nicholas: Thank you! I love doing them. About 2 years ago, Spotify reached out to me with an idea for something around the intersection of music and astrology, and we collaborated to develop the horoscope and playlist combo. We launched in January 2019, and it’s been such a joy. I love being in touch with so many artists. Being a part of putting people’s art into the world is very fulfilling for me.
How do you determine what songs are for which sign?
Astrology is about a specific moment in time. Each moment has a specific astrological mark, or archetype associated with it, that defines it. I take the theme of the moment for each sign and curate a playlist that reflects that.
Have you always felt an intrinsic link between horoscopes and music?
Astrology is an archetypal language, so is music. They are a natural fit. Most astrologers think about certain signs when they see, hear, feel, or experience an archetype. It’s how our brains are wired. When the idea was presented to me it felt like a perfect fit.
You’re amplifying many independent LGBTQ+ artists by adding their songs to the Cosmic Playlists. Including myself! Are you working on any other initiatives benefiting marginalized communities that you want people to know about?
My wife Sonya Passi founded the nonprofit, FreeFrom, which is working to address gender-based violence as a structural problem and dismantle the nexus between gender-based violence and financial insecurity. We put a lot of our resources there but we’re also always trying to actively support the many networks of care that are doing phenomenal work to dismantle and heal from systems of oppression.
In your book, You Were Born For This: Astrology for Radical Self-Acceptance, you talk about a link between the planets and politics. Do you see any planetary changes that will impact the upcoming U.S. Presidential election?
Back in 2019 (approximately one million years ago) many astrologers, myself included, said that the astrology of 2020 would be, um, challenging. I think I said “era-defining.” The second half of the year, specifically late August to late November, is particularly trying. So yes, it will impact the election. Some of the most challenging astrology is occurring during the lead-up to the election and during the election itself. The end of the year does have a very important aspect, the Jupiter/Saturn conjunction, which quite honestly, I am hoping is as future-forward, humanitarian, innovative, and collectively-minded as it can be. It does feel positive. It is a new beginning of sorts and how we begin it says a lot about what it will bring us.
In your book, you also talk about astrology as a means of self-understanding and purpose. How do you incorporate astrology into your own life?
Astrology is a timekeeper and time teller, so in our house, it is used for everything. Our team is always talking about the current astrology – the new and full Moons, whatever retrogrades are happening, what cycles we are in — all of it. It’s a touchpoint for me to process the moment, reflect on what’s going on around me, and plan for the future.
What is one piece of advice you have for queer youth in today’s world?
Find every way imaginable to be generative and bold in your demands for a fair, kind, joyous, and just world.
I see you offer online classes? Tell me about them.
I do a monthly moon workshop, which offers an audio reading for your rising sign, guided meditations, journaling prompts, altar suggestions, and more. Those come out once a month, timed with the New Moon, and invite you to reflect and plan for the month ahead. I also have some evergreen workshops, to dig in and teach yourself more about your birth chart through a specific theme, including Your Moon, Your Money, and Your Love. Check out all the online workshops here.
You often weave activism into your writing. What do you feel is astrology’s place in the conversation about racial progress in the U.S.? How do you feel it could be helpful/constructive?
I believe that we have to use every single tool that we have access to in order to make sure that we can bring about a world we want to live in. In terms of dismantling white-supremacy and all systems of oppression, astrology can help us frame the moment, but the first tools I go to are always from the activists and organizers that have been doing this work for decades. Astrology is my tool, so I try to use it in the best way I can by supporting those that are already doing the work.
The U.S. is in the midst of one of the biggest civil rights revolutions of our time. You have stated in the past that we can learn from organizers and healers that practice healing justice work, which raises questions like who has access to healing and who has the time and space to heal? Who has educated and influenced you concerning the concept of healing justice?
I have learned from studying many movement facilitator’s work. Folks like facilitator, somatics teacher and practitioner, writer, and political organizer Prentis Hemphill’s work has impacted me greatly. Prentice writes that “Cara Page and Kindred Southern Healing Justice Collective cleared a path and told us that ‘healing justice…identifies how we can holistically respond to and intervene on generational trauma and violence, and to bring collective practices that can impact and transform the consequences of oppression on our bodies, hearts and minds’.”
In terms of how healing justice can serve this moment, Prentice also writes that “healing justice is active intervention in which we transform the lived experience of Blackness in our world. And in order to actively intervene and transform the experience of Black life, on every level, our movements and our organizations have to understand and value the wisdom of healing justice.”
Regarding the origins of the term and work of healing justice, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha adds that “a movement and a term was created by queer and trans people of color and in particular Black and brown femmes, centering working-class, poor, disabled and Southern/rural healers. Before “healing justice” was a phrase, healers have been healing folks at kitchen tables and community clinics for a long time—from the acupuncture clinics run by Black Panthers like Mutulu Shakur in North America in the 1960s and 1970s, to our bone-deep Black, Indigenous, people of color and pre-Christian European traditions of healing with herbs, acupuncture, touch, prayer, and surgery.”
Regarding “who has access to healing? Who has the time and space to heal?” Black feminism and Black feminists have always raised these questions and I believe that we should all follow suit. In every space we enter we should ask ourselves “who is this made for?” Black queer femme activist, writer, speaker and sexuality educator Ericka Hart’s work always reminds me to ask this.
I think that we should all study the work of those that have been practicing healing justice for years to ensure that we are able to understand for ourselves what it might mean in our lives and our activism.