Thu May 13th
Zakiya Harris is the person behind Sh8peshifter, or rather the person that is Sh8peshifter. She works at the intersection of art, activism and spiritual entrepreneurship.
Ten years ago, Zakiya was confronted by major upheaval in her life that required her to embody the concept of shapeshifting. During the 2008 financial crisis, she lost funding for the nonprofit she led, Grind for the Green, and had to lay off staff. She lost her house, her marriage, and her status quo. When all was said and done, Zakiya had to start over, moving into her mother’s house with her daughter. Her identities of homeowner, wife, and business owner were stripped away from her. The flexibility and adaptability demanded by those circumstances helped her to uncover her essence and her identity as Sh8peshifter was born.
“Shapeshifting is being like water. It finds its own place for momentum whether poured on the floor or taking the shape of a vessel.”
Finding her internal momentum outside of her house, her relationship, and her career gave her clarity and led her to music. It was at this time that she recorded her first musical EP.
Then, as a result of her work on projects such as Grind for the Green, her music, and her focus on healing, Zakiya started working as a consultant. Opportunities followed and she took founding roles with Hack the Hood and Impact Hub Oakland. At the same time, her music started moving and she created a full band.
Sh8peshifter is a performance artist who breaks down the barrier between performer and audience. At the root of Zakiya’s art and music is herself, yet through her vulnerability and sharing, she speaks to her community, providing a personal perspective on larger issues they face. The work transcends entertainment as she invites the audience into their own process of transformation while witnessing hers.
This approach extends into her spiritual and healing work as a priest in Isese, an ancestral spiritual tradition which comes from the Yoruba people of Nigeria, West Africa. Initiated as a priest in 2019, Zakiya does transformative life coaching and spiritual wellness for purpose-driven women. This healing work encompasses her spiritual journey and path, which she wants to share with others.
“Shapeshifting has become bigger than me. Now it’s a whole movement of purpose-driven women and I consider myself a midwife, midwifing women from stagnation to activation.”
At Hack the Hood, Zakiya worked with young people in the community through programs and intensive workshops to build technical skills. With House Full of Black Women, she takes part in ritual performances to educate the public on issues surrounding Black women and girls in Oakland. Through her coaching practice, she works with individuals to design and shift their lifestyles in order for them to be more purposeful in their creative work. Now at ArtsWeb, Zakiya works with artists, with a focus on Black-led creatives, throughout Alameda county to support them with the resources, capacity building, and technical support needed to thrive.
For a long time, Zakiya felt as though she was separated into two or more parts, yet as she has matured in her work, she feels more complete while the facets of her practice become more and more integrated. Whether it’s through music, products or books, with people one-on-one, or with convening groups, her work gives rise to transformation.
In the many ways her work takes shape, Zakiya believes she has the ability to be a catalyst for her community, guiding their transformation from one state to the next emphasizing healing along the way. Her legacy is creating wealth by teaching wellness as a tool for sustained health, beginning with her story and extending to her community at large.