A profound word from unexpected source
Races to the heart as an arrow to its target
It's landing is true
It slices through pretense and perceptions
The suddenness of impact
Breathing fresh air into a stagnant mind
Suddenly what never could be is seen as real and concrete
For a moment a door opened and the hunted is never the same again.
The wedding of the day before had seen the coming together of two people with extraordinary courage and love. They had stepped into a world of the unknown informed by the knowing of each other and a mountain of statistics that prophesies their slim chance of success. Yet in spite of these somber predictions this couple takes the leap whole a community of family and friends stands weeping, smiling, laughing and cheering them on. We who stand as witness are set on a road of magical reality as we recognize a reflection of what have or could have in these shining faces. I watch this ceremony rich in cross cultural references that reflect the Cape Colored and Jewish traditions that are being bound together in this ceremony. The crowd a reflection of the varied community that their offspring will be born into. Well into the night we investigate our commonality and differences. We have conversations of a strange and necessary variety that would never occur if worlds were not colliding. I imagine the voice of the other wondering who we are as we do the same. We stare at each other as we struggle through awkward conversations and decipher the oddities in the unknown. The morning brings us together in an unexpected moment of communion. Esther the mother of the groom has charmed me with a voice that is earthy and smokey. Her speech patterns are measured and direct. Her eyes penetrating in their punctuation. She appears more hippy than mom. She holds us with wise woman words and the openness of a child. In a few words she erases doubt and inspires me to new thoughts and perceptions. In this cipher we exchange our souls and dream ways to reshape the world anew. She introduces us to the power and necessity of the artist to help the world shift its perception of itself and the other. She wonders aloud at what it would take for us to reach that critical mass of consciousness and action. Our minds are full, our bellies are empty and its not yet even 9 am.
The past weeks activities to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington have left me humbled and introspective. The experiences ranged from reflective moments through the eyes of visual artists to two gatherings on the hollowed grounds of the Lincoln Memorial. Each experience housed an opportunity to look at the civil rights movement and struggle for equality from varied perspectives. Over the next few days I'll share some of the impressions that have contributed to an expansion and understanding that I had not anticipated. The photo above highlights the continued inclusiveness of the struggle. Then like now it will take all hands on deck to turn this ship homeward. I believe the call to action has been heard, but it will be curious to see how we as a nation take the dream forward. I'm grateful for all the new connections made and old ones reaffirmed. Write with y'all soon!
Mount Rainier, MD--August 16, 2013--To commemorate the 50th Anniversary of
the historic March on Washington, the artist collective will mount the
exhibition “The Art of Justice: Honoring and Continuing a Movement for
Equality through Artistic Expression.” The works of over 40 artists, in
various genres, will be featured. The exhibition is inspired by and the
collection reflects the artists’ impression of the historical as well as
the current state of justice in America and on-going efforts to achieve
racial equality. Exhibit organizer and artist Michael Anthony Brown
believes “Through art, we can visually plant a seed for justice and change.”
The opening reception for The Art of Justice exhibition was held on the
eve of the National Action Network’s March on Washington Friday, August 23
2013, 5-8pm at the Mount Rainier Artists Loft Gallery. The gallery is
located at 3311 Rhode Island Avenue in Mount Rainier, Maryland. The "Art of Justice" runs through Sunday,
September 8, 2013. The gallery is Metro and handicapped accessible.
The Art of Justice is hosted by artists Michael Anthony Brown, Toni George
and Greg Scott. Michael Anthony Brown, a native Washingtonian, is an
internationally renowned painter, sculptor and printmaker. One of his most
famous prints is the commemorative poster for the Million Man March on
Washington in October of 1995. Other featured, local and national, artists
include: Simmie Knox, Larry Poncho Brown, Arthur Dawson, Juliette Madison,
Reggie Yazid Pointer, James Brown, Jr., Aziza Gibson-Hunter, Deborah
Shedrick, Francis Washington, Brianna Faulkner, Dalhia Perryman and Kwame
Opare. The full list of artists is available at www.theartofjustice.org.
The exhibit will also feature a masterful collection of quilts from
“American Spring: A Cause for Justice,” created by the Fiber Artists for
Hope Quilting Guild.
The Art of Justice exhibition is slated to expand in size and scope and
travel nationally. Fundraising efforts are currently underway to achieve
this goal. The Art of Justice movement strives to foster a new generation
of social awareness which empowers activism to dispel social injustice at
its roots. "We endeavor to spark an honest dialogue on the state of race in
America. Only by acknowledging the ever changing ethnic landscape and
embracing our diversity, can we make strides towards equality. By honoring
the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, we honor an indelible
legacy of courage and sacrifice demonstrated by a movement. While the world
watched, armed only with a desire for civil rights, justice and equality,
the Freedom Fighters of 1963 stood their ground and helped shape a nation.
We honor the contributions of those who came before us. Through the 'Art of
Justice,' we protect and continue their legacy." - Michael Anthony Brown
I wish that I was in Jozi to participate in this Rally!
The sustained and proactive engagement by men is so necessary to build healthy individuals and communities. So much of my work as an artivist speaks directly to creating space for men to develop the awareness and tools necessary to live fuller and happier lives.
Another night comes to an end
A new day arrives in song and dance
Libation loosing spirits
Praises rise to the heavens
And we are renewed
Libation is more than a dance party. It is a space where we gather to escape the individual and celebrate the connectedness that is community. The music is global soul that begs your attention. The experience is not a passive drug fueled exploration. But a collective journey into ancient traditions of fellowship through dance and music. This thanks giving celebration is attended by a diverse blend of new yorks cosmopolitan masses. Twice a month the pilgrimage is made to the sullivan room in New York's west village. Tonight was no different than other times I've come to share in this sensory feast. However this was to be one of those rare occasions that I stayed until the very end. As 4am approaches the tempo and urgency of the music slows and the orchestrated set soothes us into a meditative state. We who are intent on wringing every note from the evening transcend and dance as if we alone are in the room. The lights slowly brighten. The crowd thins to a handful. We are a mixture of the crew that makes the night happen and those who appreciate the blessing of good music and the freedom to experience it with our whole being.
Thank you Ian Friday, Manchildblack, Afromosaic Soul and the Libation Family!
When last I was here I clung close to my fathers side. My brother Harold the shadow I trailed. Everything was new and different. They teased us as children do. Our accents were oh so different and pure Yankee boy talk. Here now as the adult me. I stand alone surrounded by many. Settled into a comfortable wonder of the familiarity and strangeness of it all. South Florida and SA combined with a little Lagos thrown in for good measure.
I spoke with a friend today who resides in Chicago. It seems we keep calling each other at inconvenient moments. This time he was on his way to see Fruitvale Station. We said we'd catch up later and disconnected the call. The call had ended but his destination still rang in my head. I was feeling a little guilty at having not seen the movie. I mean we all know how the story ends and frankly my spirit is exhausted from collective pain, angst and anger. I called another friend and we shared a lighter moment, but now my uncomfortableness was beginning to grow. I mentioned this to my friend and she understood how I felt. She to was dreading the heaviness of spirit that would further impact our individual and collective psyche. We commiserated and acknowledged the importance of supporting this film and its creators. I equaled it to the tension and apprehension you feel at having to attend a funeral. We never want to go, but we do because we must. So, I checked the movie schedule at the Magic Johnson Theatre here in Harlem, showered, dressed and made my way from 151st to 125th street. What a gorgeous day, almost to beautiful to sit inside a movie theatre. I bought my ticket and a large popcorn. I Settled into my seat and waited for the film to start. As the film started I breathed a sigh of relief force having made it through the first unsettling scene (actual cell phone footage of Oscar Grant being shot by a police officer). As I relaxed into this world I smiled at a playful young father. A son who adored his mother. A boyfriend fighting for love and life. A man who made some mistakes and struggled to get it together. I saw in his eyes pain, anger and danger. There were moments where I judged his choices. I wondered why he went down the path that he chose. He made me think about the young men in my life ( nephews, cousins and friends) all of us a decision away from incarceration or legal drama. Systems within systems that will turn you inside out. By the time Oscar was on his way home from New Year's Eve celebrations I was in his corner and he was a member of my family. By the tIme he drew his last breath and his mother begged to hold him one last time, I was Oscar and he was me. I left a part of myself in that darkened theatre. The tears streamed down my face, because I understood at a cellular level that the only difference between Oscar and me was nothing more than luck and the Grace of God.
There are more stirrings sparked from this cinematic moment. I give what I can for now and committ to sharing more later. Forgive me, but I'm still dazed and hurt by this experience.
"Art should touch us in our soul places." -Antonio Lyons
I'm really looking forward to checking this out. There's so much happening at any given moment in New York. Randomly stumbled across this poster whilst walking by a restaurant in Brooklyn last night. It was posted in the window.
Who I am, who we are is a hodgepodge of genetics, a pearl of consciousness, our environment and a string of experiences that help to shape us at any given moment in time. A pearl of consciousness is the eternal center of self that I believe we all are born into the world possessing. This constant part of self is always there and serves as the foundation of our very being. This consciousness is impacted by our everyday experiences as we grow our identity options. Sometimes the crafting of identity is a conscious process, but often it is an unconscious reshaping reacting to the world around us. The carefree spirit can be diminished by tragedy. The complacent can be motivated into action by a change inspiring catalyst. The drug addict re-calibrated by the birth of a child. The depressed transformed through music, prayer or any divine moment. The banner above speaks to the cultural kinship that has and is shaping the who that I am. Those flags come with histories and traditions, memories and blood, laughter and determination, language and dance, a new breath, a healing heart and a certainty of self.
This present self is balancing the life of a professional commercial artist and that of an Artivist. I'm learning that Artivist aren't created, but born and called into action. My very soul begs me to speak about the world I live in and to motivate for change. I am the curious student eager to learn the others story and allow my world to be enriched by another's truths.
**The curious student approach was extended to me by artivist/applied theatre practitioner, Keith Johnston
(artist +activist) uses his/her artistic talents to fight and struggle against injustice and oppression—by any medium necessary