I remember the first day I walked into 20 cooper square. I was worried that I was going to be late; I wanted to make a good impression on my first day as an Arts in Action fellow on April 17th, 2017. Though I am not one to stress about time to the point where it’s self deprecating, something about this opportunity demanded my complete and utter attention before it even began. Ebony Noelle Golden, the founder of Betty’s Daughter Arts Collaborative (BDAC) walked in a minute after I arrived, and I suddenly dove head first in an experience that would stretch and transform the way I experience the world around me for years to come.
My Arts in Action fellowship began at the whiteboard. Ebony went through her business model, the organizations she was currently working with, in addition to her current project 125th and Freedom which will be debuting this September. We talked through workshops I would be participating in (all of which incorporated the theme of creative emancipation), expectations, and what I wanted to get out of the experience. I admired the fact that Ebony actually listened to me when I was speaking…I was beyond thrilled to meet someone who is able to balance empathy and a rigorous work ethic. To be human in business, and in the movement. It’s necessary and completely possible, folks.
Before I knew it, my first weeks began: starting with a workshop on creative emancipation at SUNY downstate, then prepping for interviewing artists from a residency program BDAC is conducting a field survey for, participating in more workshops with the Laundromat project, making phone calls, conducting more interviews, going to see Jennifer Newman’s work The Geneva Project at BAAD!, and much more. I can confirm that my fellowship is in fact an Arts in ACTION fellowship.
I’m a watcher. I love to inspect people, situations, energies. The ways people communicate, move, and breathe around one another. I’ve done an immense amount of witnessing in terms of the way Ebony’s world works. What does it mean for someone to be constantly living and breathing their work? In Ebony’s case it means it’s her purpose; perfectly mapped out in a manner that is completely unique and honest. In a manner where she is not only advocating and living her liberation through her work; but additionally for the liberation of black artists, of artists of color, of artists with disabilities. BDAC’s work is paving the way to freedom: sometimes a loud smack of thunder, other times creeping silently in the dark. Little do you know BDAC is coming, little do you know that BDAC is always five steps ahead. That’s what happens when your work is committed to truth and deep listening. It’s about what’s beneath the surface…
Ebony has told me time and time again that caring for yourself is the work. It is ingrained into the calendars, into the work ethic. Some days Ebony and I will go to MIST in Harlem to get our work done in a lively environment, other days we break bread together, laugh together, or simply breathe together. The two of us have it figured out collectively, and Ebony has it figured out individually, but I would like to speak for myself. Since I have gotten to New York my life has been in complete flux; movement, movement, movement. Borough to borough, house to house, lugging a suitcase from place to place. I’ve moved ten times. Throughout this movement, I’ve learned that routine is imperative. I need time to exercise,to flex and stretch my body, time to sing in the morning. Eating regularly is non negotiable, and there is no replacement for sunshine on my skin. These past months have been a learning opportunity, as my body has been sending me messages so that I am able to understand that deep care for myself is also a part of my job description. Not just Ebony’s, not just Ebony and I’s, but mine individually. It is essential, and it is my living and breathing and my arts in action. Once these joys are naturally a part of my routine my work can become my living.
The past months have taught me the essentials. Though my brain is constantly swirling with new thoughts and concepts and learning methods to breathe and live and create in this world, I feel beyond blessed to be a part of BDAC’s work…The ways that Ebony and BDAC have required me to be and think in the world are a medley of challenging, natural, and freeing. Arts in Action is simply about living more fully with an alert mind and a powerful consciousness surrounding what you are breathing in, and what you create when you breathe it out. I look forward to embodying “Arts in Action” more fully, authentic in my role, wider, with breadth and depth. Here is to the next weeks. May they be rich, may they be fruitful.
Along with my Arts in Action Fellowship I have gained the opportunity to be a part of the Public Performing Arts Fellowship (also through BDAC). The theme to this year’s fellowship is creative emancipation. I have been developing my own work “Planting Seeds In Shadows”, in addition to creating collective work, learning from incredible teachers such as Aiesha Turman, Shola Cole, Renee Rises, Ebony Noelle Golden, and many more. I have been lucky enough to be a part of the behind the scenes planning: communicating with master teachers, syllabus development, making announcements, etc. It has been an excellent opportunity for gaining insight on building a sustainable, creative, liberatory framework, then actively participating within the framework; allowing it to transform me on various levels.
This Year’s Public Performance Art Fellows
In addition to both fellowships I am a performer in Ebony Golden’s 125th and Freedom. Here is her artistic statement:
“Ebony Noelle Golden’s 125th and Freedom is a public performance art project comprised of ten choreopoetic rituals staged along 125th Street between the Harlem and Hudson Rivers. The piece venerates the radical legacies of The Underground Railroad, The Great Migration, and 125th Street to explore migration, gentrification, and creative emancipation in the wake of large scale political, economic, cultural displacement. The performance seeks to collectively source tools and strategies for collective resistance and resilience that can withstand systemic oppression that is inextricably tied to living in a society that values ‘profit over people’.”
125th and Freedom: A Choreopoetic Ritual Performance is debuting September 17th and 24th, 2017. Check it out here: Facebook Page
For additional information on Betty’s Daughter Arts Collaborative, follow the following links:
Photo credit: Gaia Robinson