January 5, 2016
Excerpt from graduate degree major research paper, “Sipping Freedom: Engaging Black Radical Imagination, Confronting Middle Passage Memory, Embodying the Sacred,” from Movement One, “Drinking in These Voices: Engaging Black Radical Imagination.”
Carby analyzes DuBois’s gendered theoretical paradigms and considers that he was not able “to imagine a community in which positive intellectual and social transformation could be evoked through female metaphors and tropes.”* In recognizing the “highly gendered structures of intellectual and political thought and feeling”** that the Black Radical Tradition historically has relied on, it behooves me, as a diasporic African feminist researcher to contest the patriarchal frameworks embedded within the Black Radical Tradition. As an artist and spiritual practitioner, I also contest the primacy of the intellect as the supreme site of knowledge production. Seeking to develop feminist frameworks of intellectual, cultural and spiritual knowledge-making, I frame the context within which I locate my work as that of Black radical imagination.
* Hazel V. Carby, Race Men (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009) 20.
January 4, 2016
Abstract from graduate degree major research paper, “Sipping Freedom.”
How can inherited colonial notions of the “human” be transformed by the assertion of African* histories of the present?** My research is driven by an impulse to recover and engage an inheritance of intellectual, cultural and spiritual epistemologies of the African diaspora and with it shape futurist narratives of possibility. This major research portfolio consists of an academic paper and a diptych of a solo performance art installation in two acts. In this portfolio, I propose that colonial notions of the human can be transformed by demonstrating their limitations and by enacting and performing alternatives in the present. The methodologies in this research depend on engaging Black*** radical imagination, confronting Middle Passage memory,**** and embodying the Sacred.***** I explore this embodiment through hybrid cultural/spiritual practices which I identify as tools for becoming. I propose these methodologies as praxes of freedom.
* I unpack the term “African” and its diasporic extensions in Movement One.
** Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An archaeology of the human sciences (New York: Psychology Press, 2002). For more about my engagement with the notion of “histories of the present” see the Foreword.
*** See Movement One for more about my construction of the term “Black”, and how I use it interchangeably with other terms.
**** “Middle Passage” is the term used to name the journey made by European slave ships across the Atlantic Ocean, from Africa to the Caribbean and the Americas, transporting captured African people during the period of transatlantic slavery. It is also known as the “Crossing”. See Movement Two.
***** I choose to capitalize the word “Sacred”, as I do “Spirit”, “Source”, “Ancestors”, “Ancient Ones” and the “Crossing” to give them the distinction of proper names.
June 1, 2012
Excerpts from “Stories of Our Journeys – We are Here to Stay” project proposal (a successful Ontario Arts Council “Artists in the Community/Workplace” grant application, March 2012)
I began my journey as a community artist, impassioned about reclaiming and imparting to youth, a vibrant, nuanced sense of pan-Africanist identity. Over the years, I have worked extensively with young people of many backgrounds and have evolved my analysis of identity to include class, gender, ability, spirituality, religion, family structure and sexual orientation. It is now central to my practice as a community artist to integrate a broad definition of diversity that includes, but is not limited to, cultural and racial identity.
When I review my years of practice, I realize that modeling and advocating for open-ended creative and innovative thinking are equally important to me as identity and diversity. I thrive in the community setting where I invite participants to dwell in the realm of possibility, to debunk the inner obstacles, and to risk being expressive. I inhabit the trickster archetype, challenge the norms, and trick them into discovering their genius. I make myself transparent and share the complexity and multiplicity of my journey, I listen in to where they are inquiring, struggling or stuck, and coach them through the varied terrain. It is incredibly rewarding to inspire young people to get in touch with what they are passionate about, and to witness their energy and imaginations flourish when they are given permission to be their authentic creative selves.
why this project?
This project offers me the opportunity to hone the “Stories of Our Journeys” method I have been developing over the last six years, and take it further – into a longer-term, deeper engagement that culminates in a more developed performance as well as an audio recording. This project has proven to be powerful and empowering for youth in communities with this particular demographic, which compels me to keep doing the work.
why this community?
This community has all the socio-economic challenges and obstacles of priority neighbourhoods in Toronto – a high percentage of low income and new Canadian families, high-density subsidized housing, and cultural and geographical barriers to resources and amenities. Young people in this community are further faced with societal barriers and negative stereotypes that stigmatize them and inform their sense of personal potential or lack thereof. Community arts practice is a relational practice – the quality of the relationships in the project determines the depth of the impact on the participants and the quality of the outcome, which impacts the audience. I believe that the youth can experience this project as a microcosm of what it means to work together to take charge of their lives, and their outcome can give the larger community a more nuanced story of this community.