Wednesday, July 27, 2016

My Thought Process Regarding the 2016 Election

Wanted to put this here so I didn't have to re-type it in every argument, but even more so for friends and youth I work with who might be feeling frustrated or powerless when it comes to the upcoming election. The short version of this isn't anything too surprising: real change comes from organized movements, and it makes sense to vote for Clinton in swing states in order to be able to continue that movement-building process. But I did want to share my reasoning, plus some links for further reading.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Beyond the Benefit: Ten Ways Artists Can Help Build and Support Movements

(updated June 2018)

On a personal level, things are stressful right now. I know I'm not alone in that. A lot of us are trying to figure out how to best use whatever power, resources, or skills that we have to help make a difference. So I'm thinking about the artist's role in helping to build a mass movement.

Of course, building a mass movement is everyone's job, and everyone has to figure out how best to leverage their strengths, passions, resources, access, etc. to contribute to the larger struggle. I think of teachers shifting their lesson plans in order to talk about current events. I think of religious leaders doing the same thing during their sermons. I think of workers organizing anti-oppression committees or even just book clubs in their workplaces. I think of athletes wearing #blacklivesmatter shirts and refusing to be silent. I think of online communities. I think of students. I think of young people. Everyone has some kind of power or access to space that can help this movement grow.

When it comes to artists, this conversation usually begins and ends with our art. People talk about the power of narrative and framing, the power to make the abstract concrete, the power to touch people on an emotional level and transcend petty campaign politics. And I'm with that. But that's not the conversation that I want to have here. Because I believe that as artists, we have more to offer than our art.

Monday, July 11, 2016

A Few Resources, Links, and Readings Regarding Ongoing #BlackLivesMatter Protests

Like a lot of people in my community, I was out this past weekend at a couple of different actions/protests regarding the killing of Philando Castile (and others across the country). Rather than write my own big think-piece here, I thought a better use of this platform would be to collect a bunch of the links and resources that have been helpful to me over the past week (I also did this back in 2014, but it's time for an update). I'm framing this around the question "BUT WHAT CAN I DO?" which has come up a lot recently.

I think it's important to note that there's no easy answer to that question. I want to say "organize." I also want to say, though, that at different times, "doing something" will look different. It might be calling a jail to check on arrested protestors. It might be just showing up to whatever action is happening and standing in solidarity. It might be donating money to a bail fund, or dropping off supplies at an occupation, or filming a police encounter, or going to a meeting, or being there for a friend, or organizing a healing space or benefit concert, or a million other things. It doesn't mean, however, sitting back and criticizing what's going on when you have no skin in the game. It doesn't mean emailing your one Black friend and asking them what to do (they probably have enough on their mind right now). And it certainly doesn't mean business-as-usual. There's always something that can be done, even if that "something" isn't a big red button that fixes everything right away.

So here are a few starting points. Feel free to add more thoughts in the comments.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Finished Grad School - Now Booking for Any/All Future Dates

So I've been in grad school for the past two years. It was an interdisciplinary Masters program at the U of MN (Master of Liberal Studies) that let me focus my research on how arts approaches (especially through a spoken word lens) can make social justice education programs and curricula more critical and participant-centered. This topic allowed me to weave together disciplines like theater, public policy, journalism, curriculum & instruction, gender & women's studies, and more, and it's helped me focus and sharpen the work that I've already been doing: traveling to colleges and conferences, using spoken word as a jumping-off point for deeper conversations about identity, power, and agency.

I'm still working on a way to share all of that research and work here at my site; for now, check out one small piece of that project, my list of 100+ spoken word videos that might be useful to social justice educators.

In the meantime, I'm done with school. Forever. Which is wild. But that also means that I'm booking for Fall 2016 and beyond. If you want to bring me to your college or university, book me to perform, present, and/or facilitate workshops at your conference, or engage in a residency at your high school, please check out the UPDATED booking/info page on this website and get in touch.

If I were to present a pitch, it'd be that I've been involved with social justice education and facilitation for as long as I've been making art. So when I visit a space, I'm not really interested in just performing poems for 45 minutes and leaving. I want to think critically about how those kinds of spaces can be used in more dynamic and interactive ways. I want to facilitate workshops and skill-sharing sessions. I want to visit classes and explore how my work intersects with the work students are already doing. At conferences, I want to grapple with issues using narrative and metaphor in order to highlight different angles or frameworks for thinking about those issues. Mostly, I just want to connect. Feel free to get in touch, and/or forward this link on to anyone you know working in higher ed, community orgs, conference organizers, etc. Thanks!