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Claudia Alick and Calling Up Justice

Building Our Own Tables Episode #5

Yura Sapi: Welcome to the Building Our Own Tables podcast, interviewing Black, Native, Asian, and other founders of color to learn about how we create space together and not replicate the same white supremacy and supremacy culture we were trying to get away from. Produced for HowlRound Theatre Commons, a free and open platform for theatre makers worldwide, and Advancing Arts Forward, a movement to advance equity, inclusion, and justice through the arts by creating liberated spaces that uplift, heal and encourage us to change the world.

I'm your host, Yura Sapi. In this episode, I got to check in with Claudia Alick founder of Calling Up Justice. Calling Up is a trans media company producing performances of justice online, onstage, and in real life. Calling Up facilitates the development and performance of scripts for social justice, connects thought leaders, provides social impact consultation, intersectional inclusive reflection and assessment, and produces trainings.

Calling Up operates on a radical generosity model, sharing work freely and compensated on a pay-what-you-can model. The Calling Up community is asked to contribute content, ideas, as well as monetary capital, support, subsidized the work for communities and individuals who need the resources. Projects include The Justice Quilt, We Charge Genocide TV, co-artistic direction of The Fury Factory Festival, and consulting for and advising funders and companies across the country.

Claudia Alick serves as the founding executive producer of Calling Up and is a cultural producer, performer and inclusion expert. In this episode, Claudia shares producing gems from working on We Charge Genocide TV. Things like valuing the names we choose, the power we have in selecting the words we use to talk about what we're doing and the resiliency producing model When it comes to working in a supremacy culture environment, that is the United States.

Claudia talks about imagining the impossible, decolonizing What we believe is the only way or the right way to do things, and some more on abundance over scarcity. Please welcome Claudia Alick from Calling Up Justice.

episode five claudia alick calling up justice

Claudia Alick: Thank you so much for having me. As a cultural producer who's focused on justice, I'm deeply invested in finding new models, new design aesthetics to create the work that we create. If I'm doing my work well, it's my hope that the outcomes are really positive outcomes in the immediate for myself and my collaborators and my audience, but I'm also attempting to create or explore, develop ways of creating cultural producing that are less damaging, that are decolonized, that they just have better outcomes for everyone involved in them.

Yura Sapi: That's why I asked you to come on. Tell us more about The We Charge Genocide TV project, how it relates to Calling Up as an organization, as a group, as a collective.

Claudia: Well, it's interesting also because I've been so resistant to a lot of the terminology in our field. When I first started my practice, I was like, well, I guess this is a company. And then I thought to myself, is it really accompany? What are the different structures that come along when you say the word company? Is this really a business? What does that bring with it?

So I've been using the word practice and that's been working well for us. I started the Calling Up Justice practice several years ago as a transmedia practice, specifically because I felt like the community was going to need work that was accessible in real life, like physically accessible, as well as being digitally accessible. I was pretty obsessed at the time with... And this has to do with my own physical disability.

I recognized that my literal physical body has difficulty getting places. Sometimes the mind is ready to be there, but the physical body cannot do the travel time to get to the location. Or yes, I could get my body to the physical location, but then I would be so exhausted, I wouldn't actually be able to fully participate. What about those of us who have multiple jobs, multiple places where we're getting income and we have schedules that we can't control ourselves?

When is making something only accessible in a time-based way actually making it utterly inaccessible for the populations that need to be accessing it? I'm obsessed with transmedia, forms that allow us to create in real life meet space, as well as in these digital spaces, where you can have more international, national contact. My practice is one that's super hyper-local. I'm a big fan of just going to the protest. That's often how I find my community. I go to the protests and the poetry slams, and that's where I find all my friends.

So in March of this year, I was doing a huge amount of research on COVID-19 and the impacts it was having primarily on the arts community. I'm co-president of the board of a network of ensemble theatres. I got some leadership and board positions in other places around the country. And I also do work consulting with different funders. I had the great privilege to be in rooms where I could hear this is what everybody else is thinking about and talking about and planning and this is what they're forecasting. And then for my own survival and wellness, I was also in spaces that were like the movement generation planning space, spaces that were about continuing my own anti-racist work and anti-racist training.

I'm generally in those spaces all the time because that's what I think is a good fun time to go to like some amazing lecture on the weekend. At that point in time, people were really organizing. They were meeting and organizing and talking about all of the intersections of the cascading failure of systems, or perhaps the cascading success of a lot of these systems that were designed to hurt and harm marginalized people. And they all seem to be coalescing.

And all I could think of was they're killing us, they're killing us, they're killing us. I'm expected to be reasonable and well-spoken and chill in all of these public spaces, online, on the computer, and they're killing us. What do you do when your country's killing you? I had a past project called the Every 28 Hours Plays. I started that project with the same impetus really.

With the advent of more digital technologies, the narrative of the constant and continual murder of Black people by officers of the state became something that was inescapable every 28 hours, every 28 hours. So the Every 28 Hours project was founded when Michael Brown was shot. We traveled to Ferguson where I produced a project called The Ferguson Moment.

It was my hope that with that project I was designing something that was rapid response, but not parachuting in. So there were some very specific things that I was designing into that project that had to do with sharing power and centering the hyper-local community in terms of leadership and setting the path for what was going to take place there.

It was also a decentralized model. This was a gigantic cohort of artists from all over the country. Several projects came out of that, several plays, the New York Theatre of the Oppressed, went back to Ferguson months later. And I decided that my project was going to be a national project called the Every 28 Hours Plays, where I would find as many stories about this horrible thing that was happening to us as possible, include as many voices as possible.

That does seem to be a repeating aesthetic in a lot of my work. I like including as many authors as I can. But with that project, there was like 90 authors. And with that project, we went to Ferguson. We developed the plays. I was working at an institutional theatre or regional theatre at the time. So I was able to reach out to all of the other regional theatres and say, hey, would you give us whatever you can?

I recognize that I'm contacting you outside of your regular funding cycles. So whatever you can cobble together to fund, pay for a playwright to write for us. Send an actor or a producer or anyone with us to Ferguson as we're developing the work so they can come back to your organization with the learnings that they had boots on the ground when we were there.

One of the artists that I collaborated with did this amazing project in the Bay Area. That was the producer I called. It was Tyrone Davis. And I called Tyrone for two reasons. First, because he had been the producer who helped to produce a cross-theatre company and transmedia collaboration with the Every 28 Hours Plays in the Bay Area. So it had lots of theatres involved. It had digital outcomes that came from it. So film outcomes that came from it.

And so I called up Tyrone. And this was I want to say April. And I'm like, "Hey, Tyrone, they're killing us. They're killing us. I want to do a show. I want to do something about this. What should we do? Should we do the Every 28 Hours Plays some more?" And he's like, "Well, you're already giving them away for free online. You already have productions happening. They never stopped. So what more can you do with that? Let's do something more. Let's do something different. Let's do something extra."

And I was like, cool. Well, I originally wanted to name the Every 28 Hours Plays the We Charge Genocide project, but I didn't feel like the country was there yet. I didn't feel like the country was ready for me to say We Charge Genocide. That this is genocide that we are living through. That this is what's happening to us. The few times that I tried to float even that word and that concept, it got shut down so hard.

But Tyrone said yes. And he was my first yes. And because he said yes to a random phone call and I want to say 10:00 PM at night, the We Charge Genocide TV project was born.

Yura Sapi: Chapter 15, Naming is Power: Selecting the Words We Use. Yes. When talking about the words we use, I've been thinking a lot about how we've been moving from equity, diversity, inclusion, and that being performative and not genuine. And now people are moving into anti-racism. But even that I think now is becoming performative and not actually genuine.

And then you speaking on using the word genocide because this is what's happening, naming that this is the truth and that it's not an exaggeration, and thinking about the word that we use, I wonder if there's anything else you want to say about the selection in words we use. Because you also named that at the beginning when we were talking about the difference between organization and company and actually now that this is a practice.

Claudia: Yes. And what is the difference between having a company and having a practice? What is the difference in the kinds of relationships you build? What is the difference in what you're building for yourself and what you're doing with that? Naming is such an important act of power for all of my projects. I start with the mission and then I figure out what the name is that fulfills that mission.

And generally, if I can, these are being tied to other storytelling's taking place over time. So the Every 28 Hours Plays, well, that was based the Operation Ghetto Storm report from the Malcolm X Grassroots project, where they were doing research and they came up with the statistic that every 28 hours a Black person was being murdered or extra judicially killed by an officer of the state or a vigilante.

With this project, I chose We Charge Genocide TV. And that definitely felt like that was one of the first things that I called up Tyrone, we had our conversation and was just like, this is wechargegenocide.tv. This is a website, or this is a digital space. This project is a digital space and we're going to start with a digital space. Even though I recognize that I always ultimately want all of my projects to be transmedia, they should always be leading to performances that are taking place in physically shared space.

We had a lot of questions at the top of the process, like, okay, we're calling it wechargegenocide.tv. First, how do you pull that off? Technologically what is it to have a website that has a .tv at the end? What does that mean? What does that tell your audience and your collaborators? What is this project supposed to be? And we sat down and we were like, well, what do we want...

One of the other big things with this project is all of the personnel inside of it have been completely de-centered. So if you go to the website, you don't see any of our names on there. Our names aren't on there. It was a team that had a lot of flow. And that was part of what I've been calling my resiliency producing models. So producing for resiliency, producing in formats where you know some people aren't going to be able to be at the table all the time.

Producing with models where you know everybody is giving the maximum that they have to give. Not only were we producing something utterly different, we were attempting to produce it in a way that was completely different. And then at the same time, we were also finding ways to name these different practices because naming is power. There's a reason why they don't want us to ever talk about genocide. There's a reason why people didn't want me saying the word or acknowledging it. It's because when you name something, you acknowledge it exists and then you can deal with it.

Yura Sapi: Absolutely. Acknowledgement is the first step of any transformation. Chapter 16, resiliency producing. I would also love to ask you about how you involve others within Calling Up and also the specific We Charge Genocide TV project, especially because you said that a lot of your community comes from being in protests and poetry slams, and that you like to include a lot of people. I would love to hear more about that kind of philosophy and mindset and way of working together with others.

Claudia: Yes. I like to produce with a very, very large table. If I can, I want to have the biggest table ever. And I like to have a regular structure, where you can come and build with us whenever you want. in my brain, I kind of think of it as an open shop. We're inside the workshop, working on this stuff. And if you want to come on in, come on in and help us build what we're building, or go get some tools and build something else off in the corner.

I like to create structures where there's no excuse for no. Every ability for you to say yes, there should be an opening for that. So that's why we have our meetings at the same time every week, but that's also why our work is asynchronously available. Specifically with the We Charge Genocide TV project, we recognized that with all of my projects, we're working with an anticapitalist aesthetic.

And that does not mean we're against making money. What it means is when we're designing, we're designing focusing on goals that aren't about this will be financially viable. They're always about, oh, these are the social outcomes of this model. And then once we've designed that, we get to design the other thing.

In order for us to be able to give everything, we're working with others who are also able to give. But we're also working with equity models, not equality models. So that means in an equitable collaboration, some folks might need money to be able to remain resourced enough to continue doing the work with you.

And some of us might not need financial or monetary compensation. We're creating models that allow for both of those to happen simultaneously, which is so complicated. We're creating models where we have people who were there at the very top of the process and worked for months as we built the first iteration of the project. We said that our goals would be we're making a website.

The website will have information that informs the people about this thing that is happening to us, and also informs the people about our resistance, space for us to get the good information and the good medicine that our arts are creating for us. That's what the site is there for. It's a place for us to gather that information and also place that information.

So that meant that we also need to designed something that would allow people to build it or work on it asynchronously. It's a gigantic tick team. Some people have made it to two meetings and have made contributions that were significant, that resulted in live broadcasts that we produced or content on the site. Some people have come to every single meeting and they always come every single week.

There's people who have come at the top of the process. They disappear. They come back. One of the resiliency producing models that's in action in the way that we are collaborating with people is we are allowing folks to not feel beholden to some false construct for what engagement is, for what true investment is. If you're a mother and the only thing you have is 20 minutes and that 20 minutes would serve your liberation and freedom as well as our project, come and join us.

If you're somebody who can only come once a month, we need to make a structure that will allow people to enter and exit at their own capacity. So that's one of the big philosophical and structural models we've put into place for all of our collaborators. It's a gigantic table and it's open doors. There's a lot of flow and there isn't any kind of judgment or pressure around levels of participation or expectations around that.

And I was surprised, frankly. I shouldn't have been. I've been doing this stuff my entire life and yet I was still surprised at the end of this, I didn't lose any money and everything got accomplished. And the things that got accomplished were rather magnificent. We built three iterations of a complicated website. We produced two live broadcast shows that had a lot of content.

We've produced I want to say three or four hackathons. We collaborate with youth groups or with groups of young folks. And then it's learning from the materials on the site and also adding more materials about our ongoing struggle for liberation against this genocide that's taking place against us. One of the other places where we were designing with pandemic in mind.

We're living through several pandemics. We're living through the pandemic of the climate crisis. We're living through the pandemic of racial injustice and we're living through the pandemic of the coronavirus and the mishandling of that. We recognized as we were building our projects that we couldn't be building them with the expectations of old producing models, because nothing is guaranteed.

I have a collaborator. She's here one day. The next day she literally has no electricity. I have a collaborator. He's here one day. The next day he's gone because his uncle has just passed away. I have a collaborator. She's in the show. She's literally in the show. She used to also be on the streets. How do we produce a show that has a start time that starts when it's supposed to start, that ends when it's supposed to end when you are unsure of the literal ability of all of your collaborators to be in shared space and time simultaneously.

So some of the things that we designed into our process were, you know how you have a understudy for an actor? Why not have understudies for every single role? Why not build in redundancy for every single piece of the process. Also, frankly, if we're doing work remotely, it's so much more lonely. It's so much better to be able to do stuff in collaboration with two or three other people to know that you're not the only one who has the responsibility and to know that you're not alone.

And that also means that on the day of when the thing has to happen and somebody's electricity just goes out, we have two other people who could pick it right up. So the person who in charge of, oh, I'm going to share my screen. You have two other people who have that collateral, that imagery or whatever it is. They're ready to share their screen if one person's screen fails.

We have recordings of everybody's performances. They're there in the audience with us. They're live audiencing with us. However, maybe that recording is a more controllable piece of collateral. Maybe the emotional depths of what we're doing will get so deep that they couldn't even sing a song. So it's good that we have a recording. Maybe it's that the person's planning on performing live, but something happens in the middle of the show and they're just not there anymore.

These were all successful techniques that we designed into the show on purpose and each one of them ended up being enacted. We had sign language interpretation and closed captioning. We want there to be several ways of something being accomplished at the same time. And if we're doing that well, we're not only sharing responsibility, we're sharing power. And I feel like models that share power generally are stronger models.

Yura Sapi: Chapter 17, Envisioning to Manifest: Imagining the Impossible. At the Broadway for Racial Justice Decolonize This convening, the question was asked, what is the future of the arts? I think the future of the arts is envisioning the future of our world. Envisioning the future as we wish it, seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting what liberation looks like helps us get closer to it.

If we keep replicating in our minds and bodies apocalyptic visions of the future, we are collectively manifesting that. Instead, why don't we manifest liberation, beloved community that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr gave his life for, accountability for the trauma held intergenerationally and intersectionally by Black people, Native people, trans, women of color, disabled people of color, and the arts can do that. Theatre can do that. Storytelling can do that. What are the stories that we're telling about the world we wish to live in?

The law of attraction theorizes that we get what we are putting out. We attract what it is that we are offering to others. We see, interact, think about so many things on a day to day basis. When we know what it is that we're looking for, we learn to identify it when we see it. Artists, there's something special about us in that we often are working in other realities or other spaces of being that aren't physically right here all the time. And that's a gift I believe we can use.

So let's envision the future as we wish to manifest it and use the arts, use our theatre, our storytelling to share that vision with others. In leadership and in folks who are organizing and helping bring together action and making it actually happen, there's something around being able to envision the future that we want to see and actually see the world in a different way that allows us to be able to then believe that this is possible and that there's other ways to do it. And so I would love to ask you about what your vision of the future is, whatever that might mean for you, and where we're moving towards and where you're moving towards with all the work you do.

Claudia: Oh gosh. Well, I will say that I am heavily invested in the liberatory imagination. Alas! I was raised in the United States for 40 years and that means I am highly invested. My brain has been trained in the ways and the narrowness of the supremacy imagination. The limitations and the narrowness that are designed to make me think that certain ways of being and doing are completely impossible.

What a comfortable, knowable world to live in, to go, "Oh, well, we would make things better, but that's impossible. This is the best we can have." There's power in that. I totally recognize why so many people are comfortable and have such allegiance and will defend and fight for this narrow, sad, limited, imaginative space. I'm groping towards what the next thing is.

I'm very good at being able to go, "This is what the system is that we're living in right now and these are the ways that you can succeed or thrive within the system as it exists." But the more exciting and the more challenging goal is to find ways of existing and thriving outside of the negative systems that exist. And those are hard to even imagine. It's hard to imagine what we'll need in a world that's so full and dominated by the things that we don't need. I continue to think really hard about decolonization even as I go, "Oh, is there an imagiNative growth space outside of starting with what's broken and wrong?"

Yura Sapi: Chapter 18, Decolonize. Super crucial and urgent when we're talking about decolonizing or taking actions around decolonizing. At the foundation of it all, we're talking about relinquishing stolen land. We're talking about acknowledging and taking action around the settler colonial truth that is the creation of the United States and many other modern day government, nations, settler colonialism names, the invasion and settler occupation that colonizers put onto Native lands and people.

Naming that it's not immigration because when you migrate, you must follow the laws of the governing body of the land you are arriving at. Beyond decolonizing the mind, beyond the colonizing mindsets, educational spaces, day-to-day practices. As Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang say in their academic piece, decolonization is not a metaphor.

They talk about the unsettling experience of understanding the unknown of what that would actually look like, how that would actually be done to give back sovereignty, land sovereignty, governing power, to Native peoples, original stewards of the land, while also including reconciliation reparations for descendants of enslaved African people who were brought forcibly to farm and build unpaid labor, stolen labor, stolen people on stolen land, which affects Black and Indigenous people to this day.

Settler colonization is not a historical event. Its effects and practices are still in place today, especially as you see much higher rates of COVID deaths for Black and Indigenous people. Native people all over the world consistently protecting land and resources, fighting for land justice. Black people being murdered by the government's policing at genocidal rates.

The epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women. To quote the team at Groundwater Arts and their incredible movement building document, GREEN NEW THEATRE, a decolonizing framework that helps us understand the scope of the challenge to making widespread change. It requires not only a shift in ideas and action, but an entire reframing of the power structures within which those ideas and actions arise.

The shift isn't temporary or trendy, but a necessary and fundamental shift in our evolution. Edgar Villanova of the Lumbee Native people, a tribe from so-called North Carolina, writes about decolonizing wealth. He names that we "Must build whole new decision-making tables rather than setting token places at the colonial tables as an afterthought." Sounds familiar on this Building Our Own Tables podcast? What does decolonization look like and mean for you?

Claudia: Well, for me, I'm a systems nerd. Also, I love the story of where things came from. I love going, ah, this thing that we do to start our meetings, like where did Robert's Rules even come from? What's the story of that? There are so many rituals and performances in the United States that we do that we're taught or trained into going, well, this is just the professional good way to do things.

And then you find out actually it was just some weird white dude in the past who was like, "We should all do it this way." And most folks were like, "Okay, I don't really care," or "Well, you're killing everybody. So okay. We'll do it that way." A lot of these ways of controlling information, of managing information, of encouraging performances or dissuading performances with people, they were all about slavery and capitalism and the creation of systems that would replicate colonialism.

So decolonization for me is a top to bottom of thing. It's looking at the really solid legible systems of people management, of information management, of information flow and going, oh, all right. Where was that designed to control people so people would be property? Okay. What am I doing that's low key based on a model that's dehumanizing everyone I'm collaborating with?

What can I do to change my organizational strategy or my communication strategy to really flip that relationship on its head dramatically. Like for instance, with the We Charge Genocide TV project, we did our first beautiful broadcast and it was really moving. It was done under my aggressive curation. And my curatorial style is where I like to reach out to everyone and say, what are all of your big gigantic dreams? What do you want to manifest? And then I try to find a way to manifest all of them and tie them together cohesively.

So we had folks who were like, "We definitely need to have the We Charge Genocide text read aloud." We had folks who were like, "Well, I would really like to have [inaudible 00:31:17] join us because she just speculated a fiction, talk about the future. I'd really like to have somebody who's like a scientist or a professor come and talk about stuff. I know I was like, "Oh, I'd love to have somebody who can help us explore this tension between Black community and Asian community."

And then we spread out the word and everybody came and manifested it. The second show I gave away all my power. And I said, let's have someone who's not me curate the whole show. And it was really powerful and super smart. But it was a scary experiment because it felt like, wow, in artistic model, you don't do this. You don't go, hey person we've never worked with, you get to pick all the artists. But in doing that, we were able to find out that in sharing our power radically, we actually increased our power radically.

Yura Sapi: Yeah. It feels like a combination of sharing power and a lot of yes and then allowing for that to come together and find a way for it to work.

Claudia: I've been meditating on the word positivity recently, and I don't think that's the right word. I'm still looking for the right word. But it's about what is the opposite of designing around negativity? So many design models are about, well, you can't trust anyone, so you better design this in the knowledge that everyone is untrustworthy. And then that's how you get a system that's very impermeable and difficult to get into because you can't access it because there's so many locks on the doors.

Yura Sapi: Chapter 19, abundance over scarcity, part two. Yeah. That's actually something that's come up in a few interviews already, this idea of scarcity versus abundance. Saying let's not focus on scarcity. Let's not focused on this idea that we're competing or that there isn't enough for everyone and rather focus on abundance. And that there is a way to include... And also personally, too, this has come up, a personal abundance individually as a founder wanting to change that mindset personally, which then reflects into the company or the practice or institution or collective.

Claudia: 100%. I think about how we're raised to think some things have value when some things don't have value. And the current economic paradigm we're living in is things have as much value as can be charged for, which is why value moves over time. And what is it called in ticketing like plane tickets or theatre ticketing? Dynamic pricing. Dynamic pricing is only possible in a world where value is something that doesn't actually exist. You just make it up.

And so many of us are raised to de-value our cultural traditions, to de-value our ways of making and doing and communicating. And then they get culturally appropriated, repackaged as white supremacy culture. And then suddenly our jewels are stolen and are being used for our own detriment. So I'm deeply excited about finding ways too. And I don't want to say that we are leaning into a lie.

We're not pretending that there's more than there actually is. Because sometimes folks will be like, "Oh, well you don't need to fight for more. You already have enough." It's like, oh, no, you're not really getting what we're talking about. When we say that we're planning around the abundance, that doesn't mean that we're denying that some people are wealth hoarding. Some people are resource hoarding.

And in fact, I work in a field that has a very big problem with resources over long periods of time being siloed and used for very specific types of cultural producing and huge groups of people not feeling like they have enough, but it's because they literally are not being valued by the industry. So another one of the outcomes of my practice and my work is about creating legible national value around some people's practices, some people's labor and work in the world and around the entire concept of fighting genocide.

Yura Sapi: Is there advice you would give to anyone listening or reading the transcript who is interested in starting their own practice or group or collective or initiative?

Claudia: I think that you need to have the hard conversations at the top of the process. We had conversations at the top of the process. Specifically, I chose this project, We Charge Genocide TV, to share with you partially because of the shape of it it allowed for us to have some really intense and important conversations at the very top of the process around, how are we organizing ourselves? How are we sharing power?

And also frankly, how does this work within the larger white supremacy construct of the United States? So we knew that we wanted to keep the planning, the controlling team, the team that made the hard decisions. We were like, well, that circle needs to be a BIPOC circle exclusively. We also wanted to have a way of allowing all of our other friends in the white community to actually contribute. We recognize that contributing to this project was actually an act of healing and reclamation for folks. So we designed with that in mind.

But we were only able to design with that clarity and with those paths in mind because we had that conversation at the top of the process. Because at the top of the process, literally I'd call someone and say, "I have a wild idea. Let's do a thing." And then I brought up the topic of I have no resources to share with you, but what happens if resources manifest?

What do we do with them first? What do we do with them second? What do we do with them third? What do we do if there is conflict between us? How do we communicate that conflict? And how do we work to gain resolution around that conflict or process around it? Having those conversations at the top of the project really helped to make sure that we were free to move as quickly and with as much alacrity as we needed, as we were working in moments of deep crisis, deep national crisis.

The work that we're doing, we're using deeply intersectional lenses to work on this. It's also about how do we create spaces where there can be difference, but also there isn't harm being perpetuated? One of the things of supremacy culture is that it loves to pit us against each other. So you're in the racial justice space and suddenly all this stuff is happening. And you're like, wait, wait, how did that happen? Why is all this patriarchal nonsense going on?

You're like, oh right, supremacy culture wants to get at every space, all in these different ways. I keep using the word resiliency model. I would argue that if you create a project with a resiliency model lens at the very top, where you have those big, hard conversations and you figure out, oh, right, instead of waiting 20 years to be fully, whole confident to yourself and then having the conversations about, well, what do we do when this happens? Problem at the top. So that's my piece of advice. Have the hard conversations first and design around that.

Yura Sapi: It's almost like being resilient to when white supremacy hits you or supremacy oppression. Culture is coming because you know it's going to be coming at any moment in producing.

Claudia: I mean, it could be that that's a cynical part of me, but I also feel like that's just a realistic part of me living in the United States. I'm designing with the knowledge that supremacy culture is corrosive, it's ongoing, and it defends and protects itself. If my work is literally about creating the conditions for liberation and joyful embodiment by Black Indigenous and people of color and disabled folk all over the country, that's my goal of my work.

Supremacy culture is going to try and destroy that 20 different directions. So it's good to have the conversation at the top of the process to go, ah, this is where supremacy culture is going to try to dismantle us, interrupt us, confuse us. These are the places where just the implicit design of the project that we're doing, it's designed within white supremacy culture, and we're going to get something. We're going to experience something that we weren't expecting.

And it's good to have those sort of muscles. I would also say, now, I started this conversation off talking about how I designed with an anticapitalist aesthetic and an equity based aesthetic. I feel super grateful that that worked. I felt very nervous doing it. It felt like I was just taking a leap and being like I just trust that the water will catch me. And I'm glad it worked out. I don't know what to say to folks though when it comes to making profit through this work. I go design to receive profits even if a bunch of money doesn't manifest from the project you're doing. If you design with that aesthetic, you always win.

One of the joyful pieces of this project has been the immense talent of some of the artists that we work with. Alvin Thomas, Amara Brady, the beautiful generosity of the Northwest Art Stream, but also like random moments of Jonathan Walters. He's from a company called Hand2Mouth in Portland, being like, "Hey, I'm available. I'd love to do anything. Give me any labor. Give me any work."

I'm not saying all of the people's names. I'm not saying all of their names. But I have so much admiration and respect for every human being that has been working on the We Charge Genocide TV project. We're meeting every single week as well. So our practice is one where it's two hours. Once a week, you can join us for the first hour. And that hour is mostly spent catching up.

It's having the conversations we're disallowed from having in other spaces around race and cultural producing. And also it's maybe getting a little bit of business done for Every 28 Hours Plays or the Gaming for Justice project or We Charge Genocide TV. And then that second hour is space for us to work if we want to. So that's where we do a hackathon, where we update resources. We might do some testing of projects or creating of work for Every 28 Hours Plays. So I just invite folks to join us on Wednesdays. We're there every week and we're doing the work and it's good work to be done.

Yura Sapi: What is next for you for Calling Up? You can say something coming up very soon or thinking more broadly in terms of the next year, many years.

Claudia: It's so funny. I'm looking at the big wall of projects that we're working on and stuff. And yet I go, oh, that's not the work. That's the labor that we're doing right now, but that's not the work. So this is what I am excited and interested in. I'm excited to find ways to address the new and increasing challenge of individual, marginalized, cultural producers lacking the resources to self produce their work.

I'm now recognizing, oh, this is a gigantic field gap. And I'm excited to collaborate with others to figure out how to fill that. I want every cultural producer, and I don't care if you think of yourself as a poet or as a actor or as a playwright, I want you all to have a computer and a microphone and a light. Can we get everyone, a computer, a microphone, and a light?

Can we empower people to tell their stories and to share their stories? That is the big thing I'm meditating on. In the meantime, people can join Producing in Pandemic, our peer exchange session, every Monday at 10 o'clock. They can join our racial justice work on Wednesdays. If folks go to our various digital spaces, that's where you can find links to everything. So producinginpandemic.com or they can go to the We Charge Genocide TV Facebook group.

Yura Sapi: Awesome. Yes. Thank you so much for joining and coming on.

Claudia: Thank you for doing this incredible project. I can't wait to hear these podcasts. I'm really excited to learn and grow with others.

Yura Sapi: This has been another episode of the Building Our Own Tables podcast. I'm your host, editor and producer, Yura Sapi. Original music in this podcast is by Julian Vargas. You can find and follow them on SoundCloud. This podcast is produced as a contribution to HowlRound Theatre Commons. You can find more episodes of the series and other HowlRound podcasts in our feed on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever you find podcasts.

Be sure to search HowlRound Theatre Commons podcasts, and subscribe to receive new episodes. If you love this podcast, donate to support future episodes at advancingartsforward.org. You can also post a rating, write a review, share the episode to help other people find us. There is a transcript for this episode, along with a lot of other progressive and disruptive content available on howlround.com.

Have an idea for an exciting podcast, essay, or TV event the theatre community needs to hear? Visit howlround.com and submit your ideas to the comments. Thanks so much for listening or reading the transcript. Yapaychani mashikuna! Thank you, friends.

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Thoughts from the curator

I hear talk about wanting for racially diverse populations to “get a seat at the table” or “bringing chairs to the table for POC,” meaning that we want our people to have a position at existing organizations and institutions with decision making power. For me, a few years ago, I decided to not focus on infiltrating existing organizations, but rather start my own. I know I’m not alone. With the blessing that we all have a role in the revolution, this podcast checks in and learns from BIPOC founders of various organizations in and related to the theatre industry changing the game, making new things happen within, and expanding beyond white and euro-centric experiences. We will learn from these incredible visionaries who have created their own tables of arts institutions, movements, collectives, initiatives, and more. We learn about their processes, pathways to success, and challenges they've overcome. This is an outside-the-classroom leadership learning from folks who are doing the things.

Building Our Own Tables


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