Livestreamed on this page from Friday 24 April to Saturday 25 April 2020.
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Arts Equity Summit 2020: Creating Culture Shifts (ASL & Captioned)
A Summit for arts & culture leaders committed to building equity
Arts Connect International presented the Arts Equity Summit livestreaming on the global, commons-based peer produced HowlRound TV network at howlround.tv from Friday 24 April to Saturday 25 April 2020.
Friday 24 April
We’ll kick things off with a huge community celebration featuring QTPOC+ and intergenerational artists. Join us as we come together to celebrate work that brings us together and moves us to deeper thought and action.
Welcome & Performances
3:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. PDT (San Francisco, UTC-7) / 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. CDT (Chicago, UTC-5) / 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. EDT (Boston, UTC-4)
Saturday 25 April
An incredible morning keynote is followed by an action packed day of break-out webinars in the style of workshops, panel discussions and guided conversation. The day is capped off by a community happy hour.
Saturday Opening Keynote
6 a.m. - 7:30 a.m. PDT (San Francisco, UTC-7) / 8 a.m. - 9:30 a.m. CDT (Chicago, UTC-5) / 9 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. EDT (Boston, UTC-4)
ACI Welcome: Allegra Fletcher, ACI Executive Director
Land Recognition & Speaker 1: Mark Charles, Native American author, activist and independent candidate for 2020 presidential election.
Artist-Activist Panelists: Edafe Okporo, Nayda Cuevas, Yara Liceaga-Rojas, Wallace Juma & Cindy Lu
Allegra Fletcher: Hello, everyone, and welcome to the 2020 Arts Equity Summit. My name is Allegra Fletcher and I am the Executive Director of Arts Connect International. Though we cannot meet in person, we are grateful that we still have a way to gather in community. Thank you for being that community.
As we kickoff the second day of programming, I would like to begin with a time of gratitude. Huge thanks going to the incredible team at ACI who wholeheartedly embraced the monumental task of taking this Arts Equity Summit and making it virtual. Hanako Brais, Kelsey Karys, Sarah Plotkin, and Sahara Zamudio; y'all are real ones. Thanks are due to ACI's Board of Directors who also supported this redesign: Jen Bailey, Marian Taylor Brown, Kim Curhan, Quanice Floyd, Andrea Gordillo, Meena Malik, Shreyas Navare, Richard Santiago. Advisory board members, Jacqueline, Courtney, Kayla, Kee-sal, thank you, everyone. Thank you to HowlRound for making this livestream possible. Thank you to the artists and speakers who said yes to adapting their work so we could continue to hold this space in community. Thank you to our sponsors who believed in us and stayed with us through all of the change. The Boston foundation, the Mayor's Office of Arts and Culture, Artists Thrive, NEFA: New England Foundation for the Arts, MassHumanities, Boston Pride, Boston Gay Men's Chorus, thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you to our community partners who are all doing incredible work in the sector. I highly encourage you to check out artsequitysummit.org to learn more about them.
Without further ado, I would like to introduce our first speaker for this keynote, Mark Charles. Mark Charles is a speaker, writer, and consultant. The son of an American woman of Dutch heritage and a Navajo man, Mark teaches the complexities of American history regarding race, culture, and Christendom in order to help forge a path of healing and reconciliation for the nation. In 2012, Mark hosted a public reading at the US Capitol of the Buried Apology to Native Peoples in the 2010 Department of Defense Appropriations Bill given by the 111th Congress. He is the co-author of the book, Unsettling Truths: The Ongoing, Dehumanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery, and he authors the blog Reflections from the Hogan. Mark is currently an independent candidate for the presidency of the United States. I highly recommend his book. I've read it and enjoy it very, very much. So, I'd like to welcome now, Mark Charles.
Mark Charles: Please allow me to introduce myself a moment. Mark Charles [speaking Diné]. In the Navajo culture, when we introduce ourselves, we always give our four clans. We're matrilineal as a people with our identities coming from our mother's mother. My mother's mother happens to be American of Dutch heritage, and so I say [speaking Diné]. Loosely translated, that means “I'm from the Wooden Shoe People.” My second clan, my father's mother, is [speaking Diné], which is the Waters that Flows Together. My third clan, and my mother's father is also [speaking Diné], and my fourth clan, my father's father is [speaking Diné], and that's the Bitter Water Clan. It's one of the original clans of our Navajo people.
I also want to acknowledge that this conference was originally going to be held in Boston, which is a traditional land of the Wampanoag and the Massachuset. I am speaking to you from Washington, DC, which is the traditional land of the Piscataway. I want to honor all of these nations and these people for being the hosts of these lands. I work very hard to understand and know whose land I'm on if I'm speaking publicly, especially, no matter where I go around the country, and I do not take it for granted that I live here in Washington, DC, on the land of the Piscataway, and that this conference would've been held in Boston, Massachusetts, which is the land of the Wampanoag and the Massachuset. I encourage everyone to use resources online to learn whose land that you are on, no matter where you are around the country. One of the best sites I've used to begin my research is a website titled native-land.ca. If you go into this website, native-land.ca, and you can enter in your city, your state, your ZIP Code, and it will tell you the Native nation and the treaties that were written in those lands and the peoples that lived there before Columbus got lost at sea. It's not the absolute authority, but it's one of the best resources I've found to begin my research of whose land I'm on, no matter where I am around the country.
I am very honored to be speaking to you today, especially in, again, what would have been in the location of Boston, Massachusetts, and I'm very excited about the topic we are talking about, and I'm gonna be talking specifically today about the myths of American exceptionalism and creating an accurate common memory. This is really one of the challenges that we face as a nation, as Americans. By and large, we do not understand our history and what we teach often as history in our country is not accurate. It's based on mythology and that mythology is rooted in this notion of American exceptionalism, which, if you bury it and follow the trail long enough, it's actually rooted in the lie of white supremacy. I want to start today just by talking about where I've identified some of the roots of where this lie comes from.
First of all, it comes from this understanding, what's known as the Doctrine of Discovery. The Doctrine of Discovery is a series of papal bulls, edicts of the Catholic church written between 1452 and 1493. They are essentially the church in Europe saying to the nations of Europe, wherever you go, whatever land you find not ruled by white, European Christian rulers, those people are less than human and their lands are yours for the taking. They say things like invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all seraphims and pagans whatsoever, reduce their persons to perpetual slavery, convert them to his and to their use and profit. This is the very doctrine that allowed European nations to go into the continent of Africa, colonized the continent, and enslave the people. They didn't believe them to be human. It's the same doctrine that let Columbus, who was lost at sea, land in this new world, which is already had been inhabited by millions, and claimed to have discovered it. If you think about it, you cannot discover lands that are already inhabited. That's known as stealing.
Now, this doctrine came out of the Catholic Church, it was Pope Nicholas the fifth who wrote one of the most important papal bulls, the papal bull Dum Diversas, but there was a series of papal bulls, and it came out of the Catholic church, and initially the Protestant church didn't fully buy into it, that was a Catholic doctrine. But in 1630, John Winthrop was with a group of colonists and he was in what is now known as the Boston Harbor, and he was here with a group of people to plant the Boston Colony, and on board this ship, he preached a sermon titled A Model of Christian Charity. In this sermon, he exhorted the people that he was with, and I want to read this to make sure I get it correct, he exhorted the people that he was with, "That we shall make it a new land," sorry, "we will make that like a new England, "or we will consider that we should be a city upon a hill, and the eyes of all people are upon us." He used this phrase "a city upon a hill," which is often repeated by politicians from everyone, from Ronald Reagan to President Barack Obama. This notion of “a city on a hill” actually comes from the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount where he's telling his disciples to “be a lamp on the stand, a city on the hill, shining their good deeds into this dark world.” In his sermon, John Winthrop goes on to repeat or to say that “in our meekness, gentleness, patience, and liberality,” they should “rejoice together, mourn together, labor, and suffer together,” they should “keep the unity of the Spirit within the bounds of peace.” These are your normal, basic churchgoing Protestant exhortations.
At the end of his sermon, John Winthrop is trying to convince his congregant members to obey his exhortations, and so he begins quoting from Deuteronomy 30. Deuteronomy is a book in the Old Testament, and it takes place where the people of Israel are standing at the banks of the Jordan River, ready to cross over and take possession of their Promised Land. And God, in this book, is reiterating the threats and promises of his land covenant with them: “If you obey me, I will do these things for you. If you disobey me, I will do these things to you.” At the end of this passage in Deuteronomy 30, it says, "But if our hearts shall turn away and we shall not obey and we worship other gods, we shall surely perish out of the good land whether we pass over this river to possess it." Now, Deuteronomy 30 says river, but in his sermon, John Winthrop changes the word river to vast sea. Well, why does he do this? Simple, they didn't cross a river, they crossed an ocean. So, what's he saying? Based on the education to Jesus's “be a city on a hill,” based on the model of Old Testament Israel, they are now standing on their promised land ready to go and take possession of them.
Now, if you read the rest of the book of Deuteronomy and the book of Joshua, which is the book that follows, we learn how God commanded Israel to take possession of their Promised Land. I'm gonna read a passage, specifically, from Deuteronomy 20: 16-17. It says, "However in the cities of the nations, the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breeds. Completely destroy them." The notion of Promised Lands for one people is literally God-ordained genocide for another. There is a great book written by a Native author, his name is Stephen Newcomb. The title of his book, regarding the Doctrine of Discovery is titled Pagans in the Promised Land. I don't know why exactly he chose that title, but I'm assuming it's rooted somewhere in this passage, where what are you to do with the pagans in your Promised Land? You are to go across and destroy them.
So, this was in 1630 where this notion of “a city on a hill” is introduced into the American psyche. That idea percolates for about 100 years. Mid-1700s, our nation goes beyond the Appalachian Mountains, they go past the Mississippi River. In the end of the 1700s, there's a second great awakening, there's a growth of churches, a renewal of denominations. There's this religious fervor as the nation goes further and further west. In the early 1800s, this notion of Manifest Destiny is born. This belief that this nation has the God-given right to rule these lands from sea to shining sea. In the midst of all this, we have several important documents written in our nation. The first is in the late 1700s.
Initially, King George said to the colonies that were here in the Proclamation of 1763 that they no longer have the right of discovery of the Indian lands west of Appalachia. The susceptive colonies, they wanted access to those lands, so a few years later, they wrote a letter of protest. In their letter, they accused the king of raising the conditions of new appropriations of land. They went on in the letter to say that he has “excited domestic insurrection amongst us and has brought upon our borders merciless Indian savages.” They signed their letter on 4 July 1776. Literally 30 lines below the statement, "all men are created equal," the Declaration of Independence refers to natives as merciless Indian savages, making it very clear, the only reason the Founding Fathers used the inclusive term, "all men," so they had a very narrow definition of who was actually human. This makes our Declaration of Independence a systemically white supremacist and racist document that assumes the dehumanization of Indigenous peoples.
A few years later, our Founding Fathers wrote another document. This one, they titled, they started with the words, "We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union." This, of course, is a preamble to the Constitution, but if you keep reading, just a few lines later down to article one, section two. Article one, section two is the portion of the Constitution that determines who is and who is not a part of the union, who is and who is not covered by this document. If you read article one, section two, you will note that it never mentions women, it specifically excludes Natives, and it counts Africans as 3/5 of a person, so who's left? Well, in 1787, that literally left white men and technically it was white landowning men who could vote.
We don't ponder this as Americans enough. The reason we have a Constitution, the purpose it was written was to protect the interests of white landowning men. So, we act surprised today that women earn $.60 to $.70 to the dollar. This shouldn't surprise us, the Constitution's working. We act outraged that our prisons are filled with people of color. We have the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world. This shouldn't surprise us, our Constitution's working. We get outraged that in 2010, the Supreme Court sides with Citizens United and rules corporations now have the same rights to political free speech of individuals. This opens the door for super pacs, unlimited contributions to candidates, support for candidates. This shouldn’t surprise us. The Constitution's doing exactly what it was designed to do is protecting the interests of white landowning men.
In 1823, there was a Supreme Court case, it was Johnson vs McIntosh, two men of European descent litigating over a single piece of land. One of them got the land from a Native tribe, the other one got the same land from the government, and they wanted to know who owned it. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, this is the John Marshall court, had to determine the principle for land titles. They ruled that the principle was discovery that gave title to the land, and then they argued that because Natives were savages, we only have the right of occupancy of the land, while Europeans have the right of discovery to the land, and therefore they have the fee title and were the true owners of the land. This court case in 1823, along with a few other cases, creates the legal precedent for land titles. I have a TedX talk online where I go in-depth into this court case. If you look it up online, just Google “Mark Charles, We the People: The Three Most Misunderstood Words in US History.” That precedent, in 1823, and the Doctrine of Discovery are referenced by the Supreme Court by name in 1954, 1985, and most recently in 2005.
In 2005, the Supreme Court opinion, which if you read it and understand it, is actually one of the most white supremacist Supreme Court opinions written in my lifetime. And that opinion stating that, based on the Doctrine of Discovery and this notion that “Natives are still savages,” assuming that we are still savages, we “cannot rekindle embers of sovereignty over our lands that long ago grew cold,” and that opinion was written by Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Why? Because when your land titles are based on a dehumanizing Doctrine of Discovery, white supremacy becomes a bipartisan value.
In 1851, the first governor of California wrote in his State of the State address, he gave an address in 1851, Peter Burnett. And in his address, he said that “a war of extermination will continue to be waged between the races until the Indian race becomes extinct, must be expected. While we cannot anticipate this result, but with painful regret, the inevitable destiny of the race is beyond the power or wisdom of man to avert.” He wasn't stating that famine had broken out and this nation couldn't feed its Indigenous inhabitants and therefore were dying. He wasn't saying that disease had stricken us and they didn't have the medicine or the technology to stop it and therefore we were dying. He was literally saying this nation, this white supremacist nation of European immigrants, colonialists, could not stop killing the Indigenous peoples until they became extinct.
In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Pacific Railway Act, and this is the Act that provides the land and the resources to complete the Transcontinental Railway. Within three and a half years of signing that act, after atrocities like the hanging of the Dakota 38 in Minnesota, after massacres like the massacre at Sand Creek of the Cheyenne and Arapahoe in Colorado, and after the Long Walk: the removal of the Navajo and Mescalaro Apache from the Southwest, President Abraham Lincoln had literally ethnically cleansed almost all of the Indigenous peoples, the Native tribes from Minnesota, Colorado, Wyoming, and the territory of New Mexico, making way for the Transcontinental Railway to reach the ports of Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, making him one of the most genocidal presidents in the history of our nation.
Our nation doesn't teach a history; it teaches a mythology. The mythology is that we have a legacy of discovery, that this nation is exceptional, that liberty and justice here exists for everybody. This notion of American exceptionalism rooted in this understanding of we are” a shining city upon a hill,” which again is referenced by Democrats and Republicans, is deep, deep, deep into the American psyche. It's one of the most unifying things. In my book, I highlight American exceptionalism is the coping mechanism of a nation that's living in denial of its genocidal history, as well as its permanent racist reality. Americans cling to this notion that we are exceptional, we are set apart, we are special, we have been chosen by God as “a shining city upon a hill” to rule these lands from sea to shining sea and when we have this notion of our relationship, a special relationship with God that gives us promised lands, this we use justify our genocide.
As recently as 2015, Benjamin Netanyahu was in the US and he was lobbying against the Iran Nuclear Deal and he was speaking to a very divided Congress. The Democrats and Republicans could hardly even speak to each other and he was lobbying against the Iran Nuclear Deal that the Obama administration was negotiating, and he had to get everyone on the same side, and so early in his speech, this is what he said to our Congress, he said, "Because America and Israel, we share a common destiny, the destiny of Promised Land," to bipartisan applause. This is the notion, the challenge we have as a nation, is we don't teach our history; we teach a mythology, and we use our notion of exceptionalism as a coping mechanism to justify our past, to excuse our genocide, to explain away our unethical and massively violent behavior, and that notion is what allows us to celebrate Abraham Lincoln as one of our greatest presidents. It's what allows us to, every year on the Fourth of July, celebrate a document that, to this day, refers to Natives as “merciless Indian savages.”
I'm wearing my hair tied in a red Tsiiyéél. This is my Navajo bun, it's tied with red yarn. I'm wearing it with red yarn because there is a crisis going on in Indian country known as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Literally, there have been hundreds, thousands of our Indigenous women and girls who have been reported missing, they've been murdered, and we've been reported to the authorities, and not only have their cases not been closed, but in many instances, they've never been opened. There is almost no record from the authorities, state, county, even federal, of these reports that have been made, and often times the families are forced to go out and search for their women and their children on their own. Many of our politicians, when they hear about this crisis, have proposed, we need a new law, we need a new policy to deal with this. But, when their Declaration of Independence, the value statement of your nation refers to Natives as savages and when your Constitution never mentions women, you probably shouldn't be surprised when your Indigenous women go missing or get murdered, and society doesn't care. A new law is not going to solve this problem. This is a foundational level issue. We have to deal with our foundations as a country.
There is an aboriginal leader, his name is Giorgio Rasmus. He's from the Vene people up in Canada, and he says that “where common memory is lacking, where people do not share on the same path, there can be no real community. If you want to build community," he says, "you have to start by creating a common memory." I think this quote is genius and gets to the heart of our nation's problem, especially with race and gender, which is we do not have a common memory. We have a white majority that remembers a mythological history of discovery, expansion, opportunity, and exceptionalism. We have communities of color, Native Americans, African-Americans, we've got women, who remember a very different lived history, a history of stolen lands and broken treaties, a history of slavery and Jim Crow laws, a history of segregation and mass incarceration, a history of Indian boarding schools and massacres, a history of internment camps and families being ripped apart at our borders, and we do not have a common memory. If you look back, there is no point in our history where there was a healthy community and relationship across racial lines in our country.
One of the things I advocate for in my book and in my work is that the United States of America needs a national dialogue on race, gender, and class, a conversation I would put on par with the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions that happened in South Africa, in Rwanda, and in Canada. However, I would not call ours Truth and Reconciliation, again, because reconciliation implies there was a previous harmony, which, if you read our history, is absolutely inaccurate. I prefer to use the term Conciliation. Conciliation is merely the mediation or dispute. If reconciliation allows us to have this mythological path, conciliation demands we have a more honest starting point. This thing began as a mess, we're just trying to make it better. They both lead us to a better place.
This is what I want to encourage you, as artists, this is what I want to encourage you as members of our community. As artists, you have a very important role of helping our nation imagine itself. Help our nation find a way to move forward. The temptation, what's going to bring the most popular artwork is if you use this notion of exceptionalism. Again, that power nation hopes with its history is it tells itself this mythological history that we're exceptional. If you want to make money, you can go the route of American exceptionalism, but if you want to build community, if you want to lead to greater health, if you want to help our nation move to a place it has never been before, I encourage you to help us create a common memory. We don't need to bludgeon people over the past, we don't need to shame people, but we need to talk honestly and openly and accurately about it. This is what we did, this is who we are, this is what we celebrate, and how are we going to change it? I encourage you, all of you, to help people like myself, other leaders around this nation, help our nation to create a common memory so that for the very first time in our national history, we can have a healthier community.
[Speaking Diné] my relatives. Thank you for taking time to listen to me today. You can find more resources about my writings and my teaching on my website, which is wirelesshogan.com. You can find a lot of lectures online if you just Google me on YouTube, and I encourage you to join this dialogue. There are a lot of people who are trying to press this conversation forward and I encourage you to join us and what we're trying to do. [Speaking Diné], my relatives. Walk in beauty, and may we learn how to walk in beauty together.
Allegra: Thank you, thank you, thank you so, so very much. If you have any questions that you would like to ask Mark, please send them our way, and we'll make sure that they get to him. It's important to mention that this conversation and this summit was taking place during what originally would have been the celebration of the Plymouth 400. Many festivities and celebrations happening in the New England area around these 400 year, other Centennial landmarks of pilgrims landing, settling, colonization, and it was very important that we address that common memory, that common mythology in our time together, because of that overlap and just because of the importance, I agree wholeheartedly, the importance and responsibility that artists and cultural workers have to engage in creating a common memory that is accurate, and that is an honoring of peoples.
So now, we have the opportunity to introduce you to some artists using their work for social change in this very way, talking about personal life stories. These artists are all incredible social change-makers who are really using their work to make the world a better place, and so I'm gonna let them introduce themselves. I'm going to bring up the panel, Nayda Cuevas, Wallace Juma, Yara Liceaga-Rojas, Cindy Lu, Edafe Okporo, and we are now going to start our panel Celebrating Resistance Through Art. So, before we kickoff the panel, as everyone's coming on, each artist is going to take a moment to give you an introduction about themselves and their work.
Yara Liceaga-Rojas: Who starts?
Allegra: We'll start with Nayda.
Nayda Cuervas: Hi, everyone. My name is Nayda Cuervas, I was born in Puerto Rico, and in 1990, my family migrated from Puerto Rico to Florida, where I had my first experiences in discrimination, or experience in discrimination. Luckily, I was able, as a young child, to realize that art was a way for me to communicate with others around me and explain to them a little better about where I was from. So now, as a visual artist, my art practice and artwork represent a journey in my continuous search to make connections with the people around me and in the place I live.
Exploring my identity produces a visceral exchange of personal and political identity while cultivating an awareness of otherness. Revisiting my history, Latina identity, or my birth place is a determination to change how we understand the present. My theory's entitled #FierceLatina showcases a small group of women made visible or popular by social media, from engineers, activists, politicians. These women demonstrate strength in a society that make visible stereotypes, negative stereotypes that lead to discrimination, injustice, and barriers that excludes Latinx from opportunities.
For example, in this series, Angie Rivera, she's the leading activist for undocumented youth and immigrant rights. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, politician, educator, and political activist is the youngest woman ever to serve in the United States Congress. Carmen Yulin Cruz, Mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 2017 became the voice and face of injustice on the US citizens of the island after Hurricane Maria. Patricia Valoy, Latina feminist, activist, civil engineer who promotes STEM education for women. She earned a Bachelor's of Science from Columbia University. Sabrina Gonzales Pasterski (pronouncing her name wrong, I'm sure) by the age of 13 had learned how to fly in an airplane. She later built her own aircraft and flew it solo. She earned a physics degree from MIT, and in 2015, she received an Academic Freedom for her PhD at Harvard. The youngest fierce Latina in my series, Sarai Gonzalez, made her professional acting debut at the age of 11 at the Spanish language music video "Soy Yo" as a sassy, confident Latina girl, and later became the face of the "Get Out to Vote" videos for the Latinx community in the 2016 elections.
My art practice is an opportunity for communities to reconsider, through art, their understanding of, and positions of Latinx identity in this country. Art as activism, is anew, and as a visual artist today, I am faced with a highly charged political climate, insensitive to people of color and insensitive to our environment. And, I hope everybody takes the time to take a look online on Arts Connect for these images or on my website, naydacuevasart.com.
Allegra: Wonderful, yes, you can check out the virtual gallery throughout the day at artsequitysummit.org. Next up, we are going to have Wallace Juma. We seem to be having some technical difficulties, so we're going to move forward with Yara.
Yara Liceaga-Rojas: Hello. So, coming from Puerto Rico, still a US colony in the 21st century where in our political situation as colonial subjects, we are constantly disappeared and self-determination has been stripped away from us. My main goal has always been to promote the visibility of marginalized artists from different disciplines. To achieve that, I write, publish, perform, curate, and coordinate arts related activities. For 11 years, I was a columnist for a widespread Puerto Rican newspaper. My topics were social justice issues related to race, health, wealth disparities, education, and motherhood.
I've always promoted conversations, in classrooms and other educational environments, about social disparities, gender inclusion, and cultural differences, no matter the age or subject matter. Everything is interconnected. My literary work deals with intimacy, self-reflection, the affectionate relationships between the self and others. I've been published in academic journals, magazines, anthologies, newspapers in Puerto Rico, Mexico, Argentina, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and the United States. I've been published four poetry books with independent artisanal Puerto Rican publishing houses, and last year, my fifth book, Hacernos el Adiós, was published by the Puerto Rican Institute of Culture and presented in old San Juan by eight Puerto Rican mother artists and her kids.
Precarity is a strict teacher, so I learned to produce everything myself, while mothering strengthened my desire to provide for those around me. It also taught me to reach out to others and to rely on my support system, family, friends, colleagues, to be professionally successful. I strongly believe in justly paid work, rather than voluntary work, so I ensure that the artists I work with are well-paid. I am still learning how to break free from the scarcity mentality into an abundance mindset.
My country produces an astonishing amount of powerful art, especially considering the devastated economy which was already dire before the global pandemic, and the difficult support infrastructure for artists. In the colonial context, the word resilience sparks a cringe. The term self-care seems unachievable and strange. I come from a place where hacemos de tripas corazones, we make something out of nothing, and that makes me extremely proud, but it also makes me reflect on the privileges I have and the ways I can provide access and wealth to others.
Since I arrived from Puerto Rico in 2016, I have secured grants for my projects from the New England Foundation for the Arts, the Cambridge and Boston Art Councils, the city of Boston, Kindle projects, the Boston Foundation, Assets for Artists, and the Boston Center for the Arts. My projects explore mourning, displacement, gender, race, and diasporic experiences among other things. I also offer workshops for Spanish-speaking audiences. Last year, I became a Brother Thomas Fellow, a recognition that is still sinking in. I appreciate my visibility and awards, and I will always be on the side of the striving, creative, and energy changing individuals that make living worthwhile. I was not raised to compete, but rather to share space. For me, access is a machete, so I choose to open paths. If I eat, I secure food for many others. And, as a Puerto Rican Afro-Caribbean poet, Angelamaría Dávila said, “Soy un animal triste parado y caminando sobre un globo de tierra. Hembra con cría que sabe hablar a veces y que quisiera ser un mejor animal.” Thank you, you can find my work at yaraliceagarojas.com.
Allegra: Thank you so much, Yara, I would love to welcome Cindy.
Cindy Lu: Hi, thank you so much. Thank you, everyone who is watching, and of course, the organizers. I just wanna give you a little background about myself. I'm Chinese-American, my parents immigrated here from Taiwan after having fled China during the communist takeover, and I used to be a scientist. I studied neuroscience and developmental biology, which is how organisms grow and change in shape as they develop, so I think in part, because of that background, questions of social change become sort of intertwined in my brain with transformations in shape or concepts in science, or just using materials in an experimental way. And so, I just want to give you a really quick tour of some of my work.
This first piece I made last year, and it's called White Fragility. It's modeled after the kilogram standard, which was decommissioned last year, and it's basically cylinder of metal that defined what the kilogram unit of mass was, and it had to be protected by a whole series of nested jars under vacuum to guard against any kind of contamination or deterioration. I think the really remarkable thing about this is that, really, entire societies and economies were developed and built and function, continue to function, based on what is an essentially arbitrary system of measurement. Seeing news that it was getting decommissioned, it suddenly reminded me of something else, which is the concept of whiteness. So, my piece, instead of being made of metal, the cylinder is a mix of light shades of face powder, some makeup that I pressed together. If you could go to the next slide. Here's a closer view of the cylinder that's it's not actually under vacuum, but it gives the appearance of being protected. We can go to the next slide, please. I also included this really official looking plaque of an imaginary institute. While this does not actually exist, there are times where it feels like it must exist somewhere. So, if we can go to the next slide, please?
This is a piece I made after White Fragility, and it's called Chinese Restaurant Syndrome. This is what people sometimes think they have when they eat MSG at a Chinese restaurant, even though things like Doritos have a ton of MSG and are also delicious. I made this piece last year, pre-coronavirus, but I think it's more relevant now with reports of increase in anti-Asian incidents all across the country and even the world. In this piece, I really wanted to give voice to what it's like to be at the receiving end of what feels like a continuing stream of micro-aggressions, and typically, when we hear about micro-aggressions, it's the voice of the aggressor that's highlighted, and I wanted to flip that. This is a partial compilation of conversations I've personally been in myself, and I used fortune cookies as a familiar and acceptable, albeit bland, delivery vehicle that people are generally willing to consume, although maybe less so now, but then they get a little surprise message. Could we go to the next slide, please? So, if this were in person, people could read all the little fortunes, but I'll just show a couple of them. One major theme is seeing Asian Americans as perpetual foreigners or other. These are some of my reactions to comments that people have made to me over the course of my lifetime. Can we go to the next one, please? This one is just, you know, classic.
I'm gonna shift gears a little bit now and talk about, if we could go to the next slide, please, a project that I started in early 2018 on immigration, and it stems from seeing video footage of refugees who just landed ashore in Greece, and then people coming up and just really tenderly and gently wrapping a Mylar emergency blanket around their shoulders. We then all saw, subsequently, images of people sleeping under emergency blankets in detention camps here in the US. And so the pieces I'm gonna show you are all made of emergency blankets, and they envision sort of prolonging or extending that moment of embrace, but then there's also this tension of what's viewed as temporary or disposable. So, in this first piece, I crocheted or sewed emergency blankets into toys. As you may know, there are about 30 million displaced children in the world, many at our own border. Can we go to the next slide, please?
I also made this quilt, and I embroidered a map of the world on it. This projection of the globe more accurately represents the relative sizes of the continents. It's also viewed from a celestial reference point, and so, there, I'm trying to appeal to a broader sense of humanity that could possibly supersede national borders. Could you go to the next slide, please? This is just a detailed image. These are all individual, hand tied French knots. In the areas with a little bit more green show places where people are presently migrating to. Next slide, please.
And finally, the last piece I will show is this parachute that's been suspended midair. In this piece, I was thinking about the parachute, both as a safe landing device and also about this game that maybe you also played as a kid. In this game, you stand all along the circumference of the parachute, and then you fling it up so that it catches the air, and it creates a temporary dome, and that allows people to run across to the other side before it collapses down. And in doing this, you end up finding new neighbors on the other side, and then people repeat this. In part, I was thinking about the waves of migration that I think occurred throughout human history, and trying to think about maybe a time in people's lives where perhaps they're more open to having new neighbors appear beside them.
So, I think I'm already out of time, so that's just a sampling of my work, but thank you again for listening. If you wanna see more of my art, you can check out my website or Instagram, or if you just want to chat, I'm at home, so just let me know. Thank you.
Allegra: Thank you so much, Cindy, I'd love to welcome Edafe.
Edafe Okporo: Hi, my name is Edafe. Let me tell you a story. Like any other good story, it starts with once upon a time. So once upon a time, in late 2016, a young man boarded a plane from Abuja, Nigeria, flying to JFK International Airport in New York City. He was so sure that this would be his last day living in a society where he was excluded. He sat on the plane, singing his Kumbaya song of how he was able to flee from hate crimes and violence to a promised land, a land fragrant with the sweet smell of freedom. When he arrived in the United States with the expectation of being accepted into welcoming hands of a great nation, a world-class nation with a long and prosperous history of welcoming immigrants to our shores. Instead, upon declaring that he was seeking asylum and refuge from persecution by his own land of Nigeria, he was handcuffed, thrown into a bus, and taken to a detention center in New Jersey. Five months and fourteen days would pass before he got to smell the sweet smell of freedom. To be a refugee is to flee in search of freedom from danger.
Now, close your eyes with me for a moment. Imagine that at this very moment, we must all flee, we must all exit our current premises and seek refuge from a near and present danger to our lives, our livelihood. Imagine that you can only take the things you have with you on your hands and you, and you can only be accompanied by the friends or loved ones that are with you today. And, only things you can take in terms of cash is the possessions you have with you right now. Now open your eyes. Approximately seventeen million people are currently displaced. Refugees flee from war, violence, prejudice, AIDS, and blackmail, believing that by coming to America, they will be given an honest opportunity to contribute to a prosperous society in exchange for a chance to create a life of their own design.
My name is Edafe Okporo and that boy was me. I fled my country, Nigeria, because an important part of my life was being excluded. In 2014, the government of Nigeria passed a law that criminalizes same-sex relationships by fourteen years imprisonment. I could not stay in my country anymore, due to the threat and violence towards me for identifying openly as a gay man, so I came to the US with the hopes of being accepted. When I was released from the detention center, I wrote a memoir called Bed 26: A Memoir of an African Man's Asylum in the United States. Why I did that, why I titled my manuscript Bed 26 because when I came to the US, the first name I was called was my bed number. It's a systematic system that in the United States, when arriving aliens arrive in the country, they lose their name to just a bed number or an alien number. There was a plane that was flying immigrants to Mexico in the 80s and the plane crashed in California. Only three names were recorded, the two pilots and one of pilots' wife. The other thirteen people were reading, "13 other Mexican deportees," so I wanted to give people, who are fleeing from persecution, a reason to believe that their stories should exist. That is why I wrote the memoir.
In 2019, I produced a one-man show on Broadway and the show also traveled to Connecticut in the fall of 2019 while I was simultaneously filming for a documentary for HBO. One thing I have learned in my few years of engaging in the arts is that art can be used as a vehicle for us to air our grievances against the world. For me, I have a quote I live by. It says, "Our struggles may either energize us or paralyze us, the choice is ours." I have shared my art in poems, essay, book writing, play performance. Art has liberated me as a human, and I want to share the experience with the world. I have an upcoming book this fall, 7 October, titled Compassion is Worth More, because as I continue to live in the United States, one thing that is constantly being held as grievous against migrants is that immigrants are coming to take away from the resources in this country and I want to be able to pass a message as an activist, not just only by protesting, but also showing my work with visual form, because art is a vehicle to change people's minds towards us. Since I've been doing arts, people have come to me and related to my story, they told me that “I did not just only learn from your story, but it resonated with me to know that we share in a common struggle, and that common struggle is our migration story.” Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this panel, and I hope to continue to share my work with everybody, thank you.
Allegra: Thank you so much, thank you so much. Next up, we are going to welcome Wallace.
Wallace Juma: Hello, everyone, thank you so much for this opportunity to be with you. I'm so happy to be able to share my work in these telling times. My name is Wallace Juma. I was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, and I work here in Nariobi. I do artwork, so I use a lot of materials that I use to produce my work. If you go and check my work on my online gallery, you're going to see how they look like.
Right now, I'm pursuing a body of work that I call Concealment of Revelation. In this body of work, I'm trying to remove the layer and the masks that people really put on and try to bring out what we really are. I'm trying to investigate and listen to stories and talk to people in my community, and see, hear the stories of their challenges and the life, the unequal life that we are all experiencing, and I'm putting these stories together and projecting them in a visual form.
Currently, I am doing a project around Lake Victoria. This project is called We Enter. It was inspired by a documentary I once watched called Darwin's Nightmare. It talks about the challenges that revolved around Lake Victoria, and they got to the communities and the people who live around Lake Victoria, the families of young men and women and their children who lived there. This entirely connects to Europe as a continent and several of countries in Europe, that, in 1953 when the introduced Nile perches of fish into Lake Victoria so that it can grow bigger and yield, become official high commercial value. It ended up changing the dynamics of the Lake Victoria, and this beautiful environment, this beautiful lake ended up to become a horror site, a crime site, a place where it's no longer inhabitable by people.
Why I say this is because, if you look at the history of Lake Victoria, in 1980s when this Nile perch fish had already been large numbers in the lake, it led to a lot of young men, young men leaving school some, and running into the lake to go and fish, to get fish so that they can be able to be exported to Europe. I don't know if young people went into this risky fishing industry without reparations, without enough knowledge, without education about fishing, and it's so funny, until today, 2020, we are still in the same situation. While back in 2017, I highlighted Lake Victoria's number one killer in Africa because, in the three countries combined, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania where Lake Victoria is shared, we have had over 5,000 cases of people drowning every single year, and the highest risk is among the fishermen who actually went to the lake with no equipments, with no knowledge and no information about weather, no proper boat equipment, no swimming skills. Some of them are criminals, people who are going to the fishing islands because they are escaping from something, and they end up in a very hostile environment where there's no control, there's no police, and there are many, many, many issues that have led to this issue about Lake Victoria contributing to over 5,000 people dying every single year in search of fish, and this is not the story alone.
The story is that we see young people with a lack of information and lack of education and lack of proper plan of life, they are not airing young girls. A boy of 16 years old marrying a girl of 14 or 15 years old, having children, and the boy dies in the lake and drowns within three or five years of fishing, and leaves behind a woman, a young girl carrying a baby, four children, and it's been so awful to hear the facts about around Lake Victoria. It's been just so awful and disastrous. We are talking about communities that in East Africa is yielding in mammoth HIV cases.
When I was doing my research, I visited these islands and I had a conversation, many conversations with these fishermen, and so it's so funny that, until today, the governments, the three governments combined are not even able to supply fishermen within Lake Victoria, which has over 87 islands, all of them inhabited, there's not enough sufficient supply of sexual protection, including like things like condoms, they're not available. Fishermen, they don't get to access condoms just to be able to have safe sex. Young people are marrying each other, giving birth to children, a lot of pregnancies, and it's very chaotic.
I've been able to follow up with study of the business of exchanging fish for sex, which is one of the leading issues around Lake Victoria, so in this series of my art, what I'm trying to do, I'm following up on the communities and these people living in these communities. I'm having stories with them, I'm talking to children, I'm talking to young men and women, I'm listening to the stories of their lives and how they've been through this situation for all these many years, and what is their plan and what is the possible solution for them?
What I'm trying to do in my work, I'm trying to document what I really hear from their stories, and in my images, I'm trying to give them the actual emotion that these people portray. My work is not just about pictures or faces of people. It's about their soul, what they are trying to tell us, what is the most beautiful thing they have inside that they cannot even be able to share. I'm trying to talk about their feelings and how they connect with their everyday life as they continue their stories. So, for me, I will come here with my work, and feel free to look around and see my pictures. Follow me, my social medias, look at my website. You'll get to full to understand of how I'm working on. Thank you so much.
Allegra: Thank you, thank you so much, thank you everyone, thank you Edafe, Wallace, Cindy, Yara, and Nayda. We are now going to ask all of the panelists to turn their cameras on, and we're going to go through a round of questions. Awesome, thank you.
I have one question through Facebook, for Cindy specifically, but I do have a few questions that I was hoping to go through with the panelists, so we could either start with the question through Facebook and then go through the preplanned ones. It's up to you all, but I'm really, really excited and grateful to have everyone here today, and yeah, why don't we start with the questions?
This is an opportunity, whoever wants to come in, just make a little note and start, and we'll be sure that whoever wants to answer a question can answer it, and not everyone has to. The first question that we have for you is, how did you first begin to see your art, specifically as a vehicle of social change?
Edafe: So, I'm going to go. I realized that art as a vehicle for social change when I was young, because growing up as a gay man, I wanted to see a visual presentation of myself. I never saw the visual presentation of myself in books, literature, videos, so when I was able to come out as a gay man, I wanted to give other younger people an opportunity to see themselves, and one of the easiest ways I was able to do that was to write from a privileged point of view; I live in the United States, I'm free to be a gay man. So, I can share my stories to other people so that's why this called the internet, they can see that gay people from Nigeria also exist. The same thing for refugees here in the US. A lot of refugees who have gone through detention, they find it difficult to believe that they will be able to go out of the detention center. So when I write my story as a survivor of torture, I give them a different point of perspective that we struggle all throughout our lives to get to this point, but there is also another step, and that step is a freedom to be who we want to be, and the only way I've been able to do that is through art, because it is hard to convince somebody about something, but when somebody who is a visual learner sees pictures about somebody, it gives them something to hold onto that states you can become that thing. Somebody who's… when they hear the stories of somebody, gives them a representation that they, too, can become something, so art has given me that opportunity to mirror myself to millions of people on the internet who can draw from my story and say they, too, can be something.
Nayda: Similar to Edafe, I realized at a young age that art was not threatening to people, so it allowed to stand in front of a piece of artwork or share a piece that I created with another person in my community, and in a nonthreatening way, exchange in a complex dialogue. So, that was, and later as I studied and got my Master’s degree, I was able to find the language to articulate these things that were not so clear to me as a young person.
Yara: For me, I think that the writing for a widespread newspaper in an opinion column, it was an experience that I had. I mean, the publication was with my face, so it always was… I wasn't separated from the fact that it was myself pouring out into the world. It was, it took you on a path of social responsibility and how does visibility work? So, I had access to experiences that some writers don't have because during that period, I lived a lot of scarcity, financial scarcity, and so I tried to show that to audiences using the privilege that I have, because I was educated in college and I come from educated parents. So, via that vehicle of writing, I'm mostly known as a poet, but I also use poetry and literary resources in writing to speak to a very wide audience. And, it was like a window to what happened when you lived in a dire economic situation.
And then, in my work as a cultural manager and curator and coordinator in Puerto Rico, I tried to include, I always had that inclusion perspective. Back then, I only had a very narrow, binary view of life, but I always tried to put females and males in the same amount. I come here and I start broadening that worldview, and taking decisions on how do I portray the work that I want to show the world and making it so that it could be a reflection process for the audiences also. And so I started widening the way that I'd included different artists and different genders and different races. For me, it's sort of like a constant reflection process with the cultural work that I do, but also within what I show so that audiences can do that work, too.
Wallace: For me, in 2014, I met Alfredo, a German artist, and he invited me to participate in his project, and this was a very unique project for me because I've never worked like that as an artist. He was trying to talk about the disadvantages in putting… in Africa, and we collaborated on this project. It was a moment for me to start thinking differently, because before then, I was just doing artworks for commissions or just for sale, but then coming out and doing something that challenges authority and questions about the way I've been living, it was a moment to really reflect on myself and on behalf of my community, and everyone else. Since then, everything changed with my work. I've always been trying to try and make sure my work connects deeply with the community because I exist as part of this community, and I want my voice to be heard and I want to represent what I can, and this is how I found myself using my work for social change in my community, thank you.
Cindy: Well, for me, I've only been making art for about three and half years, so, and I said before, I was a scientist, and the timing of my shifting gears to art is kind of interesting. I quit my job as an editor at a scientific journal about three weeks before the 2016 presidential election, and at the time I honestly didn't even know I wanted to do art. I just knew I needed, like I felt this compulsion to do something that would enable me to see differently through a different lens. I don't really know if it was, this post-election period acted as a crucible for my art practice or if somehow, I could sense something brewing or coming to the surface in our society that pushed me to make the jump to art. It was probably a combination of both, but I can't say that it was really conscious in the beginning, but it's just these things were constantly on my mind and would make their way into my artwork, things that, from the past and my own life, just started to bubble up to the surface and then would make their way into my artwork. At this point, I am aware that this is a major motivation of my artwork, but it sort of just all coalesced together.
Allegra: That's wonderful. I don't often talk, well, I do sometimes, also a singer-songwriter, and coming from that background, for me a lot of my work started from a place of, this is kind of how I feel, but there's sometimes that tension between this is what you do to make it, right? There's a certain view of, at least as I was growing up, of what it meant to make it in the music industry. This is a song about process, this is a song about inviting people into a place of healing or a place of growing and a place of development, and so the question for the panel is, what are the sacrifices or the decisions that you've have had to make in your professional careers in order to uphold your commitment to social change, to doing artwork ethically, those kinds of decisions?
Edafe: I just want to say, too, that before I answer that question, I want to reflect on this. Art is a tool in creating visibility, and It was organized as to gather together, like in a very nonviolent way. This, in turn, has had a huge impact in changing my mind or changing the mind of people, and there's a saying that goes, that is a cliché, that the power to change people's mind is hidden in your story, but we are taught to validate our art through the lenses of academic concepts, metrics of society, and our abilities to copy from the artwork of others that have been validated, and eliminating the essential focus of art, which is genuity, norarity, and ambiguity. Following these models, we not only limit or marginalize people in displaying their art, but kill the potential of doing anything productive.
So, I've made sacrifices in income, like geography and so many things, but for art to be really equitable, it should not only be for commission purposes. Art should also be a means for creating change. Art should be activism for activists who do not want to go and protest on the streets. Art should be used for social justice, knowing the fact that data-driven artwork does not only make the world more commercialized, but it reduces our ability to create dialogue, which is one of the purposes of art, is a dialogue between people, the artist and people who receive this dialogue. One thing I have done, and this is the biggest sacrifice I have paid is that I have turned down a lot of agencies that want to be a middleman between my art and the people that my art will interact with. I could have been in places, I could have dedicated my entire life to being an artist, but I also work as the Executive Director of a refugee shelter in New York City. So, the sacrifice I am paying for my art is not commercializing my art in a way that we lose the dialogue it could have created between me and the people I'm trying to communicate my art with, so I sacrificed commercialization of my art.
Yara: Thank you so much, Edafe, for sharing that, because I feel exactly the same way. And also, I would love for us, the creative community, to start shifting language, the way we use language, because sacrifice implies so many negative things to the self. I mean, lack of sleep, malnutrition, different approaches to the way we do art, and I'm very accustomed to that.
Up until now, up until March, like the middle of March, I was working a full-time job and also working full-time in my art practice, and also raising children, and that has been like that for the last, I don't know, 15, 20 years. That's the way I create my work, and so that's why I very, intentionally, don't believe in voluntary work because I think people need to be paid, and well-paid, and justly paid, I mean better than justly, well-paid to be able to do the things that they want to do that I cannot control or state.
But also, I tried to shift that into becoming self-sufficient in a very nurturing kind way to myself because I noticed that I was, my body started giving me the signals of, You are doing too much, and I don't know how to, like women in my country do that. That's the way they work, they over-work themselves. It's sort of like they're supposed to do that to be able to be valued and mothers among, they're like the superheroes of I don't know what. So, I would love to start shifting that, and for artists to be able to ask for what they need without being, como se dice, weighing themselves down, and if they want to be commercial, so be it, if they don't want to be commercial, so be it, but they can eat… and eat what they wanna eat, and live where they wanna live, and all of those sorts of things without the component of sacrifice. I don't know how we'll get there, but I am trying.
Wallace: I think I'm next. For me, I would say the biggest challenge has been giving up the conventional careers… In Kenya, art is still something, like in most other African countries, art is still like a hobby, it's still something the community is not still accepting when you introduce yourself out there and you say you're an artist. They always think you are a musician. They don't see art further from just being music or being a musician, and then having these understandings within their family, your balance, and your siblings, when you tell them you're an artist they still do not understand because art in school is never there, we never, we don't study up here, in primary and secondary school, it's not an option, it's not there, so they don't know. You have to teach them, you have to tell them.
I don't earn a monthly income because they think the best for you is to be a policeman or a teacher or a doctor or a pilot, and so giving up this conventional idea in a country that still doesn't accept what you really do… just like it is not so much of a sacrifice because you enjoy it, you feel so good about it, but then it gives you some challenges, like really, really life challenges that you have to, but then, if it's not all for money, what is it for then? For love and passion, and you want to see that change. You want to see people follow you and really understand you, and they'll understand the kind of message you're trying to put out there, and that itself, it's a paying, that itself is something you really feel happy about, and for me, that's all.
Nayda: For me, thinking of art as something to sacrifice, I don't see it that way. I don't like to put it in that category. I also like to think of it as something positive in that my art being a social practice is tied in with community engagement and without that community, it doesn't exist or get to be talked about or engaged in conversation. So for me, it's been a lot about being around young people, young children, and trying to inject, with art, other points of views. It's been extremely rewarding. Yes, there are other financial challenges as an artist, as a visual artist, however, it is so enriching and so fulfilling to see in children and young people and teenagers just the effects on the, you can see them process the information that you're sharing with them through arts, and that for me is just the greatest benefit and the reason why I do what I do.
Cindy: I think, for me, a little bit to echo what Wallace was saying, the way I was raised, I don't think art would've come into the picture as a viable option, like I was interested in art when I was a kid, but I remember very specifically saying “I'm not going to do that.” And so I went down the science route, and so for me, a lot of it is like an internal thing where I have this constant nagging thing of, why can't you just make something that, something that's pretty that someone wants to hang on their living room wall, something? But in the end, there is just this compulsion to make what I'm making, I can't, like I quit my job, why? If I quit my job, why go and make things I didn't really want to make? So for me, it's still this internal, and I've been doing this for not very long, so I still have these nagging internal debates, at the end of which I always come out thinking, Okay, this is the right thing, but it still happens. Yeah, so for me, a lot of it is more internal.
Allegra: I love it, and I really appreciate the push to refrain even the question, to think about the decisions that we make, not really being about sacrifice, but just being a choosing of whatever our core of good and good for us in our work, and the communities that we're involved with, and the people that we wanna impact now and moving forward in the future. So that's been, I've been really appreciating this round. I know we're approaching the end of our time, and so I just wanted to pull out the one question that someone sent in from Facebook, specifically for Cindy, and it's just a question on, are you having an elevated experience? It's around COVID-19, like due to the pandemic in micro aggressions, and if so, is anything coming up in your work?
Cindy: Yeah, so I know people who, or people have said things, like yelled things at them. For me, personally, it's been things that, sometimes you just get a vibe that something is going on, but then you can't, like if you were asked to prove it, I have no proof, but things like people glaring at you when you're are walking by in a park. I have a dog, so I have to go to the park.
Before things shut down, I was at the gym at the pool and this man just, and literally for like 20 minutes, there were three empty lanes in the pool, and he stood with his hands on his hips, and he was ranting, but I couldn't hear him because of all the pumps, but it was me and another Asian man in the pool, and he just stood there ranting, and then he got into the pool, just up to his legs, and continued to stand there and rant. I mean, I guess I don't know what he was saying, but I suspect it had to do with the fact that there were two Asian people in the pool.
So yeah, for me, I'm still processing it all. Frankly, a lot of this is stuff that already existed, evidenced by the fact that I made that piece last year, and so, all of that stuff already existed. It's just coming more to the surface now. I haven't actually, I'm still just kind of processing it, so I don't really know how that will come out in my work. I have some kind of brewing ideas, but they're not really, they're in their sort of nascent form right now, and so I'm guessing something will come out of it, just because it is so constantly on my mind. I mean, I think about my personal safety. I have to go out to walk my dog, I'm genuinely worried, and so it's...
Just because, obviously, even that piece I made, the fortune cookie one, it wasn't something that I really wanted to make, to be honest with you. I had made the White Fragility piece and then posted it on Instagram, and then someone in the comments kind of was pushing back on it and was saying, she was concerned that that would encourage hatred towards white people, which is ironic because that response is exactly what the piece is talking about, and so I'm like, okay, well that's very apropos. And so, some part of me, in response to her response, I thought, "Well, okay, maybe the big conceptual, structural thing is too big a thing for you to bite off now." So, then I thought, "Well, it's a little bit harder to deny a person's actual personal experience," and so then I made the piece with the fortune cookies, and I have to say It was actually really difficult to make.
Some of those things that I talked about are things I never talked about with anyone before. I don't know if it's just among Asians. It's like people don't talk that much about this. You tend to just sort of swallow it and move on. So, I'm guessing something will come out of it, I just don't know, I'm still kind of like in the process of thinking about it and dealing with it, but yeah, thank you for the question.
Allegra: Of course, and thank you, each and every one of you, for being with us. I just want to remind everyone who's watching the livestream that you can check out ArtsEquitySummit.org. You'll be able to find the bios, the personal sites of each and every artist on this panel, and you'll also be able to look at the virtual gallery that we've put together of their incredible work throughout the entire weekend and beyond.
I just want to thank you all once again so much for your time, for your passion, your talent, your expertise, and this is just, yes, just yes. Thank you so, so much for being here. And with that, I welcome everyone to join us for the rest of our breakout sessions that you can access via Zoom. Thank you.
Everyone: Thank you!
About HowlRound TV
HowlRound TV is a global, commons-based peer produced, open access livestreaming and video archive project stewarded by the nonprofit HowlRound. HowlRound TV is a free and shared resource for live conversations and performances relevant to the world's performing arts and cultural fields. Its mission is to break geographic isolation, promote resource sharing, and to develop our knowledge commons collectively. Participate in a community of peer organizations revolutionizing the flow of information, knowledge, and access in our field by becoming a producer and co-producing with us. Learn more by going to our participate page. For any other queries, email [email protected], or call Vijay Mathew at +1 917.686.3185 Signal/WhatsApp. View the video archive of past events.
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