Join Us For A Special Workshop Inspired by Carrie Mae Weems

Iconic American photographer Carrie Mae Weems comes to University of Carolina-Chapel Hill on Wednesday, April 10 to present Past Tense, a striking lecture-style performance in which she examines the right to justice and peace through the lens of the classic play Antigone. Accompanied by startling imagery projected onscreen behind her, Weems explores themes of social justice, escalating violence, gender relations, politics, and personal identity within the context of contemporary history—recurrent subjects in her practice as a visual artist. Learn more about the performance and the artist’s motivation for creating this work.

We are excited and honored to partner with Carolina Performing Arts in a pre-performance workshop event before Carrie Mae Weems’ performance of Past Tense. Join us as we explore the impact of Weems’ art and celebrate the revolutionary power of words and images.

Our creative workshop, free and open to the public, will take place on April 10th at 6:00pm at Gerrard Hall, which is located right next door to UNC’s Memorial Hall. Also, friends of TBP who plan to attend Weems’ performance (and you should!) can receive discounted tickets ($15) by using our promo code:

TBPFRIEND can be redeemed online, by phone (919.843.3333), or in person at the CPA Box Office at Memorial Hall (M-F, 10 AM-5 PM). To redeem online: Select desired date on performance page. On next page, you must enter the code in the top right corner of the page before selecting desired number of tickets for the code to work properly.

Creative Workshop
April 10, 6pm
UNC’s Gerrard Hall
226-234 E Cameron Ave, Chapel Hill, NC 27514
https://www.facebook.com/events/305596270119342/

Past Tense
April 10, 7:30pm
UNC’s Memorial Hall
114 E Cameron Ave, Chapel Hill, NC 27514
carolinaperformingarts.org/pasttense

Lena sat at the table contentedly flipping through the latest issue of her favorite magazine while her sister, Mone, turned out dough for the pizzas she had been promising Lena she’d make for the past month. This was their ritual; spending Friday nights together doing any assortment of things they enjoyed doing together.

“I remember hearing a saying once that went something like, ‘The mighty know when to celebrate.’ What you think about that?” Lena asked her sister without looking up from her magazine.

“I disagree. The mighty don’t have time to celebrate, or rest, for that matter. They have too much going on. They’ve got to keep going, keep being mighty.” Mone replied.

Lena, now, fully engaged in the conversation, flipped her magazine over so that the spine faced upward, the pages and covers lazily laid out to the sides, creating am elegant triangle of the periodical.  “No, girl. You’re not talking about the mighty. You’re talking about the busy. I can’t remember who said it and I don’t know the full philosophy behind it but I agree. I can imagine that you have to be aware of your victories in order to stay encouraged to keep reaching for more victories, or to have hope that you’ll be victorious even once more. I imagine that if you take time to celebrate those wins, no matter the caliber of the celebration, all the more encouraged you’d be! I’m with it. I’m pouring a glass for all my victories, because I am mighty. Gotta be to make it out here in these streets.”

“I hear you. Just sounds contradictory and a little contrary to what I imagine mighty personas to be like.”

“That’s just it. You know what a mighty woman looks like. The mighty women around us have worked themselves to the bone. Mama, Grandma, Auntie, all of ’em go all out for everyone else and forget to take care of themselves,” Lena said, growing more annoyed with each breath. “They know how to throw a party to celebrate everyone else’s accomplishments, but we are hard pressed to get them to even recognize their own successes. Maybe it’s the generation. Maybe it’s just them. I don’t know, but what I do know is I don’t aspire to be that. I love ’em. I do. But, I want to know I’m dope, first, not be surprised or have to convince myself that it’s true when someone else tells me I am.”

Mone took a moment of silence to think about these ideas. As the older sister, she had taken responsibility for her little sister for as long as she could remember. It was the same at work and even in instances when she didn’t have to such as with her friends. She didn’t feel free to celebrate her wins because she was always so preoccupied with working toward the win. And she could see her mother’s handprint all over this habit that she had learned how to execute so well. She admired Lena. And she wanted to be able to speak as confidently and boldly as her little sister.

“Alright. I hear you,” she remarked, beginning to be convinced.

There are twenty seven days left in 2017. As you prepare to make mighty moves in 2018, don’t forget to take some time to celebrate the mighty moves you’ve already made in 2017.

 

Onward, sisters!

co-curated by Deborah Willis and Melissa Harris

Exhibition runs through January 13, 2018 at the Gulf + Western Gallery, 721 Broadway, Lobby and 8th Floor. 

“Re-imagining A Safe Space will explore critical questions regarding the idea of a safe space. Through text and image, the exhibition will include the perspectives of artists, activists, and students who have confronted some of these issues in their respective circumstances and work.”

Congrats to the amazing TBP image makers included in this show!!! 

Kaci Kennedy, Arielle Jean Pierre, Pamela Thompson and Jamaica Gilmer

 

More information about the exhibition: https://tisch.nyu.edu/photo/events/reimagining-a-safe-space-exhibition-nyu

We’ve been dreaming of new places, occupying new spaces, linking arms with new partners, and taking our art out and before more audiences in the world. They say dreaming is like planning . . . they say the more you dream, the more in touch you remain with all of the possibilities . . . good thing we never stopped dreaming. . . because now we get to experience what it feels like when they come true.

As part of an unprecedented $6 million program launched by the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust, The Met, NYU, and 19 New York City organizations will explore how arts-based organizations can serve as positive, relevant, and inspiring forces in the daily lives of diverse communities. While the North Carolina-based Kenan Trust has a history of supporting New York City, this funding marks its first investment of this kind and is a significant expansion of its path-breaking work to be a catalyst for cultural organizations to increase their relationship with individual communities.”

We are elated to share that The Beautiful Project is one of 19 organizations linking arms with a host of diverse image and space makers invested in voice.

The Kenan Trust invited The Metropolitan Museum of Art to serve as an anchor organization alongside New York University’s Tisch School of Arts. Representing a wide range of groups—from the National Dance Institute to the Weeksville Heritage Center, to Sadie Nash Leadership Project, to Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater—these organizations, together, exemplify a broad scope of engagement and artistic exploration. The Met and NYU will document the group’s practices and discussions in an effort to share lessons, outcomes, and tools with communities and the field. The project will culminate in a conference and Publication.

“Philanthropic efforts in the arts must make a fundamental shift from charitable gifts that exclude to justice-oriented giving that creates equitable access for all. We believe the arts are core to giving creative voice to individuals to combat broken systems while building bridges across lines of difference,” said Dr. Dorian Burton, Assistant Executive Director of the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust. “These 21 organizations range in size, scope, and history, but were all selected for funding because they have the ability, leadership, and platforms to  build networks that ensure the arts are not just an add-on or an optional budget line item waiting to be cut. The arts have long been a vehicle for social change and are the heartbeat of the American consciousness.”

To learn more, click here.
Photo Credit:  Khayla Deans for The Beautiful Project

It was so intriguing to hear Maya Angelou talk about how, once she became mute after the trauma of childhood sexual abuse and the subsequent death of her abuser, she would hide under her grandmother’s house and read the poetry of Shakespeare. She accredits his poetry as part of the sequence of experiences that lured her back to audible, vocal, self expression. He offered her something and, as unlikely as it may originally seem, reading his words caused her young mind to think that Shakespeare must have been a Black girl, from the south, who had been molested. His words in Sonnet 29 so moved to her heart, whispering familiarity that reassured her that she was understood in how she was feeling and, in so doing, comforted her, informing her that she was not alone. An ancient white man did that for her with is words. And an elder lioness of a woman did that for me with hers.

The first time I sat inside of the pages of Ntozake Shange’s work, for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf, I felt a rushing flood of so many emotions and I simply could  not contain, I could not stand, my own self. I couldn’t believe that this piece of work was real, legitimate even. How could someone else get all the things so right and then say them aloud, and print them in a book for everyone to read over and over again? Talk about giving voice to power!

somebody/ anybody

sing a black girl’s song bring her out

to know herself

to know you

she’s been dead so long

closed in silence so long

she doesn’t know the sound

of her own voice

her infinite beauty

This choreopoem is layered and loaded with themes, words, sounds, songs, movements and colors that, together, are Shange’s curation of some of the experiences of black girlhood and black womanhood. When it debuted in bars in California in the early 1970’s with just herself and a partner, to its opening on Broadway in September of 1976 and even still now, today in 2017, it resonates with Black women who encounter it; Shange’s masterpiece arrests, affirms, and activates us powerfully.

Ntozake Shange was born Paulette Williams in Trenton, New Jersey in 1948. Her mother was an educator and psychiatric social worker, her dad, a surgeon. She and her three siblings were born into the black elite of that time, having access to the likes of W.E.B Dubois, Dizzie Gillespie and Paul Robeson and, later, attending Ivy League schools. It was later, as a young adult that she took a Zulu name, given to her by two South African exiles, Ntozake (she who comes with her own things) Shange (she who walks like a lion). How appropriate for a woman who told our stories so fiercely and fearlessly.

Much of her writing derived from the experiences of her life. While for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf is her best known work, it is by far not the only work in Shange’s canon. Other works bearing her mark include Betsey Brown, Some Sing, Some Cry, Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo, Liliane and even some children’s books including one on Coretta Scott King. We cheat ourselves by stopping at just one of her works. We miss out on the whole experience of how she sees the world and what she thinks we should do with it. She’s spent her career writing black women and girls, and other women of color, onto pages and stages creatively and thoughtfully. We can be seen and heard and felt through her pen. One might say that she was one among the originators of what Ava DuVernay has spoken of as “black subjectivity” where black people are the subject, the center of the work. She has written about our pain, joy, conflict, struggle and survival. She has told our stories loud and true and the world has had no choice but to open up and make room for her, make room for all of us.

Photo Credit: Sylvia Plachy, found on The New Yorker

Born black and female.

Carl and Nanny’s fourth baby.

Once the wife of Robert.

Activist.

Thinker.

Writer.

Playwright.

Intellectual revolutionary.

Forever young, gifted and black.

Lorraine Hansberry.

It all matters. Every single subtlety of her life matters. It all matters most because it is the stuff of which her activism was created and propelled. As many now know, A Raisin in the Sun, the play she was most famous for, as it garnered her the title of first black female playwright to have her work produced on Broadway in 1959, was born of her life. Heavily autobiographical in nature, A Raisin in the Sun is a picture of a moment in Lorraine Hansberry’s life when her family integrated a white neighborhood with a restrictive policies prohibiting them from doing so. Amid violent protests and harassment, the Hansberry family refused to move until they were forced to do so after the matter had been settled in court. This journey started for the family when Lorraine was 8 years old. It all matters.

Her parents were social change agents and fought fearlessly to see equal rights for themselves and their people. Lorraine grew up to continue the work of her parents, joining political protest lines, black fist clenched around the handles of many picket signs. But she also used her writing as a means of awareness, protest and activism. Writing for the stage and the screen, A Raisin in the Sun, The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window, The Drinking Gourd, What Use Are Flowers?, are just a few of the pieces she authored into platforms. Conversations were started, change happened, and she provided fuel for the fight and the revolution as she drew from the life she knew and the experiences it offered. Nothing was wasted. Everything mattered.

And today, as our great, great auntie, she remains a reminder for us to do the same; use what we have, our lives, our gifts, to make people aware, help change happen, transform the world. But it is not the change that we work toward. Working that way will weary the journey before we’re able to offer our best stuff. No, our work is to continue to look inside of ourselves for our best material and to offer, it, relentlessly, because everything matters, including our voices.

 

The thing that makes you exceptional, if you are at all, is inevitably that which must also make you lonely. –Lorraine Hansberry

 

Black August in the Park provides spaces where people of all different corners of the diaspora and Black experience can connect with local and regional justice movements while unapologetically celebrating their blackness. Grateful the Black August in the Park team asked us to create mini photo docs of three social justice organizations who support and uplift the beauty and power of Black people: Village of Wisdom (VOW), SpiritHouse, Inc and Black Youth Project 100-Durham (BYP 100). 

This week learn more about, SpiritHouse!

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SpiritHouse, Inc is a multigenerational, black-women-led organization that uses culture, art and media to support the empowerment of communities impacted by racism and poverty. SpiritHouse’s strategies include cultural organizing and coalition building and are based in community customs, culture and practices.


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How do you define power?

“Sovereignty to be me.”

Tia Hall/Cultural Alchemist & Program Developer


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When do you feel the most powerful?

“When I am am able to learn from my mistakes, when I am able to bring my gifts online to help myself, my family and my community, when I am able to regenerate and reanimate myself after a particularly hard period, when I cease to judge myself and other people for being human, when I find joy in simply breathing.”

Omisade Burney-Scott/SpiritHouse Board Member


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“Imagine a world where everybody is safe and no one is thrown away…”

The Harm Free Zone is a series of popular education sessions designed to help people uncover and discover strategies for creating Harm Free communities. The project provides tools and trainings to both strengthen and develop our capacity to confront and transform harm.


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How do you define beauty?

“When what radiates inside shines outside.”

Tia Hall/Cultural Alchemist & Program Developer


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SpiritHouse is committed to using community driven strategies to uncover and uproot the systemic barriers that prevent families from gaining the resources, leverage and capacity for long-term self-sufficiency.


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Visit SpiritHouse, Inc to learn more about The Harm Free Zone – Transformative Justice Training!


 JOIN US THIS FRIDAY @ the BLACK MARKET 11-6pm!

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Brought to you by the Black August in the Park Team, the Black Market is an annual marketplace for local, regional and national Black-owned businesses to gain exposure to new clientele and network with one another. The Black Market also provides educational opportunities to prospective business owners during the annual event. Join us at the Black Market Friday, November 25 2016 11-6pm.

 


PHOTOGRAPHY by Meron Habtemariam,Kaci Kennedy,Madylin Vernise Nixon-Taplet and Jamaica Gilmer for The Beautiful Project

 

Joy. Suffering. Sharpening. Acceptance. Keeping. These are the pillars of sisterhood. These are the mile markers that remind us of where we’ve been, how far we’ve yet to go, and call up who was there to witness the journey.

Since the early part of the summer we have made space for black women and girls to tell stories recalling and detailing experiences they’ve shared with other black women and girls around the themes of joy, suffering, sharpening, acceptance, and keeping, tenets of The Sisterhood Creed, used by its members as the governing document for relating to women in The Beautiful Project and the world at large. We are so grateful for the many women who responded, using vulnerability as a vehicle to share honest accounts of courage, tenderness, strength and growth with all of us. We’ve learned so much, privileged to sit in the seat of the listener. Real sisterhood, the kind that endures, is not easy. But when its real, it’s sweeter than sweet and it moves you, bone deep. If, by chance, you missed any of the stories featured on our site, please, put on your favorite playlist, grab a cup of tea, then go back and take some time to read through them. It will be time well spent.

As we close out this campaign, we are clear that our commitment to the Creed endures. We hope that these stories have served as a tool, reminding us all of just how important and healing and necessary the sisterhood really is. We hope that you will continue to come back to the Creed and truly allow it to govern your interactions with all black women and girls. Use the chart to focus in on your personal sisterhood and figure out how to cultivate a community among them that serves and protects everyone involved. We are kindred, not alien. We are more alike than we are different. And we are here, available to love and hold one another up as we make our way through this thing called life, unified. We are so much better together.

They sang lullabies, wooing us away from our insecurities and fears and hang-ups and let downs . . .

Beautiful black girl, it’s okay to have those curls, it’s okay to have brown skin, you don’t have to be of the world you’re in.

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They sang empowerment chants, strengthening us to confront the lies that have been told about us, encouraging us to face ourselves full on in the mirror again, daring us to remember and know that we are brilliant, we are beautiful, we are bold and we are better, together . . .

Now that I know the truth, time to show and prove. . . Every part of me is beautiful and I finally see, I’m a work of art, a masterpiece. . . I”ll show my picture to the world, I’m not afraid to let it show, anymore.

 

They moaned sacred hymns, original compositions, those that could only be written by black women who know what it is to be misunderstood, mistreated, left out, under appreciated, offering these words hummed out in harmony as a salve, soothing the ache, making us know it’s going to be okay; we do not stand alone . . .

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If she could dance naked under palms trees and see her reflection in the river, she would know she is beautiful. But there are no palm trees and dish water bears no image.

For the length of two hours they used God given instruments; combinations of soprano, alto, tenor, notes in between and notes not yet named, creatively syncopated and composed to confirm our existence, appreciate our presence, and give earnest unto our future . . .

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It was the ultimate act of sisterhood, a story worthy of being told with black, blocked letters on manilla colored pages, but, make no mistake, this was no fairytale. This was real, and they pounded out note upon note, line for line, putting in work to passionately make us to know it is so:

sisterhood is activism.

The Sisterhood Soundscape was an experience. The lyrics have carried me and continue to do so. I hear them in my head and I let them do their work of pushing me forward, making space for me to explore myself, love myself, be myself. We were all so captivated by the work of the remarkable, significantly impressive sisters from the North Carolina Central University Jazz Studies Program Tyra Scott, Dupresha Townsend and Natalie Wallace, under the leadership of the fierce, incomparable, gracious and giving, Lenora Zenzalai Helm.

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To these women, we offer a humble thank you, understanding that there is no gift or words we could render to accurately and appropriately honor them for the myriad ways they blessed all of us that hot summer Sunday in June. They have imprinted on our hearts the messages of sisterhood that keep echoing back to us, like an audible boomerang, relentlessly reminding us that sisterhood says

I see you,
       I stand with you,
                                     I stand for you,
       I will keep you,
                                     I celebrate you.
I will hold you up and hold you down,
      I will walk with you,
                              I will weep with you and for you,
                   you are not alone.

And so, we simply say back to them, what they beautifully cantillated out to us in sweet song, with our right fists clenched tight with conviction and pride over our heart, as our anthem unto one another, determined to stay in the fight and make it, together,

We must go on this way; getting stronger everyday, can’t be too shy to say, that I really love you, sister, I love you.

Our deep thanks to the Beyu Caffe family for supporting the wonder of the Sisterhood Soundscape!

 

We live in a world that is mostly hostile and unaccepting of Black women and girls. If one would only take a look at the components of popular culture, politics and education there could be found a teeming sea of evidence to support that fact. We cannot be fooled by the hyper visibility of black women and girls when we are yet still quite invisible and so very misunderstood. The damage and trauma of history linger and make it difficult for black women and girls to openly question and explore blackness and womanhood. So often we are positioned to fit into systems that were created “for us” without much consideration of who we are and what we need, which most simply comes down to managing micro and macro aggressions on the daily and a push toward assimilation instead of individualization and an appreciation for the the uniqueness of the Black diaspora and the varied ways that Black women and girls illustrate their place in it.

Yet we remain.

We continue to strive, thrive, create, make space, innovate, and reinvent our realities for our very own survival, joy, comfort and peace. There is more than light at the end of the tunnel. There are Black women lined along the corridors of the tunnel whispering love, encouragement and acceptance to accompany a journey that at times can feel dark, cold and lonely. There is more than light at the end of the tunnel. There are Black women holding up that light with open arms of understanding and celebration ready to receive you when you make it to the end of whatever journey you find yourself. Don’t believe the housewife, hip hop hype. We are FOR one another more often than we are at odds with one another. Check the stories. And in the meantime, position yourself to personify sisterhood for the women in your life. It’s how we get over. It’s how we stay well here.

Sisterhood as Activism: the act of Black women engaging one another in an intimate, intentional manner for the wellness and goodness of the other; to take up one’s position as kindred, in all of its intricacies, in order to hold space for, care for, defend, cover, another sister.

We believe that sisterhood IS activism so we have worked to exemplify how to use sisterhood AS activism. Please consider the chart below as a facilitator for exercising more intentionality as a sister standing up and holding space for another sister.

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“To understand why black women’s public actions and political strategies sometimes seem titled in ways that accommodate the degrading stereotypes about them, it is important to appreciate the structural constraints that influence their behavior. It can be hard to stand up straight in a crooked room.” (Harris, 2011)