Sunday, November 23, 2014

razy! November is damn near over party people.  What have you got to show for it?  Well, I have all these blog posts, so there's that.   

While blogging daily, I find myself open to more experiences.  Perhaps, it is because I am on the hunt for new content to blog about.  I am staying out later during the week, attending more events and the weekends have become sacred.

I even watch shows that I wouldn't normally entertain like this show called Animal Rescue.  It was only one episode but it was pretty fascinating.  A deer had decided to take a swim I guess, but ended up extremely disoriented and headed away from shore into the middle of the ocean.  The US Coast Guard had to devise a rescue plan without actually touching the deer who would probably kick a hole in their boat.  Ultimately, the deer was "steered" back to shore.  

What struck me most was the insensitive humans snapping photos, scaring the already scared deer.  The flash from the cameras made the deer try to deer paddle the opposite direction.  The Animal Rescue Police types had to get the humans out of there.  Once they did, the deer came out of the water and scurried onto shore back to its family I presume.  It was a happy moment.     
Every day blogging has been a happy moment. I hope you are enjoying my attempts to avoid a basic November.   

Saturday, November 22, 2014

eekends are for volunteering...both Saturday and Sunday will be spent in service to others.  I just came back from the Northwest African American Museum's 70's themed Naamtastic Voyage party.  I could have stayed longer but my platform boots had a limited shelf life.  My feet are killllllllliiiiiiiinnnnnnngggggg me!

It was all worth it, seeing folks break dancing and shimmying down the Soul Train line.  I had the awesome duty of replenishing the snacks and water.  With all of the dancing taking place, my job that night was of the utmost importance.  I don't know how many trips I made back and forth to the kitchen to refill the water.  Folks were thirsty.  You know the party is still going to at least midnight.

The 70's gear was pretty good too.  I wore bell bottoms and platform shoes.  There were several afros, shiny outfits, gold jewelry, fur coats, and headbands.  Next time, I will have to go with another shoe option.  Having a party surrounded by art is always a good time.  More museums and galleries should have parties with a DJ and good snacks.

Tomorrow, I will be volunteering for the production, I Wish A Mother Would.  I am helping with whatever is needed during the event.  I am really excited because this show is sold out but volunteers get to see it for free.  I wish I could share more about this event but I am so extremely tired.  It has been a long day and tomorrow won't be any shorter.  Peace and love!


Friday, November 21, 2014

t's Friday y'all!  I don't know about you but this week was packed with many creative happenings that I still have yet to write about.  With the upcoming holidays, I can't help but to think about what I am grateful for.

I am grateful for the relationship I have with my sister.  Fifteen years separate us but as we get older we continue to get closer.  It is nice to have a "B.O.G.O."   She is my person for all of the buy one get one free deals popping up throughout the year.  I love how we are even starting to have the same interests.  She introduces me to new web series on YouTube and I introduce her to the arts and culinary experiences.  

When we went to Paris this summer, I was taken aback at how totally into the arts she was.  She never really dug history but seeing parts of it in person enlivened her spirit.  She was there right along side me elbowing whoever we could to get as close as possible for a selfie with Mona Lisa.

She has even become my muse for my Afro Jazz art series.  It is her face I use from the greeting cards to the portraits.  Most of our time is spent in laughter.  I just truly appreciate her little teeny-bopper presence in my life.  

I hope to travel to many other places with her in the near future.  I just love her to pieces.  She's my little Mooshy-moo :) 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Last year when I traveled to Ghana, West Africa I received something really special...a name.  At the Creating Change! Equity and Inclusion Workshop, led by Carmen Morgan, the first exercise we did was one about the history of our name.  We were tasked with answering four questions.  What is your full name?  Who named you?  What is the significance or meaning of your name?  Would you change your name if you could?  

During the workshop I answered these questions using the name on my birth certificate.  As others shared the vast histories of their first and surnames, I felt some type of way.  I didn't have the full break down of my surname because it does not belong to me.  It is a place holder and a reminder of my stolen status.  I do have another name though.  One that I had to travel to the Motherland to receive.  

Equity and Inclusion 

My name is Tsotsoo.  A Chief of the Ga Tribe in Ghana, West Africa sanctified the name I had chosen for my naming ceremony.  The women dressed me as a Ga Queen with brightly colored kenti cloth.  I had a much deeper appreciation of the craftmanship because I had a weaving lesson from a master weaver the day before.  They danced for me and with me.  I felt so deeply honored.  

The men who were drumming composed a song for me with my namesake.  I can still hear the tune in my head.  A friend of my host stood close by and translated the Chief's words.  He told me that my name meant one should not take my kindness for weakness and that I fear no one but The Most High.  The ceremony seemed to morph into something that was not just about receiving a name.  I stood there with bare feet on the red clay soil, embracing the inherent equity of the moment.  This was an Equity and Inclusion ceremony.

My head is bent as I receive a black and white beaded
necklace from the Chief to remind me of my new name. 

My Equity and Inclusion Ceremony filled my spirit to overflowing.  It was actually a surprise because I thought it was taking place later in my trip.  Those present thought I must be extremely special and important because the Chief was supposed to be gone.  He didn't even know there was a ceremony going on at that time.  For some reason he came back from his trip.  I like to think he came back because he sensed the implications of naming, thereby reclaiming a stolen one.  

When you sit and think about it, it is so fundamentally unfair that so many others know their name on a generational level.  Something as basic as a name is taken for granted.  Names have ancestral ties and significance.  But the stolen ones are excluded from possessing this basic piece of knowledge.  I am forever grateful for the gift the Chief gave me.  

Would I change this name? No.  It is only fair that I am allowed some time to get acquainted with Tsotsoo.  The more I reflect on this experience, the more I start to feel a deeper sense of belonging.  

Share the history of your name in the comments using the four questions above.  I would love to hear the significance of your name.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

oday, I attended the Creating Change! Equity and Inclusion Workshop at the Seattle Center facilitated by Carmen Morgan. It was about one of our favorite words, "diversity" and the what, how and who of it when it comes to the arts and the change we would all like to see.

I registered myself and my art ace +FINE ARTS BY SHURVON for this workshop because advancing the equity agenda in all facets of society is of the utmost importance.  It is the reason why I do my social justice art thing.

On our way to the workshop, my art ace and I had this amazing conversation on what it really means to have more cultures and values represented in the arts.  I swear every time we get on the phone, I wish we were recording.  Our conversations get that lively.  We have plans for an upcoming broadcast of sorts so stay tuned...

Who are the gatekeepers?

We reached the topic of gatekeepers in the arts and the damage they can cause, the havoc they wreak, and the overall epitome of "basic" they possess.  To me, a gatekeeper is one who has the power, privilege and purse to maintain the status quo which is often oppressive and exclusive.  They use their status to give their approval, assign value and legitimacy to others in the art world.  

I do believe the most basic of basic gatekeepers can be reformed and made into allies using their power, privilege and purse to advance the equity agenda.  However, if you are knowingly benefiting from your power and privilege with no f**** given and you just don't care, you are a basic a** gatekeeper in my book.  
Basically, when it comes to creating social change, the opposite of ally is basic.

Emerging vs. Established 

Somehow we started talking about labels in the arts.  Who decides who is an emerging artist versus an established artist?  I had this same conversation with an "established" artist in Ghana, West Africa.  It is interesting to consider the role gatekeepers play in these definitions because they can use their power, privilege and purse to move an emerging artist to one who is established.  What about the artists who have been producing and presenting their work for years but have yet to be approved by the gatekeepers?  By approved, I mean chosen for exhibitions, residencies, grants, awards, fellowships, etc...

Doesn't it seem inaccurate to call these artists emerging?  Does an artist stay parked at emerging until magically deemed established?  Inquiring minds want to know.   
These are important questions to explore because deciding who can be characterized as a working artist or who can make a living from their craft should not hinge on a label bestowed by basic gatekeepers.

This is just a sample of the conversation we had before we even made it to the workshop, mind you.  The workshop was informative and those highlights may appear in an upcoming post.    

Share your thoughts in the comments.  Invite others to the conversation by sharing this post with a friend or five.  

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

just returned home from another exciting evening in the kitchen with Chef Ariella!  Her cooking style is inviting and conversational so you know we talked about everything including our favorite fall vegan comforts.

Monday, November 17, 2014

DVANCE because retreat is not an option.  This mantra means everything to me.  It is what gets me out of bed on the coldest of mornings.  It is what keeps me going and motivates me to continue the work of teaching our teens how to create social change using their gifts and talents.  It is my why.

Many of us are waiting for a grand jury to indict Darren Wilson, the white officer that shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black youth.  Honestly, words cannot describe how I will feel if this jury decides not to indict.  Part of me is low key preparing for this in advance.  Preparing in advance for upset in matters that demand justice violates my spirit on a core level.  Preparing in advance is not the advance I had in mind.  The advance I have in mind involves preparing our youth to think critically and creatively about what change is needed and how to bring about that change.

This is exactly why I created TEENERGY, a social justice art program for teens. This past summer the African American Leadership Forum-Seattle (AALF) sponsored TEENERGY.  This fall, we've teamed up with Seattle Parks and Recreation Power of Place to bring TEENERGY to various teen sites in Southeast, Southwest and Central Seattle.  How dope would it be to have teens from all types of backgrounds starting a movement for social change AND actually making a difference?!  I'm telling you, this work with our youth is what keeps me SANE and what keeps me going.


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