This special BIBA Blog post is a simple, yet heart-felt and earnest THANK YOU post. Our EIGHTH season has officially started, and - while the end of season seven was not what we desired or expected - we are excited to present to you, our incredible fans, a season with a mixture of digital content, collaborations, live events in the spring, incredible repertoire spanning decades, and a celebration of excellent music and genius artistry. As the conversation about equity and attempting to correct past injustices in classical music continues, we are proud to continue our work in this arena, a labor that has been thriving for seven years now. We are also humbled that so many of you have stepped up to support our work. We cannot survive without your support, and we also cannot grow without acknowledging our growing community.
Castle of our Skins would also like to extend a special shout-out to organizations and individuals who have held fundraising events to support our work! These include:
- The Sheffield Chamber Players
- Mike Avitabile
- Joshua Hahn
- Ensemble Vim
- James May
- the Tufts University Music Department
- Society of Composers Inc. (SCI)
- and Jonathan Van Ness!
We also want to thank the Black Art Futures Fund and New Music USA for their support, organizations who have matched donations from individuals (such as Merck, MassMutual, and the Kenneth Rainin Foundation Discretionary Grant), and the MANY individuals who have sent in donations this year. We look forward to more organizations and individuals who will hold fundraising events (such as the World Piano Teachers Association - Missouri Chapter, lead by Kyu Butler, and a new concert series in Mexico lead by Armando Ortiz)!
Welcome to the first BIBA Blog that highlights and reviews operas by Black composers, which are full of such richness and breadth! These posts examine the many ways that composers from the African diaspora have used music and drama to tell urgent and necessary stories of love, history, family, and social justice, as well as operas that celebrate or comment upon various aspects of life, the past, and more, with tones ranging from serious to light . In an art form where racism is both deeply and historically ingrained, blackface and yellowface somehow remain hotly debated, and contemporary artists of color are reclaiming the narrative online, the beauty and power of operas by Black composers are part of a necessary operatic revolution.
WE SHALL NOT BE MOVED, by Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR)
We Shall Not Be Moved came together through the collaboration of three powerhouse artists -- composer Daniel Bernard Roumain, librettist Marc Bamuthi Joseph, and director/choreographer/dramaturg Bill T. Jones, commissioned by Opera Philadelphia. Since we want to save space to talk about the opera itself, these bios are brief, but we encourage you to learn more about each of them -- additional links are included below!
The Composer: Daniel Bernard Roumain
Daniel Bernard Roumain, often referred to by his initials DBR, is a composer, violinist, and educator, whose artistic works defy categorization. DBR is well-known for blending classical, hip hop, R&B, gospel, and electronic music styles in his compositions, as well as for his wide-ranging collaborations with artists such as Philip Glass, DJ Spooky, and Lady Gaga. His Haitian-American heritage and identity as a Black man also strongly influence his artistic work, themes, and aesthetic. DBR is currently on the faculty of Arizona State University and serves in a number of leadership positions in the classical music field, including board positions with the League of American Orchestras, Association of Performing Arts Presenters and Creative Capital, and the advisory committee of the Sphinx Organization.
The Librettist: Marc Bamuthi Joseph
A spoken word poet, dancer, director, playwright, and educator, Marc Bamuthi Joseph brings issues of social justice and community building to the forefront through his artistic output, as well as his administrative and consultancy work around the country. Born in New York City to immigrants from Haiti, Mr. Joseph made his Broadway debut at the age of 10, and has become a transformative contemporary leader in the arts, education, social impact, and creative expression fields. He is a 2017 TED Global Fellow, an inaugural recipient of the Guggenheim Social Practice initiative, and an honoree of the United States Artists Rockefeller Fellowship, and currently serves as Vice President and Artistic Director of Social Impact at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He has collaborated with DBR three times for the projects Blackbird, Fly (2016), We Shall Not Be Moved (2017), and The Just and the Blind (2019).
The Director: Bill T. Jones
Bill T. Jones is a leading contemporary American choreographer and director whose career in theater, dance, opera and more spans decades. One of the most lauded artists of our time, Mr. Jones’s many honors and awards include the National Medal of Arts, a Kennedy Center Honor, Tony Awards, the Dorothy & Lillian Gish Prize, and a MacArthur “Genius” Grant Fellowship. He is a co-founder of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, and the Artistic Director of New York Live Arts. In addition to the dozens of influential works that he has choreographed and co-choreographed for his own dance company and many others, Mr. Jones is also known for his work on the musicals The Seven, Spring Awakening, and Fela!.
History & Context: The MOVE organization
It’s difficult to fully appreciate We Shall Not Be Moved without at least a basic understanding of the bombing of the MOVE organization -- and hopefully, you’ll be moved to further deepen your understanding of the events, people, and structural racism that led the Philadelphia police to bomb its own citizens in 1985.
MOVE is a Black liberation group (still in existence today) that was founded in 1972 by John Africa, born Vincent Leaphart, a West Philadelphia native and Korean War veteran. Its members lived in communal settings and embraced anti-government, anti-technology, Black power, and animal rights ideals. They spoke out about police brutality and environmentalism, fusing influences from the Black Panther Party and 1960s hippie culture. MOVE staged public demonstrations at zoos, stores, and rallies, and while many supported their principles, their methods and lifestyle were decried by others, including some fellow Black residents in Philadelphia.
In 1978, a tense confrontation with police following an eviction order resulted in the death of one police officer and several other injuries. Nine members of MOVE were convicted and given life sentences. The organization relocated in 1981 to 6221 Osage Avenue, in a middle-class, largely African-American neighborhood. Neighbors made public complaints for years about trash around MOVE’s row house and loud political messages delivered via bullhorn. Finally, Mayor Wilson Goode, the city’s first African-American mayor, gave the order to empty the house and arrest four of the occupants on various weapons, parole, and terrorism charges. Nearby residents were evacuated and on the morning of Monday, May 13, 1985, police moved in on the MOVE home, where eight adults and five children were housed.
The standoff between the police and MOVE escalated throughout the day. Water and electricity were shut off to the building. There was an armed standoff, then a shootout. That evening, the city of Philadelphia dropped a satchel bomb of Tovex and C-4 explosives on the home, killing eleven people, including five children as well as John Africa, MOVE’s founder. A fire began to spread to adjacent houses. Police Commissioner Gregore Sambor, who had given the bombing order, held back the fire department, and by the end of the night, 61 homes had burned to the ground, leaving 250 residents homeless.
The staggering racism, distrust and cavalier police brutality that led to the bombing of MOVE reverberated throughout the city for decades to come. No one was ever charged or held publicly accountable for the attack, and the city of Philadelphia has still not formally apologized, despite recent activism to increase public awareness and to push for restorative justice.
The destroyed homes were shoddily rebuilt, and residents moved back to the neighborhood in 1986. But by the early 2000s, the city bought out most of the crumbling buildings and left them vacant, ghostly reminders of a violent past and the unjust present. This is where we find ourselves in the opera We Shall Not Be Moved.
We Shall Not Be Moved: The Basic Plot
Please refer to Opera Philadelphia’s fantastic full synopsis for plot details -- this is just a taste to help orient you for our discussion!
On the streets of Philadelphia, five teenagers -- John Henry, John Blue, John Little, John Mack and Un/Sung -- are on the run after a violent altercation. This chosen family finds refuge in an abandoned building, which is the home of the MOVE organization and site of the 1985 bombing. They begin receiving messages from the spirits of MOVE, referred to as the OGs, who comfort and sustain them. Glenda, a police officer who was born in North Philly and now patrols West Philly, finds them and suspects them of truancy and loitering. She moves to pick them up, but their confrontation explodes and Glenda shoots John Henry, wounding him. The other teens manage to take her gun, holding her hostage.
As John Henry’s condition worsens, the teens try to determine their next move. Finally, they tell Glenda the full story of why they are on the run, hoping to bargain for her silence with their own. Glenda, however, realizes that the other teenager whom John Blue shot and killed during the earlier fight was her brother, Manny, and refuses to comply.
Increasingly desperate, the teens debate further violence. Un/Sung steps up and offers to take on the task, ordering the others to leave. Un/Sung takes possession of the gun and faces off with Glenda a final time, their confrontation escalating in a blackout. When the lights come back, Glenda recounts her simplified version of the events that ensued, though what is seen onstage is more complex.
Opera Philadelphia: Digital Festival O performance
Available online through August 31, 2020
There may not be an opera more urgent for our country’s current movement against racism, police brutality, and white supremacy than We Shall Not Be Moved. Inspired in equal parts by the historical reality of state violence against Black bodies and by the present lived experience of Philly youth confronting inequity and injustice present in their own lives, this opera is a deeply emotional story that challenges us, as viewers, to imagine a place where, in the words of Un/Sung, “More than one kind of thing can be true. That’s America too.”
All of the characters in We Shall Not Be Moved are complex and sympathetic figures in different ways. Un/Sung, who expresses herself primarily in spoken word, often serves as the narrator of the opera; her brilliance and fierce loyalty to her brothers shines through her words, wise beyond her years, frustrated and stymied by failing schools, poverty, and a world that sees her as worthless. John Mack is driven by his faith and goodness, John Little is a white boy who identifies with his Black chosen family, John Henry displays both toughness and vulnerability even as he lies bleeding, and John Blue is a transgender boy (voiced by a countertenor, though it would be fantastic to see and hear a trans singer in that role -- casting directors, please take note!), the “brother most likely to steal your things and cut you for good measure,” according to the Opera Phil student study guide.
In the following clip, Un/Sung talks about the deep bond of this chosen family, then all of them share their stories and histories, displaying the cast’s incredible skills spanning spoken word, gospel, R&B, and of course, classical music styles. Watch through 16:55.
Glenda, likewise, is a layered portrait of a Latina who seems to identify more with her fellow brothers in blue than with her estranged family. She believes in the work that she does, its value and dignity, and is a sympathetic person who also faced difficult circumstances, yet managed to build herself a successful life -- but at what cost? Watch from 18:25 to 21:50 to learn more about Glenda, the “ghetto flower picked and planted by the law.”
The opera is moving and provocative throughout, but the final confrontation between Un/Sung and Glenda is truly where these themes, questions, challenges and protests come together in an explosive climax. These two women -- although one is still a teenager, not yet fully grown -- are embodiments of divergent choices in a system that is stacked against them. One chose the path of conformity by joining the police force, “a well-funded gang” as Un/Sung angrily says, believing that the system of law and order would give her a foothold to a better life. The other is trying to create a life for herself and her brothers outside of this paradigm, a "Harriet Tubman"-like figure seeking an Underground Railroad that will lead to a freedom that they still can’t quite fully imagine. Critiques of police brutality, bias, the meaning of freedom -- it’s all here in We Shall Not Be Moved, echoing our national conversation and adding to the growing crescendo of protests and activism, thanks to the dedication and work of Black Lives Matter and anti-racist allies.
I want to leave you with this incredible scene from Act II, as John Blue, John Little and John Mack share the self-affirmation that they have learned from their spiritual guides, the OGs. Joyous, lyrical, insistent and transcendent, this is a spiritual for our time: “Love is the only word sweeter than Black.”
Additional readings and references:
Lacey Upton is an educator who specializes in the arts, out-of-school time settings, and community engagement. She began her career in opera at the Metropolitan Opera Guild in NYC and spent five years at Boston Lyric Opera as the Director of Community Engagement. She recently earned her Ed.M. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and currently works in youth development with middle and high school students.
Photo credit: Esso Studios
Hello BIBA fans! This is part two of a series of posts supporting Black businesses. As stated in the last post, numerous factors have contributed to gross inequality in wealth distribution to BIPOC US citizens. From the 2017 Boston Globe Spotlight Series on race, the reality that “the median net worth for non-immigrant Black households in the Greater Boston region is $8” shocked all of its readers. Are you in Boston? A frequent traveler to or visitor of Boston? Wanting to check out some of Boston’s cultural offerings? Then check out some of the fantastic organizations doing incredible work in the Boston area, and support them with a donation, a share, social media engagement, attendance at one of their events, and in any other way you can. This week's post focuses on musicians and musical organizations (other than Castle of our Skins, of course)!
Musicians and Music Organizations
Community Music Center of Boston: founded in 1910, CMCB serves over 5,500 individuals every week, and works with nearly 35 Boston public schools, community centers, nursing homes, and hospitals. Their students range from five months old to 88 years old, and their current executive director is acclaimed bassoonist Lecolion Washington. Learn more HERE and donate HERE!
KickBack Boston: this annual get-together-and-vibe-to-amazing-music party celebrated its 4 year anniversary in December last year. No updates about this year's event yet, but you can check out their website HERE and follow them on Instagram and Facebook!
Project STEP: this program opened its doors in 1982. While it is not Black-owned, its mission is to train young musicians of color, and eventually prepare them for professional jobs as musicians. It boasts that every Project STEP graduate - 100% - has gone on to a college or a conservatory. They have a campaign now which you can donate to HERE, and visit their website HERE!
BAMS Fest: Boston Art & Music Soul (BAMS) Fest breaks down racial barriers to arts, music, and culture through signature events, strategic partnerships, and an annual festival. It centers Afro-diasporic voices perspectives, and artistry. Learn more HERE and donate HERE!
New England Conservatory's Black Student Union: the NEC BSU is a place where BILPOC musicians can network and act within a safe space. Follow on Facebook and Instagram!
While there are many Black musicians in Boston to support, and creating a list here will be extremely difficult, you can learn about some of the musicians and other artists that Castle of our Skins has supported on our artists list here!
And we would love to mention:
Jonathan Bailey Holland - composer
Kevin Madison - pianist/composer
Julius Williams - composer/conductor
William Banfield - composer/performer/scholar
Joy Cline Phinney - pianist
Robyn Smith - trombonist
Forbes Graham - composer (be sure to check out his Beyond/Apex podcast and donate here!)
Hello BIBA fans! This is part two of a series of posts supporting Black businesses. As stated in the last post, numerous factors have contributed to gross inequality in wealth distribution to BIPOC US citizens. From the 2017 Boston Globe Spotlight Series on race, the reality that “the median net worth for non-immigrant Black households in the Greater Boston region is $8” shocked all of its readers. Are you in Boston? A frequent traveler to or visitor of Boston? Wanting to check out some of Boston’s cultural offerings? Then check out some of the fantastic organizations doing incredible work in the Boston area, and support them with a donation, a share, social media engagement, attendance at one of their events, and in any other way you can. This week's post focuses on visual artists, and also includes some writers and more dancers!
HipStory: this unique digital media production company incorporates visual arts, music, film, storytelling, and much more. Learn more on their website HERE and dontate HERE!
Z Gallery: since 2009, this unique space has been supporting urban culture, highlighting graffiti in Boston neighborhoods, and providing a space to sell fine art. Check their website, and donate!
S.O.M. Vibes Studio: this space offers a visual art experience that combines art and music in a curated space to improve your State Of Mind (SOM). Check our their website HERE!
WishUponMe Art: this visual artists creates custom stippling art works, mostly portraits, from photos. More unique pieces are also offered. Learn more and contact on the artist's facebook page HERE!
The National Center of Afro-American Artists: NCAAA is a private, non-profit institution that has been dedicated to preserving international Black visual arts since 1968. The museum holds a unique, fascinating collection worth exploring. Learn more on their website here and donate here!
Roxbury International Film Festival: the RIFF won Best of Boston 2019! This 10-day festival is the largest in New England that celebrates people of color. Learn more here and donate here!
D. Desirée Photography: this freelance photographer in Boston offers a wide variety of services. Learn more and contact her on her facebook page HERE!
A selection of local visual artists
- L'Merchie Frazier : learn more HERE!
- Daniel Callahan : learn more HERE!
- Problak : learn more HERE!
- Cedric Douglas : learn more HERE!
- Mel Isidor : learn more HERE!
- Ayana Mack : learn more HERE!
A selection of writers
- Nakia Hill : learn more HERE!
- Charles Coe : learn more HERE!
- U-Meleni Mhlaba-Adebo : learn more HERE!
- Destiny Polk : learn more HERE!
- DiDi Delgado : learn more HERE! and donate to her incredible #DoneForDiDi initiative HERE!
... and some more dancers!
- Art of Black Dance & Music : learn more HERE!
- Afrobeats Dance Boston : learn more HERE!
- Jo-Mé Dance : learn more HERE and HERE!
Hello BIBA fans! This is part two of a series of posts supporting Black businesses. As stated in the last post, numerous factors have contributed to gross inequality in wealth distribution to BIPOC US citizens. From the 2017 Boston Globe Spotlight Series on race, the reality that “the median net worth for non-immigrant Black households in the Greater Boston region is $8” shocked all of its readers. Are you in Boston? A frequent traveler to or visitor of Boston? Wanting to check out some of Boston’s cultural offerings? Then check out some of the fantastic organizations doing incredible work in the Boston area, and support them with a donation, a share, social media engagement, attendance at one of their events, and in any other way you can. This week's post focuses on organizations working to enhance Black entrepreneurship, community, and more! The format of this blog will be slightly different from the previous two, as the quantity of such organizations is greater.
Entrepreneurship, Community, and more
Artists for Humanity: providing under-resourced teens opportunities to work with mentors for paid employment in art and design. Learn more on their website HERE and donate HERE!
NAAC Boston: Network for Art Administrators of Color enhances the visibility of POC professionals in the greater Boston arts and culture sector. Learn more on the website HERE and donate HERE!
Black Cotton Club: The Black Cotton Club is a space to collaborate, create, and be. Learn more from their facebook HERE, and their linktree HERE!
Black Market: BLACK MARKET is a flexible event space and launchpad focused on economic justice, arts and culture, and civic engagement in Nubian Square. Learn more on their facebook HERE!
Creatives of Color Boston: this organization's mission is to provide a space for artists of to connect and create together. Learn more on their website HERE and donate HERE!
Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative: DSNI empowers Dudley residents to create a vibrant, thriving neighborhood in collaboration with community partners. Learn more on their website HERE and donate HERE!
Dunamis: this is a consulting agency focused on growing and developing emerging artists of color and strengthening Boston's cultural diversity. Learn more on their website HERE and donate HERE!
Fairmont Innovation Lab: FIL promotes inclusive innovation, creative and social enterprise, and entrepreneurship in the Boston area by providing professional workspace. Learn more HERE!
FEMS: the Feminine Empowerment Movement Slam is grassroots non-profit creating the first and only poetry slam contest for the feminine. Follow their twitter HERE and learn more/donate HERE!
Frugal Bookstore: this Black-owned Roxbury community bookstore promotes literacy and unity one book at a time. They provide a variety of book-related services. Learn more HERE (and visit them)!
Ideal Mixer: looking for a creative flex studio that you can use for production events, private events, meetings, and workshops? Look no further! Check out their website HERE!
Powerful Pathways Boston: this consultancy and social practice organization operates in community development, policy, and the arts. Learn more HERE and follow their Facebook HERE! And don't forget to donate HERE!
Print Ain't Dead: this is a bookstore and a literary platform focused on BIPOC artists. Their activity has waned since 2018, but reach out to them on Twitter HERE!
Side Presents: Side Presents is an organization that creates community and cultural events related to Black wellness. Reach out to them through their Instagram HERE!
South End Tech Center: Their Learn2Teach Teach2Learn program boosts a STEAM education to BIPOC children and youth. Learn more HERE and be sure to donate HERE!
The Guild: this Black-centric community organization focuses on revitalizing neighborhoods through arts and culture, and self-transmutation. Where so many see deficiency, The Guild sees power and beauty. Learn more on their website HERE and donate HERE!
The Loop Lab: specializing in digital storytelling and workforce development, this organization decreases youth drug use and violence by increasing employment. Learn more about this fantastic organization HERE and don't forget to donate HERE!
Timothy Smith Network: the TSN provides technology-focused education to Roxbury residents, focusing on equipping them with the tools to navigate today's tech-driven society. Learn more about their work HERE and donate HERE!
Transformative Culture Project: TCP works with their clients to help them create social and economic power through their art. They want to eradicate the term "starving artist." Learn more about their work and services HERE and donate HERE!
Urban Farming Institute: this organization develops and promotes urban farming to engage individuals in growing food and building a healthy community. Learn more HERE and donate HERE!
The X-Academy: this youth development program focuses on mentorship, athletics, commerce, civic engagement, and creative arts, empowering moral and intellectual growth for their Boston communities. Learn more HERE and donate HERE!
Hello BIBA fans! This is part three of a series of posts supporting Black businesses. From the 2017 Boston Globe Spotlight Series on race, the reality that “the median net worth for non-immigrant Black households in the Greater Boston region is $8” shocked all of its readers. Are you in Boston? A frequent traveler to or visitor of Boston? Wanting to check out some of Boston’s cultural offerings? Then check out some of the fantastic organizations doing incredible work in the Boston area, and support them with a donation, a share, social media engagement, attendance at one of their events, and in any other way you can.
Company One Theater: this company has been active for over 20 years, creating provocative, social justice oriented performances, and collaborating with civically engaged artists. Their productions have temporarily stopped because of coronavirus, but they are still offering digital content. Learn more on their website, https://companyone.org , and support them financially here: https://companyone.ejoinme.org/MyPages/DonationPage
The Front Porch Arts Collective: this young theater company is “committed to advancing racial equity in Boston through theater.” Some of their past projects include reimagining Homer’s “The Odyssey” and Dumas’s “The Three Musketeers” with Black diasporic stories, and “Breath and Imagination” – a musical journey about the legendary tenor Roland Hayes. Learn more on their website, https://www.frontporcharts.org, and support them financially here: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/store/2462/alldonations/26804?_ga=2.216810133.2029968256.1543956047-9667501.1541186785
StageSource: not a company per se, StageSource is a networking platform that can be used to connect anyone involved in theater. Founded in 1985, its humble beginnings have developed into the major online resource that it is today, reaching over 50,000 patrons daily, and connecting artists in all of New England, New York, and beyond. Learn more about their services on their website, https://www.stagesource.org, and support them financially here: https://www.stagesource.org/donations/donate.asp?id=11697
The Theater Offensive: their strong mission is “to present liberating art by, for, and about queer and trans people of color that transcends artistic boundaries, celebrates cultural abundance, and dismantles oppression.” Their history, since their founding in 1989, includes working with celebrities (such as Alec Mapa and Billy Porter), and bringing queer stories into neighborhoods that are not known to be queer friendly. Learn more about their work on their website, https://thetheateroffensive.org, and support them financially here: https://thetheateroffensive.networkforgood.com
… and one more Dance company (for last week’s blog) …
Roxbury Center for the Performing Arts: founded by Andrea Herbert Major, she began the “Andrea’s School of Dance” in 1967. As the school grew, she changed the name to “Roxbury Center for the Performing Arts” in 1972, and has not stopped since! This dance organization serves children, youth, adults, and seniors, with programs for beginners as young as 3 years old, as well as “senior tap” programs, and more. Learn more about this fascinating company on their website, https://www.rcpaboston.org , and support them financially here: https://www.paypal.com/donate/?token=zsMy-b_X1YTfowQmUJ9W-A_N6uk4RVd55o67rCSoxGHHSTpJ4wOzq81FHenHmCTu4mUqpW&country.x=US&locale.x=
Hello BIBA fans! This is part two of a series of posts supporting Black businesses. As stated in the last post, numerous factors have contributed to gross inequality in wealth distribution to BIPOC US citizens. From the 2017 Boston Globe Spotlight Series on race, the reality that “the median net worth for non-immigrant Black households in the Greater Boston region is $8” shocked all of its readers. Are you in Boston? A frequent traveler to or visitor of Boston? Wanting to check out some of Boston’s cultural offerings? Then check out some of the fantastic organizations doing incredible work in the Boston area, and support them with a donation, a share, social media engagement, attendance at one of their events, and in any other way you can. This week's post focuses on DANCE!
Abilities Dance: According to their website, this company disrupts antiquated ableist beliefs and disseminates the value of inclusion through dance. Since their first show in February 2017, Abilities Dance Boston has boldly provided a platform for dancers with physical limitations to perform, thus challenging expectations of dancers, especially in the Boston area. Check out their incredible work and donate here: https://www.abilitiesdanceboston.org/donate ; social media: https://www.facebook.com/abilitiesdanceboston and https://www.instagram.com/abilitiesdanceboston/
Benkadi Drum & Dance: formed in 2008, this dance company specializing in African dance and musical forms was established and is lead by Sory Diabate, from Bamako, Mali. They have given performances throughout Boston and Massachusetts, including programs at various primary and secondary schools, Boston University, and MIT’s Kresge Auditorium. Learn more about them here: http://www.benkadidance.com and follow them on facebook here: http://www.benkadidance.com and Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/benkadidrumanddance/
Danza Orgánica: founded by afroindigenous borikua and award-winning choreographer Mar Parrilla, DO ( http://www.danzaorganica.org/ ) is FIERCELY dedicated to anti-racism, decolonization, and uplifting voices of queer and BIPOC artists. Their various projects include the “we create” festival and “dance for social justice”, among others. Donate to this powerful organization here: http://www.danzaorganica.org/DONATE.php ; and follow them on social media here: Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/danzaorganicadancetheater and Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/danzaorganica/
Midday Movement Series: this dance organization advances two main goals – 1) to offer affordable ($5 - $12!!) classes to advanced dancers, promoting class-taking culture and emphasizing a consistent practice, and 2) to provide a space for dance teachers to craft their movement style and hone their skills. To learn more about them, visit their website at http://www.middaymovement.org, and follow them on social media: facebook - https://www.facebook.com/MiddayMovementSeries/ and Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/MiddayMovementSeries/ ; and donate here: http://studioat550.org/midday-movement/
Mystique Illusions Dance Theatre: founded in 2016 by dancer, choreographer, and visual artist Ronnie Terrell, this organization is focused on teaching a unique style of dance called “Mystique-ology”. It is a patented dance methodology with no geographic boundaries, rooted in science and understanding of movement, using culture, energy, and evolution as its foundation. Learn more here - https://www.mystiqueillusionsdancetheatre.org ; and follow on social media: facebook - https://www.facebook.com/MystiqueIllusionsDanceTheatre/ , twitter - https://twitter.com/MI_DanceTheatre , Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/mystique_illusions/ ; and donate here: https://www.mystiqueillusionsdancetheatre.org/endorsements
OrigiNation: one of Boston’s most enduring, impactful organizations, OrigiNation ( https://www.originationinc.org ) was founded in 1994 by Shaumba-Yandje Dibinga, and reaches at least 1,650 children and youth every year. They offer quality dance, theater arts, and African history education, as well as teaching the importance of self-respect, health, nutrition, education, self-esteem, and the extent of African influences on various contemporary art forms. Follow them on social media: facebook - https://www.facebook.com/originationarts/ , twitter - https://twitter.com/OrigiNationArts, and Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/originationarts/ ; and donate here: https://www.originationinc.org/donate
Racines Black Dance Festival: every year, a series of workshops about traditional and contemporary African dance are given in celebration of the Black dance culture that has developed since the time of slavery. While no concrete information has been given about this year’s festival, you can follow them on Facebook to keep updated about any announcements: https://www.facebook.com/RacinesFestival/. Also check out their website: https://www.racinesfestival.org ; and donate here: https://www.racinesfestival.org/donate
Tony Williams Dance Center: this deeply established organization prides itself on its diverse identity, which yields a fuller cultural experience in all of its offerings. Not only does TWDC offer instruction in multiple styles for children and adults, it also produces the Urban Nutcracker annually, and is the parent organization of the City Ballet of Boston! Learn more about them from their website ( http://tonywilliamsdancecenter.com/ ) and social media ( Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/urbannutcracker ; Twitter: https://twitter.com/twdancecenter ), and donate here: https://bostondancealliance.z2systems.com/np/clients/bostondancealliance/donation.jsp?campaign=41&
VLA DANCE: this relatively new dance company strives to empower voices and communities of color through rigorous contemporary dance research and performance. Having presented projects at the Abigail Ogilvy Gallery, Fountain Street Gallery, and #HellaBlack by the BCA, VLA DANCE is now in residence at Roxbury’s Hibernian Hall. Check out more of their work and mission on their website ( https://www.vladance.com/ ), social media ( Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/dancevla ; and Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/dancevla/ ), and donate here: https://bostondancealliance.z2systems.com/np/clients/bostondancealliance/donation.jsp?campaign=98&
I am sure that this list is NOT COMPLETE! So please feel free to add BIPOC Dance company/group recommendations in the comments! Additionally, there are plenty of INDIVIDUALS who are incredible dancers and multi-faceted artists in the Boston area, such as Ramiro Purpose, Jimena Bermejo, and Destiny Polk/Radical Black Girl (who is also an incredible poet and activist).
by Anthony R. Green
Today is the birthday of the late Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, an incredibly gifted composer whose music stretched across genres, and whose international career also included performing as a pianist and conducting. His music, along with the music of numerous other talented Black composers, is championed by Castle of our Skins in our effort to celebrate Black artistry through music. This celebration, though, would not be complete without supporting Black efforts in other sectors, such as skin care, culinary arts, visual arts, production, management, etc ... In the past, Castle of our Skins has had BIBA Blog posts and events that shared the work of other Black creatives and businesses. With the recent attention towards supporting the various BIPOC (Black, indigenous, people-of-color) communities in the US, the next BIBA Blog posts will focus on why and how YOU - our wonderful readers - can BUY BLACK!!!
photo source: connect the dots PR - Vanessa's Blog
During the 1960s, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, there were many calls for people, especially Black people, to support each other financially as well as idealistically. A well-known picture elucidates this idea rather succinctly: it is of a man holding a protest sign that reads "Do not buy where you will not be hired." While such overt racism may have dwindled since then, a quick look at "diversity" within organizations and stores can be a quick indicator of the covert racism that may be at play in hiring tactics across the country and the world. Furthermore, the covert racism is directly related to the systemic racism that is responsible for today's gross social, educational, health-related, judicial, and economic inequities. For all of you Instagram users, check out THIS infographic that quickly and creatively articulates systemic racism's effect on the Black community. When it comes to economics, "white families hold 90% of national wealth, while Black families hold 2.6% of it" (despite making up 20% of the population). Furthermore, "for every $100 earned by white families, Black families earn $57.30." And lastly, "since the 2008 recession, the wealth gap has increased." (Sources)
With that stated, the decision to start redistributing wealth towards Black and BIPOC businesses is a no-brainer, and there are many websites that can help you get started. A simple search for "buy Black" yields NUMEROUS links to articles, blogs, online stores, and websites with links to help anyone BUY BLACK! WeBuyBlack.com in particular has been increasing its number of vendors, products, and sales recently. Additionally, for our Boston (local) readers, Boston.com has been featuring articles about Black-owned businesses, particularly restaurants, that could use some support. HERE is an article, and HERE is another one.
NEXT WEEK'S BLOG WILL HIGHLIGHT SOME OF COOS's FAVORITE BOSTON ARTISTS AND CREATIVES! Be sure to check back here next Sunday, and keep up with COOS's digital season that includes the Black Composer Miniature Challenge, the Kid's Korner, and the Poetry Night Cap! ... and thank YOU for your support!
by Ashleigh Gordon
This has been a challenging week, few months, year, or 400+ years depending on your vantage point. As scores of organizations release solidarity statements, I can’t help but wonder:
If as a sector we can fundamentally shift our thinking and approach to creating, sharing, collaborating, managing, and engaging with art during a few months of a young health pandemic, why is it so difficult to do the same during a centuries-long racial one?
There was certainly no blueprint, no “How to Do Arts During a Pandemic” textbook. Yet the sector is rising to the challenge and doing so creatively and quickly. Dollars, maintaining relevance, and fighting for one’s survival undoubtedly have something to do with this phenomenon. On the ironic side, there have been, and continue to be centers, institutions, resources, facilitation guides, and countless case studies not only highlighting the inequities under our noses, but providing how-to solutions (read: doing the hard thinking for you) with little tangible results. Devaluing the need to invest dollars in equity work, upholding a narrow definition of what culture is relevant and for whom, and choosing to not fight for the survival of cultures, stories, histories, and voices that continue to be marginalized to the point of near erasure has something to do with this phenomenon.
In response to the outpouring of solidarity statements and uptick in Black Lives Matter hashtags, I’m reminded of a statement by Nikki Giovanni, whose Poem for Nina is the inspiration behind our organizational name and whose birthday is also today:
“Mistakes are a fact of life: It is the response to the error that counts.”
If you’re one of the countless organizations that have acknowledged your mistakes, great. There are and will be more mistakes, so keep looking. If you have not acknowledged your mistakes, dig deeper because they’re there. But beyond a well-penned “We see you Black community” statement, we need to actually do better and do differently. Otherwise, by definition, we are insane to think anything new will actually result.
Some thoughts on how to do better and do differently, now and always:
1. Remove colonial language in all aspects of your institution because language matters.
2. Remove a dominant white culture value system because perspective matters.
As we are all well aware of and feeling, this is undoubtedly a challenging situation. The mistakes are known, the errors documented with solutions named and yet to be realized. All that is missing?
Your motivation and action.
~ Ashleigh Gordon
Artistic and Executive Director
Castle of our Skins
by Anthony R. Green
Once again, the United States is embroiled in another moment where citizens are protesting (in various ways) against the extremely inhumane treatment of Black people, particularly by the police. The three names that have recently garnered national and international attention are Ahmaud Arbery (25 years old), Breonna Taylor (26 years old), and George Floyd (46 years old). The sadder reality is that during this same period, in Tallahassee alone, police officers also fatally shot Wilbon Woodard (69 years old), Mychael Johnson (31 years old), and Tony McDade (38 years old). Tony was murdered two days after Floyd, and - while his death has received some noteworthy attention - his demise has been eclipsed by the Floyd protests. In all truth though, while the particular unfolding of Floyd's murder resulted in a situation upon which the current protests could unfold (analogous to Michael Brown's murder), these protests are the result of an eruption of simmering feelings about Black death, institutional racism, and injustice, especially in the US. The simmering feelings have now turned into a full on boil, and that boil has burst a lid. The feelings are now flowing like lava, and this emotional lava is flowing strong ... as it should be.
History has constantly construed the narrative of Black people, not just in the United States, to skew towards negative or non-existent. Consider classical music's continued practice of ignoring Vicente Lusitano (an Afro-Portuguese renaissance composer), Ignatius Sancho (born into slavery, eventually becoming a composer and the first Black Briton to vote), Chevalier de Saint-Georges (born in Guadeloupe, Mozart stole a theme from him for one of his works), William Grant Still (the "dean of Black composers", ground-breaking musician), and so many others in their programming, their pedagogy, their analyses, and their lists of who is a "great" composer or an "old master". This ignorance and silencing directly corresponds to deplorable narrative that seems to overwhelm Black identity today. Everyone has a moral responsibility to change this narrative, because it is false, destructive, and fatal, as evinced by racially-motivated deaths, institutional racism, societal indifference, Black silencing, and so many other factors that have existed for far too long.
Nevertheless, Black people will still persist. We will still create, have a significant influence on society, history, technology, science, medicine, architecture, design, textiles, urban planning, childcare, visual art, literature, creative practices, empathy, and everything that exists in this world. What can we do now, though? We can rectify our mistaught history and change the Black narrative. We can work to correct the current injustice that permeates public and private spaces. But we mustn't let the world ever forget how it has mistreated its Black and brown people.
With that, please listen and grow from this powerful piece by Courtney Bryan: Yet Unheard.
Writings, musings, photos, links, and videos about Black Artistry of ALL varieties! Feel free to drop a comment or suggestions for posts!