Article by Nicole Gurgel, Photos by Carlton Turner
This June, six ROOTS members will travel to Montreal to lead a week-long workshop at the Hemispheric Institute’s tenth biennial Encuentro. The workshop will be led by Ebony Noelle Golden of Betty’s Daughters Arts Collaborative, LLC and ROOTS’ Managing Director, Keryl McCord. Joining them are a dynamic team of visual and performing artists: Andrea Assaf, Ariston Jacks, Melisa Cardona, and Nicole Garneau. Titled Freedom Bound: Performing Principles of Community Engagement, the workshop explores ROOTS’ five principles of community engagement: shared power, partnership, open dialogue, individual & community transformation, and aesthetics of transparent processes. Freedom Bound, Ebony explains, was “born at ROOTS Week” as a Collaboratory in 2012. Growing out of a need for embodied engagement with these principles within ROOTS, this iteration of Freedom Bound invites artists, activists, and scholars from across our hemisphere into this exploration.
Formed in 1998, the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics has a lot in common with ROOTS. A “collaborative, multilingual, and interdisciplinary network of institutions, artists, scholars, and activists throughout the Americas,” the Hemispheric Institute’s goal of supporting “vibrant interactions and collaborations…among practitioners interested in the relationship between performance and politics” corresponds with ROOTS’ mission. And much like ROOTS, the Hemi (as it’s affectionately called) hosts a regular Encuentro — a powerful gathering of artists, activists, and scholars who convene to investigate and enact the intersections of art, culture, and justice. Not surprisingly then, Keryl refers to the Hemi as a cousin of ROOTS, “and as cousins go,” she remarks, “we couldn’t ask for better relatives.”
This won’t be ROOTS’ first Encuentro. In January 2013, Carlton Turner, Ebony Golden, Melisa Cardona, Shannon Turner, and Will McAdams attended the Encuentro held in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Lucky for us, they documented their trip through text and photographs on the ROOTS blog. You can read about Shannon’s first-day reflections, check out Carlton’s photographs,
and share in Ebony and Will’s individual experiences participating in Teresa Ralli’s The Voice of the Body workshop. What is clear from each of these accounts is that ROOTS’ relationship with the Hemi allows us to explore our position in and alliance with the global South. As Keryl notes, it “is one of the only organizations that totally embraces, and showcases the breadth and depth of diversity that is our hemisphere. They keep us grounded in the reality that we are all swimming in the same ocean, that we all live downstream.”
Returning this year to lead a workshop marks a deepening of our relationship with the Hemi. When I asked Ebony about her hopes for Freedom Bound, she articulated the reciprocity that this opportunity embodies: “I hope to raise awareness about ROOTS’ work in the South, re-invigorate the conversation and practice of principles of community engagement, and learn more about what is happening in other communities where similar principles are shared and practiced.”
This Encuentro’s theme of “MANIFEST” further deepens this exchange. Encuentro Participants are invited to consider the multiple connotations of the term: manifesto, manifestation, Manifest Destiny, manif, fest, etc. Through this lens, ROOTS’ principles of community engagement — which are at the center of Freedom Bound — can be considered a kind of manifesto. And the workshop itself becomes an opportunity to make manifest our collective manifesto, with collaborators from across the Americas. What an incredible opportunity.
The Encuentro runs from June 21-28. Look for updates from the ROOTS’ team via Facebook, Twitter, and our blog. This partnership has been encouraged through our work together through the Ford Foundation’s Diverse Art Spaces.
Nicole Gurgel is Alternate ROOTS’ Content Developer, as well as a writer, performance-maker, and educator based in Austin, Texas. In addition to her work with ROOTS, she is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Drama at Austin Community College.