Curating ROOTS Week

Bob Martin, Ezelle: Ballad of a Land Man. Photo: Melisa Cardona

As a member-led arts and social justice organization, Alternate ROOTS is in a constant state of evolution – we are always working to deepen, expand, and improve our practices to better meet our mission. At and after last year’s ROOTS Week, we heard from members about ways that we could improve for this year’s gathering, and in the spirit of transparency we’re sharing how we’re incorporating our community’s feedback into our practices:

Revive the ROOTS Week Work Group. ROOTS is a participatory democracy. As such, all members are invited to contribute to the rich work we do in different organizational areas via Work Groups, and the planning of ROOTS Week being one of them. ROOTS Week is an incredible week-long event, that is months in the making, and we urge members who have strong feelings, exciting ideas, and deep connection to ROOTS Week to email Programs Director Wendy Shenefelt to join the work group:

Encourage first-time presenting artists to be mindful about entering a new community, and participate fully in ROOTS Week. There aren’t many places like ROOTS – ROOTS has a unique culture, collectively built over four decades by thousands of artists, activists, and cultural workers, with the aim of living up to an ambitious mission. We welcome new folks into our community, and urge artists new to ROOTS to share their artwork. We also encourage those new to ROOTS to take the time to get to know the community – our practices, values, and approach to arts, activism, and dialog – as they seek to join us. In future ROOTS Weeks and Weekends, we’ll be making this encouragement more explicit to those new to our community.

Get intentional about our practice of trigger warnings/content notes. The work shared at ROOTS Week and Weekends often explores difficult, and sometimes triggering content. We seek to stay current on practices around trigger warnings, and engage in these practices on multiple levels. We also will continue to affirm everyone’s agency to take care of themselves – acknowledging that it is okay to skip out/tune out/move out of a performance that may cause you distress.

Share the labor of responding to harm. As an organization led by women of color, we also need to acknowledge that when things go down at ROOTS Week, when we need to dig in for those tough conversations, it is our Black, Brown, female staff leadership who are often asked to carry the weight. We as a community need to collectively shoulder that weight, and support the staff as a membership body.  

ROOTS Week, just like Alternate ROOTS, is ever growing and changing. In fact we are currently in the middle of a strategic planning year! We invite your feedback, ideas, visions and dreams about how to continue to live out our values and mission now and in the future.

Alternate ROOTS supports the creation and presentation of original art that is rooted in communities of place, tradition or spirit. We are a group of artists and cultural organizers based in the South creating a better world together. As Alternate ROOTS, we call for social and economic justice and are working to dismantle all forms of oppression—everywhere.