Alternate ROOTS is pleased to announce the eight projects that comprise our 2015 Partners in Action cohort. All eight partners are engaged in multidisciplinary cultural organizing work that is deeply embedded in communities throughout ROOTS’ region.
From September 2015-April 2017, ROOTS will partner with these eight projects by providing a combination of project funding, technical and staff support, based on the needs of each project. Alternate ROOTS considers our support of these partners an investment in the future success and sustainability of the organizations as well as the communities they serve. This year ROOTS selected eight partners, increasing from four in 2013, and six in 2014. Between project funding and technical support, this cohort will receive a combined total of $108,000 in funding.
At its heart, Partners In Action works to illuminate the centrality of cultural organizing as a major tool for grassroots organizing in communities throughout the region. Now in its third cycle, and preceded for nearly two decades by the Community/Artist Partnership Program, Partners In Action builds equitable and reciprocal relationships between artists, cultural organizers, and communities. Through local actions, projects, and activities, these partnerships connect social justice issues and policies to social and economic justice and practice.
Congratulations, to our 2015 PIA cohort: “conNECKted”, JEMAGWGA; Community LIFT ; Girls Rock Charleston; Highlander Research and Education Center; Pennsylvania Avenue Film Series; The Roots Art Connection; and Working Films. Read on for more details about each project!
“conNECKted” is an art-in-community project centered on the human consequences of gentrification, indiscriminate growth of neighborhoods and New Urbanism. The project is propelled by a network of artists, activists, and community members and is developing organically through a breadth of creative practices: story circles, porch conversations, recorded interviews, visual and performing arts interventions, “imagination stations,” printing unique banners and t-shirts, support of schools and displaced businesses, community needs assessment, and gift exchange.
The goal of “conNECKted” is to challenge Charleston political institutions and developers to become aware of the populations they have been neglecting – from youth in public schools to seniors who carry local history – by amplifying the voices of these residents, through various creative community-engaged arts. In November 2015, Charleston elected its first new mayor in forty years; this gives “conNECKted” the opportunity to work with community to challenge entrenched municipal policies, programs, and politics.
The coalition forming through “conNECKted” collectively developed this mission statement: Together we oppose the planned displacement of minorities and the now-poor and the whitewashing of common memories. We support tiny owned businesses, integrated neighborhoods and affordable housing for all. We work toward the earnest desegregation of schools and a city where families scarred by gun violence can heal. For us belonging means celebrating all histories and building a future together. “conNECKted” hopes to initiate strong expression, communication and action with its art-in-community projects for social change.
“conNECKted’s” core group includes: Jason Slade (Activist, Social Media), Auzheal Oubre (Photographer, Public Speaker), Pamella Gibbs, (Educator, Fabric Artist, Activist), Donna Cooper Hurt (Photographer, Videographer, Quilter), Debra Holt (Organizer, Administrator), Latonnya Wallace (Small Business Owner, Activist), JEMAGWGA with Jean-Marie Mauclet and Gwylene Gallimard (Engaged Multimedia Artists), La’Sheia Oubre (Educator, Activist).
Community LIFT is working with the Soulsville Neighborhood Association (SNA) to create an outdoor lounge to help generate business, tackle blight, empower residents, attract artists, and create art by the Soulsville community. Created to reverse the Memphis’ inequitable course of economic development, Community LIFT serves as a funder, connector and capacity builder of redevelopment in three disenfranchised neighborhoods. Soulsville is a legendary neighborhood in South Memphis and home to world-famous Stax Records.
In the first phase of this project, the partners rehabilitated renowned bluesman Memphis Slim’s home into Slim House, a community music studio professionalizing Memphis musicians. With the support of Alternate ROOTS, SNA members will repurpose an abandoned property adjacent to Slim House into an outdoor lounge, complete with seating, a mobile stage and food trucks. Community LIFT will reimagine the space with SNA members, and the partners will construct the space with local artists and neighborhood residents who have carpentry and wood-working skills. In the first six weeks of opening, Stax Music Academy youth and Slim House musicians will produce community storytelling performances, in partnership with citywide institutions, to activate the lounge. Beyond this, the lounge will provide a platform for Slim House members, who are emerging professional musicians, to showcase their talent.
Soulsville gave Memphis its earliest black-owned businesses; this project aims to reaffirm community self-agency. While it is currently located within the city’s third poorest zip code and suffers from excess blight and crime, this project leverages its rich cultural institutions, close-knit residents, and stock of historically significant landmarks to restore social and economic vitality.
This project will improve access to food venues, recreational and performance space, and attract artists to live, work, and play in Soulsville.
Girls Rock Charleston, an arts-based social justice organization operating in Charleston, SC since 2011, is hosting a year-long after school program for at-risk girls and trans* youth ages 12-17. GRC works in partnership with organizations and local leaders to engage youth with a dynamic combination of music education, DIY media making, popular and political education sessions, as well as academic and life skills support.
Local artists, activists, musicians and youth organizers serve as mentors, band coaches, and workshop leaders throughout the program to support the Rockers in using audio and visual artistic craft to explore their burgeoning identities as girls, women, and/or queer youth, and to address the impact of police violence and the prison system in their communities. Participants will work together to explore issues of sexism, racism, poverty, gentrification, segregation, and state violence through writing original music and creating visual art, while engaging in workshops emphasizing the resilience, resistance stories, and cultural traditions (such as storytelling and community organizing) of their own communities. Together, the Rockers will produce a multimedia body of work that will both document and impact the social issues they address.
A public performance will be held at the end of each semester in which community members will be engaged around these issues through the work performed/exhibited. The program will not only support the Rockers in improving their grades and staying out of the juvenile justice system, but will provide space for them to build trust with each other and define their own visions for liberation in their communities. It will prioritize developing youth as whole people.
In the summer of 2016, Highlander Research and Education Center’s Seeds of Fire (SOF) program will embark on a week-long Living Legacy Tour of the South to connect the fights, struggles, and victories of folks fighting all forms of oppression. Highlander Research and Education Center is a leading institutional resource that connects people across generation, race, language, culture, and sector to build a unified movement for a just and equitable society. For the past 16 years, Highlander’s Seeds of Fire (SOF) program has impacted thousands of young people, bringing together emerging and experienced grassroots organizers and community leaders to build collective power and influence critical policy decisions and practice shifts.
The Seeds of Fire Living Legacy Tour brings together youth and young adult organizers and allies from communities of color and low-income communities to travel through key movement places in Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. With a focus on addressing state sanctioned violence, tour participants will learn with artists and organizers, share cultural organizing skills with the local communities, and engage with movement elders, connecting historical struggles to those that young people are fighting against in the South, today. The Living Legacy tour allows participants to strategize and use cultural organizing methods to develop a collective analysis of systemic injustices. It’s goal is to create learning exchanges and opportunities for growth and understanding while focusing on cultural organizing, intergenerational relationships, and organizational partnerships across the South.
Performing Statistics is a cultural organizing project that brings incarcerated youth and community experts together to collaboratively produce media campaigns, public installations, and performances supporting juvenile justice reform. The project supports Legal Aid Justice Center’s (LAJC) advocacy with, and on behalf of juvenile justice system-involved youth and their families. The project utilizes collaborative and public art to connect diverse community experts, including currently incarcerated adults and youth, around community-based alternatives to incarceration. We believe that the youth and adults most affected by the system should have a leading voice in any movement.
Over the summer, teens from Richmond’s juvenile detention center traveled to ART 180, a local youth arts nonprofit, to create a series of projects about their experiences being incarcerated and alternatives to the system. Beginning in September 2015, the project team will be working with LAJC to display the material created in spring/summer in and outside of public spaces, schools, government buildings, and shared on the radio to engage specific audiences that the project partners and LAJC have identified. The public phase leads up to the Virginia General Assembly’s budget vote in March 2016, which has key funding implications that support juvenile justice reform. In 2016, we plan to expand the project by touring our mobile exhibition to communities throughout Virginia. Each stop will include short residencies working in tandem with local organizers to share the stories of Performing Statistics and build momentum toward the 2016 national election.
Artist Ariston Jacks and community arts program Jubilee Arts, will host the Pennsylvania Avenue Film Series in the summer of 2016. The series will feature community members, local film and visual artists, with the goal of engaging community residents Sandtown-Winchester and Upton in dialogue through the arts about social change and Baltimore’s music, dance & biking culture.
The four-week film series will be composed of three components each week: a short or experimental film, digital visual art exhibition, and a local or feature film. The films screened will be created by artists or youth media program that focus on social issues such as black lives relevance, displacement and followed by a talkback session with the presenter. The visual art intermission exhibition will consist of artwork being projected on the screen during intermission. Artists living within our neighborhoods will be commissioned to create works for this exhibit and these works will then be given away to viewers in attendance through a door prize drawing. This will create an incredible opportunity for local residents to own fine art by an emerging artist. These valuable original works of art could become a family point of interest or inspire others. Lastly, the feature films will be popular family-friendly selections to create wide appeal to residents and youth in the community and attract residents that may not otherwise be inclined to attend a screening of art films or visual art shows. Located on the historic Pennsylvania Avenue, an area with a rich history of African American culture, the series will create a unique opportunity for residents and local artists to engage and transform the area into a space of culture, dialogue and community building again.
The Roots Art Connection is a multi-disciplinary arts organization in Little Rock, AR that advocates for the integration of arts in education and community to support the transformation and development of under-served communities. The Roots Art Connection’s programs and projects are designed to support social justice, alleviate poverty and hunger, uproot oppression and engage youth in creative arts while simultaneously increasing academic success.
With the support of Alternate ROOTS, the Roots Art Connection will broaden its impact by developing and/or expanding four community partnerships. The Mural Project involves the creation of a mural led by Angela Davis Johnson and assisted by Jose Hernandez, Ron Mc and Aloma Kuyois. Words Matter brings youth poets together with activists and artists to sharpen their understanding of the law and their civil rights, strengthen their voices, and prepare to work on the frontlines, affecting change in their community.
Colors of Love will address the issues of all groups of all oppressed people and the artists will collectively use their art forms to bring about transformation and reconstruction while also offering cultural exchange to the community. Starve No More is an ongoing project, in which artists cook a meal for Little Rock’s homeless community. The group is starting out by feeding the homeless once a month, but they hope to grow the program into a weekly event.
Working Films and Storyline Media are co-producing and supporting grassroots organizing with Water Warriors, a documentary exhibition by Michael Premo and Andrew Stern. Water Warriors is a photo-based, multimedia exhibit and short documentary film (in progress). It honors one Native community’s struggle, against seemingly insurmountable odds, to protect their way of life. When an energy company began searching for natural gas in 2013, these unlikely warriors united to drive out the company in an ongoing campaign to protect their land and water. Their efforts have led to the election of a new government and a conditional moratorium on fracking. Their story offers a model for grassroots organizing and resistance against multi-national industries. The goals are to support the growing movement for the transition to an equitable, low-carbon economy and ways to cultivate creative strategies for locally appropriate models of resistance.
In Fall 2015, Water Warriors will being touring communities in North Carolina that are surrounded by natural gas deposits and at risk for drilling. In 2016, this tour will expand to frontline communities in other Southern states. The installation will include discussions, workshops, and educational tours created in collaboration with partner organizations and the artists.