ROOTS from Fresh Eyes

Article by Chris James (Little Rock, AK)


Progress Theater’s performance at ROOTS Week 2014

ROOTS Week 2014 was a vacation from reality. It was everything I hadn’t imagined. I hadn’t imagined that such a diverse group of people could come together and sing songs, hold hands and discuss race, art and love all in one sitting. I come from Little Rock, Arkansas and diversity is just one of those things talked about but rarely ever seen. Alternate ROOTS gave me the opportunity to experience diversity and to see a world that society doesn’t want to exist. Everyone that I encountered had vision, passion, compassion and love in their being. ROOTS Week was full of energy that no one could deny.

This was my first time at ROOTS Weeks and I received so much love from the people at this beautiful place. I stated that through Alternate ROOTS, I wanted to gain meaningful and effective relationships and I must say I see that already blossoming into full form. It’s been one week since ROOTS Week and I am on my way to Atlanta to participate in the Southern Movement Assembly all because I sat and had a conversation with the beautiful and accomplished Aleta Alston-Touré.

There were so many great people who were full of information and guidance. Jessica Valoris, ROOTS Week Visual Arts Coordinator, was always willing to lend her hands and knowledge even when she looked as though she wa14764872117_35b0da41b5_zs about to pass out. The talent at ROOTS Week was far beyond amazing. I told a young lady, Audrey, that I almost cried when seeing her dance at late night. It was so soul stirring. I never knew that dance could be so poetic. Jasmine Coles also was another inspiring dancer. Her dancing and conversation inspired a very interesting poem that I am currently working on. Progress Theater motivated me to wipe the dust off my very first stage play, The Odds Against U.S. Urban Statistics. Their theatre performance was entertaining and informative.

I came to ROOTS Week hungry for information and inspiration. By day three, I was so full, I was about to bust. I was so anxious to get back home and continue the work I am doing. So many ideas sparked from my time with the Alternate ROOTS family. Most importantly, at ROOTS Week I found new family. I discovered relationships that will last for a long time. Keith and Chandra from New Orleans have extended their home to me. Lisa Mandle has already said she misses me and I miss her sweet soul too. Koreloy is by far my favorite artist. I am so grateful to have met this woman. I am grateful to have met all the people I encountered at ROOTS Week.

I can’t wait to see everybody again. Hopefully I will see everyone before next year. We shall see. Peace and love.

This video is an event showcasing the 5th grade students I had the chance of teaching and coaching in the 2013-2014 school year. Seeing the growth in them as writers and leaders of their time gives me great pride. I wanted to share a piece of what makes my work worth it.

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Chris JamesIMG_91867036429539 is a Little Rock, Arkansas native who has found his passion in the world of words. He lives the life of a poet, writer, spoken word artist, playwright and director, photographer, entrepreneur, educator, mentor and father. Chris is the Founder of The Roots Art Connection. an organization that promotes youth involvement in Creative Arts while simultaneously increasing literacy, creativity, and improving behavior and socialization skills. Words that describe Chris James would be idealistic, ambitious, Godly, futuristic, simplistic, and ever-striving.

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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.