STORY-BASED ENGAGEMENT & EDUCATIOn
Storytelling is foundational to my engagement work. I facilitate story circles to help bring people together, to bridge understanding and to build collaborative art. The Story Circle process which was developed by members of Free Southern Theater was taught to me by John O'Neal, co-founder of Free Southern Theater and founder of Junebug Productions. Here are some of my favorite projects:
Urban Bush Women Summer Leadership Institute (2012-2015)
From 2012 to 2015 I served on the planning committee and faculty as Musical Director for the Urban Bush Women Summer Leadership Institute, a 10-day learning intensive for dance professionals and community-based artists that leverages the arts as a vehicle for social activism and civic engagement. As Musical Director I helped shape the music for the culminating performances by creating vocal arrangements, leading a instrumental section made up of strings and percussion, as well as playing banjo and guitar.
spirit house (2013)
Junebug Productions partnered with the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center for the development of an original play based on stories gathered in Story Circles I facilitated with constituents of organizations serving serving women and families to better understand their experiences of finding and securing housing. "The purpose of the Spirit House project is to use community based research and theater in order to explore the impact of exclusionary housing policy and practices on women and families, and the intersections between sex, gender, race, class and sexual orientation in experiences of finding housing and defining “home.”"
upward bound (2009)
Junebug Productions and the Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies (IWES) partnered with Upward Bound at Tulane University to offer a writing and theater summer course I co-facilitated about sexual health, healthy relationships and HIV/AIDS that culminated with a public sharing of writing by the students. The writing was based on story circles and other creative writing exercises designed to nurture participant's awareness of and connection between their mental, emotional and physical well-being.
FROM COMMUNITY TO STAGE
From 2008 to 2011, I co-taught five, 14-week community-based arts course, From Community to Stage with Junebug Productions founding Artistic Director, John O'Neal. This course was an accredited university course cross-listed with Tulane University's Theater and Dance Department and African and African Diaspora Studies program and offered to Tulane University, Xavier University and Dillard University students as well as community members every fall and spring semester. Each course explored different themes and culminated with a public performance of art created collaborated with the participants.
This pen is red (2010)
This Pen is Red is collection of writing that was produced through story circles, writing prompts and creative exercises. As a community we have struggled to voice our personal experiences of oppression, to respect (though we cannot fully grasp) the experiences of others, and to come to terms with the ways in which we willingly or unwillingly take part in oppressive systems. Our assumptions were challenged and the dialogue that ensued was often painful, often transformative, and often unresolved. Instead of working around those challenges and shying away from them, we decided to present many of these challenges in the production. Our hope is that others can identify with these challenges and learn from them.
voices from the back of the class (2009)
Using James Loewen's book, Lies My Teacher Told as a jumping off point, this group explored the myth of meritocracy and the American Dream that is taught and perpetuating through the public education system. "Race, class, oppression, social movements ... words rarely uttered in our history textbooks but matters that impact our lives profoundly. What do Thanksgiving, Reconstruction and the American Dream have in common, and how how are the telling of these stories a reflection of where we stand on issues of race and class in America today?"
finding joy in unlikely places (2008)
What is community? How is New Orleans shifting post-Katrina? How is culture being "cleansed?" How does racism affect our lives? Our answers to these questions led us to the discovery of joy, resiliency, heartache and beauty in all of our communities in the creation of this original production of poetry, theater, music and movement. The piece is anchored by two storylines: Two neighbors, one a middle-aged, Black man born and raised in New Orleans, the other a white, Tulane student from the North learn to understand one another despite their differences. A high school boy is expelled after an incident with a young, white teacher who claims her life was threatened by him. His father struggles to understand to him and yearns for him to have a better future.
My organizing background is in base-building organizing and campaign organizing. Here are some organizations I have worked with as an organizer:
UNITED FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE (UFPJ) | (2002-2005)
Founded in 2002 to oppose the War on Iraq, UFPJ is the nation's largest anti-war coalition made up of local and national anti-war organizations, labor unions, student and religious groups. I served on the national steering committee from 2002 to 2005 and helped plan national demonstrations and participated in prioritizing and implementing UFPJ’s national campaign work and represented UFPJ at several conferences including the ZENKO Unity Summit in Osaka, Japan. As a member of the Iraq Working Group I traveled to Iraq with the UFPJ Peace delegation in January 2004 and subsequently developed educational materials including the fact sheet “Crimes of Occupation, US Violations of International Law” and made numerous presentations around the country. I was awarded a fellowship at the Kopkind Colony, a week-long educational retreat and conference for young activists and political journalists, for my organizing work on the War in Iraq.
WORLD tribunal on iraq (WTI) | (2004)
I served as the lead researcher for the World Tribunal on Iraq, a people’s tribunal featuring thirteen jury members including Dennis Brutus and Eve Ensler that examined war crimes committed by the US. The tribunal took place on May 8, 2004 and included presentations establishing the body of law defining international humanitarian law followed by eyewitness account testimonies and digital evidence. The jury found the US government guilty of war crimes and called for an immediate end to the occupation of Iraq, that the US be tried for war crimes and that reparations be paid to Iraq. The NYC WTI one of many people's tribunals started by anti-war activists worldwide that were based on the Bertrand Russell Tribunal on Vietnam held in 1967.
music and culture coalition of new orleans (MACCNo) | (2012-2013)
The Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans (MaCCNO) is a broad-based coalition working to empower, assist, and organize New Orleans' cultural community, with a particular focus on advocating for ‘culture friendly’ laws and public policy. We aim to help formalize protections for our culture and provide ongoing advocacy, research, information sharing, and outreach to ensure New Orleans musicians, artists, and culture bearers can not only continue their cultural practices, but also maintain a high quality of life. I was one of the founding members of MACCNO and helped to ground the organization by facilitating community meetings and establishing goals and strategies in its first year.
NEIGHBORS allied for good growth (NAG) | (2003-2005)
A coalition of diverse community and housing organizations, religious leaders and members of the Community Board working together to organize the North Brooklyn communities for an alternative to the City’s rezoning plan. I served on the Steering Committee from 2003 to 2005 and organized bi-weekly community-wide meetings and mobilized the community primarily around the issue of displacement and affordable housing by creating educational materials, organizing demonstrations, lobbying and advocating. I was also involved in the campaign to shut down Radiac, a radioactive waste facility in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
EL PUENTE | (2003-2005)
El Puente is a community human rights institution that promotes leadership for peace and justice through the engagement of members (youth and adult) in the arts, education, scientific research, wellness and environmental action. Founded in 1982 by Luis Garden Acosta, El Puente currently integrates the diverse activities and community campaigns of its Center for Arts and Culture and its Green Light District & Community Wellness Program within its four neighborhood Leadership Centers, and its nationally recognized public high school, the El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice. I worked as Executive Assistant to CEO and Founder, Luis Garden Acosta, my mentor who trained me in the foundations of organizing principles. During my time El Puente I attended a training by the Center for Third World Organizing.