Join the UNDERGROUND RAILROAD:
Liberatory Coaching for Creative Radicals of Color
It's time to chart a path to freedom! Our ancestors have been boldly innovating, dreaming, and transforming in the midst of the most oppressive circumstances for centuries. We are a part of this legacy. Join the Underground Railroad, and reconnect with your innate power to embrace art as subversive activism, community as sustainable prosperity, and ritual as collective healing. Co-host of the BGD podcast Spirit Medicine and Founding Artivist Director of the Black Lives Matter artivist platform, #DignityInProcess—ChE is offering a 7-month coaching program to support people-of-color in manifesting our vision for collective liberation! We have everything we need right where we are. We just need to reveal it. In this 7-month coaching cohort you will connect to the creative tools of your ancestors to live a more meaningful life, and bring about social change! Cohort 2 runs from December 2017-June 2018.
A #DignityInProcess Art Action
About OPINION | The Other America:
Rooted in their New Orleans based research in Afro-Indigenous Liberatory Practice, Heimark Artist-In-Residence ChE has developed a new #DIGNITYINPROCESS art action at the Nightingale Brown House at Brown University that gives voice to the site’s untold narratives of enslaved ancestors. This participatory performance ritual is articulated as feet pounding, percussive gestures of Afro-Contemporary choreography, storytelling, and procession. This performance applies the Afro-Indigenous medicine of the ring shout as a tool for subversive activism, community dialogue, and healing.
Performance Ritual to free enslaved ancestors 5/24/17 & 5/25/17 at John Nicholas Brown Center
Closing Shout House 5/27/17 at Rites & Reason Theatre, Brown University
Deep gratitude to the Center for Slavery & Justice, the community elders, organizers, young leaders, and conjurers who offered heart and spirit to this work..
Ring Shout Practitioners/ Performance Conjurers: Jude Sandy and Yon Tande
Community Organizer: Marco A. McWilliams
Keeper of Prayers: Kat Qunnekenoohkesu Simonds
Founder/ Curator of Black Spatial Relics Artist Residency: Arielle Brown
New Orleans supporting Residency: One Love Nola
What Lives in the Nightingale House
There are stories here never written
Lore never spoken to youth
Never shouted in rings
Or sung to shape ethic
One by One
We must give voice
To the human beings
Whose shouldered history
We stand upon.
It is in the cracks of this building
Its stench seeps through the chimney smoke
Floorboards creek with voices unsatisfied
Breath unacknowledged for her giving
Clouds the window pains
Beads of perspiration sliding down glass
This is the sweat you see upon my brow
It is from their labor
A stride across generations
Across a body of women
Whose names I do not know
Grandmothers and Greats
I build an altar in their silence
Their gate is in my hips
Rolling across pelvic floor
A thunderous boom
Pressing my feet into earth
Like they mean to plant me here
To leave their soul imprint
Through the soles of my feet
Until toenails grow
Into fibrous roots
A tangle of matted gnarls beneath me
“Make your bed here,” they ask,
“Stay a while, won’t you
Lay your head upon the floor
Until skull becomes drum
And every drop of pulsing medicine
Is pumped through your pours
To nourish a pregnant earth
Let it seep into this wood grain
The wrinkles that have aged into cracks
You dance upon our skin
Raging with light
Let your body warm us
Until we remember the dawn.”
—ancestral offering thru ChE
Omi Gallery presents“CONJURE CIRCLE”
Opening Night Ceremony & Procession for
“Who Taught You How To Love Yourself? Black Womyn!”
Opening Ceremony & Procession Curated by ChE
Thursday, August 6 2015
A live music/ dance-based direct action in downtown Oakland featuring Afro-Brazilian dance and musical troupe SambaFunk! & The Funkquarians, Black Lives Matter organizers, and participating marchers. The #SayHerName exhibition opening included an evening of food, libation, multi-generational storytelling, performance art, and discussion aimed to amplify the voices of women, call-out the intersectional nature of state violence to mobilize local grassroots organizing, and utilize creative arts practice as healing and educational modalities.
+ Multi-media by April Martin and prints by Oree Originol in “Who Taught you How to Love Yourself: Black Womyn,” inspired by a powerful action by Black Womyn Bay Area organizers of #SayHerName who reclaimed the African women’s tradition of bare-chested protest (Art Exhibition 8/1/15-8/26/15).
A #DIGNITYINPROCESS BLACK DREAMING EXODUS
Titled after the African American folktale, Black bodies rise in this series of freedom happenings and installations investigating expansive Black imagination. A pursuit of collective healing amidst State-sanctioned violence, #DignityInProcess FreeFolk weave dreams into reality—conjuring spaces of restorative creative practice, community ritual, and movement strategizing.
The People Could Fly premiers in the Bay Area Saturday, August 13th at Destiny Arts Center..
QEAR SUMMER 2017 in collaboration with #DignityInProcess:
Destiny Arts Center’s Queer Emerging Artist Residency (QEAR) Summer 2017 is a weeklong paid residency that cultivates the artistic growth of QTPOC (queer and trans people of color) artists ages 18-24. Led by Mentor Artist ChE, Summer 2017 artists-in-residence dig into ancestral ritual, connecting to the powerful lineages that have sourced and sustained Afro-Indigenous activism for generations. These offerings are premiered in an immersive ring shout performance ritual. The People Could Fly is a space where we map our freedom paths through sound, ring shout ritual, storytelling, and strategic Black dreaming!
THE PEOPLE COULD FLY: DAY OF STRATEGIC BLACK DREAMING
ENTERING THE SPACE:
This is a sacred space, a live art action. We enter with reverence. We bring food to share in our potluck stlye Black Folks Dinner with a label naming ingredients. We come as Fragrance free as possible to support the accessibility of the space. We bring an offering for our Radical Black Dreaming altar. Deep gratitude in advance!
*PLEASE NOTE: This event is exclussively for people who identify within the African/ Creole/ Indigenous/ Afro-Latinx/ Afro-Indigenous Diaspora. We are intentionally centering QTGNC 2-S magik.
AFTERNOON DREAMING: #BlackHealingMatters
12:30-2pm BlackDreaming Yoga with FreeFolk Gabe
2:30-3:30pm Afro-Brazilian Dance with FreeFolk Jasmine| 2:30-3:30pm Cierra's Steppin'
2:30-4pm Underground Railroad: Radical Black Imagination Mapping Session pt 1 with ChE
EVENING DREAMING: Taking Flight!
5pm-6:30pm Black Folks Dinner (*POTLUCK style! Please bring a dish) | Wisdom Council gathers (more info below*)
6:30-8:30pm Ring Shout Rites of Passage: QEAR become FreeFolk | Underground Railroad: Radical Black Imagination Mapping Session pt 2
More about #DignityInProcess:
A pilot for Afro-Indigenous Liberatory Practice, #DignityInProcess is a nationally touring artivist toolkit in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, drawing upon the practices that have sourced the resilience of our ancestors for generations. This multidisciplinary platform merges art activism, ancestral healing, and QTGNC intersectional identity evolution within the Afro-Indigenous Diaspora. Through Art Actions- site specific performance rituals merged with direct action organizing, we call in the power of the ring shout, storytelling, movement, call and response to help us remember our sacred origins. Forming Wisdom Councils of Mixed Race, African-Native American, and Creole elders, multi-generational conversations lay the foundation for embodied accountability to sustain a movement of Black Liberation. Returning to the power of the circle, we build Freedom Schools embracing community learning that centers radical Black Feminism. Afro-futures emerge as we collectively celebrate the dignity of expansive Black life!
More about #DignityInProcess Wisdom Councils:
Councils of African American/ Creole/ Mixed/ Indigenous elders (Wisdom Keepers) gather in circle to provide guidance, accountability, a passing down of spiritual practices to emerging change-agents through oral tradition. Wisdom Councils support artivists in connecting to ancestral roots, enriching our understanding of the historical contexts that have contributed to today’s liberatory movements. Through gathering filmed interviews with Wisdom Keepers all over the country, #DignityInProcess fortifies the current Movement for Black Lives by stewarding these inspiring, critical multi-generational dialogues as medicine for the movement. Ensuring that these stories are widely accessible, the interviews live in an online, open source archive known as, "Dignity Speaks." Please contact email@example.com if you are interested in becoming a Wisdom Keeper in your community.
Gratitude to our Documentarians (order top to bottom):
Images: Kei Slaughter, Zochi/ Alonzo Young, ChE, & Curtavia Gill
Video 1: ChE | Video 2: Sophie Becker
Artivist, ChE was invited to be the mentor facilitating artist for the summer 2016 Queer Emerging Artist Residency at Destiny Arts Center. During this week long intensive residents were immersed in Afro-Indigenous Liberatory Practice* (an intersectional justice framework ChE is currently codifying and piloting through #DignityInProcess). Artivists worked through a collaborative process, to create performances that included ritual, storytelling, movement, and theater. These pieces premiered in a #DignityInProcess Art Action on SATURDAY AUGUST 13 from 4-6PM at IMPACT HUB known as "Call Them In." This interactive art dinner bringing back kitchen table organizing. brought together seasoned QTPOC activists and artists to break bread in a multigenerational conversation of decolonizing the arts. This was a unique opportunity for Emerging Artists to be featured performers in ChE’s unfolding series #DignityInProcess, a nationally touring body of work in response to the Black Lives Matter movement merging ancestral healing, art activism, and intersectional identity evolution within the Queer/Afro-Indigenous community.
QEAR Artivists and ChE premiered..
CALL THEM IN: A #DignityInProcess Artivist Dinner
Bringing back kitchen table organizing, this edible performance ritual carries the medicine of Black Modern Dance, freedom songs, living word, and ancestor reverence to make way for a world of Queer Afro-Indigenous Liberation! An intimate evening woven with multi-generational conversation, storytelling, and performance art.
The Queer Emerging Artist Residency is a series of paid residencies at Destiny Arts Center that cultivate the artistic growth of LGBTQQIA2-S (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, two-spirit) identified performing artists of color ages 18-24 who are interested in utilizing art and performance as tools for social change.
#DignityInProcess is a multidisciplinary platform in response to the Black Lives Matter movement merging art activism, ancestral healing, and intersectional identity evolution within the Afro-Indigenous Diaspora. Bringing together movement, ritual, storytelling, and collective artmaking, #DignityInProcess draws upon the practices that have sourced the resilience of our ancestors for generations. Gathering Wisdom Councils of Mixed Race, African-Native American, and Creole elders, multi-generational conversations lay the foundation for embodied accountability to sustain a movement of Black Liberation. Afro-futures emerge through this series of site-specific performances, arts-based direct actions, and community workshops celebrating the dignity of Black evolution.
DONATE to #DignityInProcess today!
This pop-up altar installation has opened ceremony at San Francisco venues Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and The LAB. One of the first public rituals for #DignityInProcess, Beginnings features artist Jose Abad in a duet with Artistic Director, ChE. Exploring themes of finding home in a disparate society and finding wholeness in a body that tells stories of conflicting ancestry, Abad and ChE conjure the Orixa and the multicolored medicine wheel to honor their mixed race lineages. Inspired by the music of Gil Scott Herron and the legacy of 1960's Black Power movements that birthed his honest sound, Beginnings invites the audience to enter the conjure circle of #DignityInProcess, engaging the ancestors in healing structural inequalities.
Part of #DignityInProcess, North | South is a series of interactive installations and performances utilizing ancestral ceremony, connection to the natural elements, and original choreography to examine how exhaustion and endurance shape the pedagogy of Afro-diasporic activism. How does trauma manifest in the Black body as we struggle with an innate knowing that our liberation cannot be divorced from the earth? Black evolution emerges as we challenge structures that deplete natural resources even while being pressed against historical wounds of slavery that relate land with physical extortion. Recognizing a cultural reference of freedom being found in migration to the industrial North, we ask our collective body to remember it's roots in red ancestral soil. Movement shaped through the writings and stories passed down through elder/ wisdom keeper, Margaret Benson Thompson; bodies sweat, feet pound, and tongues pray in this Afro-futurist ritual of rhythm and soul. This performance ritual traveled to the North (New York) as well as the South (New Orleans) summer of 2015 and evolved through community participation.
Performed at SomArts, San Francisco; City Bird Gallery, New York; Café Istanbul, New Orleans and in Congo Square as part of the 10 Year Commemoration of Hurricane Katrina. Sponsored by New Orleans Loving Festival, Cafe Istanbul, Ashé Cultural Arts Center, Congo Square Preservation Society, Press Street's Antenna Gallery, Gulf Coast Rising, the New Orleans Musicians Assistance Foundation, www.myheartsleeve.com and Dancing Grounds.
In 2014 artist/ organizer ChE partnered with Destiny Arts Center and Youth Hub/ United Roots to launch a QTPOC youth performance group known as The Art Liberation Troupe. Creating an opportunity for LGBTQQIA2-S art-activists of Oakland to transform their community through interactive performances using street theatre, dance, visual art, spoken word, and music. Participants practiced embodied leadership skills and developed their creative technique as a tool for activism. Trained as youth workshop facilitators, these emerging artists learned how to facilitate spaces for community transformation and healing through utilizing guerilla theatre, dance, and multi-generational storytelling to call their community to action around social justice issues. Trained in LGBTQQI2-S topics such as SOGIE (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity & Expression), the Art Liberation Troupe performers received financial stipends for their facilitation and performances. They also received mentorship from a variety of Bay Area based, Queer/ Trans* professional artists and activists at monthly, Friday night Step Up, Step OUT! mentoring circles. The Art Liberation Troupe has had the opportunity to perform with the Young Artists at Work at YBCA, lead workshops and peace marches with Phat Beets, be featured in Topsy Turvy Queer Circus, plant an urban garden with Planting Justice in Oakland, along with many other celebrated collaborations and performances.
Current Bay Area Black Folks Dinner Series: The FreeFolk Fly!
(Every 3rd Sunday at a FreeFolk House)
Following the opening performance rituals of The People Could Fly: A#DignityInProcess Black Dreaming Exodus, newly initiated FreeFolk take flight, collectively hosting this series of Bay Area Black Folks Dinners the third Sunday of every month. Break bread and build community as we bring back Sunday dinners and kitchen table organizing FreeFolk style! This series is also the launch of the #DignityInProcess Wisdom Councils. Every dinner will feature an Afro-Indigenous Wisdom Keeper who will pass down a liberatory practice to the next generation, infusing our grassroots movements with ancestral tools for healing and sustainability. If you are interested in becoming a Wisdom Keeper and joining a Bay Area Wisdom Council this is a great way to jump into the process! You can also reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to request more information.
ENTERING THE SPACE: We are in the collective practice of creating safe sacred space for ALL Black bodies to be wholly nourished. We enter the home of our community kin with reverence. We bring food lovingly prepared to share in our potluck-stlye Black Folks Dinner with a label naming ingredients. We come as Fragrance-free as possible to support the accessibility of the space. We bring an offering for our Radical Black Dreaming altar. Deep gratitude in advance!
*PLEASE NOTE: This event is exclusively for people who identify within the Black/ African/ Creole/ Indigenous/ Afro-Latinx/ Afro-Indigenous Diaspora. We are intentionally centering QTGNC 2-S magik.
More about the origins of Black Folks Dinners:
Co-founders: ChE & Eb Brown
A safe space for people of African descent to gather once a month over a shared meal and stories of resiliency, while building community solidarity, leveraging collective resource, and strategically addressing needs of the Black community. With a collective presence reaching the thousands across multiple cities, dinners are attended by a wide range of Black-identified individuals differing in sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, lineage, and economic background. Black Folks Dinners chapters include: Seattle, Brooklyn, Bay Area, Charlotte, Las Vegas, and it keeps growing!
Former dinners have included themes of Black Evolution: Arts & Activism, When Spirit Moves, Community is HEALING, and many more. Former hosts have included Omi Gallery/ Impact Hub Oakland, The LivingRoom Project, Black Folks House, and the homes of Black Lives Matter activists.
Black Folks Dinners and #DignityInProcess..
Beginning in the Spring of 2014, ChE curated a series of Black Folks Dinners that centralized art practice, performance, and ritual as a means of discussing queerness, mixed race identity, and activism in the Black community. Beginning with questions as a central part of their process, ChE led the group through a series of interactive activities that gave shape conversations of embodied Liberation. Many of these interactive art dinners were recorded and documented. These rich acrhival conversations challenging one dimensional definitions of identity continue to be woven into the performances and installations of #DignityInProcess.
Calling all FreeFolk to conjure under each new and full moon. We meet at the water adorned in Black for new moons, white & color for full moons. 8:30pm Lake Merritt columns (Grand Ave & El Embarcadero, Oakland). Please bring bowls to catch abundance invoked. Bring candles, an offering for the altar if you like. Bring your people, the ones who are close. We gather in the depth of darkness, centering expansive (QTGNC) Blackness, reflecting our collective Brilliance. This is a circle of safety specifically for folks of the Afro-Indigenous Diaspora. A circle of Black radical dreaming & imagination.
In response to the recent and ongoing violence against Black bodies, #DignityInProcess hosts healing circles centering Queer, Tans, GNC Black Lives. As people-of-color the wear of systemic and interpersonal acts of oppression requires that we lovingly care for our bodies and spirits. Together we ground in the tools of our ancestors creating space for healing, collective grief, and always- Black LOVE! All circles feature powerful local Black & Brown healers. New Orleans conjurers have included Monica McIntyre, Ellenie Cruz, Michaela Harrison, Soraya Jean-Louis McElroy, Jahslyn BlackLifeMagic, Yeye Luisah Teish, and #DignityInProcess Artistic Director, ChE.
Healing Circle Offerings have included:
Liberation Collage/ Afro-Futures Art Station
Centering/ Grounding Practices
Face Painting Divination
Freedom Song Circle
More about #DignityInProcess:
A pilot for Afro-Indigenous Liberatory Practice, #DignityInProcess is a multidisciplinary platform in response to the Black Lives Matter movement merging art activism, ancestral healing, and intersectional identity evolution within the Afro-Indigenous Diaspora. Bringing together movement, ritual, storytelling, and collective artmaking, #DignityInProcess draws upon the practices that have sourced the resilience of our ancestors for generations. Gathering Wisdom Councils of Mixed Race, African-Native American, and Creole elders, multi-generational conversations lay the foundation for embodied accountability to sustain a movement of Black Liberation. Afro-futures emerge through this series of site-specific performances, arts-based direct actions, and community workshops celebrating the dignity of Black evolution.
Healing through Afrocentric Movement
Explore the history of movement and music as it evolves through the African Diaspora! How has the migration of Black peoples shaped and influenced traditional cultural movement and Western contemporary dance forms? How does the everyday life of the diverse peoples across the Diaspora shape the way we move on and off the dance floor? Black Modern explores the movement created by and through Black bodies as it spans across genres and cultural dance forms. Expect to sweat, shake, and groove to high energy routines fusing soul, Afro-house, hiphop, Afro-modern, and traditional dances of the Diaspora!
An interdisciplinary platform to develop multi-generational QTPOC (Queer Trans* People-of-Color) leadership models that merge art, intersectional-identity-awareness, and resiliency practices to encourage a movement of embodied activism. Breathe-In Liberation opened a healing conversation between Queer and Trans* people-of-color and the larger POC community in the Northern California Bay Area. This produced a free day of healing for the 2014 National Day of Healing Justice for Black Lives Matter, as well as The MOVEMENT (est. 2012, co-founder India Harville), a network of QTPOC artists, healers, and change makers dedicated to sustaining a movement of QTPOC empowerment, creative expression, and liberation.
Photos: Breathe-In Liberation, National Day of Healing Justice for Black Lives Matter | Omi Gallery, Impact Hub Oakland
Spirit Medicine with CarmenLeah Ascencio and ChE, is a BGD podcast that focuses on providing accessible conversations, tools and rituals that support the healing, wellness and liberation of people of color, with a focus on queer and trans people of color.
To listen to a Spirit Medicine Podcast visit the wellness section of https://www.bgdblog.org/category/wellness/
A participatory installation and performance series addressing conversations of race and class disparities through meditation, body-based archiving, textile sculpture, multi-media, and community workshops. Steeped in somatic exercises, participants use movement and storytelling to humanize intellectual understandings of oppression. What is created when personal stories of internalized otherness, separation, and dominance are exposed and woven together through collective sculpture creation? These avenues of engagement allow participants to physically grapple with the seemingly intangible forces that dictate much of our inter and outer group dynamics. Two Sisters, One Womb viscerally questions the impacts of living in a supposed “post-racial” America.
GIVE to #DignityInProcess today!
Your donation will support #DignityInProcess 2016/17 in offering a series of community workshops, interactive performances, arts-based direct actions, and to develop Wisdom Councils bringing together Afro-Indigenous elders for healing and social change!