Jun 12, 2020

Learn and listen with us

This week at Northrop, our Daily Inspirations have continued to focus on Black artists and historically Black art forms. We are committed to sustaining this work of amplifying the voices of artists and communities of color, in our programming and in our decision-making processes for Northrop’s stage and our larger platform. 

I’ll lead our list of inspirations with this article compiled by Minnesota Public Radio News featuring Twin Cities Black-led arts organizations that need broad community support more than ever. Brownbody, featured on Northrop’s 2018-19 season, is one of dozens of organizations listed. All are doing important work in and with our communities, and most are chronically underfunded.

We shared a Guggenheim Works & Process video titled Cooped, which was created by Jamar Roberts and premiered May 24. It is equal parts prescient and powerful. His artist statement was updated last week and reads:

"This work was inspired by the release of recent statistics showing the disproportionate amount of black and brown bodies being affected by the Covid-19 crisis. In this work I set out to create an imaginatively potent fever dream that aims to capture the fear of sickness, and the anxiety of quarantine as it relates to the historical trauma of black bodies being relegated to live in and within confined spaces. Being asked to self quarantine while politically quarantined presents a crisis within a crisis, leaving these communities the most exposed and vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic. For hundreds of years, the black body has been a great source of controversy since its arrival on American soil. Systems of oppression embedded in American society has always cast mental, emotional and physical violence in and on the black body. I wanted to use my own body to bring visibility to an entire community of people that often go unheard and in some cases unseen. This display of the dancing black body not only peers into the psyche of marginalized people in a very specific crisis, but it is also a testament to their strength, beauty and resilience."

I heard NC Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green read her poem Oh My Brother a couple of years ago, and it shook everyone in the room. She has posted it again with a new statement:

“I wrote Oh My Brother several years ago. An invitation from a poet in New York invited other poets nationwide to submit poetry for the Poetry of Lamentation Online Anthology created to memorialize the murdered and symbolize solidarity with grieving families across the United States whose loved ones are being murdered by law enforcement. Again, writers, musicians, dancers, sculptors, and all artists are called upon to use our creativity to declare, agitate, and resist. We will not perish as long as we remember the righteous fire and light inside our artistic utterances.” — Jaki Shelton Green, Jun 2 

This video, created by Hope Boykin and featuring artists from Ailey and other contemporary companies, needs only a few words of introduction: “We. Dance. When our hearts break, WE Dance.”

We enjoyed a throwback to National Tap Dance Day courtesy of Dorrance Dance, along with these words from white artist and Twin Cities Tap Festival co-founder Kaleena Miller:

"If you love tap dance, that means you love Black people and Black culture. And if you are white and love tap dance, you NEED to be seriously engaging in activities to dismantle the systems and organizations built on/with/to support white supremacy...If your life is about tap dance, your life is about justice and equality for Black people--the people that created the form you love. Check your privileges constantly." 

I hope you will continue on this journey of consciousness and inspiration with me, and I welcome your ideas about additional artists and works of art to explore as I learn and listen. Take good care, and take good action.

WPA Virtual Commissions: "Cooped" by Jamar Roberts

Jaki Shelton Green — "Oh My Brother"

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