Review by Malkia Okech
In connection to the Painted Bride’s Deep Roots Bold Future legacy, they invited a series of intergenerational conversations in which artists and practitioners shared their hopes, worries, joy, and vulnerability with us. These two conversations were honest, open dialogues that proliferated energy, love, and care.
Amid the COVID19 pandemic and national uprisings, these two conversations offered a dialogue of hope and healing. We have adapted to a new kind of connection-building through digital platforms. But any worry about the future is sidelined by the laughter and stories shared here. It resonated as a meditation on the world, and Black women’s different places within it. Each practitioner harnessed these ideas in their own diverse ways, be it through the art they make or space they provide.
The first conversation was between dancer and anti-racist cultural worker Brenda Dixon-Gottschild, and movement performance artist Lela Aisha Jones. Beyond a one-on-one conversation, the viewer is invited to this virtual storytelling porch-sit. Brenda invited everyone to take 60-seconds to silently “Say Her Name”, shared a beautifully provoking poem (“You Still Dream”, Nikki Grimes), and reflected on Black August and social justice. Lela asked “What energy is your body holding today?”, and the viewers chime in with words, phrases, and ideas. At the moment I was compelled by “air and rage”, and felt validated and empowered when I shared this in the Zoom chat. As a movement artist, Lela invited us to locate our privileges, rest, and action in our bodies. The conversation frequented this intersection of physical, mental, and spiritual realms of ourselves.
Their conversation took us on a journey through lineage and connections to family and mothering. It showed us the strength and power of friendship, especially among Black women. Lela shared that her friendship with Brenda taught her what was possible in this world. Brenda let the audience know that we can build courage by taking things day by day and that we know in our hearts what action to take against injustice.
The second conversation was between the founder and Executive Director of The Colored Girls Museum, Vashti Dubois, and the entrepreneur and owner of Franny Lou’s Porch, Blew Kind. They reflected on how they have created sanctuary and community. Vashti shared how she is putting “cure back in cur(e)ation”, with the museum’s online exhibition titled For a Time Like This. It showcases artifacts of Black women’s lives important to them in these turbulent times. Blew considered how one can maintain community and keep connected in the age of COVID19 at her mission-driven business. One way has been opening a window to Franny Lou’s Porch, alongside a garden maintained by the neighborhood. The window represents not only safety for customers but also a “window of love” where people can still stay connected. Vashti added to this by reflecting on what lessons we may learn from this moment, or what adaptations we will undergo to keep going. A different kind of intimacy is formed, she explained. We see this in both of these conversations through sharing each other’s offices, kitchens, living rooms, yards, and whatever physical space we tuned in from, patchworked across the screen.
Different from the first conversation, Vashti and Blew have a different connection to courage. They opened up about fear and obstacles both in the development of their organizations and during these unprecedented times. Neither speaker shied away from how hard it can be to do what they do. Blew shared that she is seen as a leader, “but can’t keep lifting everyone up all the time”. Acknowledging these limitations is a testimony to the importance of community care, especially for Black women. This leads us back to Lela Aisha Jones’ call to “locate your rest” as much as we can find our “action”.
Vashti called into witness a quote from author Shayla Lawson, that “Black Women are From the Future”. This phrase ties both conversations together because we know in our hearts, souls, and movements as Black women that we have a propensity for care, justice, rest, action, and self-preservation for the future. These conversations demonstrated this by harnessing revolutionary spirit through honest reflection, advice, and always being prepared for what could come next for this world, whether we know it or not. Black women are already there!