Join the final
December 19, 2018
(Dance Class – 7:00 – 8:30/ CJ Workshop – 8:30 – 10:00/Music & Dance – 10:00 – Midnight)
Location: Brooklyn Commons, 388 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11217
Join the final
Location: Brooklyn Commons, 388 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11217
My friend Melissa has been doing a 30 days of Thanks journey in which she shares her reflections on her life. It is with her permission that I have created this blog post. Her writing is powerful. Be prepared to cry, laugh, be confused, get frustrated, and be caught up in deep hopefulness. Melissa wrote the following preface before beginning her sharing:
“If you are receiving this email, i have decided to include you in my journey for the next 30 days of giving thanks for anything and everything for which I am grateful.
During this time, I will be sharing reflections, short stories and anecdotes about my “interesting” life experiences associated to the theme of my thanks. I realize that some of my sharing will expose me at my core and make me considerably vulnerable to your thoughts, opinions, and attitudes. However, I am willing to do that. If my experiences bless you enough to deal with and confront yourselves and your issues and set you free from the bondage of suffering in silence, then we are right on track to doing some great things together.
My hope is to bless and inspire you to be thankful as well. But, ultimately my goal is for you and I to put that gratefulness into action. Each day, i’ll try to highlight great people and organizations that are doing the work to make our world a better place. Consider giving your time and/or financial contributions. No gift is too small or too large! Stretch yourself and don’t be selfish with your time, your love or your affection. Someone else needs you! Give what is in your heart knowing that the blessing is in your giving and will always come back to you (pressed down, shaken together and running over).
If you know someone who you think would benefit from the journey as well, please share these reflections with them too. I can’t wait to hear about and see what you have all done over the next 30 days an how you have grown!
What follows is Melissa’s thirty day journey. For ease I will post her emails in 5-day segments, without edits. The only thing I have omitted are photos.
First installment, days 1 – 5.
Rest in Peace….
My interest is in the lives and life stories of African Diaspora women, with particular attention to expressions/articulations of identity and belonging. Michaela DePrince is an extraordinary artist and survivor of war. Please share your thoughts on the May 2017 interview.
Billie Holiday’s centennial birthday and the ‘celebratory’ invocation of her renowned Strange Fruit make this moment in U.S. history more poignant as yet another Black son/brother/nephew/friend is added to the ever-growing list of persons killed for living while Black. North, South, East, and West of the land Black blood and flesh are fertilizing yet another generation of trees from which Strange Fruit are set to bear by the gun or the noose. The killing has been rampant; and so too are the shame, excuses, disregard, denial, all in an effort to make sense of the killings. But, when can anyone make sense of addictive actions and responses?
In recent years I have become particularly captivated by the ways in which bodies are crafted into performances of poverty and need in urban spaces. In particular, over the past three years I have witnessed an escalation in the presence of persons in performance of homelessness and beggary in three cities to which I am a frequent long-term traveler. Leeds, United Kingdom, Leuven, Belgium, and New York City, United States each have their own type of nuanced performance template, yet there are some similar artifacts common to performances of poverty, homelessness, and beggary. These cities are transnational spaces of dynamic global mobility in which the arts, education, and business interact most dynamically in performances poverty and need. The staple artifacts of these performances are: 1 – the strategically placed pieces of cardboard (as signs, seats, and shelter), 2 – the cup/receptacle, for the collection of the money (often loose change) offered by passersbys, and 3 – the human body. It is to this latter artifact that my attention is mesmerizingly drawn. In these performances, the bodies of the human subjects are intentionally sculpted into living symbols of dread, anguish, and desolation. Physically positioned such that pedestrians are compelled to gaze downward upon them, in part out of necessity to avoid any unfortunate collision that would bring the pedestrian violently, but only momentarily, into the lowered world of concrete, cardboard, and disenfranchised bodies, these bodies are making profound inscriptions on the global urban landscapes. As appalling as it is that economies and social systems in privileged western spaces are experiencing decided levels of failure on several critical fronts to secure the provision of the most basics of human needs (food, shelter, and clothing), the twenty-first century performance culture has brought about intriguing and creative stagings of what I have come to call the art of performing poverty.
They (the they who are the have-nots) are everywhere, uptown, downtown, east side, west side, midtown, the business district, the arts district, the commercial district. They (the have-nots who are visible) are of all ages: young, old (some are children with their guardians), middle aged, ageless. They were almost every one: Black American and/or British, white American and/or British, Latino/a, European, Gypsy, Middle Eastern, Eastern European, East Asian, Southeast Asian and varying mixings. They were gendered, male, female, (and I suppose transgendered), all are sexed.
The cardboard signs with thick black marker writing revealed that: She was pregnant for the first time and homeless, he had lost his mother and only needed money to get to her funeral in Ohio, she would her dog fed first, he just wanted bus fare, she needed money for food, he need money for his daughter, she was just trying to get to the next county, his mother was just diagnosed with cancer, they had been burned out of their home, they had lost their apartment when they lost their jobs, he just need enough find a place to sleep for the night.
The palm of her hands are in a traditional Christian prayer pose and her forearms squeezed together, her forehead rests on her thumbs, her head is positioned downwards and her eyes appear closed, she is on her knees on a piece of cardboard. She is still. Frozen in time and spaces. He is on his hands and knees with his forehead pressed against the cardboard which is on the concrete street beneath him; his body is folded over and one hand cupped at the side of his head. He is captured in a place where time has stood still.
Human bodies in the art of performing poverty make productive use to urban landscapes, producing stillness and pause in the midst of bustling somatic ecology of the urban global. This results in the necessary creative tension and critique essential for igniting social accountability, reflection, and of course, productive audience guilt.
She tucked her head under the brim of her baseball cap so her face and eyes could not be seen, but she could on occasion peer out. Next to her was a dog (one of those small ones)black and copper cuddled inside a sweater (or maybe it was a small throw), which sat on top of a piece of cardboard. The cardboard providing insulation against the cold February concrete of NYC winter. She too sat on a piece of cardboard, with a cardboard sign in front of her: ‘Hungry’. (I believe the ‘cold, homeless, and not particularly having a blast out here’ are implied. As she sat she read a book. It was difficult to see which book. Her pale white fingers covers what evidence of a title would have been possible from the angle with which I stood.
Before, or while, placing two dollars in quarters in her cup, I asked ‘may I take a picture of you? Not your face but arrangement here’. Without hesitation, she said ‘no, but thank you for asking, most people just take without my permission.’ And I could hear the sense of deep violation in her voice, and see it in her demeanor as her shoulders curled forward and her chest receded inside her frame.
At and earlier point in the day, I asked the young man above if I could take his picture. He said ‘sure’. His bold unapologetic demeanor, along with his well packaged belongings may indicate that he has not been at this way of life for very long.