As I strolled through the streets yesterday I could feel the city awakening. Dancers are back out in the public squares, bright colors adorn the most stylish people, long lines have returned to the street vendor’s carts. It’s good to feel us collectively shake off the remnants of winter, and welcome a new season of rebirth and renewal.
I welcome this opportunity to share a little bit about what’s been blossoming in my world over the past couple of months. If you would like to learn more about anything you read below, feel free to reach out via my website: www.shanijamila.com. I hope you’ll also let me know what projects have been making you happy, I look forward to finding ways to support each other.
Walk good family,
Art and Activism
I interviewed two luminaries of the art world for the February 2014 issue of the Harlem Fine Arts Show magazine, a publication that focuses on contemporary African diasporic art. The magazine, edited by the brilliant Khephra Burns, is distributed as an insert in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.
I really enjoyed talking with art collector Tina Knowles for HFAS. Well known as the mother of Beyonce and Solange, in addition to her work as a clothing designer for Destiny’s Child and the House of Dereon, Knowles has another passion that fewer people are aware of. She deeply believes in the need to preserve African American culture and history. “We are everything we are because of the people who came before us and fought to have us where we are now,” she explains. Knowles has an impressive breadth of knowledge about the artists whose work she acquires, including masters like Henry Ossawa Tanner, Jacob Lawrence, Elizabeth Catlett and Romare Bearden.
Dr. Lee Gause was my next subject. The founder of Smile Design Manhattan, a private dental practice he runs with his brother Alexandre, Gause has devised an innovative solution to provide free care for patients who ordinarily couldn’t afford his services. “We bring amazing people into a room and sell them something they love, which is art. We use the proceeds to provide free dentistry,” he explains. Thanks to this innovative effort, approximately five hundred uninsured and underinsured people have been able to receive treatment.
A month or so later, the tables were turned and I became the interviewee for YES World, a non profit that “connects, inspires and collaborates with changemakers to join forces for thriving, just and sustainable ways of life for all.” Check out the previous blog post to read the transcript of that conversation.
Public Speaking + Publications
This month I had the opportunity to travel down to Charlotte, NC to deliver a keynote address at Johnson C. Smith University. What a joy it was to talk with the students about my career path and global travels, and to share stories about the rich history of artists and social change with the audience. To check out a picture and learn more, read the news article one of the students wrote about the event.
I was happy to return as a presenter at the annual Women of Power conference sponsored by the Center for Caribbean Culture African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI). I served as a moderator for a panel called Ancient Seeds: The Art of New Vision. As stated on their website: “This discussion gives platform to contemporary trailblazers in various stages of emergence on to the creative landscape. Using their work and experiences as touch points, they share their insights as to the opportunities and challenges in creating new work, new processes of production, and their personal sciences for remembering tomorrow.” Extraordinary artists from New York to Nairobi joined us for this discussion, including Sabine Blazin, Manueal Arciniegas and Erica Sewell.
During this period I also moderated a panel on police reform in Chelsea and spoke about the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Arise Review, a broadcast hosted by Julian Phillips, that analyzes global finance, politics and development issues.
Finally, I’m happy to announce that the sixth annual Council Watch report, a publication I edited, was released just last week. The report card is a tool for education and action, designed to advance the use of a human rights framework in policy and advocacy. It also measures the commitment of the NYC council of promoting human rights in our city. There have been several articles printed about it, click here for coverage from The Amsterdam News. You can peek inside and order a copy by making a tax deductible donation to the Human Rights Project at the Urban Justice Center.
The next big news starts tomorrow! From April 2nd – 4th, I will be leading the Human Rights Project at the Urban Justice Center’s ninth annual human rights institute. We are pleased to have the co-sponsorship of the US Human Rights Network in this endeavor. The institute promotes good governance and social change by training a select group of participants from around the country to strengthen their local advocacy efforts by using a human rights frame. Alumni become part of a nationwide community of human rights advocates and have access to ongoing human rights education, technical support and dialogue. I’m really excited about welcoming everyone to town and look forward to sharing highlights about it with you in my next newsletter.