Happy summer y’all! I hope you’ve all been enjoying the season. For me, this time of year has been packed full of trips and activities as you’ll see below.
Art and Activism
This June I traveled to Montreal to co-facilitate a teach-in and participate in a workgroup at the Encuentro IX conference, sponsored by New York University’s Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics. During this bi-annual convening, a community of artists and scholars from countries throughout the western hemisphere gather together for a week of activities. It was a great opportunity to share some thoughts about my career in the arts, community and human rights. I also really enjoyed being able to show some images and receive feedback about a burgeoning artistic project. Finally, the timing was divine as it allowed us to attend the Montreal Jazz Festival! I got to photograph and catch concerts by Angelique Kidjo and Cody Chesnutt, amongst others.
In May, I moderated two panels for Dancing While Black– at the Bronx Academy for the Arts and Dance (5/30) and at the 5 Myles Gallery in Brooklyn (5/3). The latter was held in collaboration with the Museum for the Contemporary Arts of the African Diaspora (MoCADA). I was joined by an array of dancers brought together by organizer Paloma McGregor, and panelists Greg Tate, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Aimee Merideth Cox, Ebony Noelle Golden, Sydnie Mosley, Amanda Reid, Ali Rosa-Salas and Gesiye Souza-Okpofabri.
Finally, I am pleased to announce that I am a newly minted Ford Foundation Public Voices Fellow with the Op-Ed Project. To start it off, I recently launched a new blog for the Huffington Post! My first piece was published last week, it’s called Creative Resistance: A Study of the Free Southern Theater. Please take a moment to check out this undertold history of the role of the arts in social change, grounded by the story of how my uncle John O’Neal co-founded this theater fifty years ago during Freedom Summer.
Public Speaking + Public Service
As I wrote my last update to you, I was preparing to lead the ninth annual human rights institute– an intensive three day training opportunity for social justice advocates. This initiative of the Human Rights Project (HRP), which is co-sponsored by the US Human Rights Network, happened from April 2-4 of this year.
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 advocates and have access to ongoing education, technical support, and dialogue. This year, the cohort participated in the launch of our annual New York City Council report card with past and present NYC council members including Letitia James, Ydanis Rodriguez, Charles Barron and more. To learn more about the 2014 fellows and facilitators, click here.
In the months since, HRP launched a new website that we debuted at a dessert party on June 11th in Brooklyn.
In other news, I’m pleased to have joined over 1000 women in signing on to the letter urging gender inclusivity in the president’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative. I encourage you to check out the statement we issued and offer your support to this movement.
Finally, it was an honor to moderate a panel on the legacy of Henrietta Lacks at the Brooklyn Public Library in May. As senior librarian Taneya Gethers-Muhammed phrased it, “In 1951, Lacks would launch the era of modern science and medicine when her cells were unknowingly removed from her body during a biopsy and used to create the HeLa cell line–the first human cells to thrive and grow in a laboratory. Her cells would be used to develop the Polio vaccine, in-vitro fertilization techniques, and the modern field of virology.” Our topic was Science: An Ethical & Cultural Responsibility.