Monday, July 23, 2012

How does New Orleans relate to "From the Field to the Table?"

For those of you who are wondering what I am doing in New Orleans with the Urban Bush Women Summer Leadership Institute this blog should give you some ideas, check out the "about" section. I am here, with TDPS dance faculty member Amara Tabor-Smith (former UBW member and Associate Director of the company) to work through the UBW process of community engagement. UBW has been leading Summer Leadership Institutes since 1997. Read more here: Part of what we are doing is preparing for the TDPS project "From the Field to the Table," but I am also here to deepen my art making practices and my work within the University.

So, we have now been in New Orleans for 2.5 days working with the Urban Bush Women Summer Leadership Institute. It has been an amazing so far! On 7/20, the first day of the Institute there were heavy rains which made it difficult to get across the Tulane University campus, where the Institute is being held, but I did make it to the opening event which was full of introductions, stories, singing, and performance.

On July 21st we started off the day with movement and song and then we visited the Tekrema Arts Center located in the Lower 9th Ward, located near the area that was the most impacted by the flooding during Katrina. This vibrant and alive institution is a community partner with the UBW Summer Leadership Institute. At the end of our 10 days collaborating together we will perform a site specific piece within the Tekrema Arts Center utilizing the research and ideas that we have gathered. The day ended with an inspiring dinner at the Golden Feather Mardi Gras Indian Restaurant Gallery featuring traditional Louisiana style dishes. After dinner Mardi Gras Indian Chief Shaka Zulu, and founder of the Golden Feather, shared Mardi Gras Indian and New Orleans history and stories. Later we danced to traditional Mardi Gras Indian music until sweat poured down our faces. It was a day never to be forgotten.

On July 22nd was another rich and full day that began with movement practices and community making. We then experienced the first day of a workshop entitled "Undoing Racism," which was led by People's Institute for Survival and Beyond co-Founder Ron Chisom and Dr. Kimberly Richards. The workshop was so enlightening and so full of new and inspiring ideas I cannot wait to share what I have learned and put into practice what I have learned too! We have one more day of that workshop tomorrow and I really cannot wait to see where the conversation goes. Later that night we had a cultural exchange. Each participant in the project spoke about a personal story and shared an object that was placed on an offering table. The people participating have so much to share about their lives, their ancestors, their histories, and about being alive in the world. It was a moving night to say the least.

Tomorrow is going to be a very full day. I am up way too late! We will attend the "Second Line" for the famous New Orleans musician 'Uncle' Lionel Batiste. There will be hundreds if not thousands of people marching in the second line. I am excited to experience this once in a lifetime event. Uncle Lionel was a very special and revered figure within New Orleans. I am also excited to learn more about New Orleans and the fertile, painful, and beautiful history that lives in this place.

"Place Matters," One of the six Urban Bush Women Core Values

Signing off,

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