Day 16: Activism Artistry
Exodus 31:1-7 “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts. Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also, I have given ability to all the skilled workers to make everything I have commanded you.
I am a woman/And 'though my presence commands power/You've forgotten to respect me/My voice, silenced repeatedly/My hands, paid less for the same work/My dignity, dragged into a court/To remind a father of his duty.
I am a suffering woman/My womb is hemorrhaging..../It carries/But,/my babies are dying before they breathe their first breaths/
and if they breathe/their brains suffer imbalances
and if they breathe/they're robbed of adequate education
and if they breathe/they're being murdered in the streets/or caged for multiple lifetimes/charged with first degree desperation and wanting to eat.
I am a fearless woman/birthing courage/to take back communities
From the grip of/Homelessness/Poverty/Health inequities/Food insecurity/Unemployment
My nurturing arms leave no one behind/No cede malis--I do no harm.
I am an intelligent woman/with my street cred and degrees/
im teaching generations the lessons not learned in their history books/planting seeds of self-esteem/that remind them/they're from royalty/planting seeds of empowerment/that remind them/they are royalty.
I am an activist woman/blowing whistles on deplorable housing conditions in shelters/
advocating for vulnerable populations/exposing corrupt landlords/complaining for illiterate souls/who have yet to master their voices.
I am a healing woman/A Cuban-trained doctor/whose revolutionary hugs and kisses make every wound/miraculously disappear/my back holds up the world/and never breaks/my home-made herbal potions kill ALL plaguing diseases/my tongues' venom annihilates
any enemy/even in my shadow/'cause i'm bad like that.
I am a dreaming woman/seeing the waters of a South Bronx waterfront/purging the shame of/decades of industrialized, air pollution/that sickens my people/possessing empty land
to build a H.E.Art/of holistic wellness in the center of my community/taking the stand
of my comrades (the Black Panthers and Young Lords)/By ANY MEANS NECESSARY
I am a conquering woman/a special needs mother/who's amazing just by that very fact.
six times/I've seen death knock for my child's life/only finding TKOs waiting/on the other side of the door/Nothing and no one is taking my stuff.
I am a woman/Dr. Melissa Barber's the name..
Happy Sixteenth Day of Thank Everyone!
Today, we give thanks for activism artistry. The highest form of praise to God is to live in one’s purpose. I love it when I see or hear an artist (and everyone is an artist) use his or her skills to create something beautiful, speak truth to power, ignite a revolutionary movement, and build community.
This summer, two local community organizations kicked off a series of events called Garden Rumba, where in local community gardens throughout the Bronx, the organizations invited local artist to dance, sing, play instruments, and act as well as local activist to share the work that they were doing in their communities. It was the perfect intertwining of artistry with activist movement progression.
I was an “underdog” guest invited to Garden Rumba because my colleague, who was originally invited could not show up due to an untimely family crisis situation. My colleague told the coordinator to ask me if I could be the spotlight activist for the event in his stead. However, the coordinator didn’t readily ask me. He bypassed me to ask another of my male colleagues. (I have my side-eye raised!) The second colleague directed the coordinator back to me as well, telling him that I would be the perfect choice. I guess, after receiving his second rejection, the coordinator reluctantly called me and asked if I would showcase my organization’s work at the next scheduled Garden Rumba. When he called, I was on a work zoom call so I couldn’t answer. Nervous about not having an activist available for the event, the coordinator called someone else and asked if they would present at the event. When I called the coordinator back to tell him that I’d be at the event, he told me that he had already found someone else. (Rejected! Yes, talk about an underdog experience for real!) Though, all was not a loss. The coordinator asked if I’d be willing to be the activist for their next Garden Rumba event. I agreed.
Given the details of the event and the level of artistry taking place, I thought it would be the perfect time to show off my skills too. I wasn’t just one-dimensional. Like Bezalal in our scripture reading, God has gifted me in many areas of wisdom, understanding and knowledge with many crafts. I was an activist but also a skilled artist (writer, singer, crafter, etc.) and decided that I’d used my artistry to tell the story of my activism. I wrote a poem to share during the event.
On the day of the event, Lilah and I showed up to the community garden two minutes after our allotted time, but discovered that the organizers were way behind schedule. All of the artists had photo shoots and were interviewed on camera. I got none of that. I was told that I could sit anywhere in the garden and that they may be able to get to me. (Dissed again! but it was okay.) Most local activists, although doing big and great things for his/her community, get played like a ball and given no real time of day. I was given the itinerary of the event and told after which artist I would go. I was also told that the host for the event would introduce me when it was my time to take the mic.
The event was beautiful. The dancing, singing and spoken word that came before my time at the mic prepared the way for my flare. I got on the mic and said, “when I was asked to do this event, I was told that I would be the highlighted activist to share for the day. Since I’m not going to let all these artists have fun without me and I happen to write poetry as well, I’m going to bring all of me to the stage and read my poem about my activism and then further explain my work. Is that alright?” The crowd gave me permission and I gladly “spit my rhyme” of spoken word and wooed the crowd. I got standing ovations and cheers for my poem. Then I began to share my organization’s work, which was also well received by the crowd. Several members of the audience gave me their cards because they wanted to network with me. That coordinator who bypassed me three times, stood amazed and said “I totally did not expect you!” My reply was, “most people don’t.” I had so much fun; I love sharing my work to anyone that would receive it. I also like being mistaken as an underdog from time to time because I always pack a huge punch, like a quiet storm never expected.
Today as we give thanks for Activism Artistry, I invite you to donate your time and resources to one of my favorite organizations of all times, South Bronx Unite (https://afgj.salsalabs.org/southbronxunite/index.html). Since its inception in 2012, its co-founders have done coalition building in the South Bronx to protest against environmental, economic, health, housing, police and other social injustices while fighting for equity throughout all of these same themes within the Mott Haven-Port Morris section of the South Bronx. We are currently fighting to build the South Bronx a Waterfront (check out the Mott Haven-Port Morris Waterfront plan on our website, www.southbronxunite.org), and reclaim an abandoned building in our community to make it a one-stop shop community wellness center, H.E.Arts, that will have a three pillar focus of health, education, and the arts.
Have a Great Day of Thanks!