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BOLD NEWSLETTER

SPRING 2022

GREETINGS, BOLD FAM!

It’s been over one month since the BOLD National Gathering, a time when we came together to reenergize our selves through deepening our practice, reaffirming our commitments to Black Mastery, laughing, centering our bodies, cooking delicacies together, and communing around deep and impactful stories that took us to Philadelphia, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. We cherished our time together and brought your full selves into communion.

We’ve also wrapped up 30 days of practice.

Did you complete the 30 days?

How are you feeling, if so?

What changed?

If you did not do it, why not?

Practice is what we are doing every day, and through intentional practice, we can facilitate new ways of being that are more aligned with our values and longings.

Shapeshifting Narratives:

Since the early 20th century, the utopian narratives of Black storytellers have stretched the limits of our reality and helped us imagine more liberated futures. Today, writers and filmmakers like Nnede Okorafor, Ryan Coogler, and Nalo Hopkinson are transporting us to new worlds free of systematic interference and oppression. 

But what does it take for stories like these to shift long-ingrained harmful narratives? Rise Home Stories is a cutting-edge storytelling project that sought out organizers in its mission to change our relationship to land, home, and race. The impactful multimedia project formed in 2018 when a group of multimedia storytellers and housing, land, and racial justice advocates – many of whom knew or had worked together in different capacities – came together in a new way to reimagine the future of Black and Brown communities through transformative storytelling.

From 2018 through 2021, a cohort of about 40 leaders and staff from 18 policy advocacy, activism, and community empowerment organizations participated in RHSP. The cohort comprised longtime organizers, advocates, writers, filmmakers, journalists, game designers, and working in true co-creative relationships. The stories invite us to imagine a world beyond evictions and slumlords, where water and energy are not commodities.”

Supported by a resource team, narrative mentors, technical advisors, and funding from the Ford Foundation, the group of creators and organizers met in a series of intensive workshops over three years, including a retreat facilitated by Working Films – an organization that traditionally leads conversations and trainings with grassroots groups to use non-fiction stories in their strategies for social change.

In this creative cocoon, cohort members specified the harmful narratives they aimed to counter; the alternative vision they wished to promote; the audience they wanted to reach; what they wanted the audience to think, feel, and do; and how they expected to reach their audience. The teams then collaborated with artistic partners. The story threads – exploring dystopian climate futures, place-based stories of gentrification and utopian Black communities – were developed and made real.

Image from MINE by Artist Slothique

In MINE, the sudden disappearance of water – the main life source of a vibrant community – threatens its very survival. Blaze, an intrepid, non-binary teen, has to dig deep to harness the power of the collective to find a cure. Building a community around a supernatural source of water that influences their livelihood, culture and health was one of the many ideas that emerged. After the pandemic broke out, the team made the tactical decision to produce MINE as an animated series, rather than a live-action film, and it was first released virtually at Tribeca Film Festival in June 2020.

The group found common ground in the shared goal of elevating abundance and collective action over scarcity and individualism. “It was a beautiful thing to create a world where there is no police presence,” said Minnesota-based organizer and co-creator of MINE, Minister JaNae Bates. “There’s still harm that happens but how we choose to say this is what we know keeps us safe, this is how we’re going to lean into it…there is a world that is possible when you do that together.”

Photo Credit: Sanford Green

“This was an opportunity to show a world that has been created after all of the toil and the work,” added Bates. 

“MINE reveals that we already have everything we need to make a better world possible right now, should we choose to be brave, be imaginative, and organize our people to make it so,” said Mike Leyba, a MINE co-writer and the Director of Development at City Life / Vida Urbana

For veteran creators like Randall Dottin, a co-writer, co-director and a producer of MINE, the process was invigorating. “It was like cooking a community gumbo…Everybody is putting a little bit of flavor to make it taste really really good.”

Using values-based storytelling to create a fictional story was rewarding, said Dottin. “We made specific decisions so that our value from beginning the project through to the screening of the project would reflect the values that we had. So [a] democratized process was essential.”

MINE is not the only RISE HOME project that intentionally emphasized participation and inclusion, in the same way that Octavia Butler gave Black characters new agency, other films privilege the voice and decision-making power of youth, non-binary, and marginalized Black and brown characters.

 In Alejandria Fights Back!/¡La Lucha de Alejandria!, a bilingual children’s book about a young Afro-Latinx girl battling the gentrification of her neighborhood – release the narratives from the grip of the past. This has helped the project achieve its intended impact and audiences. For example, Siembra NC used a box of Alejandra Fights Back books to raise money to fight eviction of Latinx community from a mobile home park in Greensboro North Carolina. The project also launched a school tour reaching educators across the area in late March.

Solidarity with Stateless

At the BOLD National Gathering in February, attendees were joined by filmmaker and activist Michéle Stephenson and scholar Grace Sanders Johnson for a conversation in parallel with the screening of the feature documentary, Stateless. The conversation highlighted several organizations working with vulnerable Dominicans of Haitian descent and underscored the need for diaspora solidarity. “Statelessness is basically the ultimate violent expression of anti-Black racism because…not only are we already invisible but there is a greater invisibility that is sort of a state sanction in that process,” said Stephenson. She noted that many key organizations, like Reconocido and InCultured Company, are helmed by Black women, following a long trajectory of feminist leadership coming out of the region.

WHAT'S ON YOUR NIGHTSTAND?

We featured Rukia Lumumba of the People’s Advocacy Project on the 4th Episode of How We Breathe! Executive Director of the People’s Advocacy Institute, co-coordinator of the Electoral Justice Project, and campaign co-coordinator of the successful Committee to Elect Chokwe Antar Lumumba for Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, Rukia Lumumba is a transformative justice strategist and human rights advocate. Named a “New Activist” by Essence magazine and an “Emerging Leader” by the Congressional Black Caucus, Rukia works to advance issues and initiatives that elevate the legal, economical, health and educational rights of individuals, families and communities. She is grounded by a deep love for family, building on the legacy of her parents’ Chokwe and Nubia Lumumba.

Becoming Abolitionists was recently released on Penguin Books. In it, Derecka Purnell draws from her experiences as a lawyer, writer, organizer and a student of movements as far as South Africa. Initially skeptical about police abolition, she traces her own journey as an abolitionist and explores important questions about violence, harm reduction and the formation of social movements. Abolition will not happen in one generation, she says – maybe not even in our lifetimes. What will it take for us to stay the course?

Emerging Bay Area documentarian A.K. Shandu has released For Love and Legacy, which follows the journey of two women working to honor the Black Panther Party’s vital place in American history. Dana King, an ex-News Broadcaster, reborn as a Sculptor, nowcasting Black bodies in bronze. Activist Fredrika Newton, widow of Dr. Huey P. Newton, former Black Panther Party member, and Co-Founder/President of the Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation, established to preserve and share the true legacy of the Black Panther Party.