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Art, Cultural Resistance & Transformation

The Beat of 24th and Mission

By Christine Joy Ferrer

If you stand at the corner of 24th and Mission in San Francisco and listen closely you can hear its heart beat. Its rhythm echoes from the windows of Dance Brigade’s Dance Mission Theater (DMT). You hear it in the laughter of children dancing and youth bustling. The beat intensifies as you walk up DMT’s stairs with Japanese Taiko drumming and the colorful rhythms of dances from the African Diaspora: Cuban, Haitian, Brazilian, West African. Or maybe, it’s that Vogue and Tone.

Various communities overlap inter-culturally and inter-generationally in this space—drawn together by performances, festivals, and dance that’s accessible to everyone. People hang out in the halls or enjoy the Mission’s warmth on the fire escape. Even when classes have ended for the evening, their brilliant fire stays lit during the booming late night rehearsals of Ramón Ramos Alayo’s Alayo Dance Company or Allan Frias’ Mind Over Matter.

In the interviews on the following pages, DMT’s Krissy Keefer, artistic director of Dance Brigade and Grrrl Brigade, and Stella Adelman, theater/adult program manager, voice their opinions about the current social and economic conditions in San Francisco’s Mission district and DMT’s commitment to its vibrant community at the intersection of arts and politics.

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Claiming Our Voice Panel Discussion

Panelists and organizers at the screening of the film Claiming Our Voice

“We have women power, people power, but we don’t have paper power.” Gulnahar Alam
 
“Unfortunately, the way the non-profit system is set up is that it does not affirm working class leadership, and I think that’s something that we have to really think about and reflect upon.”
Yalini Dream

Claiming Our Voice Panel Discussion and film screening with Gulnahar Alam (lead organizer and founder of Andolan: Organizing South Asian Workers), Jennifer Pritheeva Samuel (filmmaker & director of Claiming our Voice), YaliniDream (performance artist featured in the film) and Sheila Bapat (author of Part of the Family? Nannies, Housekeepers, Caregivers and the Struggle for Domestic Workers' Rights) offer remarks on domestic workers' rights. Learn about the challenges and successes of South Asian worker organizing efforts in the United States. The discussion is moderated by Preeti Mangala Shekar. This event was co-sponsored by Reimagine Race, Poverty and the Environment and ASATA (Alliance of South Asians Taking Action) and held at Oakstop Coworking in the heart of downtown Oakland.

Interview with Krissy Keefer, DMT Artistic Director of Dance Brigade and Grrrl Brigade

Dance Mission Theater's Krissy Keefer voices her opinions and concerns about the current social and economic conditions in San Francisco’s Mission district and DMT’s commitment to its vibrant community at the intersection of arts and politics.

Interview with Krissy Keefer

Christine Joy Ferrer: Tell me a little bit about who you are, and your role at Dance Brigade’s Dance Mission Theater.

Krissy Keefer: I am an artist, an activist, and a mother. I’ve been running Dance Mission since 1998, but I’ve been an artist my entire adult life. A group of women [and I] formed the Wallflower Order Dance Collective in Eugene, Oregon and performed all over the United States, Europe, Latin America, and Canada doing very bold feminist dance theater. That’s a 40-year career at this point. I’ve been creating social justice art for nearly all of my adult life. I run Dance Mission with those principles and out of a strong feminist belief about equity and fairness and multiculturalism. I really try to dig into the hearts and minds of struggling people everywhere in order to create the kind of art I make.

Eyes Opened: My Exit Review



About five years ago, more than anything, I wanted to be a journalist who truly represented the voice of the people. A job at a corporate, mainstream publication never appealed to me. Today, I’m honored to have worked as the web and design editor for Race, Poverty & the Environment, a journal that has mirrored my passion for a myriad of issues in the realm of social and environmental justice. And it’s also great being able to say, I worked for Urban Habitat, “an organization that builds power in low-income communities and communities of color.“

But for 2013, I want to do more. It was Grace Lee Boggs that said, ”How we change the world and how we think about changing the world has to change.”

Reflections of Activistas

Excerpted here are the voices of young activistas who redefine what it means to be part of the new majority as women of color.

We Are the Ones We’ve Been Waiting For
Activistas from the New Majority
By Christine Joy Ferrer

At the Empowering Women of Color conference in March this year, I was moved to hear Grace Lee Boggs, in an open dialogue with Angela Davis, say that we must re-imagine everything; change how we think, what we do, to re-invent our society and institutions in order for revolution to happen. And as I listened to female MC and rapper Rocky Rivera give short glimpses into the revolutionary lives of three iconic women activists—Gabriela Silang, Dolores Huerta, and Angela Davis—in the 16 bars of “Heart,” I wondered who would be our next movement builders.

According to a report from United for a Fair Economy—“State of the Dream 2012, the Emerging Majority”—by the year 2030, a majority of U.S. residents under 18 will be youth of color. By 2042, blacks, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, and other non-whites will collectively comprise a majority of the U.S. population. But numbers alone are not enough to shift the political and economic landscape if income and wealth remain overwhelmingly in the hands of a small group of whites. Although there have been many social and economic gains made for all races since the Civil Rights Movement, people of color continue to be left behind. The stark disparities that exist today in wealth, income, education, employment, poverty, incarceration, and health are the remnants of hundreds of years of racial oppression. To create a new world, we must sever the connection between race and poverty.

Excerpted here are the voices of young activistas who redefine what it means to be part of the new majority as women of color. They have chosen to confront the challenges plaguing their communities and build to eradicate institutionalized confines, while engaging in the struggle for social, economic and environmental justice. In their fight for liberation, they embody that famous quote from African American poet June Jordan: “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”

Angela Davis

“It is important to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world." - Angela Davis

I have had the opportunity to visit four Occupy sites: one in Philadelphia, two in New York,  and one in Oakland. There’s an enormous amount of energy. There’s an enormous amount of excitement. It’s quite different from the way we are accustomed to building separate movements and then finding ways to create what we generally call coalitions and alliances. And while the [slogan “We are the] 99%” is a fiction, it’s a fiction that is useful, and it is one that we should take up and re-craft. My message to all of the Occupy sites is that it is important that this 99% slogan is inclusive from the outset—that we have to be aware of the extent to which it is shot through by  racial difference and economic difference.

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The Oakland Renaissance: A Blessing for Some

In February 4 this year, a long-dormant block on Oakland’s 14th Street came alive as throngs of people—newly-elected Mayor Jean Quan and City Councilmember Desley Brooks among them—flowed out the doors at the Joyce Gordon Gallery for the opening reception of “Aerosoul 2,” a Black History Month event honoring African American urban calligraphers and style writers (otherwise known as graffiti artists).

Down the street, another gallery owned by Gordon was showing blown glass art by Aziz Diagne and further down, the recently reopened Events Center was holding a live rehearsal by the youth group, Pop Lyfe.

At the same time, just over a mile away, members of Oakland’s international street dance phenomenon, Turf Feinz, were wowing astonished crowds with gravity-defying moves at the Oakland Museum. And in the Uptown district, a large crowd had gathered to view a 100x100 foot projection installation known as the Great Wall of Oakland. Just south of that, public art and music performances, gallery openings, and burlesque shows were engaging hundreds at Oakland’s monthly Art Murmur.

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