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Citizen Journalists From Living Classroom- Andrea Jenkins

Andrea Jenkins is an Award winning poet and writer. In 2010, Andrea received the Verve Grant for Spoken Word Artists and The Naked Stages Grant for Emerging Performance Artists. She is a Givens Foundation Fellow, and worked with Amiri Baraka and J. Otis Powell! She has won the Loft Mentor Series in 2002 and the […]

Andrea Jenkins is an Award winning poet and writer. In 2010, Andrea received the Verve Grant for Spoken Word Artists and The Naked Stages Grant for Emerging Performance Artists. She is a Givens Foundation Fellow, and worked with Amiri Baraka and J. Otis Powell! She has won the Loft Mentor Series in 2002 and the Napa Valley Writers Conference scholarship in 2003. Andrea earned her Masters of Science, Community Economic Development –Southern New Hampshire University, Manchester, New Hampshire, a Certificate, University of St. Thomas, Community Leadership Institute, and Bachelors of Science, Human Services / Interpersonal Communications – Metropolitan State University and has a MFA in Creative Writing at Hamline University. Andrea has self-published a chapbook of poems called “tributaries: poems celebrating black history.” Her upcoming self-published collection will be called Pieces of a Scream: New and Selected Poems. She currently is co-curator of the Queer Voices Reading Series at Intermedia Arts. Andrea works as a Senior Policy Aide to City Councilmember Elizabeth Glidden and lives in Minneapolis.

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Just a Note

On a week that was enlivening, enticing and environmental. I’m talking about the Living Classroom- Artist-In- (more than just) Residence- with Marc Bamuthi Joseph who came to town to explore the question: “What Sustains Life in Your Community?” As my role as a citizen journalist I set out to answer this question by participating in a week of activities that were created and organized by the Walker Art Center, Juxtaposition Arts and Leah Nelson.

It was a week of artists teaching other artists (and non-artists) about their craft or in the case of most of the artists involved about the other crafts that they are equally as passionate about but much less known for.

At Juxtaposition Arts, photo by Bethanie Hines

The week started out for me at a dinner hosted by the Walker Art Center on Monday night, that brought together national and international artists with local artists, educators and arts administrators. We had a blast dining outdoors, soaking up the late evening sun, sharing our stories and getting to know everybody.

Leah Nelson, Movement Artist and community organizer put together an amazing workshop at Juxtaposition Arts that invited various artists to come together, share work on video and then workshop each piece in a loving, supportive and creative environment. Folks shared ideas, offered resources and insights on how each piece might become better. Bamuthi was there and he give insights on how to extend and expand the life of a singular performance through Facebook, You Tube and other social media. He said that writing into your budget for the next grant application, $500.00-$1,500 for a good videographer will yield invaluable dividends because you can now post your work on the web and who knows who might be moved? That little bit of information was worth the price of admission for me and it was only Tuesday; the week had just begun.

On Wednesday, I attended a workshop session at Kulture Klub which is a arts-based program for Queer and non-Queer identified youth that houses at YouthLink in Minneapolis. They invited nationally acclaimed place-based artist Rick Lowe, who developed the Row House Project based on the visual artist of Dr. John Biggers; in Houston’s Third Ward. He demonstrated for the youth how art – connected with community development can have a profound and dramatic impact on the health and well-being of a community. The young people were fascinated by his presentation and eager to share their own projects, which included a photographer that used his lens to juxtapose the sterile beauty of the Minneapolis skyline with the gritty route he takes from his home just outside of downtown. Another youth showed a video of the community garden she and her neighbors (tenants at Archdale Apartments for formerly homeless youth) created to grow flowers, vegetables and provide peace and serenity from the outside world. Deanna Cummings talked to the youth about Juxtaposition Arts and the job opportunities they provide and Shanai Mattson and Colin Kloecker of Works Progress talked about their Give and Take program they use to provide a platform for community members to learn, share, with and from each other. The most fascinating thing about this day was the connection with well established artists and community leaders with adults that looked like them! (Coda:Black)

Roger Cummings (Juxtaposition Arts) expertly paints a canvas bag with Kulture Klub, photo by Bethanie Hines

Thursday was the big day, however! A full day of activities at the Walker, I was a little concerned about my ability to hang for the whole time, but I showed up and they worked it in, (like Tony, Toni, Ton-e they did it again, “and it feels good, yeah, it feels good…) oops! sorry, got off on a little loop there. So, remember when I said at the beginning of the piece how some of these artist were working in genres that they are not normally known for? Well, the talented tongued, Spoken Word Artist, Hip Hop Activist Desdemona was putting on a Community Collage workshop- hold up let’s stop here for a minute. Check it, 4L’s, 3E’s you got 3C’s, and 2O’s…that’s a lot of consonants, right? The not so sexy part of the alphabet, the vowels get all the love but the consonants hold the language together. And that’s the whole idea of it all-

Collective:to come together, to make one out of many, a joint process.

Collage: the art of coming together to one out of many, a joint process.

Ping Pong with Wing Young Huie. Photo by Bethanie Hines.

Okay, lets move on for now, but we’ll come back to this in a minute. So you had Wing Young Huie, nationally renown photographer, took over Level 8 with Karaoke, Ping Pong and yeah he showed a few of his photos too, but what a concept, something that everybody can do and it makes you laugh and smile. Something about those activities just bring people together. Kinda like the Dominos session that Rick Lowe led under a tent in the broad light of day, where people just sat around discussing thoughts on healthy living and communities.

I checked out the video produced by Line Break Media and Spoken Word Artist Tish Jones, called Voices on Sustainability, the video featured youth from North Minneapolis speaking candidly about their community after the tornados in May, 2011 ripped their lives and community apart. It was a stirring display of resilience and courage in the face of adversity that highlighted the creativity and brilliance of the people who live on the margins of life.

Whew, getting tired yet? No?

Good, because we’re only half way through. I went to Story Circle with Theatre artists Leah Cooper and Anton Jones, and

The Story Circle with Anton Jones. Photo by Amanda Spencer.

was introduced to a part of the Open Field that I’d never discovered, the Pescher Sky Room; a little alcove tucked under a bream, with a skylight cut through the top. And we sat there and told stories:

Going ‘Round in Story Circles

Sticky is the rice in New Orleans

Sauteed onions & garlic

Goat cheese, cayenne pepper

Gumbo

and Pancakes w/ Chocolate Chips and Mickey Mouse

Ears – Shrimp and Pasta,

We had fried shrimp, boiled shrimp, broiled shrimp, and shrimp and grits

I like the not so crisp lettuce

goes right in the soup

What Sustains Community?

It’s like Billie Holiday

-thread this needle

-what do they mean

look out

come together

a better world

When it goes like so

You know you gotta

Go with the flow- (we love you Sekou)

How you would tap your

Chest two times with your fist

Before you Peace Out (Y)

We got needles!

Sticky needles

Strictly needles

need-the needle

So back to the Community Collage, right? So Desdemona displays all the collages created during the day as the set for the performance of Marc Bamuthi Joseph (he gave the audience a sneak peek of rbGb-Life is Living, a full-length multi-media performance piece that will open in San Francisco and tour the country, dropping in on Minneapolis (at the Walker, no doubt) in the Spring 2012; and it hit me, all of my artist peeps sustain me in this crazy, mixed up world we live in. Marlina Gonzalez, Tish Jones, Bill Cottman, Kenna Cottman, Deja Stowers, Zenzele Isoke, Deanna and Roger Cummings, Desdemona, Wing Young Huie,Seitu Jones, Ta-Coumba Aiken, Elenor Savage, James Williams, Nicole Smith, Kevin “Kaos” Moore, e.g. bailey and Sha Cage, T. Mychael Rambo, Harry Waters, Jr., Molly Van Avery, Christina Ham, Julie Bates, Theresa Sweetland, Lou Bellamy, Mankwe Ndosi, Mire Regulus, J. Otis Powell, Amiri Baraka, Wang Ping, Cornelius Eady, Natasha Tretheway, Quincy Troupe, Marcus Young, Nate Young, Roderic “Hernub” Southall, Camille Gage, Heidi Barton Stink, May Lee Yang, Sun Mee Chomet, Sun Yung Shin, Major Jackson, John Medeiros, Noel Raymond, Heather Doyle. Man, I could keep this going for all day long, but you get the picture. So at the end of my little 3-day stay-cation in my own city I came to this conclusion.

WE SUSTAIN LIFE IN OUR COMMUNITIES, IT IS OUR RELATIONSHIPS THAT MAKE IT WORTH OUR WHILE. Through our connections with large institutions and small grassroots organizations, we create the ecosystem that constantly replenishes us and keeps this planet safe to live on, cause if we don’t we’ll be left with this bleak admonitionfrom Bamuthi that goes like this.

excerpts from early writing red, black and GREEN: a blues

Let me tell you about Georgia red clay

Iron oxide based

Betrays centuries of blacktop in regress

A clear indication of the universe’s fetish for fingerpaint

Beneath your fingers it melts like warm of a woman in the heat of undress

Burnt dreams and soft yams red

Santana black magic sienna Hendrix hallucination red

So different from the gumbo dark delta soil

Georgia’s clay is the earth I first honored

Muddy water turned firm

And blushing…

I’m a city kid

In Atlanta I learned land

My sister calls them my shepherd years

Georgia red clay

Black people deep south

A young man, I was green…

. . .

In the end

The earth has her justice

What will we do when there’s nothing left to eat but money and regret

And the fungus and the stench of a bitter future black bagging us in the night for

The right to breathe clean air?

Maybe instead of rain they’re Begging the skies to release Mumia

Praying justice roll down like thunder

Apocalypse in the midst in the misting

In the hunger

Deliver us

Let faith settle under our feet secure in its foundation like red clay

Soft in its surrender like the earth under rain

Under god

Indivisible

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The Education & Community Programs department is asked a handful of talented writers and artistic interpreters from distinct perspectives to serve as Citizen Journalists and correspondents for the Living Classroom, with a focus on generating community-centric documentation of the event. We sought individuals from distinct perspectives — people interested and grounded in communities facing the issues at hand. Sonja Kuftinec, Associate Professor of Theatre at the University of Minnesota, and an organizer for the Imagining America conference happening in Minneapolis September 22-24, provided recommendations, with final selection by Associate Director of Public & Interpretive Programs Susy Bielak and Open Field Coordinator Scott Artley.