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With our new home in Bedford-Stuyvesant we are exploring many new programs and projects while some of our older community partnerships continue to grow.  We  returned to CS21 The Crispus Attucks School, for our fifth year, where we provide an after school version of our rites/rights of passage program two days a week for fourth and fifth grade girls.


Learning How to Create Together

In our new space we offer monthly open mics, community sings and community dinners.  We are collaborating partners with Nioka Workman’s Firey Strings Ensemble, Clifton Anderson’s Quartet, the Arts & Education Continuum and Feel the Music to present Music for the People at Bailey’s Cafe. “Let’s bring the community together through music.”  Check out https://musicforthepeoplenyc.com for a full description of classes, workshops and scheduling.  For little ones, ages 2.5 to 5, preschoolrock offers their special Saturday morning sessions in movement, music and visual arts.  Learn more at preschoolrock.org

Violin Lesson, Music for the People

Violin Lesson, Music for the People

Inter-generational Projects and Programs

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Weaving hands: Rites/Rights of Passage Program Summer 2015

Except for our school-based programs, all of our community-based programs are open to all ages.  We continue to explore ways to bring the generations together, to break down stereotypes held by both groups about the other and to initiate opportunities for positive, reciprocal relationship building.  For example, this past summer we formed a partnership with Weaving Hand, weavinghand.org bringing the ancient craft of loom weaving to the girls participating in our summer Rites/Rights of Passage Program; next year we plan to make Weaving Our Stories; Weaving Our Lives an inter-generational activity, including mothers and daughters, grandmothers and granddaughters and other older women eager to learn the craft and share their story and wisdom.

Rites/Rights of Passage Programs

Since summer 2013, we have been developing our own version of rites of passage.  The concept behind our program is simply that we are changing all the time and there isn’t one set age when we become a man or a woman but our individual transformations and growth are happening all the time.  The more intentional about these changes the better we will know ourselves, the more likely we are to find our purpose and to lead productive, creative lives and to build stronger, more empowered, resilient communities.  We use both spellings of the word:  rites and rights to indicate that knowing our rights as individuals whether it is finding a boundary with a friend or addressing an authority they are as important to who we are as the rituals we create to celebrate our daily life and all the special occasions.

Discussion Session, Summer 2015

Discussion Session, Summer 2015

Community Performance Project

As Quiet As It’s Kept (AQAIK), a performance piece based on the stories of veterans of color and their role in a changing community, is created with and within Bedford-Stuyvesant Brooklyn, examining home, community and honor while expressing hopes for belonging in a rapidly changing neighborhood. Set in 1967 and 2017, AQAIK explores the stories of community members who leave to become veterans and those who stay and the changes that occur inside and all around them.

AQAIK is being generated through a collaborative process with artists from various genres – visual (Robyn Twomey), music (Michael Hill, DJ Reborn), theater (Zoe Flowers, Anna Pond), dance (Kadeem Alston Roman), under the artistic direction of Monica L. Williams.

The artists examine thoughts, feelings, perspectives gathered from local black veterans of war and veterans of the Bed Stuy community through interviews, community conversations and research. In a rigorous rehearsal process, artists work across genres to explore time and space, place and belonging through movement and sound, dialogue and internal monologue, through play-writing and poetry and by interpreting real life community members lives in a make-believe world. Each artist develops his/her own performance installation that can be experienced in isolation as well as together in a ‘concert’ of one, much like the opinions and lives of each person in the community. The first installation of the work will take place at Bailey’s Cafe Veterans Day weekend, November 10-12, 2017.

AQAIK was initially based on a long-term relationship between Bailey’s Cafe and the Black Veterans for Social Justice. After collecting hours of conversation with the veterans and holding interactive workshops between the veterans and youth led by Mo Beasley and Kadeem Alston Roman, we extracted themes and questions from the stories and brought them to the community to deepen the exploration and the connections between veterans of war and veterans on the home front. We are examining the words ‘warrior’ and ‘warriorism’ or the willingness to stand up for a belief regardless of the odds that also manifests as a spirit of daring or challenging expected behavior, both intellectually, creatively and physically. Other themes are: holding your/our own; being of service and returning home.

Over the past year we have been exploring these themes in our after school program with fourth and fifth grade girls at CS21, which has added another layer of meaning to the themes. We will be exploring them again this summer with the youth participating in our summer program.

The reality of gentrification, racism and poverty that surround Bailey’s are a backdrop for the community engagements. These issues, always present in the room, became the frame as we looked at the idea of community: how we enter “communities” that are not our own but that we want to be part of—the complex role of the gentrifier and his/her relationship to the other and the intricate exchange between the individual and the larger whole.

AQAIK, along with other projects has unearthed lessons learned and promising practices for the organization. To capture these lessons, we will create a Community-Based Art Template that will map out replicable steps to develop and produce art for, by, about and with a specific community. his template will contribute to the place-based arts conversation occurring nationwide