Other Programming

  • Special Projects: As Quiet As It’s Kept

    Bailey’s Café and producing artistic director, Monica L. Williams in collaboration with artists Zoe Flowers, Michael Hill, Anna Pond, DJ Reborn, Kadeem Alston Roman and Robyn Twomey presents As Quiet As It’s Kept (AQAIK), a series of multi-discipline performance installations based on the stories of Black Veterans and long-time residents of Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn examining home, community and honor while expressing hopes for belonging in a rapidly changing neighborhood. This request is to support the next phase of our multi-discipline production As Quiet As It's Kept (AQAIK), a work in progress that spans a period of development from 2013 to the present. The title and seed for the project grew out of Bailey's Cafe's longtime relationship, going back to 2007, with Black Veterans for Social Justice and, in particular, with one Vietnam veteran, Herbert Sweat. The piece has changed direction a number of times during this period, evolving from many hours of taped conversations with veterans of combat to gathering with Bedford-Stuyvesant community members to explore the themes that had emerged out of the veterans' stories: holding your (our) own; being of service; warriorism; returning home. Intersections of common experiences began to emerge as we delved into what the themes meant for those who went away to serve the country and those who stayed to serve the neighborhood. After a work-in-progress performance installation of AQAIK Veterans' Day 2017, the artistic team of: 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, returned to another phase of revision, research and development. Except for Robyn Twomey and DJ Reborn, who live in Bedford-Stuyvesant and work extensively with Monica, all of the artists, including Monica, have long term relationships with Bailey's. The original selection process was both by invitation and an organic merging of interests. It was clear, from presenting the earlier version, there was more to be explored in the intersection of issues experienced by combat veterans of color and longtime residents of the community; issues like, what makes a community home, especially when we return after life changing events? Can this be maintained in the face of rapid growth, development and a changing demographic? How do we hold on to what we value when we feel devalued? In this current phase, we will continue using the premise resonating throughout the piece: there are deep connections between the experiences of combat veterans of color returning home to find a disconnect between themselves and their communities and the longtime residents of a neighborhood that is transforming around them and leaving them out. AQAIK explores cross community dialogue, between the residents who stay, those who leave and return and the newcomers, with the intention of promoting healing, understanding, cultural awareness and social consciousness. The artists examine thoughts, feelings, perspectives gathered from local black veterans of war and longtime residents of the Bedford-Stuyvesant 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, poetry and music and by reinterpreting real life community members lives in a make-believe world. The revision and development of AQAIK has enriched the original vision for the work as the artists go deeper. Next steps include: the monologue created by Zoe Flower evolving into a short film in FY'21. Robyn Twomey is expanding her photo project specifically focusing on residents of Bedford-Stuyvesant who have lived there for twenty years or more. Now including an element of story sharing by having participants talk about how they arrived in the neighborhood and what they would like to see happen there in the future. The portraits will become life-size posters, including a quote from the participant, and mounted in public spaces throughout the neighborhood. Kadeem Alston Roman is choreographing a solo dance piece for a male dancer, relaying the story of a soldier's journey to war who doesn't return home but confronts his own death. Michael Hill and DJ Reborn will continue to develop a soundtrack which reflects the themes and questions raised by AQAIK. Anna Pond's scenario is now a two-act play, still in development it focuses on a Vietnam Veteran who is suffering from PTSD due to his experiences in the war. Each artist is now developing his/her own performance installation that can be experienced in isolation as well as together in a multi-act “concert,” much like the opinions and lives of each person in the community. We envision the next and final phase of the work being presented over a three month period, January 2021 through March 2021, wherein each piece will be given its own weight by having its own staging, in a variety of small nontraditional venues throughout Bedford-Stuyvesant. AQAIK brings a variety of voices into the conversation around gentrification taking place in Brooklyn and the City as a whole. The faces and stories of Bedford-Stuyvesant, through Robyn Twomey’s photo project, will be on display around the neighborhood, making visible the wide range of opinions and experiences. The experiences of veterans of color, a throughline in the work of, Zoe Flowers’ monologue/film, Kadeem Alston Roman's solo dance, Michael Hill’s and DJ Reborn's music/soundscape, as well as Anna Pond's play touch on the reality of coming home transformed and looking for the familiar comforts of a neighborhood once called home only to find it transformed as well. In addition to the installations and performances, there will be a variety of talk backs between audience/community members and those who have personal and professional experience with the issues raised. For example, we envision having members of the staff of the Veterans Law Clinic at Yale University, one of the first legal teams to take the issue of less than honorable discharges that especially plague Vietnam Veterans of color and those of more recent wars participate in a panel discussion with local veterans as well as Veteran Advocacy Project at the Urban Justice Center in New York. Another discussion, centered on changes in the neighborhood: the good and the bad of gentrification would include the Brooklyn Movement Center, who do organizing and advocacy work around rent, food justice, evictions, etc. This reality is a common one even to those of us who haven’t gone off to war and giving it artistic expression will draw in a new and diverse audience. By creating an artistic platform for presenting the faces, voices and stories of the community, re-imagined through art making, the feeling of being stuck and the inevitability of the problems and challenges is countered as people’s ideas about what is possible and their role in creating that possibility can change. What has emerged, in this process, is that engaging community in conversations, about issues and aspirations, is pivotal in our search for the question(s) that will shape the art, creating an interdependence between our values, the creative process and building community.
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