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Abolitionist Mariame Kaba On What We Get Wrong About MLK’s ‘I Have A Dream’ Speech And Her New Arts Residency For Youth With Dreams Of Their Own


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Abolitionist Mariame Kaba On What We Get Wrong About MLK’s ‘I Have A Dream’ Speech And Her New Arts Residency For Youth With Dreams Of Their Own


Throughout her years of organizing, Mariame Kaba has encountered formerly criminalized youth with brilliant creative talent, but they lacked the resources to work at length on their craft.  

A new creative arts residency, through her organization Project Nia, is offering young people aged 16 to 25 who have been formally criminalized to design their own residency. The Stevie Wilson DIY Youth Arts Residency will provide a grant of $1,000 to $5,000 to each artist, and will fund a total of $30,000. The grants are geared towards artists who may not be able to seclude themselves for weeks at a time like many residencies encourage. 

“When you look at the worlds of art residencies, [these young artists] aren’t really taken into account. Those are not the young people that are catered to or thought about in any way,” Kaba shared with ESSENCE.  

“First of all, they’re so rare. They accept like two people out of 5,000 that apply. People can’t just vacate their lives in order to participate in these art residencies. They’re often located in these faraway places up in the mountains, or Vermont, or you’ve got to travel. And a lot of young folks that I work with, some of them are parents, they have jobs they have to keep, and they can’t afford to take the two weeks or four weeks away that these residencies might provide for folks,” she added. 

Stevie Wilson, for whom the residency is named, is a queer incarcerated activist who co-founded Dreaming Freedom Practicing Abolition, “a network of self-organized study groups building abolitionist community behind and across prison walls.” 

A renowned abolitionist and author of New York Times Bestseller “We Do This ‘Til We Free Us,” Kaba notes the importance of art in movement work; not merely art for art’s sake but for its ability to expand our imagination beyond the constraints of oppressive systems. 

“From my own experience as an organizer, art and artists really matter a lot, especially…



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