I miss you all so much! Since we last touched base (Feb), I gave myself a challenge. "Kayhan, no news updates until you have creative work that you can share with others." Well …
Hhere is a rundown of what I’m nurturing into the spring and beyond!
More than 8 years ago I️ stepped away from performing ... Now on the eve of my 40th birthday, I'm coming back to the stage!
It's the day after Noruz, Persian New Year, celebrated by people all over West and South Asia and the diaspora. Here in NYC, I finally got my fire going after the blizzard and so many regressive changes since January put a freeze on things.
This is what's making me hopeful and what I'll be working on for the next stretch of time:
The Path Home: multimedia story project bringing out voices of immigrants who got a pathway to citizenship during our nation's first and only legalization program in 1986.
We're creating a public engagement format to use the video in a dynamically structured setting where audience members can enter into a conversation with the stories of the past.
Want to see this come alive? We need support to fully build the model, test it with our community partners, and take it on the road. Contact me if you can help.
Dialogue. We need it, lots of it. Reach out if there are ways I can help you structure, design, or facilitate community dialogues on pressing issues. Every group, organization, and space can do this. With a little attention and help you can grow beautiful new community connections.
Myself and a group of Immigrant heritage women are creating a series of home learning circles to build mutual support networks for immigrant and refugee rights. We need help to get this off the ground. If you are interested, we'd love to hear from you.
May warmth and tenderness enter the little spaces inside you and heal what hurts.
May those spaces sprout flowers for the new day.
After the whirlwind of fabulousness in D.C. I joined the team of the Anna Deavere Smith Pipeline Project to support the production of Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education!!
It is an extremely powerful and extraordinarily timely performance. Urgent and inspiring, it depicts the personal accounts of students, parents, teachers and administrators caught in America’s school-to-prison pipeline. Investigating a justice system that pushes minors from poor communities out of the classroom and into incarceration.
On Wednesday, May 4th the White House is celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Artists and Storytellers who've "used unique channels and diverse platforms to tell powerful stories, increase awareness around key AAPI issues, and encourage diversity and inclusion in all sectors of society."
Guess who's going to D.C. next week?!
On Monday, April 18, while SCOTUS hears oral arguments in the case against immigration action, I'll moderate a discussion celebrating our undocumented heritage -- and launch my new project - Documented cIRCA 86: Immigration Reform Turns Thirty!
My newest project, Documented cIRCA 86: Immigration Reform Turns Thirty (cIRCA '86) is an oral history and multimedia public engagement project that celebrates the lives and accomplishments of immigrants who were legalized through the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986.
We have one week left for you to support the healing and transformational work that telling our stories can accomplish.
The Muslim Women’s Story Lab is working to keep all of us human and to have our humanity recognized through storytelling, community engagement, and the arts.
As media personalities and political candidates spread divisive messages of fear and misinformation, this is an important time to reflect on how we choose to recognize and uphold the humanity within ourselves and each other.
With one week left in our fundraising campaign we need you more than ever.
In today's climate, story and art are more necessary than ever. We need these important tools. The Muslim Women's Story Lab is a unique and hopeful approach to mobilizing Muslim women around issues that they face using storytelling, theater and art-making.
I’m asking if you will direct some of your power to back this project which has brought tremendous hope and light to me in these troubled times.
It is winter for the forces of oppression … the spring belongs to us!
Join me to sow seeds of peace, unity, women’s power, and creativity!
You are invited to a community info session to launch
the Muslim Women's Story Lab!
September 19, 2015
The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
515 Malcolm X Boulevard @135th Street
The Story Lab is a collaborative project using narrative tools and the arts for Muslim women's self-exploration and community engagement. The Lab will build participants' capacity to lead culturally resonant community engagement projects using strategies that harness and reclaim Islam's empowerment of women. More information here!
We hope you will join us and help us spread the word about this exciting new project.
In this day and age, the words "story", "community", and "movement" have become buzzwords being used to sell products and to give a sheen of do-good-iness (like Colbert's "truthiness") to all kinds of things. I'm writing more about how to create and build story and art-baseed projects for social justice and what that really looks like from conception to execution, (my book has great examples) but ultimately it has to involve bringing human beings closer together, into close, connected relationships, to build their own power. Art and story can do that extremely well if the project is well thought of and the strategy is clear.
Speaking of everything old becoming new again, my father came over today and brought two large folders stuffed with memories and writings and poems from my childhood. Among them, two items stood out:
1. A certificate for Storytelling from 1987!
2. A certificate for participating in the racial & ethnic harmony poetry contest. It isn't dated but I'm sure it's from the 80s as well.
So there you have it folks, I am a natural born ARTIVIST and have the papers to prove I've been doing this work for almost 30 years! I'd love to hear your thinking on making story and art-based interventions meaningful, concrete, and in the service of human-kind.
3 exciting things below! My writing, an event at the NYC Municipal Archives, and the Muslim Women's Story Lab moves forward!
Here's a little excerpt to get you interested:
"So I look down at my feet. My sandals are touching ground where Diego Rivera once stood, or sat, or walked by. I’m pulled into a world which, when he was creating it, was all but banned subject matter. Poor people’s lives, indigenous lives, didn’t matter. He made space, literally, by painting giant public murals that projected the sound and color, history and memory of poor and working class people in Mexico. And he showed not only what he knew to be true, and beautiful, but what he knew had power to change the world." Read on ...
And here in New York, I'm making the final preparations for a discussion at the NYC Municipal Archives on the history of sterilization abuse in NYC and the struggle for change.
Thursday, July 9, 2015
5:30 pm - 7:30 pm
Please RSVP to: email@example.com
31 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10007
We have a terrific panel and will be displaying archival materials from the women's own collections. Here is one example of what you'll see:
Last but not least, I got great news that the Muslim Women's Story Lab is going to move forward this fall! Stay tuned for updates.
Have a wonderful Independence Day. It's time to get free!
As spring turns to summer, students and teachers look forward to some free time and head space. I look forward to expanding and deepening my knowledge base. Outside of a formal school structure, we can learn and grow through all types of engagement with the world. My summer plans are all about that kind of life learning.
Since my last post in April, I've been consulting with the NYC Municipal Archives to help them develop educational and community engagement programming. I've been working to dynamize the archives as a space for dialogue, a place to engage, to connect the city with the world, as well as a educational space. I'd love to connect with people re-imagining archive spaces and doing similar work.
Coming up next on July 9, 2015: Resisting Reproductive Coercion -- a discussion on efforts to reform abusive sterilization practices in New York City in the late '70s and the impact of that campaign on the reproductive justice movement then, and now. I invite everyone to come and hear about a little known, but massively important, piece of the struggle for women's rights in NYC. We will also highlight innovative and powerful work happening today. Free and open to all. 5:30pm - 7:30pm.
RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
We also are offering a mini-grant for NYC teachers! Get access to exciting primary source documents from the Archives to use in your classroom! Send us an email by June 26th to participate. (see below)
Just so I don't forget that teaching and learning go hand in hand, I am part of two exciting fellowships this summer.
One as facilitator and the other as participant!
I am co-facilitating an Immigrant Women's Leadership Fellowship with The Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs. The brilliant Director of Language Access, Azi Khalili, has started this initiative to forward the U.N.'s Beijing +20 Platform for Women. We have gathered 15 visionary women leaders who will grow their thinking, develop their connections to each other, and build their power to make change on behalf of immigrant women and girls in NYC. I'll keep you posted on what happens, but email me if you have specific questions.
I am participating in the "Innovative Cultural Advocate" fellowship organized by the Caribbean Cultural Center and African Diaspora Institute. We had our introductory session last week and I am excited to engage with issues of equity and true cultural diversity in all levels of decision-making around arts and culture in NYC. We have some great readings and I'm getting to deepen my work around decolonizing culture and imagination.
As always, I want to hear from you. Send feedback, collaboration ideas, your news, anything!
Yes, Father's Day is coming up and that's my dad. He's been my champion my entire life. Thanks dad, I love you!
Isn’t that a funny phrase? Given the events in the past few months, I hear this phrase as: Falling. — Into Place. The past few months have felt like a sort of free fall, a shedding of outdated ideas, a rearranging of my life and schedule, and a re-prioritizing of what I want. Things fell away, and I am right where I need to be.
I am pleased to be featured in a reading this Tuesday, September 16th - a Bookend event in the Brooklyn Book Festival. Hosted by Words Without Borders an organization dedicated to publishing, and promoting works in translation to English readers, I’ll be reading a beautiful short story translated to English taken from their September issue.
I can’t seem to turn on the news without having violence, persecution, oppression and the worst of human behavior splashed in my face. Yesterday, I was speaking to my partner’s ex-roommate and he, teasingly, asked me what war-torn part of the world was I planning to visit next? The truth is I’ve had many impulses to run away and try to heal the pain of the world — somewhere else — but I’m counseling myself to stay here.