I'll be performing my new one-woman show, There is a Portal, in Philly and NYC November 9 and November 29th. I'd love to see all your beautiful faces in the house! Please invite friends and family.
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?!
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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!
After co-leading a wonderful weekend workshop looking at the ways we internalize our defeats and let oppressive messages stop us from going after our deepest desires, I am still asking myself “do I have the courage to be happy?” That depends. Do I know what makes me most happy and am I able to see it and feel it clearly? By clearly I mean am I able to see past the layers; the media images of happiness, the broken record of social messages about happiness, the fear that covers any impulse to disbelieve the imposed voices. While the U.S. is meditating on thanks and having (we talk about giving thanks but isn’t it always focused on what we have — a series of things on a checklist — like a Christmas list?) I’m walking away from the deeply held notion that I need more money to do what I most want.
Sometimes I wonder if everything I’ve thought of, everything I’m thinking of, has been thought before. Often, it’s in bouts of depression and my conclusion is that I’m probably useless and unoriginal. (Yes, I am being a bit dramatic but that’s me!) These last few months, however, when I reflect on the originality of my being (how embarrassing) I have been grateful for all the thinking that has come before me. Millions of people, doing the best they could, have lived lives and laid the groundwork for me to do what I do. Being immersed in the world of craft, it is starting to make more and more sense that originality isn’t highly prized. It’s nice, but it isn’t the point.
I barely know it’s Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanza season here in India. After all, being a country where the majority of people are neither Christian nor Jewish the holidays are different. (I previously wrote a little about Diwali which just passed.) But yesterday I took a walk in the paper, wrapping and trimmings market in Bombay and got to see some Christmas fun.
What is the experience of time? Sun up to sun down; the phases of the moon; an 8-hour workday; the passing of a birthday; the harvest; the sowing; the completion of a thought? The time for group remembering, the communal gatherings and the personal, internal time; we live between the two. My time in India so far has been a weaving between the two forms – personal and collective.
The famous banyan tree in India has aerial roots. That means small seedlings growing on its branches send down vine-like extensions that upon hitting dirt, take root and anchor the tree. If left unchecked, a single banyan can expand into a maze-like thicket of its own creation. A tree intertwined around another tree, creating shadow trees. I’m living in a similar metaphoric spiral right now. Thoughts shooting straight downward, leading to confusion, leading to pause, leading to insights, leading to growth.
I’ve come back from Afghanistan about 3 weeks ago, and in another 3 weeks I am heading off to India for 8 months on a Fulbright grant. I’ll be returning to the country of my birth and the adopted homeland of my people. It will be strange to be back in a place that is so familiar but so alien. It’s like meeting a celebrity in person. You recognize her, you’ve seen so often. However being here, face to face, makes you realize that you have no idea who this person is and she knows nothing about you.
It’s a Friday full of sweetness and sadness for me. I leave in a couple of days and I am spending this lazy Friday visiting friends to say goodbye … until we meet again. Everything about the city seems magical today. The mountains are glowing white, circled by grey clouds. The streets are calm and people are out and about.
This week was a long week with lots of prodding and pushing. We were telling stories about oppression, personal experiences of oppression, something simple, clear. I started by asking them to make a frozen body sculpture of one such experience. After the activity, we spoke about what they were showing. It turns out no one made an image of something from their own life! They made images from other people’s lives, images from stories they heard, or things they saw. They were finding it hard to access those personal stories, without compounding them with others.