Side note: It took me 15 years of teaching young people to accept the ‘Mom’ label, even though my young students called me Mom all the time. I’m stubborn that way. I used to tell them that ‘Uncle Mom’ might be a more appropriate title, because of my gender fluidity, but ‘Mom’ was what they wanted to call me, so I finally surrendered. After 30 years of teaching, I have many children in my dance/the- ater family. The young woman who writes to me from the future could be the great grandchild of any one of hundreds of my students. She is the combination of the wild, audacious dreams of a whole community, and she comes to me through that dream. The idea for this letter from the future came from an exercise led by Mia Birdsong and Aisha Nyandoro in a session of the New Universal, a collective of women of color leaders from around the country led by Akaya Windwood. When I wrote my first let- ter to myself from a future ancestor, I could feel her very clearly. So much so that I wept the entire time I wrote the letter. Here is my latest version written just for you with all my love.
circles of humans in a tender, open- hearted way, and who knows the power of art and self-inquiry on the path to liberation. I’m my father’s daughter—someone who loved and honored the natural world, believed in the power of community activism, and loved family deeply. I’m a wife of an Indigenous woman, who is most certainly the love of my life. We understand how to laugh and cry together in equal measure. I’m a dog mom – we have two adorable Shiba Inus, Mimi (12) and Mabel (6 months). I am a devotee of an Indian guru who lit up my life over 20 years ago and gave me access to my heart in ways that I could only have dreamed of. About What Motivates My Work “What is the greatest ill in the world?” a student asked her spiri- tual teacher. “Self-hatred” the teacher answered in a somber tone. I heard this conversation 25 years ago and it rang like a bell inside my chest. Immediately, I recognized the inten- tion behind all of my work as a dancer, arts educator, and community leader. It was to embody and inspire
responding to the visions of artists in relationship to community. When I performed with the Dance Brigade, themes of racial, gender, and environmental justice were central”?. When I created my own dance/theater company, we did work that explored the complexity of being biracial in America. When I co-created work at Destiny, every element of the creation and production of the performances moved through a social justice model. The work was collaborative, told sto- ries with social justice themes, edu- cated performers and audiences, chal- lenged and dismantled systems of inequity, and inspired social change. About the Letter This article takes the form of a let- ter. The letter is written to me from a future ancestor – a young woman who lives five generations forward in time. She calls me Great Grandma (I would actually be her Great Great Great Great Great Grandma, but who’s counting?), even though I never had children of my own, because my dance students have always called me Mom. So, I imagine that their chil- dren would call me Grandma.
I worked as a dance teacher, exec- utive director, and artistic director at Destiny Arts Center (destinyarts.org) in Oakland for 30 years, where I essen- tially grew up. At Destiny, I learned the art of teaching, facilitating, commu- nity building, collaborative leadership, culture keeping, nonprofit fundrais- ing and finance, advocacy for youth and the arts, and holding space for artists and artmakers to thrive. I also co-founded the Destiny Arts Youth Performance Company at Destiny, a
self-love. It was to create exquisite art and beloved community, never sacrificing one for the other. It was to install the mantra that joy is an act of revolution, not to deny sys- temic injustices, but to remind us who we are at the essence of our beings and to use that understanding to co-create a destiny that honors and uplifts everyone. My work unravels the causes of our collective self-hatred through somatic storytelling and personal narrative, examining racism, misog- yny, heterosexism and all the systems that divide us. My work tells the story of the current time by explor- ing impact rather than giving opin- ions or casting judgment. My work reimagines and recon- structs reality through the lens of self-love. Alicia Garza, co-founder of BLM says, “The task is to try and live our lives in the way that we envi- sion freedom looking like and feel- ing like.” For me, this means working in authentic collaboration with per- formers of all ages and professional artists who believe in social transfor- mation. My work constantly rein- vents itself in order to be relevant by
pre-professional dance/theater troupe for teens, which provides rigorous training in hip hop, modern and aerial dance, theater and scriptwriting, and gives youth a platform to tell compel- ling stories about personal and politi- cal issues. I live in the Destiny neighborhood and have no doubt that I will con- tinue to be part of the Destiny com- munity for the rest of my life. I’m my mother’s daughter - some- one who understands how to hold
in dance WINTER 2022 18
WINTER 2022 in dance 19
In Dance | May 2014 | dancersgroup.org
u n i f y s t r e n g t h e n amp l i f y u n i f y s t r e n g t h e n a p l i f y
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