Among many things, I identify as a first generation US citizen. My family migrated from Colombia to New Jersey in 1968. I was born in Arlington, Virginia and was raised in Miami, Florida. I lived in a couple of different neighborhoods, attended public schools, and organized retreats for my Church’s youth group. My parents worked within the public school system and eventually opened up a community center for the farm-working community in the deep rural south. Although I focused most of my time in school on theatre, what I really wanted most of all for my future was a family. I figured I’d marry my high school sweetheart, get a local job in the social service sector, and continue making mischief with my friends. So as you can imagine, it was a big surprise for me when I got into The Juilliard School in New York City.
It was even more of a shock for me to arrive in New York City where my privilege wasn’t as apparent as it was amidst the Latinx community in Miami. My racial identity was a part of the conversation in a way that it had never been before. I felt that others perceived me as both exotic and menacing. Which of course, is useful at a theatre school where unique qualities can be useful.
My second day of classes in New York City was also September 11th of 2001. That day challenged me to consider my identity in a way that I hadn’t before. How was my identity moving me to respond to that traumatic day? What did it mean to be:
first-generation US born
from a middle income Colombian family
raised in Miami
and attending an elite Cultural institution in NYC?
How was i going to take advantage of my privilege and measure my disadvantages in order to serve the immediate needs in the city and consider how I could be an effective part of the long term response?
Soon thereafter, handful of us collaborated on starting a non-profit organization called Artists Striving To End Poverty, whose mission it is to hold space for oppressed to express themselves artistically. That work took me into classrooms throughout the United States, India, South Africa, Peru and the Dominican Republic. Over time, I had the good fortune of teaching youth in each of those places – and along the way, being taught by those children and those communities as well. Through that work, I learned the transformative power of story-telling art-making and performance. I learned that art can create the kind of space that helps an audience acknowledge its complicated history, how that history affects the present, and how to imagine a better future.
However, most of my work was focused on communities outside of the United States or communities of recently resettled asylees and refugees in the United States. I hadn’t done a lot of work with communities of people that had long historic ties to the United States. So after I heard Mr. Bryan Stevenson from the Equal Justice Initiative lecture on the need to create markers for all of the lynchings that took place in this country, I was hooked.
I am now investigating my cultural and social legacy as a male-identifying, heterosexual, religious person and first born United States citizen. I am currently a student of christian ethics at Union Theological Seminary, and a theatre directing student at Brown University. I have started organizing within this new civil rights movement and am taking part in the national effort to memorialize the lynchings of black bodies through the United States.
I want to visit Arkansas because I have a lot to learn about what it means to be from this country. I want to visit Arkansas because I want to support the work that is already being done to memorialize our past. I want to visit Arkansas so that I can understand how I can do this work in my home state.
My name is Arielle Julia Brown. I come from a Black, educated, working class family with roots all over the southern United States. Born in the San Francisco, Bay Area, I split my childhood between there and Metro-Atlanta, Georgia. My mother and her family comes from Macon, Georgia and Little Rock, Arkansas. My father, born after his parents mirgrated north to Paterson, New Jersey, has roots in Jacksonville, Florida and Warrenton, North Carolina. I share my middle name with the second eldest ancestor that I am able to name, Julia Robinson, who migrated to Arkansas from Georgia with her family after slavery, during reconstruction. I am the only one of her living descendants who carries that name. I have always felt the desire to learn more about the South and certainly Arkansas.
When my family moved to Metro-Atlanta, I was in middle school. There I attended all Black schools. Coming up in a beautifully resilient, and grossly under resourced Black High school grounded me in the realities of the “post-segregated” South, in the city that former Atlanta mayor William Hartsfield once touted as “the city too busy to hate.” While in high school I began working with a youth ensemble and later as an intern and stage manager at 7Stages Theatre. Growing up in that theatre whose work and vision is to “be a global center for the creation of vital conversations through collaborative performance” gave me the space to consider the intersections of my local experience as a young Black-American woman against globally collaborative performance works that centered social and political concerns not so distant from my own.
I left Atlanta to go to Pomona College in southern California, where I studied Theatre and Black Studies. In college, I also worked with Theatre Without Borders, a network of theatre artists interested in intercultural exchange. My work with Theatre Without Borders connected me to other Black people and artists from around the world who were interested in intercultural exchange and making art about the intersections of our struggles.
Out of one of these exchange experiences, a trip to Rwanda and Uganda led by playwright, Erik Ehn, I learned about what I interpreted to be radical systems of justice in Rwanda, just months after Oscar Grant III, a young man a grew up with in church in Hayward, California, was murdered by the police. The collision of these two events prompted me to launch The Love Balm Project, a workshop series and performance holds space for the testimonies of mothers who have lost children to police brutality and intracommunal violence. After college, I moved back the San Francisco Bay Area to further develop this project. In addition to working on that project, I have worked as an artist, arts administrator and theatre producer in communities around the United States. I am currently a graduate student in Public Humanities at Brown University and a 2015-2017 graduate fellow with the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice. At Brown, I do work and research that exists at the intersections of the Black public histories and performance. I believe in the power of both public and hidden histories and the capacities that performance has to create space for a conversation within both. I am interested in coming to Arkansas to witness where it is now and where it has been, to better understand the hope my great-great grandmother must have had to decide to move there, and primarily to support the memorial efforts of Elaine and Helena.
I can remember many times in grade school when I was asked to tell and interesting fact about myself. I didn’t really like this exercise, which is why I relied on two default answers. 1) I live on a farm, 2) my house was used in the Civil War to shelter fleeing slaves during the Underground Railroad. What once were mere ‘fun facts’ have set the foundation for my work now as an adult.
Growing up I was very artistic and athletic and could not sit still. My passion exuded through everything I did, from AP courses to jazz class and taekwondo. I grew up in a small farm town called Trenton, Ohio. A white community, English speaking folk that like to gather at local sports games, bars, or in the comfort of someone’s backyard. As a teenager I decided I would pursue a career in the creative arts. I dreamed of traveling the world, performing and exploring new cities.
Blessed with the support of my family and the guidance of teachers I went on to attend Marymount Manhattan College, a small, private liberal arts school in New York City. In 2013 I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Arts and minored in Journalism and French studies. Knowing my roots, I was often asked if moving to a big city from a small town was difficult. For me, it was not hard in the least. I am energized by its cultural diversity. I often ponder such questions like, How does a multicultural community function? How do people maintain their personal identities while respecting others? When is trust and respect lost?
I have had the gift of performing in several countries around the world and consequently, negotiate cultural differences first-hand. I’ve always had an innate curiosity to discover new things and find common ground between how people relate to one another and why. The more people I meet, the more our similarities prevail. Traveling and dwelling in foreign places has helped to shape my personal identities as a woman, an American and artist. With time, I realize that my best work will instinctively come from my body and my curiosity to understand human nature will feed my intellect. I continue to discover my authentic voice with movement and language.
I’m currently utilizing my art as a means for opening conversation about oppression in America. Through peer discussions I’ve found a growing community of artists weaving their work through society to encourage peace building and healing. To me, REMEMBER 2019 embodies mindfulness, progress and community. It’s our collective future.
I am committed to seeing through REMEMBER 2019 to provide a space for constructive dialogue where neighbors can question, create and regenerate trust surrounding traumatic events.
Teague strives to create socially relevant theater that uplifts the issues of our time and celebrates the human spirit. Her work connects with its community in a deeply personal way and endeavors to push the boundaries of what that connection can do. Working with Cornerstone Theater Company, she conceived of and produced Cornerstone’s Talk It Out series, which travels throughout California creating community-engaged theater that aims to change public policy around the school-to-prison pipeline.
Prior to that she worked as a Producer for theatrical, creative content on films such as Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls, John Madden’s The Debt, Paul Haggis’ The Next Three Days, and Gus Van Sant’s Promised Land. Recent directing credits: Side Show: The Musical PCPC, Romeo and Juliet Brown University/ Trinity Rep, The Crucible Brown University, Bean Hollywood Fringe Festival (Best of), Jesus Hopped the A Train Lyric Theatre, Willful California State Capitol, Healthy Richmond East Bay Center for Performing Arts, Ajax Theater of War, The Shadow Box Collective Studio: LA, Halfway Home Blank Theater.
I am driven by my belief in the power of art as a tool for social transformation, by its power to engage, to drive people to reflect and lead them to believe in themselves and their communities. I think of what I create as “living sculptures”–a physical manifestation of humans engaging with each other while creating beauty.
I believe that through the framework of art, we can create room for the adjacent possible — that is, create room for alternate ways of thinking in the face of challenging circumstances. We can become engaged citizens, responsible for one another beyond language, politics, religion or ethnicity.
Much of the inspiration for my work comes from the people I encounter moment to moment in my life. Plato once wrote, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Through my practice as an artist I am interested in exploring how we can be soldiers in each others’ armies collectively engaging in the sadness and joy that comes with being human.
From working with a community of artists and activist in Kabul to give away 10,000 pink balloons to adults on a Monday Morning in 2013 to literally highlighting the housing crisis and governmental corruption in Johannesburg’s Central Business District by painting them to appear to be bleeding color from their windows and rooftops, my work is motivated largely by political, cultural, and social circumstances. Since last year I have been developing a project titled ‘Colour In Faith,’ where religious communities across Kenya are working together to paint the exteriors of mosques, temples, and churches yellow in the name of love.
Remember 2019, is an extension of my practice within the context of the United States. In 1981, I was born in Boston Massachusetts to illegal Colombian immigrants. My hope is that as a first generation American, this work will allow me to connect deeply to the darkness and light that influences the way we inhabit our country today.
Carlos Sirah is a writer and performer from the Mississippi Delta. His work encounters: exile, rupture, displacement, and migration in relation to institutions, local and beyond. His most recent theater pieces include: The Utterances, The Light Body, and Planets Measured by Parallax. His work has been performed at Poet’s House, Nuyorican Café, KGB, New Dramatists, the International Center for Photography, and the National Black Theatre Festival, and he has performed on the main stage at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival. Sirah has developed work with The Flea Theater, Vermont Studio Center, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Warrior Writers in collaboration with William Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social Consequences, The Hambidge Center, The Virginia Center for Creative Arts, and Blue Mountain Center. Sirah is a 2017-2018 Lambda Literary Fellow, Playwrights Center Core Apprentice, and Millay Colony residential fellow. Sirah is a facilitator and serves on the steering committee of Warrior Writers, a community of veterans who make art. Sirah received his MFA from Brown University in 2017.