Thursday, January 29, 2015

Healing Teas

my typewriter has flowers

I love tea. I love the healing properties of teas. I like that nature has so much medicine! Here are some of my favorite teas:

Lavender flower tea: It not only tastes good, but is a great relaxer. I usually make a pot after dinner and enjoy it before going to bed. It fights anxiety and is good for the stomach.

Blackberry leaf tea: It tastes really good and gives you all the health benefits that a glass of wine gives you - without the alcohol!  It's good for the heart & blood!

Marigold tea: I love how this tea looks: It's the actual flower tops. Marigold, which is also known as calendula is a soothing and has many beauty benefits as well.

Linden tea: I fell in love with this one in Barcelona. It's another relaxing tea and tastes fabulous.

Elderberry tea: A big hit in Denmark elderberry is super healthy and tastes really good.

Chamomile tea: One of my all time favorites, having a cup of chamomile tea is for me the equivalent of being home. No matter where I be.

Coriander seed tea: I haven't tried this yet but I'm looking forward to trying it out. I love cilantro - and the seeds seem to have all sorts of benefits from detoxifying to soothing one's body.

Yes, you gotta love tea! I look forward to my evenings reading, knitting and drinking tea in the Danish winter darkness - which by the way has been getting noticeably brighter since the holiday season. Thank goodness there is always a light at the end of this wintry darkness here in Denmark.

Making time for a cup of tea is symbolic. It's taking the time to slow down and enjoy something that not only tastes good - but are chock-full of healing qualities.  One of the biggest challenges for me about city living is finding that balance - and I often find that once I have time to sip my pot of tea in the evenings, in silence, then it's pretty much all good. You don't need much more than that.

the lab

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Sixteen Years!!!

It's a trip going through 16 years- and then some- worth of possessions. I have books I have brought with me from the U.S. (Parcival, Don Quixote), from my childhood days in Trinidad even (Caribbean Poetry and an excellent book on Caribbean History. The best is my grandfather's almost dated copy of HG Wells Conquest of Time).
I have photo albums that had intended happiness and days of calm and domestic bliss. Not moving. Funny, it is only now I see the potential of this place. I am not so deluded as to suggest that it is the apartment that lent itself so willingly to the undoing of what I had built here. It's a combination of events, many having much to do with my body political.
The biggest challenge are my plants. One, my ficca, well, it's more like a tree, is as old as my son. I remember buying it when was pregnant. I remember once it had gotten infested by tree lice and how sad I had become as the leaves and plant withered. Finally, in a desperate attempt, I fumigated it. Now, I'm not recommending that anyone fumigates a plant. I have a particular emotional attachment to this plant and was desperate. To my horror, all the leaves fell off. But you know what? New ones started to grow. That's when I understood the power of life.
I'll take some with me, but most importantly I wish for them good homes. I've enjoyed cultivating my green thumb with them and now it is time that they clean the air for others. Plants are wonderful like that.
I don't have too much stuff but I have too much. In a way my idea state is to have it all fit in a bag. But I have a weakness  for clothes. So far I'm having trouble letting go of books, plants and clothes. Great, this is going great!
But again, I don't have much. I've always lived a relatively simple life, preferring to invest my money on travel and experiences.
I have been sitting in this very apartment envisioning this scene: my packing up and moving out. I know I want a home - but my home must be in a place where I feel comfortable. And comfort for me right now involves being able see some more trees and less people. Way less people. I don't mind being in the city, but I don't need to be in one all of the time. It's not healthy for me. It's all about balance.
The funny thing is that I'll be renting a room from a friend who is also from Brooklyn. I joke and tell her that now I have my very own Jamaican landlord. I've known Paulette for about 8 years and she has 3 kids and have been her about the same amount (slightly longer actually) of time as I have. Paulette is gets me to laugh from the moment she says my name. She says my name Lesley-Ann - like a real Caribbean woman. It takes me back. It feels like home.
Project writing is going well. Today I had a breakthrough with a narrative. I feel as though I have sunk my teeth into something beefy, like I jumped into that doubledutch rope right on time and all I got to do is keep writing/jumping - my writing process is interesting because it is truly as though I am channeling these stories. Many times I write things and when I go back I don't recognize that it is something that I had written and many times I am quite impressed by it.
One of the things Marie reminded me of when I was in New York was the average age of female writers to debut - mid-40s. She mentioned many of the greats, Toni Morrison for example and reminded me of the adage that good things come with time.
When I set off to write The Mothers of Memory over 20 years ago - there was no way I could have understood the story and what I was striving for back then. It is only through my own experience and relationship to this experience that I can now give the story shape, use the narrative to be efficient in its function and that is a return to the sacred female/male balance, amongst other things.
I left New York City 16 years ago and journeyed to a country I knew very little about. Would I do it again? Yes. Without a doubt.
And now it's time for yet another unfolding...the next chapter of the journey of Blackgirl on Mars. All she has to do now is get rid of all her stuff...

the lab

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

My New Life - Live

my view last year 154th street 

By the time I arrived to New York City last year, I was a crying mess. I cried for everyday, nonstop for days on end.

My sadness?

First of all, having your child grow up, is like "losing" someone.  Let me explain.  Although I know I will always have the relationship I cultivated with him as a child (I'm really happy I nursed!); it's a bit challenging to make that connection to the gangly young man I have towering over me now.

So this sadness snowballs - the reawakening from parental slumber, the discovery that you don't have no friends (or you see beyond the bull - are we still friends after I have been away for 16 years and we haven't been in touch? and you don't know what's been going on? Much less me? Friends are supposed to stay in touch. Are we still friends after you act like an ass after I had invited your ass to a party? (I mean, drinking all the liquor in a house!) or after you disparage someone we both mutually know? (if you can say those things about someone, what do you say about me?) All that about real friends don't need to talk all the time... bullshit. Yes, you don't need to talk all the time. But you do need to pick up the phone. Or answer it.

How am I suppose to traverse life without someone to act as my sounding board? And vice versa? 

My crying is about loss. There is no static house, building, block that is standing there to say, "look Lesley, I have waited all these years for you." No group of friends or family who gather on behalf of your arrival.  There is none of that. 

What there is however, is a warm home with a warm presence - Marie - who welcomes you and listens to you and exercises reciprocity and reminds you why you and we and everyone else on this planet ought to do the same. 

I've learned a lot about friends. And the first rule is if that person gossips - please run the other way! "I don't know what's wrong with so-and-so", (so and so is a single mother here the "friend" continues), "She's like a gypsy. Look at her, can't take care of her kids."  or, "So and so is a joke," - in reference to someone else, "she thinks she's all that. Everyone just laughs at her." Ouch.

How can people talk this way about each other?

And I don't know why I keep on being surprised when I meet MENFOLK who gossip worse than  a group of church ladies at the market.  Men who talk a lot - run the other way.

I am really sick of people's hypocrisy and I'm not living it with it anymore. It is the most depressing thing to realize that there are some people who you have exposed yourself around who is not acting in a supportive or loving manner, that all they care about and all they have ever cared about is their own game.

I have been going through a depression for the last 4-5 years.  I have noticed how "friends" respond to this.  I have noticed how the conversation is fine as long as I stick to the acceptable subjects for communication - for some, it's either my bitching about Copenhagen or longing to be elsewhere.  

Check this out: I am sitting in my apartment amidst a mess. I am moving. I have sold my apartment. I have left my job.

I am happy to have lost the people who have crowded my space with their own projections of who they want me to be. I am sick of folks wanting me to be certain things for them - whether it is a certain type of writing or their cool expat friend. I write what I want to write.  And I am not your cool expat friend. The one who you like talking to about my experiences, but in the end, you don't really get it, do you, how I could just pack it all up and leave?  I wonder how many in New York truly understand and even supported my move. Or even care? 

My tenure in Copenhagen has been a trip.  Fakeness cannot be triumphed by the authentic. This I have learned. And all you funky mofos who've been up on my shit when it all looks like it's going well? Well, the laugh is on you.  Cause you know what? I have given it all up now. I have let go of all the lies and compromises I thought I had to have in order to get along in this life. But then I learned differently.

The most powerful thing of all of this?

The universe meets intention. The ancestors provide.


Stay tuned for some real adventures with blackgirl on mars!

Special shout out to Marie D. Brown who hosted the broken writer in her beautiful home last winter, providing me with not only a place to work, but to heal. Another shout out to my mother - and to the potential power of healing. Because that is what this is all about in the end, healing.

the lab
letting go the old, in with the new

Sunday, January 25, 2015


me & my movie star friend
new orleans, 2012

A life not fully lived is a life not worth having. And if you don't get it, your body will - and it will have consequences. Thankfully I have learned with age how to pay attention to these signs and am getting better at listening to myself. The big Universal joke is that whenever I go off my path - the Universe is very quick to yell it in my face - getting me back on it once again.

I keep on going back to the spirit that I seemed to be connected with when I was a child. It was an unshakeable belief that there was purpose to my presence. It became very clear to me that although I am attracted to various arts, that writing was to be my tool. This was revealed to me at an early age.

One of the aspects of my life that I am truly thankful for is having parents who always understood and supported my artistry.  My writing and my being a writer has never been up for discussion in my family- even in times when it was not my full-time profession. I am greatly indebted to that. It is important as an artist to understand the sacred separation between art and profit. It is not that the two cannot meet - it is that one fuels the other. And one must be clear about that.

About a year ago I realized that I needed to travel to heal. I wanted to go out to see Angela, a spiritual sister of mine who lives out in Hawaii. Angela is involved with ancestral healing and is a living embodiment of what I feel modern womanhood to  look like. All my life I have been searching for "woman" - I have been searching for the meaning of this energy outside of biblical and stereotypical tenants.  And when I met Angela, she gave me my first peek into what was possible.

Although I was born in the concrete does not mean that I am of the concrete. Yes, I am of Brooklyn - I have walked her streets, bled on her streets, cried on her streets - but I have always known something more profound than that. I am of the earth of Brooklyn. I am of the earth of Trinidad. I am of the earth of Maui. I am earth. You are too.

I no longer think that people are singularly bad or ill-intentioned. I realize and accept now that society creates this bucket effect - where many of us are feeling and acting like we are crabs in that bucket! There's this constant feeling that there is never enough - when all reasoning will tell us otherwise. There is a surplus of untapped energy and it is this I seek to unleash.


1.  I am not here to fix anyone.
2. No one is here to fix me.

I'm in the process of moving. I mean, like really moving. Like I sold my apartment, have like 6 days to move out! And I'm cleaning out. Wow. It's an end to my tenure out here on Shit Island (as the locals call it) and I suspect, an end to a very challenging, yet most enriching venture in my life. I have learned a lot. And the most important lesson?

Listen to yourself. 

Meanwhile dreams manifest and as I unload I attract truly - the things that are necessary to create.

It feels good to have completely dedicated my life to writing.



Thursday, January 22, 2015

It All Started Here...

About a year ago, today! The journey that gives me the courage to be authentically me.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Intimate Betrayals

One of the worst betrayals anyone can experience is having someone violate your privacy. Whether it's a lover who takes your pictures without your knowledge (what is he going to do with them, and why is he taking them?) or someone else actually having these images in their possession - or worst yet- your trusting someone with them and they using them to earn money - yes, men do that- we certainly live in different times where the fact of the matter is - there are many creeps out there who do this. And they are CREEPS.

This is why I loved this video.  It really brought to light to an issue that has been going on against women and children for too many years now.  There are so many men out there who say that they are down for women's issues - or talk the race talk about how down they are for the Black woman - but in intimate relations reveal the true extent of their brokenness.


Thursday, January 08, 2015

Annals of moving part 1

Zanubia and Maya both came over to assist me in the process of organizing and cleaning out. After years of sitting in my apartment and contemplating my priorities - I have finally decided to lighten up my life a lot. This means doing a serious passing on or throwing out.
Zanubia is a young 18 year old whose parents hail from Somalia. Zanubia is Sucdi's big sister, and was a student in my first class. Maya was as well. Zanubia is one of those students who always set herself apart from the rest by her genuine interest in wanting to understand what is going on in the world. She's also a bit sneaky too - since while we were in the basement going through boxes, she was secretly filming on her iPhone! lol
Maya was also in this class - this was the same class that my former colleague and I took to Amsterdam- and she's also the daughter of Glen Garner, an American Danish artist who resides here in Copenhagen.  Glen is like really tall - and so is Maya. Both girls are growing so beautifully - it's a source of great joy for me.  Maya is also an amazingly intellectually sharp young lady, who has a great balance of grace and presence about her.  Her drawings are quite good as well.
Books and clothes are always the hardest to let go of, especially since I have a great collection of both. But I am committed to living much simpler and only having what I "need".  It will also assist in helping move on to this  new juncture in my life.
Yesterday morning in the basement, as I was doing my laundry, I bumped into one of the other tenants of this building.  We started to talk and I told her that I had sold my apartment and that I will be moving out. My coop is nice - beautiful. It's well kept and my apartment is beyond cozy. It's a great neighborhood. But I've been here for 5 years now and after all this time, I have to admit that there is something about this whole setup that is just not me. I'm inspired by the idea that I can truly live my dream life. And what I mean by that is, in the end, the ability to write, have a home, and continue to contribute to my community.
There is a lot going on in the world today and I'm utterly convinced that the only way to instigate any change is through real time and real meetings. I spend, like so many others, a lot of time on the computer. After taking a year or so hiatus, I'm back on Facebook- for better or worse. I'm appreciating what it's good for, but have been reminded quickly about my stubborn aversion to it. There's a lot to say - and I'm working behind the scenes on putting it all together.  But suffice it to say that the Danish National Party - a party notorious for its hard racist tone - is now the majority party in Denmark. This has been a fact for quite some time now, but in truth, sometimes the only way a woman can survive, is through the wonderful art of putting blinders on.
More later,

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

What My Life Looks Like

gifts i walk around with in my bag (in an effort to post)

What my life looks like:

today i had the distinct pleasure of meeting up with Isabella and Sucdi. Isabella and Sucdi were both in the last class that I was class teacher for, before I made the very difficult decision to quit my job teaching. Isabella and Sucdi are both incredibly intelligent young ladies who are curious about life and hungry for truth. today we talked about everything from ferguson to current goings-on in denmark. 
apartments that i sell
comrades give me strength

it is refreshing to experience how concerned and interested these young ladies are about the world and humanity. It gives me hope about our future. over our knitting, we were able to touch subjects that they admitted to me that they felt they don't get to talk about enough. i am truly happy to have these young ladies in my life. we decided to take our talk over to the local cafe at vesterport st. on our way there we spy a brother who spies us but pretends not too. after overhearing my answer to the girls' wanting to know what i was up to (working hard to shake the chattels of my enslavement off- was my joke of a reply) - he turned around and in no time atall we learn that he is from haiti - and his name? moses. moses had some very interesting historical antidotes to share with us today. i will share them with you when i learn all that i can about what he presented today. it's a scandalous story- and one i have never heard that involves swedish royalty, massacre and  people. that's leave it at that for now. 

friend's cooking fortifies
On another note, I am learning the art of letting go. And it feels good. And empowering.  One of the biggest lessons I have learned the last few years is how important it is to be true to  yourself. 

Whenever I stray off that path, the universe is sure to give me a huge whack in the head. On the other side however, I am humbled by the power of letting go to make room to create the life that ensures that I live my purpose. 

The knitting group reconvened today for the first time this year. It was wonderful and uplifting to be together again. Today we met at Shabana's house. She spoiled us and made us homemade Pakistani food. Delicious. It was good to see each other today and exchange stories and experiences. Today Deena entertained us about stories of Obama in his early political days in Hawaii.  
the universe provides with trust

Meanwhile, here are two pictures I received via email today. Funnily enough, the first one, from Karen Good, which was taken in the 90s came in the morning. And the other, from my nephew Wa - is what met me when I came home. Thanks guys. It's wonderful to have a window into the past: I truly forgot those two looks! ;-)
pictures you didn't know your friend had
(courtesy of karen r. good)

holding my nephew sometime in the 80s on Herkimer Street!
(thanks Wa for sending this!)

farvel fra danmark,
the lab

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Facets of the Human Diaspora

For my Grandmother

My oftentimes grandmother Hildred Balbirsingh's rigid Catholic demeanor would always melt when this song came on. Imagine my childhood delight when I heard her hail marries turned into 'you torture me, the way you wine, i want to see your big behind, audrey, where yah get that sugar from? sugar bum bum'

farvel & happy weekend
agh if only i could have a trini lime 
with some fry fish 
& callaloo,

the lab

Friday, January 02, 2015

Preach R. Sun - Fugitive Ideas Are on the Run

 Preach R. Sun: When Fugitive Ideas are on the Run.

Counting the Dead, Ferguson photo by Ryan Devereaux

“When you try to stand up and look the world in the face like you have the right to be here. When you do that, without knowing the result of it, you have attacked the entire power structure of the Western world.” 
James Baldwin

Last winter when I traveled to New York, I met up with Preach R. Sun. Preach, a self-proclaimed Fugitivist – he forsakes the word artist for a description he feels better describes his occupation outside of boxes and labels – was preparing to present CHRYSALIS [Cry-Solace], his multi-media performance-based installation, curated by Whitney V. Hunter and Jill McDermid (Co-Founder and Director of Grace Exhibition Space).  I’ve been following Preach’s work for a while and have always appreciated how he manages to tap into the potential of art as a transformative tool for social justice.
Grace Space, Chrysalis photo by Miao Jiaxin
I first met Preach R. Sun at Flux Factory in the late 90s, back in the day when Flux was a collection of diverse Souls who liked art, music, philosophy and radicalism.  Many of us went to Lang College, an experience that left us equipped with a Marxist education in a very capitalist U.S.A.  It is true that many of us would later shed our Marxist indoctrination, but what we were all embedded with, or rather fortified with was a strong feeling that there was room for change and serious dialogue. Conversations that were radical, about race, class, gender— so it makes sense that our paths should cross there.

It would be almost another 20 or so years before Preach and I would dialogue again. By now I had already been living in Copenhagen for some time and kept up with New York via the Internet.  We managed to maintain contact and I kept abreast of his work.  I noticed the actions he became involved in and the passion and commitment he seemed to have to social and particularly, racial justice.  His work addressed issues that were important to me, but that I had become silenced in dealing with.  Sure I do my best to address certain issues through my work, but when one is submerged in a culture that frankly, doesn’t give a shit and accepts, whether wittingly or unwittingly, White Supremacy as the norm, I was going through some kind of blues; a blues that rendered me speechless. Wordless. All I wanted to do was kick people’s asses.  And of course, that wouldn’t do now, would it?
Wall Street Action photo by Arthur Fischer

So I was excited when I saw Preach R. Sun don an orange prison suit, strap a contraption to his head with a dollar hanging  in front of him, and proceed to walk down Wall Street – shackled, barefoot; tracking bloody footprints –while crying out,

“What is the cost of living?
What is the cost of freedom?
They Wall Street Pimpin’
To keep you Main Street Trickin’.
You’re living in an artificial reality,
There’s blood on these streets
                                     Wall Street was built on the backs of slaves,
It was built with the blood of slaves.
     Welcome to the auction block, sell me, I’m your nigger.”

One of the most radical ideas on Art, culture, perspective and the role it plays in shaping our collective consciousness and how it impacts the way we see things is John Berger’s Ways of Seeing. As a book, it detonates all that you have ever thought of about art, its power and what it has and continues to be used for.   How much of the art that we see today reinforce the power-structure as opposed to challenge it? Sure there is art and artists that question, critique even, the status quo, but if these artist are to be successful within this framework, they too must allow their work to be commodified and thus, ultimately rendered powerless.  Such is the nature of Capitalism.  Such is the nature; it seems, of our times.
Grace Space Chrysalis photo by Jimmi Dyce

I really don’t know much about performance art.  I barely even knew who Marina Abramovic was when my friend Ida invited me to watch The Artist is Present with her.  I mean, I thought I had a general idea of what it is – performances that were done in real time, usually without a script that was supposed to, on some level, challenge the audience’s thoughts about something, and lastly, at least in the performances that I had witnessed thus far and I say this a bit tongue in cheek – It involved some sort of nudity. It wasn’t until meeting up with Preach R. Sun and experiencing his performances at both Grace Exhibition Space (Brooklyn, NY) and Gray Zone for International Performance Art (Kingston, NY) that I truly understood the potential of the medium to perhaps be the perfect one to galvanize some sort of true social dialogue and change.

Grace Space "Chrysalis" photo by Preach R Sun
Preach R Sun was educated at Howard University where he majored first in Liberal Arts but then switched to Dance and minored in Theater.  He had not known about Howard until had he told his mother he needed her to, “save my life” , a decision that was based on it being a ticket out of an environment that seemed to have been a ticking bomb, at least to him, for disaster. Like so many other young Black men throughout the U.S. and some might even argue around the globe – the combination of race, crime, poverty and imprisonment is a toxic reality that many rarely escape from – and so he turned to the only person he knew he could: his mother. Preach knew he had to get out.

At Howard he was a student of the first ever African American Dance major, where he forged a mentorship with the program’s founder and director, Sherrill Berryman Johnson (aka Momma J).  Since then, he has been involved in various productions throughout the world, from New York to Japan and has for the past ten or so years, been involved in some shape or manner, with the conception and manifestation of what he calls, ONEMAN: The Liberation Project.

The ONEMAN Project is the artist’s contemplation on freedom in today’s society. “In addition” his website continues, “the work poses compelling questions regarding the role that America’s (slavery and segregation) past still plays in the present, collective, conversation of freedom and equality; particularly as it relates to questions regarding the psychological impact of that past on American's today…”

On The One Man Series, which began as a workshop at the Theater for the New City (NYC), Sun says, “I just did everything.  I had this whole script. I guess you could say, it’s like, I had created a book with all these chapters about all these issues and topics of interest. Anyhow, the workshop ended up going on for 9 hours and the theater forced me to stop. Later, the director would tell me that my performance would go down as the longest performance ever done, in a single night, in the history of the theater.”  This work, he says, is his conjuring his own freedom while at the same time questioning the very idea of freedom itself. 

Luckily, that same night at Theater for the New City, Ellie Covan (Founding Director of the Dixon Place) was in the audience and stayed for the first half.  She liked the piece he had done on The Brothers, which would later become Blood-N-Brothers.  The Brothers is the absurd yet true story about two teenage brothers: a 15 year old who killed his 17 year old brother, in the presence of their 9 year-old sister, over “who would cook some food”.   Preach happened to be at his girlfriend – at that time’s – house who lived next door to these two, young boys. 

Suddenly he was in the middle of a crime, a murder.  The piece, he says, is perhaps his way of dealing with the trauma of such an incident – but there is clearly something more.  Blood-N- Brothers speaks of the seemingly inane situations that many of us may find ourselves in, situations that seem as out of place as an axe stuck on a toothpick in the wake of a tornado.  Thus the experience of many African Americans, the after-effects of a liberation that never intended to be granted, the absurdity of being rendered invisible through systematic inaccessibility.

Dixon Place had wanted him to present the story of, The Brothers, but Preach figured he’d use the opportunity to start his series, ONEMAN which began with The Street Speaker.

ONEMAN: My-Story of the Angry Black; encompasses 3 chapters, entitled The Sermon Series. “It’s a work that mixes the musings of a mad homeless man along with the guys hanging out on the corners and the street speakers (of old) holding court on the streets of Harlem.  It was me, basically announcing myself as officially waking up, and so the Street Speaker fulfilled the role as an alarmist. The action of screaming out for change on a New York City subway car, and calling everyone a Slave at 42nd Street, is just this very angry Black man – which ‘Street Speaker’ ultimately becomes a metaphor for.”

The second installment (of the ‘Sermon Series’) was ‘A-Man???’ which he performed at Grace Exhibition Space in 2012.  “A-Man???, dealt with religion, domestic abuse; my family, growing up in a Black Christian Baptist household, incest, homophobia in the Black community, Black male sexuality and ultimately the connection of all these to slavery. The work was comprised of three movements. The first movement: In the Name of the Mother, focused on patriarchy, goddess worship; the attack and fall of the matriarch and the birth of slavery, as explained through a creation myth.  The second movement: In the Name of the Father, dealt with the physical, mental and sexual abuse of my mother, sister and I at the hands of my father; a Baptist minister and Chaplain.  In the Name of the Son, which is my story, was the third movement and in it, I dealt with issues regarding my sexuality as well as the realization of the impact that my father’s abuse would have on me. ”

The third and final chapter of the, ‘Sermon Series’ was, Chapter 3, Blood and Brothers, based on The Brothers.  Here Preach R. Sun wanted to show the Black experience in regards to the violence in our community as well as that waged against us from the outside. It’s the sort of psychosis- that connects our past to our present. But then there is the CHRYSALIS [Cry-Solace} installation. Which is – as Preach calls it “the Reveal” – a culmination of all 3 chapter’s, intended to serve as a point of transition into a new phase of the work.
Inter to Exit at Gray Zone, Kingston, NY
photo the lab

This next phase and continuation of the One Man Series, focuses on and questions the purpose and potential of art as a tool for social change.  “I’m questioning the power /relevance that is often attributed to art while at the same time, still maintaining the work as a critique of political, social, racial, economic, cultural issues which all go back to questions of freedom.”

The difference between the two series is not only the content, but also his approach to how he deals with the content. The first series was about speaking, because he felt that was the first step towards liberating oneself.  The second series is more about actions, as they relate to his creative process as well as his making a statement about action being the second step towards liberation.  Which is why in this series, he becomes a new entity/character called ‘Fugitive’. Preach explains, “I’m on the run while at the same time burning down temples and shit.”

It’s a frustrating dilemma for those who see Art as a potential vehicle for change.  On one hand, you want to make an impact. On the other, you need to eat.  Luckily for humanity there are those who do Art not for Art’s sake, but as a way of life. Such a being is Preach R. Sun and this is why it also makes sense that I should meet him within the world of performance art.  While the Fugitivist is hesitant to call himself a performance artist, he is excited about the possibilities inherent in the art form and its potential to shape social change.  Take for example his recent performance at Gray Zone for International Performance Art in Kingston, NY. In one of his scenes, he places 21 crosses with names like Martin, Bell, Davis and Sipp – all young male victims of state-condoned executions.  Interestingly enough, many at the performance were not familiar with the names, or the incidents.  Clearly there is room for dialogue and an exchange of information of experiences and perspectives, and clearly there is a need for more spaces in which to do so, across social, ethnic, racial and national lines. 

Counting the Dead, Ferguson City, photo by Abdul Aziz

While in New York, I had the opportunity to check out Preach R. Sun’s CHRYSALIS [Cry-Solace] performance at Grace Space in Brooklyn, and his, ‘INTER to EXIT’ performance, later, at Gray Zone in Kingston, NY. At the time of our first meeting, he had already known most of the movements for his first performance, but was already wondering about his second one, the following weekend, at Gray Zone in Kingston. Not wanting to ever do anything twice – “you run the risk of losing authenticity”, the Fugitivist reflects, Preach questions every detail in his performance – from the use of video projection(s) to the location of a set of keys to unlock the padlock used to shackle him (something he will not end up needing, as one audience member jumps in during the action, later that evening, and smashes the padlock with a hammer). Preach, wants to know how he can make his next action different?

But before all of this, there is something else that the, Fugitivist wants to do in the city.  It has to do with action, and it has to do with voicing how he feels about art, celebrity, elitism and our society’s inability to have any real, true discussion about poverty.  The idea for the action was seeded when learning of Tilda Swinton sleeping in a glass box at the MoMA, in her piece called “The Maybe”, and citing homelessness as one of the many inspirations for the work.  This in turn inspired the Fugitivist to ponder the issue of homelessness (in the United States, where according to estimates by AHAR (Annual Homeless Assessment Report) as of January 2013, 610,042 people were homeless, and how again invisibility is rendered through propaganda.
 "The Maybe Nots": The Moma Intervention photo by Claire Sarganti
"The Maybe Nots": The Moma Intervention photo by Claire Sarganti

For his piece – a response to Swinton’s ‘The Maybe’ – entitled, ‘The Maybe Not’s’, Preach R Sun, armed with a video wielding accomplice, proceeds to enter the Museum of Modern Art, finds a spot on the museum floor, and lays down under a garbage bag. The bag is replete with thought-provoking words and phrases such as, “RICH CELEBRITIES SLEEP IN GLASS BOXES AND IT’S ART, POOR PEOPLE SLEEP IN CARDBOARD BOXES AND IT’S WASTE; NO BEGGING ZONE; HOMELESS MAN ASLEEP IN IVORY TOWER and NO EBT ACCEPTED IN GENTRIFIED NEIGHBORHOODS CASH ONLY”, in less than 5 minutes, the Fugitivist reveals that he is awakened from his slumber by a very sympathetic security guard.  Upon lifting his head from beneath his plastic “sheet”, he sees a wall of spectators facing him, armed with cameras and phones, aimed at him. At that moment Preach realized he had a decision to make. Would he break the spell, admit that he had planned this action? Or would he remain in character? He decides to remain in character, and in so doing, the energy within the MOMA is changed, as spectators watch this lone, seemingly homeless man, be refused shelter within the MOMA.  He knew he had struck a chord when a couple was overheard. “No, I can’t take this,” says the woman, turning around at the sight of Preach R. Sun exiting the museum. “What are you talking about?” asks the man, confused. “This is art. This is what it’s all about.”

But is art enough? The Fugitivist asks himself. He questions if art can be used as an instrument for social change. And this is the examination that drives his current series, Oneman: Fugitivism, Black Arts and Barbarian Invasions.  The work examines, among other things, how to make art relative, how to use it in a way that transforms social structures.  Preach R. Sun is examining ways to make art that sustains an energy necessary for change, not necessarily art that is beholden to being bought and owned, and thus enjoyed by the relatively few.

We live in a world where success is pretty much based on what you have accumulated- materially and academically even.  In a time where access to degrees usually boils down to access to money, the job market has taken on yet another level of discrimination, although this discrimination is tacitly about economics and class, with race being the usual common denominator.  Many of us base success on the type of property you own, the kind of car you drive, your salary. We become alienated from the true root of humanity, the all-encompassing potentiality of what life has to offer.  Life becomes diminished to, “have you seen her bathroom sink?”  I’ve been exposed to my share of this – especially in Denmark where all is supposed to be equal (relatively) and most pride themselves for their lack of materialism. This of course, is becoming rarer, and Danes, I have noticed, have become just as caught up with materialism as they accuse those of us in the U.S. as being.  It’s not difficult to see how this cultural shift is taking place: One of our (the U.S.’s) largest exports is Hollywood: that manipulation of lights that enchants and pulls us away from reality, that makes us forget about the drones, the poverty, the joblessness the mass-imprisonment. It lulls us to sleep while the rest of the world feels our wrath.  We shop at Walmart and our soldiers get pumped up with drugs, on foreign land, to unleash our Democratic will.  Between the manufactured economic crisis and the very real reality of mass incarceration, joblessness, racism, lack of access, it makes me a bit more optimistic when I see others take on the system in their own, fugitive ways.

Update: Preach R Sun continues his work in Ferguson City, Mo. 

To check out Preach R Sun's work in-depth visit


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