Today I am reflecting on service and on centering, centering Blackness as a practice for livability which requires dismantling white supremacy and rooting out anti-blackness in all its forms.
I was guided to Centering Blackness several years ago during a workshop with dance artist Mayfield Brooks (they/their/them) and a process they call the poetics of rupture. In their project, Improvising While Black, Brooks’ describes the work as an
“experiment which grew out of…multifaceted inquiry into the creation of spontaneous movement, racial representation, survival, and a collective of dreams and desires for a different future. IWB finds futurity in the hustle, the fugitive, the ancestor, the queer outlaw, the flesh, and improvisatory modes of dance as resistance. It seeks to rupture settler colonial logic, anti-black violence, and other ideas that perpetuate an industrial complex mentality.”mayfield brooks
The many alignments between the Livable Futures project and IWB shine through this text, an awareness of artistic vision in futurity, an activist emphasis on resistance, spontaneous embodied and sonic interventions. In their workshop Brooks simply spoke those words when introducing their project, “I am centering Blackness” and the clarity of their statement called me in to assessing what I was centering in my life and how I could orient myself more intentionally. Prior to this, I was active in diversity and intercultural work but was not yet addressing or facing into racism fully nor the deeply embedded connections between anti-blackness specifically and environmental destruction over the past 500 years of colonialism on the planet.
I started to center Blackness first as a means of combating the implicit biases that seep into our minds and bodies from living in racist cultural contexts but it did much more than that and over time had changed my life. It is an ongoing and life affirming process.
Where do you start re-centering?
I began by replacing every white expert or influencer I was following with a Black expert or influencer, by vastly increasing the number of Black cultural creators and creations I was watching and reading, and working to more consistently uplift BIPOC voices first. As an intersectional feminist I always look to support work by women and non-binary folks of color in particular and I am guided by the social media posts, artwork and scholarship of the many trusted BIPOC leaders in my network.
Whether you are just beginning this journey or many years into centering, decentering and re-centering, here are three visionary folks to follow from our LF Network and beyond:
Andre M. Zachery is a Brooklyn, NY based interdisciplinary artist, artistic director of Renegade Performance Group, and longtime contributor to the Livable Futures network. Andre’s work is grounded in devising choreographic, performative and multimedia projects exploring contemporary Black cultural aesthetics and practices. His work led me to a wonderful vortex of afrofuturist creative work that will enliven your sense of hope and possibility and help you decolonize your own imagination. Check out more about his recent afrofuturist work with LF and follow him on instagram: @renegadepg
adrienne maree brown‘s 2017 text Emergent Strategy is always on my bedside table and has been hugely influential in the creation of Livable Futures. In it she weaves together ecology, social justice, complexity theory, change management and facilitation, liberatory pedagogy, and creative practices. She has an active blog where she is always working out her new ideas in community. Read her expansive reflections over the years on MLK Jr and follow her on instagram: @adriennemareebrown
I recently had the opportunity to speak with dancer and choreographer Momar Ndiaye about his work and came away with a fantastic reading list from a long history of important scholarship and creative activity in Africa and the African diaspora. Momar is particularly interested in 21st century engagement with Negritude, a term coined in the 1930s by Afro-Martiniquan French poet and politician Aimé Fernand Césaire, Senegalese poet and politician Léopold Senghor, and Léon Damas of French Guiana in the 20th century. They are all worth reading but to get you started, enjoy this summary of Aimé Césaire: The Négritude Movement (Blackthen.com) and then find his work on The Poetry Foundation website (they have a delightful app if you are so inclined).
I have so much more to add I can already tell this will be a series and I’d love to hear from you about how you are centering and uplifting Black creators in your life and work. #livablefutures