AFSC worked with The Arts& Democracy Project, Junebug Productions, Highlander and the Urban Bush Women among other local organizations to organize the Cultural Organizing Weekend in NOLA. The purpose of the Cultural Organizing Weekend in NOLA was to bring together various artists and organizers to discuss, share and teach different tools used in cultural organizing in our communities. The event was held from Fri. Feb. 22-24, 2013 at Golden Feather, Zeitgeist and Ashe' Cultural Arts Center. Two AFSC interns were on the panel on Friday night that discussed the role of cultural organizing in organizations. Each AFSC intern participated as responders, giving their opinion to the organizational presentations. Below are reflections from our interns on the event.
Breial M. Kennedy Reflections
Reflecting back on the Cultural Organizing Training, I’d say it was a real eye opener. I had an opportunity to be a youth representative on the panel and I feel pretty good about it. I feel that I’ve at least scratched the surface on what it truly means to be a relevant cultural organizer in 2013. Something I think will stick with me is the relationship between the different organizations and importance of acceptance and understanding.
Austin Smith Reflections
I will appreciate the experience I gained attending the Cultural Organizing Workshop last week. It gave me a sense of what each organizations focus was on bringing change within the community. Being at the workshop makes you feel welcomed to help out and follow the beliefs of one of the organizations. I personally enjoyed the open conversations that were had between each person explaining the organization they represented. Everyone has their opinion and it is important that each one is valued. Speaking from a youth’s perspective, I feel we play a key part in the expansion of these organizations. These issues start at home and within those homes are parents and children. They are the people that these organizations should be more socially orientated with. Over all it was a great opportunity and I’m glad I was part of it.
Briana O'Neal Reflections
Day 1: Friday night 2-22-13. We started downstairs at the Golden Feather with a meet and greet while people were still signing in for the workshop. We had a delicious dinner of salad, fried chicken, rice, & sweet tea. Next we moved upstairs where everyone sat in a circle and Ms. Wendi O’Neal started to sing a song to signal that we were starting the workshop. We went around the circle introducing ourselves. After that, we used the story circle process to talk about what cultural organizing was to us. I love the fact that there was representation from the older generation and the younger generation in the same room and there wasn’t conflict.
We spent the rest of our time that night talking about the way that our organizations used cultural organizing in our work and explaining the work that have we done so far. I felt there were a lot of stories that came up to show that there were many ways to use cultural organizing. We have so many different cultures just in New Orleans alone.
I liked how Breial and Austin, two AFSC interns, spoke on the cultural organizing discussion panel. I was also happy to see that the oldest lady in the room not only listened to them but she also took notes because she felt like she could learn from what a young person had to say. I don’t know where else but in these types of settings could you see an older person willing to learn from today’s youth. I only wish more people outside of these organizations, from the general public, would attend these workshops because I think it would decrease some of the problems we have in the city.
Day 2: Saturday 2-23-13. The day got off to a slow start. Once again we started with a song to bring everyone together so that we could start. We went around our group circle and introduced ourselves because there were some new people in the room. We were asked to answer the question. Why are you here? I replied “while I greatly appreciate and respect history, we can’t be afraid of change and we have to find new ways to create cultural organizing in the community so that we can bridge the gap between history and the future.”
Next we did an activity where a list of questions were read to the group and we had to move to the right if we strongly agreed, to the left if we strongly disagreed and to the middle if we were undecided. This activity really helped me to see the values of the people in the room with me.
After lunch we went to the smaller workshops we had chosen earlier that day. I picked The Urban Bush Women Workshop which used dance and movement as a cultural organizing tool. I learned how to use my body and eyes to communicate with others. I also learned how to build off of each other’s work to make something much bigger and better than before. We closed out the day with a report back of things we had done in the smaller workshops to the bigger group and more singing.
Asia-Vinae Palmer Reflections
Asia-Vinae Palmer Reflections
Culture: The arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.
On February 21, 2013 I wasn’t sure what culture meant. Of course I had this general idea or understanding that it was something to be proud of…soul food…salsa dancing. But I never attempted to define it. I never thought of it from day to day as if it were a part of my daily life or something that affects the way I act. I didn’t realize that culture is everything from the food my parents cook to my neighbor’s language to my daily swag. Culture is everything around us and “us” varies from one group of people to the next according to race, gender, neighborhood, etc. The Cultural Organizing Workshop on February 22nd made me think about the kind of difference I’m making and if I am doing all I can. Until the workshop, I hadn’t taken the time to sit back and reflect on everything I’ve been doing for the community and then critically analyze myself. The workshop administrators had us all do interactive exercises to get our brains thinking. One exercise I enjoyed was when we all had to stand up and answer questions by moving from one side of the room which was strongly agree to the other which was strongly disagree, and middle being neutral. We were then asked questions on how much we involve culture with our work or daily lives. I was surprised to find myself on the strongly agree for most of the questions. As an artist, poet, and all around creative person, I unconsciously have already been using cultural organizing in my work. I felt proud to be able to stand next to men and women who’ve been doing the same work for so many years and be able to say that I too have been making a difference. It was very humbling, and made me want to try even harder. Throughout the two days I was learning how to embrace culture and then use it to make a difference. And this time, I can do it and know what I was doing. For a moment during the workshop I had a few mixed feelings toward my observations of other people’s answers to questions. It occurred to me that although people were all saying ways to change the community, no one mentioned children or how to get them involved. I always have the idea that children are the future in the back of my head and believe that the only way to ensure true change is to educate our youth of our plans so that once they are capable of taking over they won’t have to start from the bottom. But then I just sat back and observed the room full of the different organizations that all offered something different and then back at my own organization, and I understood the point. We are all here to get closer and closer to a better community and then a better world. It was okay that everyone didn’t work with children because we did. If everyone focused on the same field then it would be like if ten people were looking for something in one room versus spreading out throughout the entire house. Someone is focused on changing the education system, someone is fixing the neighborhood the school is in, and someone is working on the mentality of the youth, and together we can make a mass move. When the workshop came to a close I had a totally different outlook on the world around me and I felt ready to take on whatever challenge would jump out soon.