An artist-initiated, eco-project, the Where’s Your Tree? podcast series explores the partnering of art and natural resources and health and wellness rituals, as mediating tools, in the face of historic, environmental ruin of the planet and black and brown lives. Part of this work is to reclaim the sustainable applications that our ancestors practiced lifetimes before this country’s “founding,” and to remember they are accessible to us now.
I was introduced to the question, Where’s Your Tree? nearly ten years ago, through a long defunct online video that circulated for a time on the plight of a downtown Los Angeles communal enclave. For years, cross-sections of Chicanos, homeless folks, gang-bangers and others, worked together fairly harmoniously to build and grow an urban farm that generated fresh produce to feed a large segment of the community. Many of these people were displaced persons, elders on fixed incomes, and single head of household families with very young children. On the opposite side of what became a dark, marketplace takeover tale, was a very wealthy developer set on securing their small lot. For what exactly—another coffee chain, parking, luxury housing? Who knows? At the end of this shattering tale, the wealthy developer skillfully maneuvered his intentions through the legal entanglements of Imminent Domain. At the close of the video, one of the exasperated activist-members of the community sighed through the dampened haze of outrage and fatigue--“I mean, when they take away everything from you, Where’s Your Tree?” Her devastating closing remarks lingered inside me since the first screening. It’s taken a decade to summon a worthy reply.
Though, eventually, I would. The first began with the "Where's Your Tree?" Commencement Address that I presented to a graduating class of Goddard College students. Of course, I thought I'd posed the question as an instructive metaphor on how to nurture their outrage, genius and conviction. Then I came to understand that we often pursue what we need to learn. As a result, I began taking small but deliberate steps and actions toward defining for myself responses to the originating question. The podcast series emerges as a sustaining reflection of the wondrous communities of small farmers and growers, organizers/activists, and healing artists who share the journey with me.
How we tell our stories maps the vast terrain of expression in our quest for sustainable art practices. My interdisciplinary work and practices are shaped and informed by the creative, in partnership with cultural inquiry, race/gender and social identities, through divergent storytelling styles. Art, education, social justice, identity, nature, and mindfulness techniques are my essential ingredients. Like many of you, over the years, I have been both seduced and liberated by an explosive list of issues that compete for my attention and advocacy. In response to these calls, I approach my creative work as a form of “artivism,” which grapples with how to produce adaptable, functional and useful outcomes. In my experience, social justice partnered with creative investigation requires that we be prepared to reframe our learning methods and instruments of change. I also teach writing at New York University and was a former Core Faculty at Goddard College. From my students, I’ve learned to affirm the rapturous, ah-ha! moments that emerge from acts of accountability and kindness.
More recent publications and performance projects include:
"Marquee Poems" - Produced by SAINT FLASHLIGHT @ NITEHAWK CINEMA, Park Slope Brooklyn
"Cranky Chariots" Akashic Books (flash fiction speculative story)
Anthropology of Consciousness, Wiley (see full article download below)
For Whom It Stands, The Flag and the American People. Selected photograph. Group Show cited a “A Top Ten Must-See Exhibit,” at the Smithsonian Affiliate-Reginald F. Lewis Museum, Baltimore.
Anthropology of Consciousness. Introduction to the Special Issue: Way Out Voices: A Phenomenology of Interbeing.
Vol. 28, Issue 2, pp. 187–192, ISSN 1053-4202, © 2017
"Symmetry in the Charlie Brown Christmas"