In a time of urgent widespread care needs, the pandemic has brought communities together to take care of each other’s basic needs and build structures of mutual aid. This is not without precedent, and like previous movements for access to healthcare and community resources, this crisis disproportionately affects communities of color and the economically vulnerable. Bringing together artists and community advocates, including Demita Frazier, Erin Genia, Nakia Hill, James Vamboi, and Cierra Michele Peters this discussion will focus amplifying these histories and collective structures of care and solidarity work in Boston so that we may better understand how to take care of each other and the part artists and culture workers can play. Moderated by Penn Loh, Senior Lecturer and Director of the Master of Public Policy Program and Community Practice at Tufts University’s Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning.
This discussion coincides with the launch of TUAG’s Collective Futures Fund, a new grant for artist-run platforms and experimental, public artist projects in the Greater Boston area.
Image: Erin Genia, “Sound Vessels,” 2018. Courtesy of the artist.
Demita Frazier, JD, is an activist, independent scholar, thought leader, writer and educator. She is a co-founder of the Combahee River Collective, a radical Black feminist organization active in Boston from 1975 to 1981, and a co-author of the Combahee River Collective Statement, a foundational Black feminist primer.
Erin Genia (Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate/ Odawa) is a multidisciplinary artist, educator and community organizer specializing in Indigenous arts and culture. Genia’s work in these areas is focused on amplifying the powerful presence of Indigeneity in the arts, sciences and public realm to invoke an evolution of thought and practice that is aligned with the cycles of the natural world and the potential of humanity. She is currently artist-in-residence for the City of Boston.
Nakia Hill is a writer, journalist, and educator who focuses on empowering Black women and girls to use writing as a tool for healing + resistance. She was named a Boston Artist-in-Residence in 2018 by Mayor Walsh. Hill is the author of two books: Water Carrier and I Still Did It.
James Vamboi (Chief of Staff, Community, and Culture, Ujima): James is a social worker, visual artist and fundraising strategist originally from Philadelphia. He moved to Boston to serve on the City Year Boston 2012-2013 corps and never left. James cares deeply about people and the planet and is inspired by the work of the Justice Funders, Bayard Rustin and his Sierra Leonean aunties who taught him all about love.
Cierra Michele Peters (Communications Director, Ujima) employs a practice that includes video, installation, and durational performance. She works as an artist, curator, and organizer with projects that attempt to examine visual, spatial and sensory representations of blackness. Her conceptual work uses wry humor to present commentary on subjectivity and ontology against an urban backdrop. Her recent projects include Print Ain’t Dead, a pop-up bookstore and publishing platform and Demo Radio, an underground sound archive.
The Ujima Fund is a democratic investment vehicle raising capital to finance small businesses, real estate and infrastructure projects in Boston’s working-class Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color, as part of the larger Boston Ujima Project. Ujima, named for the Swahili word for collective work and responsibility, uses a participatory budgeting process in combination with traditional underwriting to put economic development decisions in the hands of community members.
Penn Loh is Senior Lecturer and Director of the Master of Public Policy Program and Community Practice at Tufts University’s Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning. He partners with various community base building organizations in the Solidarity Economy Initiative, Right to the City Alliance, and Center for Economic Democracy. He has published broadly on environmental and social justice issues. He is currently a trustee of the Hyams Foundation and board member of Center for Economic Democracy.