Story Circle: Arts of Change, Resistance, and the Common Good
“Culture is how we are piecing ourselves back together. It is the healing process for a person and for a village, a tribe, a people.”
—Mark Gonzales, futurist and connector
“Many of our traditions, of our practices, are cemented in this idea of a cypher, of a circle, of inclusivity, where it’s an equal playing ground. We all have a place in that circle.”
—Julia L. Gutiérrez-Rivera, dancer and Festival community engagement manager
“Bomba is my best weapon of peace. Anybody who feels those drums, those rhythms, feels their identity, feels their resilience to be saying, this is how we change the poisons of the world into medicine.”
—María Isa, rapper, actress, and community organizer
“Capoeira is used as a vehicle to draw attention to certain issues, to mobilize people, to give voice to the voiceless, reach out to communities that have been ignored and marginalized and empower them through this vehicle we call culture.”
—Kojo Johnson, capoeira mestre
This week, the Folklife Festival staff decided to postpone our scheduled discussion on Afro-Brazilian dance and turn our attention instead to the national conversation about racial inequality, police brutality, and creating a way forward. As our director points out, “Culture. Out Loud.” cannot be just a catchy slogan for us. We have a responsibility to open space for difficult conversations, just as we have in varying ways since our founding in 1967.
This presentation featured four artist-activists: Kojo Johnson in Washington, D.C., María Isa in Minneapolis, Julia L. Gutiérrez-Rivera in New York City, and Mark Gonzales in Tunisia. Over the hour, they discussed concepts of home and identity, expressive arts as tools for grieving, and building a safe and more equitable world for our children.
What role can music, dance, and other arts play in demanding justice, healing intergenerational trauma, and establishing peace? Keep the conversation going—in the comments below, in your homes, and in your communities.