BLM Pratt Teach-In 2021: Black Futures & Utopias

Image Description: BLM Pratt 2021 Teach-In: Black Futures & Utopias flyer linked to RSVP form.

The Black Lives Matter Pratt Teach-In is a daylong conference hosting many perspectives, ideas and theories on the mission and goals of Black Lives Matter. The theme, Black Futures & Utopias, gives us the chance to dream, plan, and imagine the Black future where pleasure, abundance, equity, and harmony are prioritized. While the present may be bleak and complicated, BLM Pratt dedicates the 2021 Teach-In to the spirit of idealized Black futurity. This year’s teach-in will take place on Friday, February 19th.

The virtual conference will feature talks and workshops by Ras Cutlass, the Wide Awakes, and Pratt faculty members Simone Barros, Jerrod Delaine, Jeffrey Hogrefe, and Scott Ruff. To ensure the safety of our speakers and guests, this year’s virtual Teach-In will only be open to the Pratt students, staff, and faculty.

Workshop titles and descriptions are subject to change.

MORNING SESSIONS: 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM ET

Dear Covid: Art as activism |Facilitated by: Jessica Preston

This live session has been canceled. A recorded version of Dear Covid: Art as Activism will be emailed to attendees in the future.

Unprecedented is a term that has been applied to the tumultuous nature of the political, social, and economic landscape. As a person of color, “unprecedented” is a misnomer. There is something painfully reminiscent about where we are as a country and as a world community. Artists and, in this country, Artists of color, have a long history of using their work to hold up a mirror to their lived experiences. This session is about offering a space to discuss the often immense pressure to walk in an intersectional existence. 

Know that:

Your activism can lie in your joy, reflecting your ability to witness and participate in happiness that endures

Your activism can sustain you, be in the moments you choose to disconnect from the omnipresent white noise

Your activism can be as much in the content of your work, as it is in the materials you choose, or where you perform

Your activism, your resistance belongs to you.

Session Details: 

  1. Housekeeping – group ground rules including one mic, vegas rule, maintaining safety vs comfort. This session or things said here may make you uncomfortable, but this space will be safe. You may not agree, but concentrate on “I” statements to reflect how it makes you feel.
  2. What does it mean to take up space as a person of color
  3. What does it mean to take up space as an artist of color 
  4. Mental Health Resources 
  5. Activism/ knowing when to step away as self care

About the facilitator: Jessica Preston is a Pratt alum, and current staff member. Graduating in 2013 with a Master’s in Creative Arts Therapy, she left the field electing to apply therapeutic principles to non therapeutic spaces, working on empathetic and inclusionary practices in corporate, tech startups, and education. She returned to work in the counseling center, to try to bring that disparate experience to her alma mater to incite change and inform best practices.

Creating and Preserving Generational Wealth in the Black Future |Facilitated by: Jerrod Delaine

We as architects are in the business of creating buildings, the vast majority of Americans have their wealth in their home. We are creating wealth. Let’s create opportunities to create that wealth resource for all Americans, including the black community which has long been kept out of this wealth creation ecosystem. This engine is profitable for the business involved with it, urban planning, financing, construction as well as the design professionals. Let’s be a part of a new solution. Lets design change. Let’s design better communities that are equitable for everyone!

About the facilitator: Jerrod Delaine is a Professor at Pratt Institute. He is an experienced Real Estate Developer, with a skill set that includes Design, Construction, Finance, Affordable Housing, and Asset Management. Jerrod is currently the Director of Development at a Harlem based real estate development company, Carthage Real Estate Advisors. The firm focuses on workforce housing in urban communities in the New York City area. His current focus is utilizing access to capital markets, improving communities through real estate finance and development. Jerrod has been in the real estate development sphere for 10 years. Jerrod spent the first five years of his career at Forum Architecture and Interior Design, the majority of his efforts focused on project managing affordable housing projects in the southeast region of the United States. Jerrod has a Bachelors Degree and Bachelors of Arts Degree in Architecture from Florida A & M University School of Architecture and Environmental Technology. He has a Master of Science degree from New York University Schack Institute of Real Estate.

LUNCHTIME SESSION: 11:45 AM – 12:45 PM ET

Black Madness: An Anti-Capitalist Technology|Facilitated by: Ras Cutlass

Explore how Black Madness can be used as a technology to imagine and conjure  worlds free of economic and capitalistic exploitation. Participants will reframe their own [dis]abilities within their labor journeys as glimpses into alternative worlds where Black labor is respected, and in solidarity with liberation from global imperialism.

About the facilitator: Ras Cutlass is a Philly-based sci-fi writer, mental health worker, and founder of Deep Space Mind 215, a platform for the creation of community-grown wellness technologies. She is a co-founding member of Metropolarity sci-fi collective alongside Rasheedah Phillips, Alex Smith, and M. Téllez. Their work can be found at cutlasstheory.com and at metropolarity.net

AFTERNOON SESSIONS: 1:30 PM – 3 PM ET

Technology in the Art Practice, Black Artists in Future Mediums | Facilitated by: Simone Barros and Ari Melenciano

Technology in the Art Practice, Black Artists in Future Mediums presents two artists using technology in their arts practice, defying stereotypes that black artists lack technical acumen and dexterity. Focusing on the intersection of technology and art, Simone Barros moderates a dialogue with Ari Melenciano discussing their art works of moving image, soundscapes, interactive technology and design while sharing the challenges, barriers and joys of creating technology dependent art and relating their artistic backgrounds, professional experiences and current project exploring future mediums. Simone invites participants to an experimental workshop fashioned after the Black American call and response tradition. Through a modes of listening prompt, participants engage with one of Simone Barros’ soundscapes as she guides participants in impromptu artistic responses.
After viewing two video documentations of Ari Melenciano’s performance of Alaïa’s Lab: Past | Present | Future an audiovisual, living-breathing installation that uses visuals and sounds to discuss culture, identity, and politics which over the two-day installation duration moves from reflection, memory and political dissent to a vision for the future and her creation of sonic sculpture, participants may ask Ari about her process and methodology. The workshop concludes with an introduction to Ari’s current projects Afrotectopia and her Eyebeam Rapid Response for a Better Digital Future fellowship. Simone invites participants to come ready to explore and create!

About the facilitators:

Ari Melenciano, a designer, creative technologist and researcher passionately explores the relationships between various forms of design and sentient experiences. As described in the Prattfolio Fall/Winter 2020 issue, “Melenciano’s work moves among the realms of interactive technology, design that orients toward the speculative and creates experiences across the senses, and racial activism—with projects such as Afrotectopia, an interdisciplinary community-driven forum for empowering Black innovators. This summer, Melenciano was selected as a fellow of Eyebeam’s Rapid Response for a Better Digital Future fellowship, launched by the artist organization as the pandemic and social justice actions intensified around the world, to support artists in developing transformational ideas aimed at improving the human experience. Her project centers on imagining, via an interactive platform, a more humane future, via a simulated “utopian society rooted in natural intelligence.” Ari Melenciano has been recognized as a 2020 NYU ITP Teaching Fellow, a 2020 NYU Tisch School of the Arts Future Imagination Fund Fellow, a 2020 and 2019 Artist in Residence at MICA Photography and Electronic Media and by the New York Live Arts Creative Technologist 2020 Residency, the Guild of Future Architects in 2020 and the Onassis Foundation + New Inc. in 2020.

Simone Barros creates moving image and soundscapes as film, theater an audio sound art. Simone has screened her short films and soundscapes in New York and Cleveland after graduating from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts receiving the Martin Scorsese Filmmaker Grant and Tisch Dean Craft Award. Simone worked postproduction for filmmakers Judith Helfand, Ric Burns, Sam Pollard and Spike Lee. In 2016, Arts Cleveland awarded Simone a Creative Workforce Fellowship during which she created the experimental documentary, Freedom Runners, a cinematic study of memory and history as collective memory revolving around a ninety-one year old woman’s crusade to save a house rumored as an Underground Railroad shelter. Simone currently teaches at Pratt Institute and the Manhattan Theatre Club while directing audiobooks by acclaimed authors including Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Charlie Kaufman, Jacqueline Woodson and Ibram X. Kendi.

Connecting to the Archive at Weeksville: Anti-gentrification Tactics in Central Brooklyn|Facilitated by: Sadie Hope-Gund, Jeffrey Hogrefe, Jared Rice, Scott Ruff, and Joseph Shiveley

Weeksville was founded in 1838 by formerly enslaved persons and freedmen who sought to create a self-sustaining utopian community in Brooklyn, New York. Distinguished by its urbanity, size, and relative physical and economic stability, the community supported seven Black institutions, including The African Civilization Society, The Howard Orphan Asylum, the Home for Aged Colored People, Colored School Number 2, and its original two churches which continue to serve the present community. Weeksville provided sanctuary for self-emancipated persons from Southern plantations, and for free Black people escaping the violence of New York City’s Draft Riots in 1863. After almost fifty years of community led persistence and vision, in 2014 the Weeksville Heritage Center (WHC) introduced a new Cultural Arts Building and interpretive landscape on the same campus as the original community. “Connecting to the Archive of Weeksville: Anti-Gentrification Tactics in Central Brooklyn,” seeks to support the Center’s efforts to continue to connect with the immediate neighborhood and strengthen its anti-gentrification activities through several processes that center around the ongoing development of archival and oral history collections held by the Center. The presenters are three Pratt students: Sadie Hope-Gund, Jared Rice and Joseph Shiveley who, together with faculty members Jeffrey Hogrefe and Scott Ruff, are working this year on the archive project through a grant from the Taconic Foundation. The presentation will show the ways in which a nineteenth century Black utopian community still lives in the present and future as an active memory in central Brooklyn.

About the facilitators: Sadie Hope Gund is a first year graduate student in School of Information at Pratt Institute who intends on dedicating her library career to the expansion of digital access, information tools, and critical thinking to people holding marginalized identities. 

Jared Rice is a fourth year undergraduate architecture student and a founding member of the NOMAS chapter at Pratt Institute. 

Joseph Shiveley is a fourth year undergraduate architecture student at Pratt Institute. 

Jeffrey Hogrefe is a professor of Humanities and Media Studies at Pratt Institute and co-editor of In Search of African American Space Redressing Racism (Lars Müller Publisher, 2020). 

Scott Ruff is an adjunct associate professor of architecture, the faculty representative for the NOMAS chapter at Pratt Institute and co-editor of In Search of African American Space Redressing Racism (Lars Müller Publisher, 2020).   

Stardust en el Sur: Performing to unearth ancestral memory and shape futures|Facilitated by: Moréna Espiritual

Stardust en el Sur is a healing movement class meant to honor indigenous ways of relating and existing through dance – no prior knowledge or skill set required. All music danced to and learned about in this class are by Afro-Latinx creators and is where the workshop got its name. 

The particular workshop features music from the Afro Puerto Rican genre of Bomba y Plena, a practice that allows its creators to process ancestral memory and connection using music and movement. This genre will be used as a reference to answer the question: how can performance become a portal for time travel, allowing us to access memory & create fulfilling futures? Students should come ready to reflect, converse and move their bodies (if able).

Each class includes 3 parts – dance theory development and analysis, political education, and movement prompts. 

  1. Dance theory development and analysis: Through dance theory development and analysis, students are introduced to the session’s self-reflection theme and essential questions, and are given the space to question the ideologies behind their movement.
  2. Political Education: Students learn the political history or genealogy behind select Afro-Latinx music/artists that exemplify potential ways the self-reflection theme can be activated. 
  3. Movement Prompts: Through movement prompts students are introduced to the freestyle tools they will be using to craft their own original movement and embody the theme. 

About the facilitator: Moréna Espiritual is a non binary Afro-Taino educator and performance artist exploring gender, the power of eroticism, and ancestral memory. Their family is from Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, whereas they grew up mostly in Harlem, Lenapehoking. Currently they are based in Santurce, Boriken.

CLOSING SESSION: 3:30 PM – 5PM ET

Radical Spectacle and Joy featuring The Wide Awakes|Facilitated by: Niama Sandy, Autumn Breon, Helina Metaferia, Nour Batyne, Adelle Lin, Yvette Molina, and Amy Khoshbin.

Wide Awakes: Radical Spectacle and Joy is a workshop to collectively envision and enact a liberated future through two consciousness and visibility-raising strategies used by the Wide Awakes: spectacle and joy. The Wide Awakes are a community of voices who aim to create a new culture together in pursuit of liberation of mind, body, and spirit. Using the power of joy and the act of spectacle– a rally, image, or commotion like a massive cape-wearing performance that cuts through the media noise– the Wide Awakes foster collective visions of Black liberation. Their methodology of joy is about redirecting negative energy and perceptions through positive connections, action, and resistance to oppression. As Wide Awakes’ member Tracey Ryans says, “We’ve always used joy. That’s how we got here. It’s been a survival technique for a long time. Jazz, blues, hip-hop all came out of Black pain — we always made time to dance and sing in our darkest days.” Using the Wide Awakes’ Disorientation format– a daily virtual participatory assembly open to anyone – this participatory workshop includes somatic exercises, presentations, and space for discussion. Capes on, eyes open. Join us in envisioning the future reality we want to see and making it happen starting today.

About the facilitators: The Wide Awakes are a community of voices who aim to create a new culture together in pursuit of liberation of mind, body, and spirit. Inspired by the Wide Awakes of 1860, a group of young abolitionists who banded together and devised a radical plan to support abolitionist efforts. The Wide Awakes emerge again in 2020 where justice, democracy and welfare for all people are threatened. Wide Awakes members leading this workshop include Niama Sandy, Autumn Breon, Helina Metaferia, Nour Batyne, Adelle Lin, Yvette Molina, and Amy Khoshbin.

Nour Batyne is a New York-based producer and educator whose work lies at the intersection of immersive storytelling, strategic foresight, and social innovation. She founded Disruptivist, a global community of artists working to challenge the status quo with the mission to amplify the power of the arts as a tool for social change and innovation. Disruptivist is a member partner of For Freedoms Organization/ Wide Awakes network. Their most recent production includes Resilience 2032, a social media theatre experience that transports you to the year 2032. It received the Next Generation Foresight Practitioner North American Award for its aim to democratize and scale futures thinking by leveraging social media theater to inspire widespread civic engagement with a focus on climate change, data-driven technologies, and systemic inequality. Nour has worked in the nonprofit sector both locally and internationally for the last 14 years with a focus on collaborative impact and movement building. She also co-founded a financial health and literacy platform that connects young, underserved consumers with community financial institutions. Nour is a Next Generation Foresight Practitioner Fellow at the School of International Futures and serves as an Associate Instructor in the M.S. in Nonprofit Management program at Columbia University. She is a member of the Wide Awakes, an open-source network who radically reimagine the future through creative collaboration.

Autumn Breon works to reimagine global narratives through art and education. A graduate of Stanford, she studied Aeronautics & Astronautics and researched aeronautical astrobiology applications for NASA. As the only woman of color in her cohort and dissatisfied with a lack of representation, Autumn founded STEMgineers Shifting Gears, a STEM-focused extracurricular program based in Watts, CA. Her work to further the dialogue on educational equity led to her frequent travels to the African continent and re-introduction to contemporary art. Autumn Breon now works as an art advisor specializing in contemporary art and contemporary African art, curating and brokering art in Europe, Africa, and the States. Her work has been recognized by the Smithsonian Institution, Aspen Institute, TED, the Obama Foundation, and LA Magazine.

Amy Khoshbin is an Iranian-American Brooklyn-based artist, activist, and educator. Her practice, as an artist and pedagogue, builds bridges between disparate communities to counteract fear with a collective sense of empowered radical acceptance. She pushes the formal and conceptual boundaries of artmaking to foster progressive social change through performance, social practice, video, rap music, installation, tattooing, teaching and writing. She has shown at venues such as The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum,  Times Square Arts, Artpace, The High Line, Socrates Sculpture Park,  VOLTA Art Fair, Leila Heller Gallery, Arsenal Contemporary, National Sawdust, BRIC Arts, and festivals such as River to River and South by Southwest. She has received residencies at spaces such as The Watermill Center, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Project for Empty Space, Anderson Ranch, and Banff Centre for the Arts. She has received a Franklin Furnace Fund and a Rema Hort Mann Artist Community Engagement Grant. Khoshbin received an MA from New York University in Tisch School of the Arts and a BA in Film and Media Studies at University of Texas at Austin. She has collaborated with Laurie Anderson, Karen Finley, House of Trees, Tina Barney, and poets Anne Carson and Bob Currie among others.

Adelle Lin: Originally from Malaysia, Adelle is a creativist who lived in Australia before moving to the USA. Having had to negotiate various cultures and systems, she draws on these experiences to develop projects that help connect people with themselves and the spaces they occupy. Adelle works in a transdisciplinary fashion, whether it’s building virtual worlds or fusing light with the body, she’s passionate about integrating the digital and physical to make the unseen seen.

Helina Metaferia is an interdisciplinary artist working across performance, video, installation, collage, and social engagement. Her work interrogates the body’s relationship to sites, especially as it relates to notions of identity and citizenship. Metaferia received her MFA from Tufts University’s School of the Museum of Fine Arts and attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Recent or upcoming solo and group exhibitions include Museum of African Diaspora, San Francisco, CA; Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, Detroit, MI; Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Boston, MA; New York University’s The Gallatin Galleries, New York, NY; Art and Design Center, Hollywood, FL; Center for Design and Architecture, Philadelphia, PA; Smack Mellon, Brooklyn, NY; Modern Art Museum, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; NOMAD Gallery, Brussels, Belgium; Alabama Contemporary Art Center, Mobile, AL, among many others. Metaferia’s work has been supported by artist residencies including MacDowell, Yaddo, Bemis, MASS MoCA, and Triangle Arts Association. She is currently an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow / Assistant Professor at Brown University, and lives and works in New York City.

Yvette Molina is a multidisciplinary artist interested in the relationship between justice and caring. Current projects include New Pantheon, a series of reimagined gods born to confront the world’s challenges and Big Bang Votive, a participatory story sharing installation. Yvette has exhibited across the US and internationally at venues such as the Stockholm Fringe Festival, the American Embassies in Uruguay and Latvia, the Visual Art Center of New Jersey, Arsenal Contemporary, NYC, NADA Art Fair, and Johansson Projects, Oakland, CA. Residency Fellowships include Edward F. Albee, Jentel, Vermont Studio Center, the de Young Museum, and UC Berkeley Worth Ryder Gallery. Born in Kansas City, Yvette currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

Niama Safia Sandy is a New York-based cultural anthropologist, curator, producer, multidisciplinary artist and educator. She currently serves as the Curator-in-Residence at Fridman Gallery, New York, and is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Pratt Institute, School of Fine Art. Her work through all media seeks to tell stories we know in ways we have not yet thought to tell them and to lift us all to a higher state of historical, ontological and spiritual wholeness in the process. In Summer 2020, Niama helped found The Blacksmiths, a new coalition of culture workers standing together to forge support for Black liberation against anti-Black racism in the academy and at presenting institutions. Through The Blacksmiths, she has produced resources and public events engaging communities, activists, artists across disciplines, and more to close the gaps in appropriate opportunities for Black artists, curators, and administrators on the global stage. Niama is also an active member and organizer with the artist collectives the Wide Awakes and The Resistance Revival Chorus. Sandy has presented work, convened panels and programs globally with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, MACAAL, Marrakesh, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Creative Time Summit, SummerStage, Harvard University, Oberlin College, Rhode Island School of Design, Prizm Art Fair, UNTITLED & more. Niama and her work have been featured in Teen Vogue, The Washington Post, W Magazine, Hyperallergic, OkayAfrica, Monopol and more. She has written for Artsy, Active Cultures LA, MFON: Women Photographers of the Black Diaspora, NAD NOW, and many other outlets. In 2022, she will co-curate a series of major exhibitions hosted at the National Gallery of the Bahamas, the National Gallery of Jamaica, and the National Museum & Art Gallery of Trinidad.

Image Description: BLM Pratt 2021 Teach-In: Black Futures & Utopias flyer linked to RSVP form.