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August 1, 2016


A Note from Executive Director Eyenga Bokamba

"Art is about opening up to possibility...possibility links to hope. We all need hope."
 
"If you try to kill the human spirit, the answer is to revenge with beauty."
 
"Everyone is afraid, but when we make a connection to another human being, we turn fear into joy."
 
Quoted from The Music of Strangers
    
What resources are available to us in times of turmoil? Does it matter if we get our information electronically, in written form, in person, psychically? Is our collective experience of grief, anger, sorrow, pain transposed when we are able to express our experiences to each other? As I walk with these questions, I find myself inconsolable, as do many of us, in this challenging time. Last month I retreated to the north woods for rejuvenation the week of July 4th and emerged from this cocoon only to learn of horrific tragedy. I found myself questioning the role of the arts at times of national and international tragedy. I began searching for precedents for life-affirming responses, work that stands the test of time, projects that address humanity at the intersection of art and politics. Some projects are sanctioned and have been institutionalized into the canon of collective memory, some are under the radar, emergent, spontaneous, and deeply personal. Others dare to ask questions without uttering a wo
rd. Here are a few that give me solace:
 
Maya Angelou's poetic affirmation of the complexity of our racialized national history and identity, and the human connection that comes from this recognition, feels deeply appropriate given today's national circumstances:
 
On The Pulse of Morning - Poem by Maya Angelou
A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Mark the mastodon.
The dinosaur, who left dry tokens
Of their sojourn here
On our planet floor,
Any broad alarm of their of their hastening doom
Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.
But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,
But seek no haven in my shadow.
I will give you no hiding place down here.
You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness,
Have lain too long
Face down in ignorance.
Your mouths spelling words
Armed for slaughter.
The rock cries out today, you may stand on me,
But do not hide your face.
Across the wall of the world,
A river sings a beautiful song,
Come rest here by my side.
Each of you a bordered country,
Delicate and strangely made proud,
Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.
Your armed struggles for profit
Have left collars of waste upon
My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.
Yet, today I call you to my riverside,
If you will study war no more.
Come, clad in peace and I will sing the songs
The Creator gave to me when I
And the tree and stone were one.
Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your brow
And when you yet knew you still knew nothing.
The river sings and sings on.
There is a true yearning to respond to
The singing river and the wise rock.
So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew,
The African and Native American, the Sioux,
The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek,
The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh,
The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
The privileged, the homeless, the teacher.
They hear. They all hear
The speaking of the tree.
Today, the first and last of every tree
Speaks to humankind. Come to me, here beside the river.
Plant yourself beside me, here beside the river.
Each of you, descendant of some passed on
Traveller, has been paid for.
You, who gave me my first name,
You Pawnee, Apache and Seneca,
You Cherokee Nation, who rested with me,
Then forced on bloody feet,
Left me to the employment of other seekers-
Desperate for gain, starving for gold.
You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Scot...
You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru,
Bought, sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare
Praying for a dream.
Here, root yourselves beside me.
I am the tree planted by the river,
Which will not be moved.
I, the rock, I the river, I the tree
I am yours- your passages have been paid.
Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, and if faced with courage,
Need not be lived again.
Lift up your eyes upon
The day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream.
Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands.
Mold it into the shape of your most
Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts.
Each new hour holds new chances
For new beginnings.
Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
To brutishness.
The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out upon me,
The rock, the river, the tree, your country.
No less to Midas than the mendicant.
No less to you now than the mastodon then.
Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister's eyes,
Into your brother's face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope
Good morning.
 
- Maya Angelou, created on the occasion of the first inauguration of President Bill Clinton on January 20, 1993 
 
 
The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble, follows members of the Ensemble as they gather in locations across the world, exploring the ways art can both preserve traditions and shape cultural evolution. Blending performance footage, personal interviews, and archival film, the filmmakers paint a vivid portrait of a bold musical experiment and a global search for ties that bind.
 
Donovan Livingston's Harvard Graduate School of Education Student Speechevokes historical truths and present-day realities of the shortcomings of public discourse, using deep artistry and pointed performance to incite much needed change in our collective reaction to the energy of young black men such as himself: http://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/16/05/lift 
 
And the beauty of this musical flash mob in the Copenhagen Metro Station: the looks of wonder on passengers' faces, a routine, daily moment, seized, the collective question after this stunning spontaneous gift, Did that just happen? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gww9_S4PNV0  
 
 
When connections between humans are available, when our humanity is affirmed, maybe - just maybe - we have a chance to reconnect to our own humanity, and thus, to take action from there. It is in the spirit of this notion that we at Intermedia Arts offer our programming, and it is the same impulse that gives rise to a new experimental thread, a thread that will provide opportunities for community, collaboration, and connection. We invite you to help us shape this collective experience.
 
Thank you for your thoughtful consideration, your participation in community conversations. Hopefully, we can all find a little solace, and work towards greater unity and understanding, together. 


Eyenga Bokamba
Executive Director, Intermedia Arts