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August 29, 2017


The news of J. Otis Powell‽’s passing is resonating deeply throughout the walls and bodies of Intermedia Arts. J. Otis has been a crucial part of our organization and work for nearly three decades. His wisdom, artistry, experiences, talents, and critique have played an enormous role in shaping Intermedia Arts and the individuals within it. A self-proclaimed Bluesician, J. Otis was committed to constant progress, moving forward, and avoiding repetition.
 
At Intermedia Arts, Powell‽was a performer, a curator, an instigator, a space-holder, a literary and spoken word artist, a fellow in the Creative Community Leadership Institute, a mentor for the VERVE Spoken Word program, and played a major role in the organization’s recent equity-as-innovation initiative, inciting a culture shift and helping to shape our organizational vision of equity: “Working to create and promulgate a culture of equity in all phases (including decision-making, planning, implementation, and evaluation) of Intermedia Arts' activities, while normalizing conversations about race.
 
"J. Otis Powellwas a deeply generous teacher, scholar, activist artist whose presence enlivened Intermedia Arts more than words can say,”said Intermedia Arts Executive Director Eyenga Bokamba. “His willingness to always lead with expansiveness, with possibilities, with excitement about the power of language has forever transformed Intermedia Arts and all of us who were lucky to know him. His legacy is here, but he will be sorely missed."
 
J. Otis was a friend, a teacher, and a mentor to many in our community. He pushed to create and protect space for emerging writers of color and those exploring non-traditional pathways to success. He believed that artists are bigger than themselves; that they hold community, ancestry, and responsibility. Powell‽encouraged countless artists and individuals to lay to rest their excuses. “Too many people believe it is more important to make a living than a life,” he said. “But the world cannot continue without creative people.”
 
It is with a heavy heart, but a forward-focus that we move through today, holding within us J. Otis’ wisdom: "In order to enact change, you must be the change and live the change. Be controversial, push back, resist clichés. It's about the internal politics within us, not always the external political forces around us. Build relationships with people who insist on things being different."