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Posts Tagged ‘memphis’

One of the better aspects of the 2015 Massachusetts Conference for Women was hearing speakers like Candy Chang, an artist who engages ordinary people in public discourse.

At the December conference, Chang focused on Neighborland, a service co-founded with Dan and Tee Parham, that helps “residents and organizations collaborate on the future of their communities.”

This is how it works. Organizations start by posing a question. For example, they might hand out cards that say, “I want [blank] in my neighborhood,” and a resident might write in, “a night market.” Next, using Neighborland tools, ideas are collected from workshops, public installations, SMS, and Twitter. They are then discussed and voted on. The website says Neighborland has “sophisticated moderation, clustering, and de-duplication tools for organizers to aggregate all of the data from residents. Our reports make it easy for organizers to see trends in the data, make decisions, allocate resources, and keep participants involved in the fun part – making their neighborhoods better places.”

In this example, National Gardening Association’s Jenna Antonio DiMare reports on Adam Guerrero,  his Memphis, Tennessee, team of blight-busting ″Smart Mules,″ and their efforts to create a greener and more sustainable city.

“During the month of October, National Gardening Association (NGA) partnered with Neighborland to challenge Memphis residents to propose innovative projects to make their city and neighborhoods more sustainable. With a $1,000 grant awarded to the most promising project, Neighborland’s simple platform empowered local Memphis residents to ‘connect and make good things happen.’

“Despite receiving many inspiring project proposals, from founding an urban agriculture school to growing a newly established community garden, it was clear to NGA that the ‘Smart Mules’ project would have the greatest impact with the $1,000 award. …

″ ‘We are fighting [urban] blight, raising neighborhood morale, engaging our local government, and investing in a future for the neighborhood, all at the same time,’ writes the ‘Smart Mules’ team. To accomplish these goals, ‘Smart Mules’ provides work for many young, at-risk males who have been ‘largely dismissed’ or disenfranchised, according to team leader Guerrero.” More here about the work these young men are doing for sustainability.

(A couple years ago, I wrote about Candy Chang’s “Before I Die” interactive street art.)

Photo: Neighborland.com

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I intended to go straight to YouTube after reading NY Times dance critic Alastair Macaulay’s enthusiastic review of jookin at a recent Memphis showcase. But then I couldn’t remember the name of the dancer or what the dance style was.

It’s jookin. And I can see why Macaulay — who can be utterly scathing about ballet dancers and choreographers who don’t meet his standard — is so ecstatic about jookin.

Macaulay writes about the rise of the form and a now-famous dancer called Lil Buck (born Charles Riley) at the NY Times: “In 2007 Katie Smythe, a  ballet teacher working out of her native Memphis, was driving her most remarkable student, Charles Riley, across the Mississippi to a lecture-demonstration in Arkansas. Mr. Riley, a young man specializing in the local form of virtuoso hip-hop footwork known as jookin, had started taking ballet lessons to gain strength and extend his range.

“Ms. Smythe had already persuaded some jookin dancers to improvise to Haydn and Mozart. Now she asked Mr. Riley to perform to the cello ‘Swan’ music from Saint-Saëns’s suite ‘The Carnival of the Animals.’ …

“In jookin, men wearing sneakers dance a version of pointwork too. They don’t wear tights, and in those shoes they can’t straighten their knees, but they go onto tiptoe and ripple their arms with the hip-hop currents … When Ms. Smythe and Mr. Riley reached their destination, she introduced him to the audience and put on the music. Her school’s archivist filmed the performance and posted it on YouTube.

“In 2010 this YouTube video (no longer online) was spotted by Heather Watts, a former principal of New York City Ballet who had danced for George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins and many other choreographers. …

“Watching this video of Lil Buck on YouTube, Ms. Watts was immediately electrified.” Read here how she helped him get national attention.

Jit is another type of street dance, from Detroit. I believe that is what you see in the second video, but I hope someone will correct me if I’m wrong.

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Today I went to Belmont Against Racism’s 18th annual Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast and heard broadcast journalist Callie Crossley speak.

As a high school student, Crossley participated in the marches of the striking Memphis garbage workers, whom MLK Jr had come to support at the time of his death in 1968.

King was already turning his attention to the challenges of poverty and unequal opportunity that we have been hearing so much about since the recession. Crossley exhorted the large audience to be active, not just nostalgic, speaking specifically to folks who feel they are not leaders or who just feel weary of struggle.

She said, “Leadership comes when no will say and no one is doing.” And she quoted a line from Marian Wright Edelman of the Children’s Defense Fund, who visited Boston a while back: “You have no right to be tired when there is still work to be done.”

Later Crossley answered questions, advising one student on getting involved to defeat new measures likely to undercut voting rights.

In response to a question about how she got into journalism, she told a funny story about writing a newspaper at age 8 (like Axel), with all the articles about herself. She laughed that she couldn’t understand why her neighbors didn’t want to pay for it and said that was how she learned that news stories are supposed to be about other people.

Music provided by poet and performer Regie Gibson as well as by Berklee College of Music student Angelina Mbulo was great.

I sat with an Ethiopian family. From time to time we were riveted by the sign language interpreters at a nearby table. It is so like watching theater or dance. Beautiful.

There were activities nationwide today, including service projects like one at Kids4Peace.

Meanwhile in Bellingham, Washington, where Erik’s Aunt Anna reads Suzanne’s Mom’s Blog, the Kulshan chorus was on deck once more to help residents celebrate.

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