Ground Level Futurism
Literature as social software: a ground level futurism project
Through my practice as a social entrepreneur at The Living Well in Baltimore City, I am in the process of creating a project that will center around the collaboration of two groups- a creative writing group of middle school students paired with a group of senior citizens. They will work together over the course of a year on creative non-fiction essays and fiction stories addressing issues facing Baltimore City. I will then compile and edit the output from this group to publish as an Anthology at the end of the year. The project covers many ideas that I would like put my energies towards- the creation of an intergenerational dialogue, mentoring for youth through collaboration with responsible adults, the empowerment of marginalized voices in civic conversations by providing Baltimore communities with a comprehensive platform for addressing the changes we want to see. From an academic perspective, the project will be tied into Common Core learning requirements, allowing it to be integrated into existing curriculum. The success of my first anthology, "Redlines: Baltimore 2028" as a device for generating conversation in Baltimore communities has led me to this project. I am working through the Living Well and my own channels to fund the project, and will post updates as we move into implementation.
Ancient African Technology as a tool for social justice
Capoeira Angola is a healing modality. Capoeira Angola is medicine and magic. This is not hyperbole- this is fact. I have been told these things in one form or another since I first walked through the door of ICAF-DC (The International Capoeira Angola Foundation chapter of Washington DC) in 1999. My initial foray into Capoeira Angola lasted one month, but the impact that Mestre Cobra Mansa and his students had on me was enough that I knew I would stay with it one way or another. I wandered back into that same space in Takoma Park in 2002 and I have had the art in my life in some form or fashion since. I was one of the founders of the Baltimore chapter of the International Capoeira Angola Foundation. I am not interested in the politics of Capoeira groups, although even today I am still subject to said politics. Contra Mestre Chicago of Low Country Capoeira Angola said something that stayed with me: “If your Capoeira doesn't connect with children and people in your community, then it is polluted.” That is my measure of the Art- if its not connected to the people, then why do it? I am currently affiliated with African Liberation Capoeira Angola, a group based in West Baltimore that operates out of the space run by Wombworks Productions. We offer free community classes twice a week to residents in West Baltimore. The group is led by Ras Tre Subira, who is also one of Baltimore's most talented filmmakers.
Baltimore's situation is no different than other cities- we are in the midst of a struggle for hierarchy. Rich folks want to keep the poor relegated to certain areas. Developers want to push Black people out of the city into various pockets in the surrounding counties so they can build neighborhoods for higher income buyers. Corporations and large institutions want to control allocation of land and resources. The school system wants to sell our children's education to the highest bidder.
People are not engaged in the decision making here in the city. There is a lot of lip service towards this but nothing concrete...but the march to gentrify continues and at a state level, if there is an issue with the state budget- Baltimore ALWAYS takes the first hit.
So now we are faced with a first term governor from outside of Baltimore who is taking office while we are in Baltimore have an unpopular mayor who is politically tied to the outgoing governor.
So that is the landscape and the struggle. Now back to the medicine....
The images below are from the Baltimore uprising that occurred in April 2015. Menes Yahudah, a master drummer and fellow Living Well social entrepreneur, issued a call along with myself to Capoeiristas and Drummers to meet up at Pennsylvania Avenue/North Avenue to create some positive energy for the people that were occupying that space as an act of resistance to the police and military forces that were set up in that area. To many, it seemed like an unusual thing to do to go out and set a circle and play music and "play fight", but there was a clear precedent for what we did and we clearly had a positive impact on what transpired that day.
We often talk about Capoeira being a way to move/transform energy. What we are putting into practice in Baltimore is just that- it was interesting that we were at a crossroads, one of Esu's spots, and we were positioned between two forces- one side we had the energy of the police-military-corporate structure, an energy that seeks to negate life, and on the other side stood the people. The police have their strategies- hold the line, apprehend anyone who displays provocative behavior (throwing bottles, rushing their line). One the other side were the people, holding THEIR line, filling up the block as a way to say, “This is OUR SPACE, OUR CITY”. In the midst of the people you have folks that are not from here and have agendas that benefit the police structure, or folks that have suffered at the hand of the police and don't have the discipline to understand that their actions will bring down consequences on all of us. These people in the midst are sparks that set things off and they are going to be there because they are ALWAYS there in this type of situation. This isn't new. And the emotion/energy that these people emit is fear and or hatred. The mass of people are indifferent- they have had a boot on their neck for generations and know how to operate under these circumstances. So the role of Capoeira is multifaceted in these situations. War operates along “lines”- the line of police, the path of a bullet or taser, etc. The circle, the roda, counteracts that and we saw this yesterday, as our circle begat a meditation circle which gave way to a prayer circle of a hundred people. Our energy radiated out and negated the sparks. Secondly, the idea of combating police oppression with music and movement seems alien to the American mindset, but that is exactly what hip-hop did during its brief 'political' age in the 90's....and Capoeira draws from the same well and when introduced, we all know the quizzical looks we receive for singing and doing 'cartwheels'....but when people see how the energy of the crowd changes they quickly realize the efficacy of Capoeira in these situations. So we are operating at a level at which we can affect a large amount of people in a space...no matter what is involved, because we are not reaching through a software application or some new fangled gadget. We are utilizing ancient African technology that speaks directly to the energy of people exposed to it.
Ground Level Futurism 1.0
My initial foray into "futurism" also included interviews with a cross section of my community to find out what they felt about the future. I narrowed my inquiry down to three questions:
- Who has more influence over your life, the government or corporations? Who would you prefer to have more influence?
- What will be the headlines in 10 years for International news, national news and local news?
- Your municipality has declared bankruptcy and your neighborhood has put you in charge of gathering things to insure the community survives. What are the first three things you will gather and why?
Here are three community members answering the questions on camera:
GROUND LEVEL FUTURISM
It all began as a collaborative art show with community artist Dirk Joseph:
It started with an idea for an exhibit. Now it is evolving into a process for re-imagining not just outcomes, but the very processes that produce them.