OKC Artists for Justice ask that you really listen
How can we support Black women? How can we aid them in their journey through this world? Through heightened stress and anxiety? What do Black women need to find solace, to find sanctuary? They already know those answers.
“We don’t need somebody to tell us what we need in the sanctuary,” says Sanctuary Redefined creator and OKC Artists for Justice advocate Grace Franklin. “We know what we need in the sanctuary. We know what we need to have some peace and some relaxation, to breathe, to just be free, to not have to deal with all of the things we deal with daily — we know what that is. We define that. We have to redefine what society believes we want and need. We can speak; we can tell you. We can define it for ourselves.”
And that’s what June 16’s free performance, Sanctuary Redefined: We Shall Own Our Legacy, aims to do. Incorporating poetry written by Franklin, local dancers, musicians and singers and Chakaia Booker’s Shaved Portions, Sanctuary Redefined will present a perspective of Black women that expresses the journey of searching for basic human experiences, including safety, joy, laughter, prosperity, family (born into and created) and the ability to grow.
As she chose performers and artists, Franklin didn’t only want their skills, but their voices, participation, thoughts and feedback. Trust was vital to Franklin when she asked vocalist Annisia Anderson, dancers Changing FrEQuencies and Briana Sayles, and musicians Lorne Lee and Julien Côte d'Ivoire to act as collaborators. Franklin knew that she needed participants who could truly feel the heart of the project, the heart of her poetry, to really be “tapped in,” in order to successfully invest in and portray the narrative for Sanctuary Redefined.
“I think the biggest thing we want to do is make people question the narrative of Black women,” Franklin says. “Understanding that what most of society has been fed around Black women is wrapped around the strong, mythical, ‘Black women can do anything.’ It removes a part of humanity of Black women, as if there is not pain or we don’t experience pain. And hopefully with this project, it really is to make people think twice about what they believe about Black women.”
While the project directly speaks to the needs, joys, struggles and accomplishments of Black women, it holds a valuable lesson for all vulnerable and marginalized communities and for those who have the power to create change within and among them.
“It’s important for the community to be able to define for ourselves what we want and need and what that looks like,” Franklin says. “That’s really important for every community to have that. To be able to say ‘Listen, I know y’all think this, this and this is what we want. But what we really need and want looks like this.’ Even with the greatest intentions, if you aren’t listening to the community that you’re servicing, you never get it right. And that’s with any community. That’s with Indigenous communities, Hispanic communities, Black communities, Asian communities, differently abled communities, our elder communities. We have to listen to what a community wants and needs in order to help them.”
Listening to the community is one thing, as Franklin emphasizes. But recognizing the dynamic, unique lived experiences of Black women do not apply as a catchall is another. “Like all people, [Black women] are not a monolith.” Recognizing and existing within the day-to-day life as a Black woman, Franklin’s upcoming project encapsulates her hopes and dreams for her community, utilizing performance art as a means of precisely communicating with viewers.
“The process of the creation of the performance of the piece itself, it really is a reflection of what I believe about Black women,” Franklin says. “Yes, we do have the strength, we have all of those things, but there is so much of us that is overlooked in the name of, ‘Oh, they got it; they’ll be OK. They’re strong Black women; they’ll be all right.’ And generally, we will. But we would like to better. We would like to be more than all right. We would like to thrive and have some of this pressure off — that has nothing to do with us many times.”
Join us and OKC Artists for Justice at 8 p.m. next Thursday, June 16, to celebrate, honor and listen to Black women through this free, multi-genre performance. The program will take place in Campbell Art Park, in front of and around Chakaia Booker’s massive sculpture, utilizing both Booker’s principles and the physical landscape.
Return to New Light.