Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement
By Monica M. White
I share these book recommendations on a schedule, I’ve been told, that no one is possibly following except for me. I read really fast. Thank you, grad school. So, you may see this title as you are scrolling through the gallery of other titles I’ve read, or months from now in a quiet moment. I’ll let you in on the secret that I plan the timing of when I share books with intention. Our author, Monica M. White, is an activist and urban ethnographer of the food justice-urban agriculture movement in Detroit since 2007, where she has worked with others to transform and rebuild a financially devastated city. She described this book as a love letter. She said it “feels like love--never easy, but worth it.” February can get a lot of hype around a certain kind of love, and I wanted to add her labor of love into the mix.
In January, I took a class called Land, Food, and the Black Church with Rev. Dr. Heber Brown III. Freedom Farmers was one of our textbooks. As I approached the text this month to write this blurb, I had the joy of hearing some of the sections in his charismatic voice. These are not just words on a page anymore. They’re connected to conversations and stories that I hold with reverence from that zoom room. Here’s a few of the central concepts for you to sample:
“Collective agency, a concept that I coined based upon the data for this project, involves social actors’ ability to create and enact behavioral options necessary to affect their political future.”
“Community resilience, a subcategory within the burgeoning field of resilience science, refers to the various structural aspects and components of human adaptation to extreme adversity, using ‘community’ as the unit of analysis.”
“Prefigurative politics begins with the awareness that members of a group have been excluded from the political process.”
The book itself is full of rich stories. As the author puts it, “This book is an effort to recover, tell, and honor the stories of collective agency and community resilience of the black rural poor, a group the civil rights movement left behind.” It is also intended to “connect contemporary urban farmer-activists to an earlier time when African Americans turned to agriculture as a strategy for building sustainable communities.”
I’d recommend this read to anyone with an interest in food justice, especially if you’re not sure where to start. I’d also recommend it to seasoned practitioners who are looking for a source of wisdom to fill their cup and reinvigorate their efforts. So, really, when it comes down to it, I’m recommending this book to everyone yet again. Because it’s fantastic and should be shared!
Quote: “If pain was all there was, how can we explain the indigenous roots of the current urban farming movement--spearheaded by black people? If pain was all there was, why should black people voluntarily return to a form of work that produced exploitation and oppression--so much so that it forced people to flee from the South?”
Join the discussion in The Kaleidoscapes Commons.
One Earth: People of Color Protecting Our Planet
By Anuradha Rao
This recommendation is friendly for younger readers (12+), and all people who would like to learn about 20 different BIPOC environmental defenders. Written in the style of short, picture-filled interviews, reading feels as though you’ve been invited to a party with some of the coolest people around.
I was delighted to find a chapter about Nana Firman, a coworker from an awesome organization where I’m currently participating in a fellowship. Of course, it’s important to remember that “the people in this book don’t represent all the people from their nations, ethnicities or cultures. They spoke to me about themselves, their own experiences, and events as they recalled them.” You’ll be introduced to activists from all over the world!
Get your own copy of One Earth or ship it to your friend or family member as a surprise!
Here’s a short clip of the author, Anuradha Rao, speaking about One Earth: People of Color Protecting Our Planet
The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America
By Richard Rothstein
In honor of the US inauguration week, I’ve chosen The Color of Law as our recommended book. Because while it is a knee jerk response for many United Statesians to claim “we are better than the last four years,” I find it most patriotic to unflinchingly approach and challenge the anti-Black legacy of legislation that has shaped the country we live in today.
As Rothstein puts it, “racially explicit government policies to segregate our metropolitan areas are not vestiges, were neither subtle nor intangible, and were sufficiently controlling to construct the de jure segregation that is now with us in neighborhoods and hence in schools. The core argument of this book is that African Americans were unconstitutionally denied the means and the right to integration in middle-class neighborhoods, and because this denial was state-sponsored, the nation is obligated to remedy it.”
This book delivers a powerful message: segregation was not created by accident or by prejudiced individuals. It will not be reversed by accident or “in some mysterious way, by changes in people’s hearts.” We need equally aggressive policies to the ones adopted by federal, state and local governments in the first place.
Rothstein concludes the book with a collection of possible remedies and the reminder that “we will have to contemplate what we have collectively done and, on behalf of the government, accept responsibility.” A powerful and important read!
Quote: “Half a century ago, the truth of de jure segregation was well known, but since then we have suppressed our historical memory and soothed ourselves into believing that it all happened by accident or by misguided private prejudice. "
Claire Taylor: Stephanie, what is your background and what are you studying right now?
Stephanie Marquez: I am currently attending DePaul University, working to receive my Bachelors in Media
Communication and Minor in Graphic Design. While my background is specialized in
CT: What excites you about marketing and media?
SM: Marketing helps ensure that there is an intersection between demand and innovation. It leads
to identifying opportunities that people or organizations want resolved and will work towards an
CT: And what interests you about working with The Kaleidoscapes?
SM: The Kaleidoscapes Eco-Theatre Company is a welcoming nontraditional space that stands by
solutions to the climate crisis and innovative ways to experientially teach others about open
dialogue between our natural world and its inhabitants. The Kaleidoscapes staff and Co-Founders
encourage me to voice my concerns on how to serve and protect our earth. To create a sense of
environmental responsibility to the land that is our shared home.
CT: Why is environmental justice important to you?
SM: Environmental justice is important to me, due to the fact that I advocate the right to a safe
environment as an essential part of fundamental human needs. No group of people should bear a
disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from governmental
and commercial operations or policies.
CT: What have you learned so far, and what are you excited to learn more about?
SM: What I have learned so far is, the public’s contributions can influence positive change. The
community’s concerns and involvement will considerably affect the grand picture. I am
interested in creating innovative solutions.
CT: What else should people know about you?
SM: The Kaleidoscapes has gifted me with a creative space that allows me to speak
about matters that I deem important and seek to inspire others to follow.
Today, I’m enthusiastically recommending two, fantastic new releases. They were actually published 10 days apart from one another during November of this year.
Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Animals
By Alexis Pauline Gumbs
The first, Undrowned, was released after the author, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, followed her own curiosity on a deep dive about marine mammals. As she says, “I just wanted to know which whale was which, but I found myself confronted with the colonial, racist, sexist, heteropatriachalizing capitalist constructs that are trying to kill me--the net I am already caught in, so to speak.” She began with daily social media posts, sharing her learnings and reflections, and then this book was dreamed into being. Her writing is bold, poetic, full of social commentary, and creatively nonfiction. It was also released as a part of the Emergent Strategy Series (one of our reads from adrienne maree brown earlier this year). I was completely immersed in this book, and I found the wisdom in its pages to be subversive, wonderfully queer, and full of love for our underwater relatives. In describing her writing process, Gumbs says, “As I learned more about marine mammals, I learned to look between the loopholes of language, using the poetic practices I have had to use to find and love myself in a world that misnames me daily.” I cannot recommend this read highly enough. Do yourself a favor and get a copy!
Lighting the Way: An Anthology of Short Plays About the Climate Crisis
Edited by Chantal Bilodeau and Thomas Peterson
The second book for today, found here (or at Barnes & Noble or Amazon) is a collection of 49 short plays by writers all over the world for the 2019 Climate Change Theatre Action, a global distributed theatre festival that coincided with the 25th United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP 25) held in Madrid, Spain under the presidency of the Chilean government. The writing prompt was to “give center stage to the unsung climate warriors and climate heroes who are lighting the way toward a just and sustainable future.” Whether you are a teacher, theatre artist, or eco-theatre lover like me who has lots of respect for The Arctic Cycle, these plays are a fantastic source of inspiration, imagination and courageous storytelling about climate. One thing I miss as the pandemic wears on is the sensation of sitting in a blackout right before a play starts--with people on either side of me, waiting in anticipation for what might unfold. Reading this book was the first time I had felt an echo of that feeling in many months. I especially loved hearing about the design concepts or “ecoscenography” in an introductory essay by Triga Creative. Thank you to all of the contributing playwrights, the 3,046 artists, organizers and activists who created the performances in the CCTA 2019, and especially to Chantal Bilodeau and Thomas Peterson for helping us witness the impact of this event after the fact. I bought this one as a gift to myself for the holidays, and reading it by the fire is an activity I would 5/5 recommend.
To learn more about our Book Club, please join The Kaleidoscapes Commons or email email@example.com.
Sacred Instructions: Indigenous Wisdom for Living Spirit-Based Change
By Sherri Mitchell
Quote: “As Indigenous people, we have been guided to carry the sacred teachings that allowed us to maintain our connected way of life, so that when this time came, we would be able to help guide humanity back to a more balanced way of being.”
I’ve been waiting to read this book for months. I didn’t know why I couldn’t take it off the shelf. Then, I read the section of the book about teachers where Mitchell says, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” This struck me to the core. I had inner work to do before approaching Sacred Instructions. I’ve been grappling with my own cosmology, and it wasn’t until now that I could authentically witness a traditional, Indigenous cosmology.
For any readers who are White or unfamiliar with an Indigenous worldview, I invite you especially to read this book. Rather than a superficial practice of “New Year’s Resolutions” (this is an overgeneralization, and if you find it helpful to calibrate yourself in that way, don’t me stop you), consider this as an opportunity to approach wisdom that’s been passed down for centuries and delivered so powerfully by Sherri Mitchell.
In response to the provocative question, “Will we as a species finally find a way to create a reality of peaceful coexistence, now that we know that failing to do so would be a complete destruction of ourselves?” she tells us, “A wound cannot be healed by pretending that it doesn’t exist. It must be examined, cleansed, and tended.” Mitchell writes with clear-eyed poignance about a holistic path forward for humanity, which remains largely asleep. She also says, “Decolonization is the beginning. It is not the end point. We don’t know what lies on the other side of decolonization, because we haven’t had the opportunity to create it. What we do know is that decolonization allows us to reconnect with the people and places we come from; it allows us to define our own identity, on our terms, in ways that are reflective of our own understanding of ourselves; and it allows us to speak the truth about our shared history of violence, heal our traumatic wounds, and redefine a sacred way with one another as human being and between human beings and the rest of creation.”
I cannot wait to read her next book, Sacred Laws: Foundational Laws of the Universe through an Indigenous lens, which will be released soon. Learn more about her work at https://sacredinstructions.life/. For The Kaleidoscapes, this book has many key takeaways, including the reminder that artists working at the intersection of climate and imagination must always collaborate rather than compete. If you are already doing brilliant work, we’d love to connect, support, and partner with you.
This is truly a sacred text, and I recommend it as such. Read when you are ready.
Mitchell is one of the authors featured in All We Can Save— an anthology collection that we’ve been incrementally reading in community through a zoom Circle. The next Circle meeting will be held on January 2nd at 1pm EST, and you’re welcome to join!
If you read one of these recommended texts and want to engage in dialogue with our Artistic Director, Gail, send an email! No question or thought is too big or small. I’m processing these texts, and I’d love to be a conversation partner to you.
The Kaleidoscapes are proud to share a story of slow, steady growth this year. Unlike many theatre companies with physical space to maintain, who rely on ticket sales for live, indoor performances, we are uniquely positioned to weather this pandemic. Since our conception, our performances have been designed to take place outdoors, and our administrative operations have always taken place remotely from multiple time zones. Learn more about what we accomplished with this short year-in-review!
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Kaleidoscapes took all of our programming digital, starting with our company’s official, virtual launch party over Zoom.
Our next initiative was the distribution of a COVID-19 Artist Relief Stipend. We received 55 applications from eco-theatre artists across the country and provided one $400 stipend and one $200 stipend to extraordinary artists who align with our mission and values. Learn more here.
This summer, we launched Story Guides — an entirely virtual youth mentorship program. This pilot program paired 13 STEAM-lovers (science, tech, engineering, arts, and math), ages 7-13, with adult artist-activists over the course of one month to develop online learning and storytelling skills. The engaging, interactive curriculum was highly adaptable to match each mentee’s interests while exploring their local ecology. Parents or guardians were also supplied with resources in English and Spanish to engage mentees through discussions and activities. The virtual circumstances of the pandemic allowed us to have an international reach with pairings taking place between participants in diverse local landscapes. Story Guides is being developed for future partnerships with specific communities as well as for the classroom.
Here are some testimonials from Story Guides parents and participants who recommend this program.
The Kaleidoscapes have held online workshops & creative spaces, including our participation in an election night vigil and a partnership with Evergreen Theatre Collective for a workshop in November.
Over the summer, we also produced TRACE, a 9-minute piece of recorded eco-theatre, which was filmed safely by 9 artists adhering to social distancing guidelines. We’ve shared TRACE with an online Premiere, pay-what-you-can screenings throughout October, and it was also screened in Same Boat Theater Collective’s Earthquake Festival on October 25th, where it was live streamed in San Francisco, London, and New Delhi.
You can get a look backstage here.
This year, we’ve deepened our community — whether through book club climate discussions with people on both coasts and across the ocean or our Artistic Staff’s weekly Monday Meeting on Google Meet, this has been a rich season of laying groundwork. Individual donations to date have covered all of our operating expenses, so all of our fundraising efforts can go directly towards upcoming programming.
Coming soon: The Kaleidoscapes will hold a panel discussion with fellow eco-theatres! We’ll consider the question— What does the world need right now that only eco-theatre can give? We have also begun the planning stages for our next production.
Thank you to each and every one of you for your interest in and support for The Kaleidoscapes! We’ve stretched and grown this year. Gail learned how to use QuickBooks and run payroll, Claire fought and won the battle against MailChimp, Emilie organized responses from countless surveys and interviews, and Paola thrived in one of her very favorite activities—email correspondence.
What’s missed the mark for you? We care to hear your critical feedback, and you can send that either with this google form or by sending a personal email to any member of our staff.
No small business could have anticipated the landscape we’d be navigating this year. The pandemic has laid bare many of our world’s inequalities and rifts. It has also shown us how necessary the work of The Kaleidoscapes really is--stories about our planet’s resilience, told by artists who are vital to implement creative climate solutions.
Graphic Design by Cody Gindy
We hope you will keep us in mind this fundraising season. With Giving Tuesday, as well as end-of-year fundraising, your contributions will help us continue accessible programing in the New Year. We would also love to discuss partnerships with you!
As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock
By Dina Gilio-Whitaker
Building on our recommended reading from the summer of An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States, this is an important, foundational book to understand the complexities of the ongoing fight for Indigenous sovereignty.
Gilio-Whitaker argues that “for environmental justice to be responsive to the needs of Native peoples it must be indigenized--tailored to account for their very different histories, relationships to the land, and political relationships to the State.”
It’s a very readable text with stories throughout. As usual with our book club selections, I was stretched and also incited by the wisdom contained in these pages. If you are reading along, you might also be struck by the ways erasure and violence, steeped in white supremacy, have maintained the social and legal structure of the United States. We have the option to confront that paradigm of domination. As Gilio-Whitaker encourages, “more than any ‘granting’ of rights by the United States, it is their bold assertions of self-determinism, aided at times by powerful allies, that accounts for progress Native people have made in their relationships with the US over the last century. Indigenous peoples have learned that no one is coming to save them, just as environmentalists have learned that their American legal system is a rigged game against the environment and their own communities...In the long run, environmental justice for American Indians is environmental justice for everyone...and for the Earth herself.”
“...in the chief’s words is not only the anguish of forced removal... [but] also... a Native worldview that makes no distinction between people and land. The Chickasaw may have survived removal and adapted to their new environment... but in reality, there is no way to measure what is lost in the process of being deracinated from their homelands.”
Would you like to engage further in our Book Club? Join the All We Can Save reading circle by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Last week, if your experience was similar to ours, it may have felt like we were in boiling water. The bubbles were boiling over in anxiety, in disrupted sleep patterns, and in exploding inboxes. We also acknowledge that we did not all experience the events of this election cycle the same. Those with most at stake in the election, namely Black people, Indigenous people, and other People of Color, as well as the queer community, are the very people who secured the inevitable outcome with grassroots organizing and unprecedented voter turnout in the face of violent efforts to suppress BIPOC voices.
In the past week, we elected a record-breaking 6 Native American and Native Hawaiians to Congress. We also elected a Black, Indian American woman as our Vice President. There were even more records set by LGBTQ candidates who ran, and won, for their local offices.
However you are feeling today is your right. You might feel relief, determination, and for the first time in a long time, hope. You might feel tired and disempowered. The Kaleidoscapes want to meet you where you are today, right now, to say we’re glad you’re in our community. We are proud that our organization’s network is filled with people like you – people that believe in a world of climate resilience, in racial justice, and in regeneration.
Tomorrow, or when you are able, we hope you will join us as we re-ignite the energy with which we approached this election. We will continue to fight for federal-level climate policies, holding our lawmakers accountable to prioritizing frontline communities. Our country and our world are in hot water—literally. But examining history shows us that public opinion and collective imaginations can fuel movements.
Thank you for your commitment to storytelling and climate solutions. The Kaleidoscapes know that this is a time to act—to produce, create and dialogue with collaborators. We’re grateful for your support and your interest in the stories we will continue to dramatize.
All of the inequality, the pandemic, police brutality and pain will not disappear overnight. But neither will we. And for an arts organization in 2020, we think that’s a story worth sharing.
Gail Tierney, Artistic Director & Claire Allegra Taylor, Managing Director
Dive into our journal pages to expand your knowledge and follow our journey into the backcountry.