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RAP NEWSLETTER  //  No. 019  //  February 26, 2020


WHAT'S INSIDE


  • Featured Events: Freedom of Speech Town Hall, Gentrification Forum
  • Calendar: Dance with d. Sabela Grimes, Poetry with Joy Harjo, and more!
  • Art On View: Calida Rawles, PAM celebrates Asian Artists in Los Angeles...
  • RAP Chats: Interview with Ben Caldwell of KAOS Network
Welcome to the nineteenth edition of the RAP Newsletter, an occasional publication from RAP USC, an interdisciplinary collaborative funded by the Provost Office and the Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California, researching the intersection of race, arts, and placemaking. For more information about us visit the RAP Website and to submit newsletter items for inclusion email us. — The Editors

FEATURED EVENTS


RAP FEATURED EVENT
FOR FREEDOMS: TOWN HALL ON FREEDOM OF SPEECH
MON, MAR 2 @ 7PM
Location: California African American Museum
In anticipation of the 2020 Presidential election, we are partnering with others to form a Town Hall event at CAAM.  For Freedoms, a platform for creative civic engagement, discourse, and direct action founded by artists Eric Gottesman and Hank Willis Thomas (whom we hosted at our RAP Questionbridge event last year) is hosting the Town Hall, curated by Sankofa.org. Featured speakers include Sabra Williams, Melina Abdullah, Edna Chavez, Maggie Wheeler, and Emile Hassan Dyer with members of The Golden Bridge Choir.
 
RAP FEATURED EVENT
GENTRIFICATION FORUM
SAT, MAR 28 @ 10AM-5PM
Location: California African American Museum
The USC Price School's Students of Color and Allies Policy Forum (SCAPF) will host its annual forum this year at CAAM with the theme: Gentrification: Finding Space In Our Place. Students, policy practitioners, and grassroots activists will unite to discuss establishing and promoting equitable systems of housing, shared spaces, and fair access. Two interactive panels, include "Don’t Displace Us" and "Decolonizing Gentrification," will focus on cultivating strategies to advocate within our neighborhoods.  Admission is free and meals will be served!  Register here: http://bit.ly/SCAPF2020
 


CALENDAR


THU FEB 27 @ 6PM // SALUDARTE BOOK LAUNCH
CASA DEL MEXICANO
Presented by the Alliance for California Traditional Arts, SaludArte is a reflection of nearly a decade of work in Boyle Heights as a part of the California Endowment’s Building Healthy Communities (BHC) Initiative. What can happen when traditional artists engage cultural practices toward collective responses to a community’s social and political needs? SaludArte is available both in English and Spanish and includes an inventory of tools for carrying out this work in a number of community-based contexts. This program will feature some of the BHC artist fellows central to this work, offer an overview of the publication and end with a celebration including food and music!

THURS FEB 27 @ 7:30PM // POETRY: JOY HARJO
HAMMER MUSEUM
An evening with US Poet Laureate Joy Harjo marks the 50th anniversary of the UCLA poetry series at the Hammer. Joy Harjo, the first Native American to be Poet Laureate, has published nine books. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the PEN America Literary Award for creative nonfiction, the American Book Award, the Ruth Lilly Prize from the Poetry Foundation for lifetime achievement and the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets. Harjo also performs on the saxophone internationally, solo and with her band, the Arrow Dynamics. Organized and hosted by poet, literary critic and UCLA distinguished service professor Stephen Yenser. Cosponsored by the UCLA Department of English and Recreational Affairs.

SAT FEB 29 @ 12:30 PM // RE/SITE: DANCE WORKSHOP WITH D. SABELA GRIMES
VIRGINIA AVENUE PARK
USC Professor, dancer and choreographer d. Sabela grimes will lead participants through collective movement that explores shared space and our physical presence. What does the “body as archive” mean? How can we embody community in the body? Participants will investigate and move through these ideas, but more importantly, have fun dancing to the beat of live drummers! Whether the goal is to break a sweat, meet fellow festival-goers or shine in a dance crew, all are welcome to participate in this special workshop, offered as part of both the Belmar History + Art project and the annual Greens Festival at Virginia Avenue Park. The Belmar History + Art project is exploring themes of migration and displacement, and working on a new commemoration of African American history in Santa Monica.

TUES MAR 3 @ 7PM // ROSKI TALKS: ROBESON TAJ FRAZIER
ROSKI GRADUATE BUILDING
RAP PI and USC Professor Dr. Robeson Taj Frazier is a cultural historian who will discuss the arts, political and expressive cultures of the people of the African Diaspora in the United States and elsewhere. His research examines histories and current-day dynamics of race and gender, cultural traffic and contact, urban culture and life and popular culture. As a Black studies and communication scholar trained in the humanities, his interdisciplinary scholarship, pedagogical mission and intellectual purpose is aimed at facilitating for different communities: 1) the value of a critical approach to culture, communication and the historical, ontological and material dimensions of power, resistance and subjectivity; and 2) old and new creative modes of cultural and political intervention.

THURS MAR 5 + FRI MAR 6  // THE END(S) OF TRANSLATION | COMPARATIVE STUDIES IN LITERATURE AND CULTURE ANNUAL SYMPOSIUM 2020
USC CAMPUS
The aim of this year's symposium is to consider the intersections of translation and politics in their varying forms and manifestations, as well as to question the ways in which thinking between and across linguistic, mediatic and disciplinary boundaries complicates and resists concepts such as citizenship, migration and border spaces. The keynote speaker for this year's symposium is Emily Apter, whose research overlaps with the aims of the symposium. Her work on translation theory and praxis, philosophizing in languages and political theory will serve as a starting point to investigate translation in its numerous facets, including its ends, means, purposes, limits and conclusions.

SAT MAR 7 @ 8PM // OCTAVIA E. BUTLER’S PARABLE OF THE SOWER
ROYCE HALL
Based on the novels Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler, this genre-defying work of political theater featuring a powerhouse ensemble of 20 singers, actors and musicians harnesses 200 years of Black music to give musical life to Butler’s acclaimed science fiction novels. Parable of the Sower, set in 2024 and published in 1993, presciently grapples with many of the same issues we face today – global warming, corporate influence over government, a destabilized economy, water scarcity, food scarcity, the privatization of social services, homelessness, public safety, a return of long forgotten diseases and the profit-making machine that runs the medical industry. Written by singer, composer and producer Toshi Reagon in collaboration with her mother, Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon (song leader, composer, scholar, social activist and founder of Sweet Honey in the Rock), Parable of the Sower is a mesmerizing theatrical work of rare power and beauty that reveals deep insights into gender, race and the future of human civilization.

THURS MAR 12 @ 8:30PM // WEST COAST PREMIER OF EPHRAIM ASILI: THE DIASPORA SUITE
REDCAT THEATER
Ephraim Asili’s The Diaspora Suite (2011–2017) is a remarkable series of films that grew out of the filmmaker’s drive to have a personal understanding of the greater African diaspora. Traveling in Brazil, Canada, Ethiopia, Ghana, Jamaica and the United States, Asili responded to the character and history of each place amid his developing awareness of his own cultural background as a young African-American man.The Diaspora Suite has screened in festivals and venues all over the world. Asili can be heard live at his monthly dance party, Botanica. An artist, filmmaker, and DJ, Asili is a professor of Film and Electronic Arts at Bard College.

THURS MAR 26 + FRI MAR 27 @ 7:15PM // HER STORY
A NOISE WITHIN
MKM Bollystars returns for their third collaboration with Noise Now, this time re-envisioning Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale through Indian classical dance. Recognizing the parallel experiences of Hermione from The Winter’s Tale, and Sita from the Ramayana, Shalini and Shivani bring you a new creation delving into Her Story. Bollystars has roots in a rich dance heritage as an offspring of the well-established and recognized Bharata Natyam (Indian classical) dance institution Manu Kala Mandir (MKM) Dance Productions and Academy.

FRI MAR 27 + SAT MAR 28 // LIVE ARTISTS LIVE III: DESPAIR/REPAIR
ROSKI GRADUATE BUILDING GALLERY
Taking over the USC Roski School of Art and Design’s flagship MFA Design Campus in Downtown L.A.’s Arts District, “Live Artists Live III: Despair/Repair” will showcase performance as a poignant reflection and powerful rebuttal to the world’s challenges, addressing concerns around the “live” body of the artist, structures of feeling/affect, and performance-based action and/or inaction. Following a keynote and performance by Kareem Khubchandani and his drag alter ego, LaWhore Vagistan, this third iteration of the performance-art biennial will focus on themes of despair and repair with durational pieces offering healing and meditations on mortality by internationally acclaimed artists Linda Montano from Saugerties, New York and Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook from Chiang Mai, Thailand.


ART ON VIEW



FEB 8 - APR 4
SHIKATA GA NAI

RESIDENCY ART GALLERY
Residency Art Gallery is proud to present their first exhibit of 2020, Shikata ga nai, a solo project from Devon Tsuno. This exhibition is an expansion of Devon’s three-month long residency titled Sunday Studio at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Working in collaboration with MOCA, the Topaz Museum and the CSU Japanese American Digitization Project, Devon has made available to the public for the first time, over 200 pages of stories written by incarcerated Japanese American teenagers at the WWII Topaz concentration camp in Delta, Utah. 


FEB 27 - MAR 4
POWER & DESIRE

ROSKI GRADUATE BUILDING GALLERY
In her MFA thesis exhibition, Power & Desire, Alexis C. McDonald uses installation, sculpture, video, and found materials to revisit the ways black women have utilized Hip-Hop for pleasure, visibility, agency, and capital. Heavily influenced by the self-proclaimed Hip-Hop feminist Dr. Joan Morgan and her novel When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost, the exhibition invites its viewers to consider the intersections between black women and a Hip-Hop feminism that is not afraid to “fuck with the grays.” I



MAR 1 - DEC 1
OAXACALIFORNIA: THROUGH THE EXPERIENCE OF THE DUO TLACOLULOKOS

MUSEUM OF LATIN AMERICAN ART
The exhibition of For the Pride of Your Hometown, the Way of the Elders and in Memory of the Forgotten (2016-2017) by Oaxacan artistic duo Tlacolulokos, Dario Canul (1986) y Cosijoesa Cernas (1992), showcase the murals that participated in the project Visualizing Language organized by The Library Foundation of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Public Library for the PST LA: LA project that occurred in 2017. The murals explore the intersections of language and culture as a key lifeline – sustaining the shared experience between Los Angeles and Mexico, and beyond. By focusing on exploring the history and underrepresentation of indigenous peoples, the murals address how migration and the socio-political environment shape identity and cultural traditions.

FEB 12 - MAR 21
CALIDA RAWLES: A DREAM FOR MY LILITH

VARIOUS SMALL FIRES
Rawles' first solo exhibition at VSF employs water as multifaceted material and space to consider possibilities of womanhood, tranquility, and otherworldliness.A Dream for My Lilith is exhibited in two parts. The main gallery consists of Rawles’ portraits of women and girls drawn from her life. The project room highlights a series of studies done for Ta-nehisi Coates’ The Water Dancer (2019). Together these works regard water as a vernacular which can carry a commitment to both black belonging while signaling water’s tumultuous prospects.
 


FEB 28 - AUG 23 // SULA BERMÚDEZ-SILVERMAN: NEITHER FISH, FLESH, NOR FOWL
CALIFORNIA AFRICAN AMERICAN MUSEUM
Los Angeles-based artist Sula Bermúdez-Silverman investigates and critiques social structures through a conceptual and multidisciplinary practice that examines economic, racial, religious and gendered systems of power. In her first solo museum exhibition in Los Angeles, the artist unites several bodies of work created since 2014, including a new series of sculptures made exclusively for CAAM. Bermúdez-Silverman mines her personal and familial histories as a woman of Afro-Puerto Rican and Jewish descent, transforming genetic data into colorful pie charts that call to mind hard-edged abstractions. Elsewhere, she embroiders vintage doilies with her own hair to depict the human body, as well as language that references the legacy of colorism and passing in the African diaspora. In another series, she creates quilts of clear plastic grids filled with found trash fragments from neighborhoods where she has lived, which function as markers of specific times and geographical locations. 

 


MAR 13 - JUN 14
WE ARE HERE: CONTEMPORARY ART AND ASIAN VOICES IN LOS ANGELES

PACIFIC ASIA MUSEUM
We Are Here: Contemporary Art and Asian Voices in Los Angeles brings attention to the dynamic voices in our diverse metropolis that extend viewers’ knowledge and understanding of the Asia Pacific region. The exhibition highlights seven female contemporary artists of diverse Asian Pacific heritages living and working in Los Angeles. These artists engage with and draw from their lives and family histories to create compelling works of art that invite visitors to think about their own experiences and heritage. Interwoven in their works are personal and universal narratives that give voice to the plural community we call home. 


RAP CHATS


BEN AND TAJ
in converation with Dulce Ibarra

During our most recent RAP community meeting in December 2019, USC faculty members talked with our community partners about the pleasures and challenges of collaborating. This is the third installment of our RAP CHATS conversations series sharing what we have been collectively learning.

Ben Caldwell, is founder of community arts organization Kaos Network in Leimert Park, educator and filmmaker. Robeson Taj Frazier, RAP co-PI, is USC Annenberg School Associate Professor of Communication, and Director of the Institute for Diversity and Empowerment at Annenberg. Dulce Ibarra is a RAP RA and USC Roski MFA student.

DI: So maybe you can start off by describing yourselves.

TF: I'm Taj Frazier, a professor at USC at the Annenberg School and I'm also one of the RAP PI's. So, I rallied with folks like Annette, Holly and François to dream up this collective. I knew Ben prior to that but this collective has served as a great vessel for the kind of development, growth, and maturation of our relationship and it has supported some of our collaborative intellectual research and personal endeavors. The space Ben runs, KAOS Network, has become my home away from home. It's the space I go to to participate in meaningful community exchanges in the arts. I feel like I've become part of the space now, in terms of helping to facilitate and work on an archiving initiative. Ben is going to establish a space dedicated to the preservation of community resources, but also using community resources as tools; a resource for activating creativity, activating the creation of new things. Being able to participate in that has been fantastic.

BC: I'm a filmmaker and part of the group called The L.A. Rebellion. I started my place and have been here since 1984. The whole focus has been to be an incubator for seeing how communications could best work in a black community because no one had ever sat down and tried to study it. And Taj and I first started with this project that I was doing with François where we were working with repurposing the phone booth as a tactical act for the community (Leimert Phone Company project). That has folded into a number of different projects which led to me meeting Taj. For me, this has been one of the better experiences I had with the schools and especially with USC. It was with CalArts that first afforded us the possibilities to build up a community's interconnection. But then over a period of time, I've watched it become a bureaucracy that didn’t take care of its kids as much as it was supposed to.

DI [to Taj]: You've brought up "collaboration", could you expand on it? You were talking about KAOS and how that's become a second home to you.

TF: Yes, for sure. So, I first started working with Ben through the Leimert Phone Company project. Then after that, Ben invited me to this space to see how KAOS Network operates. And from that, we began several long conversations where Ben was retracing his history; the town in which he grew up, his experience in Vietnam, and coming to Los Angeles. What became clear to me was that Ben has lived a life that's been deeply rooted in being part of communities that have worked to sustain and create a sense of community agency, autonomy, and collaboration. He approaches things with the perspective of curiosity and an eagerness in terms of pulling people who have that same kind of approach, or especially with people who might be way more isolated and connecting them into being invested. "Let's make something, let's practice, let's experiment, whether it be with sound, whether it be with found material." So, being encouraged by that practice, he and I realized it would be great to collaborate on a book project which uses both his personal experience and that of others who are part of his circles of creativity to talk about the power of the village.

DI: What is the village?

TF: The village is a metaphor of navigating the systemic inequities of racism or terror, of seizure of land. And how folks have continuously cultivated practices of planting seeds that produce new possibilities, new imagined areas, but that it's always been done in tandem with others. Writing a book that uses Leimert Park as a way of thinking about a broader history of that within the Americas. But then as well thinking about this other initiative I had been working on, which is the archival initiative. This is tied to cultivating a community-driven activation space where the material inside is stuff that the community has curated and picked, as well as where they're a constant part of the reshaping, the reimagining or repurposing of it to tell community stories, to create a sense of community legacy that can also serve as a space for other artists and creatives to come to sit with ideas and to make and create new things. I guess we're calling it archival space, but we want to push back against the kind of conventional approach of archive as a space that just holds material that is used and owned by the elite.

BC: To support the community in the hallowed halls of universities and for us to have something that the school doesn't have: information that is real. We went to my hometown and the thing that I discovered was 300 years of no history about the Southwest and the intermixing of the native, the African culture, and the Spanish that were here. So that's been the fun part of the project for me; it's given me another way to look at the places that I came from and also L.A.

DI: You are bringing up this idea that there are some limitations of being associated with USC because maybe communities aren't so much reached out to. This is within a space where there are students. What are the projects here at USC that are more focused on students? Could you elaborate on this?

BC: Well, I mean, that's part of the realness of the projects that we're doing: instead of the students just only studying books about an idea, they can mix in with real cultural places that really can hammer down those ideas. And that's something that I've really worked a long time for: students come and get a big community understanding. If they're studying sociology, if you're studying anything that deals with social culture, then we can go to the real places.

TF: I've taught courses at KAOS, so number one for me, at least with USC students, is pushing back on where they imagine or perceive education can take place; pushing back against the kind of notion that their university experience has to only take place on the land associated or affiliated with the university. Los Angeles is the greatest resource that they could be cultivating a relationship with, and especially South Central Los Angeles. It's always disheartening that you have students who might go to school here, but not even know where they are. I’m interested in helping make where they are more visible, and in ways that challenge some of the dominant perceptions and representations of these neighborhoods.

The other thing that I learned from Ben and François and other people who are affiliated with the RAP collective is to encourage a different kind of construction of who our peer group is and can be. So, you know, Ben and others have facilitated spaces of community and fellowship where USC students are alongside community members, alongside high school students, alongside mid-20s creatives from Hyde Park, Jefferson Park, Inglewood and Leimert Park, all in a space together. And there's no kind of distinction or separation of life. In many ways the whole point is not the product at the end, but it's the process. The process is the product; the process, the experience, the fellowship and the relationships that get forged out of that. That's what drew me to working with all these folks in the first place. I saw them facilitating things that I wasn't experiencing as a faculty member at USC. That's what I want to be a part of. That's what we've been able to cultivate: these friendships and relationships in the community. Worldbuilding is a term that Ben and François talk about; the only way we can really imagine new worlds is to attempt it and have opportunities to experiment in building it and constructing it.

DI: I like that. I've been reading about this term and making sure it has a place in my life: not to be socially engaged but socially committed. I think that's the same conversation here: committing to relationships, committing to communities and ideas. So, I have one question left: How do you see the connections between race, art and placemaking? What are your own ties to that?

BC: The one thing that I see that's unique about this time period, with this RAP culture that you guys have been able to put together, is that it is a handshake between the community that's directly around us. That's quite unique. The other thing is that race plays an important part of wherever you go. So, it's not just because this is a black community, but I think if it's a Chinese community or Korean community and each of these outlier communities have ways that they get looked at. And that's just America and its definition of things; of how they are able to divide and conquer by making everybody separate. So, I think that one of the things that we try to do the most – at least that's what I'm able to do with my place – is break that down very easily. I make sure every youth that's there can be there. And I fight against my race that doesn't want other races. I let people see that we're all in this game together as best as possible, especially the ones that totally agree with each other. But race in this country is pervasive.

TF: I guess I’ll just add that art for me is a process of cultivating a relationship tied to inspiration and creation and activation. Art at its best is the kind of process can facilitate a person's heightened sense of who they are and their value; that they are valued and that it has nothing to do with how much money they have or where they come from, but that their spirit and their energy is what makes them valuable. At its best, art can allow for that sense of self as well as make us more aware so we can engage with the racism and inequity, and to not feel complacent, but want to be part of the action of orienting new relationships through inspirations and creation, through imagination. To me, that's the relation between art, race/racism, and place.

Copyright © 2020 RAP at USC (c/o SLAB, the Spatial Analysis Lab), All rights reserved.

RAP is sponsored by the USC Office of the Provost Collaboration Fund.
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