Recently, I listened to a panel discussion of self-identified queer and trans Latinx artists on the topic of anti-blackness in the Latinx community. Black Lives Matter has forced conscientious individuals and communities from every background to look into the mirror — eyes wide open — and take stock of the anti-black bias in our own histories, cultures, and traditions. The painful truth is that none of us gets a free pass; one of the burdens wrought by the legacy of colonization is the lingering hatred of our own dark skin color, a perverse yearning for whiteness. That this exchange of truth telling was instigated by theater artists was no surprise to me.
Theater-makers, actors in particular, have long been subjected to a narrow idea of what constitutes physical attractiveness or suitability in terms of skin color, race, and ethnicity. Their conversation ran the gamut from how they view their intersectionality regarding their work in theater, to what they have lost and/or gained in owning their identities as Latinx or Black or both, to their renewed hope for a more Fall Brings Two New Artists In Residence to Unity Church Lia Rivamonte, Artist in Residence Team equitable, inclusive theater world where they would not be penalized for being Black, queer, trans, Latinx or all of the above. Where their stories would be told truthfully, and where their work would not be judged solely by historically white definitions of excellence. It struck me that these exchanges are important, and that having artists around to activate them is just what we hunger for at Unity Church.
Now, I know there are plenty of us who prefer nonfiction to fiction, a scientific paper to a poem, or a documentary to a scripted movie. No matter. Each of these modalities trade in truth, and all are driven by a powerful sense of curiosity and the imagination. Imagination is the key to the multicultural beloved community we profess to want to live in. Imagination is what allows us to envision a more generous, kind, safe, viable, and loving existence. Imagination is the language of art. With the Artist in Residence program at Unity Church, we have an opportunity to grow as individuals and as a community, and to become more articulate in the language of imagination. We are thrilled to have had the pleasure and privilege of hearing Rebekah Crisanta de Ybarra’s singular blend of Latin American Nueva Cancion and American Blues, and to learn about the making and meaning of the Dia de los Muertos ofrenda. We were fortunate to be able to immerse ourselves in Andean folk culture, and the rich harmonies of the mother and son duo, Ina Yukka. We were transported by their intricate knowledge and understanding of Andean-rooted music, instruments, and dance, and a concert that got us up out of our early pandemic couches to sway to the tuneful rhythms.
This fall the Artist in Residence Team is ecstatic to introduce two new artists to the Unity community: Donte Collins (www.dontecollins.com) is an awardwinning poet, and spoken word artist who “…uses language and their body (the marriage between the archive and the repertoire) to reimagine how poetry can offer necessary rupture and refrain.” Their first book of poems, “Autopsy,” was a finalist for a Minnesota Book Award. Marcus Young (https://youtu. be/xbY80eFOBIM) is a behavioral and social practice artist making work for the concert stage, museums, and the public realm. As City Artist in St. Paul from 2006 to 2015, Marcus created the ongoing public works project Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk. In 2008, he established Don’t You Feel It Too? a participatory street dance project that continues to serve as a means of selfliberation and of protest. Both artists are excited to explore the possibilities offered in their creative work with the Unity Church community.
Especially in this time of social distancing, our emotional and spiritual selves require close tending. We encourage everyone to become acquainted with Donte and Marcus and learn about their work, what they choose to focus on in their work, and why. Witness how an idea is transformed into something wholly unexpected, something truthful that stretches the imagination. Experience your own growth by participating in these artists’ work at Unity Church. The Artist in Residence program promises to help us strengthen our connection to our deeper selves, to one another, and to the larger world. Please watch for forthcoming information and program details.
The Artist in Residence Team includes Ahmed Anzaldúa, KP Hong, Lia Rivamonte, Amanda Rueter, and Maura Williams.