Meet our 2015 Fellows!
Please tell us of an artist, curator, activist, or project that has influenced you or inspired you?
Assata Shakur is a writer, poet, activist and mom currently living in exile in Cuba. She was also a member of The Black Panther Party. She has spent a majority of her life working towards liberation for herself and Black People worldwide.
On May 2nd, 1973, while driving, she and two other Panthers were pulled over by NJ state troopers. That stop resulted in Assata being shot twice and charged with the murder of a state trooper. She spent six and half years under very brutal abusive conditions in a maximum security wing of a correctional facility. She was also pregnant during this time. She managed to escape from jail in 1979 to Cuba, with help from the underground. She shares the details of her life story and her poetry in an elaborate, gorgeous memoir titled “Assata”. She inspires me as a mom, artist, writer, and Black woman who is also committed to freedom and dismantling systems of capitalism, racism and patriarchy. Her words and actions are powerful, affirming and liberating. Her legacy is one of Truth and Love, principles that I deeply believe in. Her courage commitment to these things, motivates and inspires me to do the same.
Please tell us about a place in your neighborhood that is personally meaningful to you, and why?
The Little Maroons is a pre-school childcare cooperative located in Bed-Stuy that I helped to start with a group of other parents almost ten years ago. We all had children around the same age and realized we wanted something very specific and special for our children. I served as the head teacher and also did curriculum development. All the parents took turns teaching, we all had duties. I spent a year of my days with 4 year-olds and loved it. We learned from each other. Through the cooperative, we created a strong loving community for our children, and each other. We supported each other as parents while focused on teaching creating opportunities for our babies to learn compassion, cultural awareness and critical thinking skills. The fact that The Little Maroon School thrives today and is still growing out of the foundation we developed so many years ago thrills me. I am still connected to Little Maroons, serving on the board and teaching yoga to the babies. We took a huge risk and trusted each other with our children. The school taught me the power in collaboration and community, the children are amazing and fun, the energy is happy, its one of the sweetest places on earth.
What is your favorite book, film or song about NYC?
Paris is Burning—this is a documentary focuses on the underground queer ball and vogue dancers living in NYC. These gorgeous fabulous beings are talented, creative and amazing. They craft spaces where they can feel safe and free at the same time. It’s very rich and poignant exploration of the idea of chosen family.
This movie is deep, raw and beautiful. It shows us a microcosm of NYC life, and highlights a specific “scene” that is thriving. The film gives us a long sneak peek into a world rarely seen, especially when it came out in 1990. I love the grace, skill and athleticism of the dancing and the examples of gender fluidity, NYC life, and all the amazing strong vibrant sassy personalities. The rugged fierceness of it reminds me of NY!!
If you have an idea of a blog post or topic you’d like to contribute to our blog, please share below!
Art making as a Spiritual Practice.
What is the web address for your blog?
OlaRonke is a Brooklyn born artist, community activist and mom interested in using art as a tool to provoke, heal, nurture and inspire deep emotion, critical thinking and perspective shifting. She is currently exploring a variety of themes through both the visual and performative arts, that revolve around nature, color, beauty, change, magic, Black beings and the Divine feminine.