Co-Founder & Executive Director of Fire Historical and Cultural Arts Collaborative from 2005 - 2015
My work at Fire serves as an extension of my 25-year insistence on space for marginalized people to express their autonomous and authentic selves. This work has solidified my commitment to the liberatory, self-defined space for people of color, women, youth, economically challenged people and members of LGBT communities. My mission is to encourage and respond to people’s desire for authentic expression and demonstrate that social and cultural awareness generates and sustains social justice. I have witnessed how education and participation in the arts and culture contributes to the healthy development of young people, their families and communities. I see that creative justice centers on authenticity, skill development, opportunities for expression and sustainability and have come to further understand that safe space shifts the social landscape and situates cultural capital in the pockets of often dispossessed people.
During my time at Fire I have become convinced not just of the imperative of linking social justice to creativity but also of the integral link between play in creative expression and group development. This connection has become clear in improvisational comedy initiatives, the 2010 summer Parkhop and our staff’s play experiences. Almost since Fire began Kalamazoo College students have made Fire their home for improv comedy. Participants in “Just Panda” and now “Montkapult” have revealed to me the freeing component for the artists, the resonance with the audience and the importance of including the practice in my personal and work life.