Mini Midwest Tour: Taproot and Nandi's Knowledge Cafe, Detroit

After a harrowing arrival and magical first night, I slept in and headed to a nearby coffee shop for way too much bomb, strong coffee and a little writing and admin time before things ensued for the evening.

I proceeded back to home base at Taproot Sanctuary where one of the house mates was throwing night two of her birthday party. I helped in the kitchen by mostly cutting up some fresh mango and cracking jokes, then hopped in bed for a power nap. When I woke up, I ran a few pieces by candlelight, and slinkied down the stairs into some fresh ponche and a lively group of lovely people celebrating their friend. Word spread that I was an artist and they asked me to share something, so I kicked 'Pyramids'. We then dug into the layers of metaphor of that piece, and chatted and laughed and learned about each other a bit. By the way, Taproot is an intentional community living space where they strive to have a small ecological footprint, hence all the talk about candlelight. They filter rain water and do all sorts of other cool, environmentally conscious stuff there as well. Apparently they're even part of a network of POC homes living somewhere on a spectrum of off the power grid. I can't say enough about how dope it is, but I'll try ;)

I gotta say how not jarring it is to stay in a place that almost exclusively uses candlelight. It felt so natural meeting people in that intimate, twinkling place. It most certainly had a lot to do with the light in and between the people in that space (celebrating a birthday, no less), but there really is something to be said about social interactions surrounded by candles. I know I'm someone who prefers darker spaces as it is, and that I'm really comfortable wrapping myself in complete darkness, even when I'm not preparing for slumber. Still, I think there's an element of peeling back layers between us, and the bit of magic that feels much more free in that soft, warm light. It's like the little sprites of our auras feel more at ease to come out and play.xsdx

So with that, I launched into the evening at Nandi's for the tri-video premiere, performance and QnA with Will See and GMAC. Nandi's is a Detroit institution, and recently moved from a much smaller place they had been for over a decade, if I understand it correctly. The new place is a big, open, and welcoming space full of wall to wall books and gorgeous African masks that Nandi herself has been collecting for over thirty years. Apparently, she has a warehouse full of masks that she accumulated through relationships with people who brought them from small towns throughout Africa. Most of them have been used in ceremonies in their respective villages. And they have a kitchen.

Stepping into that spot was all love as an inter-generational crowd slowly gathered for the video, performance, and conversation to come. Everyone killed the performances, the videos were super on point, and we enjoyed some powerful statements from the crowd about social change. One elder in the house was celebrating his birthday, and honored and humbled us by choosing to celebrate it with us, mentioning that he hadn't enjoyed a weekend birthday in years and years. From his wheelchair, oxygen at his side, Baba Baxter spoke about how inspired he is by the work people are doing and the energy people have right now to make a difference. He said he hasn't seen this type of activism, and community work since the 60's. In fact, he noted that people haven't shown up to vote in these numbers in Detroit since 1968. After the crowd sang happy birthday, he closed by saying that even if he doesn't live to see the change we're all working toward, he'll be with us in spirit when we do achieve it. And on that note, I began my set.

Performing for a mix of youth, OG activists, and young socially engaged peoples from all over Detroit was one thing...but performing to that crowd along with the collective spirit of the authors and craftspeople (and all that their work represents) was like performing across time to so many past global community members and ancestors. Nandi and her friends vibed with us all night and stayed the latest, smoking in the back and dancing front and center. They were delightful, and I loved chatting with them and learning more about the space and community there. In a way, they also showed what it can mean to be an elder in community with younger generations.

Videos from the night:

Midwest MiniTour: Minneapolis to Detroit

I've decided to experiment with a little series of thoughts and experiences from my travels. I'm starting here with a trip I started two days ago to Detroit and back through Chicago. The first leg through Detroit is set up through a Cultural Exchange with Collective Wisdom Detroit.

Prelude:The day before I left I screen printed a bunch of merch and even made a bit of jewelry. After teaching me how to screen print by hand last year, Katherine invited me to her studio at Redeemer (her church and an important part of our community in North Minneapolis), where I helped her put the finishing touches on a screen press build (!). Once we figured that out with any instructions, it made quick work of the printing, and I gotta say, this batch looks even better than the last. I then went home and dove into the jewelry supply box and started creating. I stayed up entirely too late, but really dig the pieces I came up with. It was all a bit of a freestyle, and I'm still experimenting and learning, but I personally dig what I'm comin' up with...someone else has gotta feel it too, right? So the next day, I scraped myself together and barely made it out of the door. I stopped for a bag of sambusa and a burger (from the new spot on Glenwood which is a+), and while I waited, ended up buildin' with the owners Sara and Osman. Sara has been cooking at another spot over south for 17 years, and has lived over North for decades, so she's finally making the leap and running her own kitchen. Osman talked about bringin' art into the space and how he's tryin' put people on from the neighborhood. While that took way longer than I anticipated, the food was bomb and I had what I needed to cover me for the first part of the trip along with some apples and some random jello my pops gave me (lol). It was snowing and rush hour was just getting started...

Yo...after 9 hours for a 6.5 hour trip through terrible road conditions, a few terrifying moments with semis, and a path littered with spun out cars, crashes, and emergency vehicles, I made it to my overnight stay, and got back on the road yesterday, beautiful cup of coffee in hand and bomb breakfast sambusa (just sambusa for breakfast) waiting for me. *Then I realized I was losing an hour in Detroit and made a harrowing arrival *just in time for a delightful workshop with a dope circle of humans. I did my pyramids workshop on identity and opening up moments of our story through poetry for Riverwise Magazine at Cass Corridor Commons (connected to me by William Whole Note and #CollectiveWisdomDetroit). A lovely elderly woman incidentally offered the most insightful and profound feedback on the workshop, and I was so honored and moved to be in community there. After everything it took to get here, I knew this was right.

After that, I met my housemates for the next few days at the warm and welcoming Taproot Sanctuary, where I felt like a ghost walking into the most intimate birthday gathering with song by candlelight. Once everyone floated away on the magic they came in on, I made brief plans to help with some repotting, herb organizing, and wedding art in the way of earning my keep.
It's been a slow start today, but I'm enjoying my time and getting a little work done as I prepare for tonight's performance and video premiere of 'So Called Prez' at NANDI'S KNOWLEDGE CAFE'. I am so spent, but also feeling so very blessed.