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: