On Sunday afternoon I sat on the lawn of the Butler McCook House in Hartford and took in the captivating energy of the Renaissance Gyal Garden Party—a celebration of Black women makers and doers beautifully conceived by Lauren Horn//Subira Vs Movement and produced by Jasmin Agosto of Sageseekers Production. Amidst a diverse crowd of young and old, the live music of The Lost Tribe, a group of Black musicians led by Jocelyn Pleasant enveloped Black women makers of all kinds, as 4 Black women dancers moved through the space at intervals throughout the afternoon, exquisitely presenting a story that ‘explores the stories of those of Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Latinx, Afro-American, and African heritage who have come to make America home.’ It was a celebration of Black women and culture made even more meaningful by taking place on the grounds of a historic home which was transformed in the celebration. Everyone was welcomed into this beautiful, spirited process of creating with a total joy in and affirmation of community.
Not far away at Bushnell Park the night before, unknown vandals desecrated the Black Lives Matters mural on Trinity Street with a swastika painted on top of the artwork. The mural was an immediate response to the murder of George Floyd in May of 2020 and was painted by a spontaneous gathering of community volunteers who named themselves BLM 860. The painting of the words ‘Black Lives Matter’ as a hundred-foot-long mural placed in sight of the state Capitol was a statement of the artists’ commitment, calling for an end to systemic racism. It blended scenes and symbols representing Black citizens lives along with the volunteer painters’ names. All day this past Sunday, volunteers returned to the site to repair the damage and erase the symbol of hatred that had violated this message of affirmation and hope.
The struggle to overcome, racism and hatred is far from over. But the arts in this community sang forward on Sunday in these two separate but spontaneously intertwined moments in Hartford. The message rang forward loud and clear.
No matter what we face and struggle to overcome—the beauty of Black culture, Black women, Black people will not be defaced or erased. It will ultimately, through grace and courage, push forward and overcome.
Joining Hands for Justice is the overriding theme of JDPP’s work this coming year. The arts are and will continue to be a powerful vehicle for change. Let us join hands in community to truly make this world we live in a kinder and more compassionate place to be and grow. Our path was there on Sunday for all of us to see. It was an inspirational “response and call” of renewal, faith, and hope.
Thank you, Lauren, Jasmin and company and all the volunteers who showed up at Trinity Street on Sunday.
Let’s go with that.