"The River's Bend" discusses love. The river nurtures such a diverse array of creatures that we are barely even aware of it. The poem asks: What if we realize the importance of this resource only after it's gone?
“Whale Whispering, Yes” is a window into my project, Whale Whispering, and its focus on community gatherings for collective singing and water healing work through the lens of the Whale Whispering at Lincoln Beach event that took place during the Imagining America 2021 conference in New Orleans. Offering details about the project and some history of New Orleans’ highly celebrated Black beach during the era of segregation, the piece incorporates links to photos and videos to bring Whale Whispering to life and draw attention to the work of local Black activists currently stewarding the beach and demanding attention to social and environmental concerns in the New Orleans East neighborhood.
Connecting Currents is a production of movement, poetry, and music elucidating the calling water has on the performing mind, body, and spirit and water’s ability to inspire and facilitate connection of the African Diaspora through the intercultural dialogue of dancing bodies. The diaspora has retained cultural and kinesthetic intelligences across currents of water and time embedded in movement and spirituality as practiced through the veneration of Orishas including Yemaya, Oshun, and Olokun. Angira S. Pettit-Pickens (2017) suggests that instead of considering water a site of separation, we should regard currents of the Atlantic Ocean as a great unifier and preserver of culture for the African Diaspora. Each current carries retained cultural memories of the African Diaspora creating one Diasporic force linked together by what has been retained and practiced in our inhabited spaces. These cultural retentions or currents of connection are expressed in our language, our dance, and our spirituality.
Water flows are dynamic and not subject to our mastery. There are no solutions to water-related challenges. Yet, headlines demand them and pundits promise them. Every water management effort has consequences and many perceived water problems of today are often the product of solutions implemented in the past. Rather than solutions, we need to seek resilience and change our language accordingly.
The origins of Black people in the United States are primarily told as a story of trans-Atlantic travel tethered to enslavement. However, Black people’s relationships with water and watercraft extend beyond the trans-Atlantic slave ship. Likewise, beyond the Atlantic Ocean are numerous seas, oceans, rivers, and waterways through which Black bodies, minds, spirits, practices, and cultures traverse. This essay charts a developing multimodal project, Black Mariners of the Black Pacific: Reimagining Race, Migration, and Diaspora which explores (trans)national inheritances of the Black Pacific by examining 16th – early 20th century maritime practices of people of African descent, including whalers, commercial mariners, fishers, explorers, soldiers, and sailors, who settled along the Pacific Coast of what is now the United States. As the project’s methodologies include scholarly writing, public exhibition, a vessel build, and a short documentary, this essay explores the significance of the project’s political praxis of public-facing scholarship.
Axel Santana, Associate, leads the transportation equity work and supports the water equity and climate resiliance program at PolicyLink. His work involves research, writing, and advocacy around mobility justice, climate justice, and the intersections of arts, culture, and the various equity issues impacting communities of color in California and beyond. In his years at PolicyLink, he has helped convene advocates from across the country, collaborated with equity leaders on various initiatives, authored blog posts, and developed tools—all in service of empowering and lifting the voices of our most vulnerable communities. Prior to PolicyLink, Axel was focused on international development, spending time in Kenya and El Salvador doing reproductive health advocacy and public space rehabilitation, respectively, before ending up in the Bay Area working with an agency supporting asylum seekers with legal assistance. Axel received his master's in International Policy and Development, with a focus on human security and development, from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.
“Beloved Work” is the fourth episode of Poison and Power, the third season of Moral Courage Radio—the podcast produced by the Moral Courage Project, a program of the University of Dayton Human Rights Center and PROOF: Media for Social Justice. This piece features the voices of women and mothers from the frontlines of the struggle for clean and affordable water in Flint and Detroit, Michigan, and Appalachia. Across six episodes, Poison and Power weaves togethers stories from these areas where the demographics vary but the question remains the same: How have marginalized communities fought back when confronted with a water crisis? Each episode in this season adopts a unique angle and covers issues that include health and science, race and Indigeneity. In this episode, we explore case studies of women-led activism around water access in the US, and how race, class, and gender affect these women’s own personal relationships with water.
This reportage—essay, on-site sketch, and photos—centers around an interview with Paulina López, one of the leaders working toward the cleanup of the Duwamish River Superfund site in the South Park neighborhood of Seattle. The conversation and the experience of the place expands the idea of “river” to include efforts at community “placekeeping,” environmental justice, and climate resilience.
As an artist who collaborates with scientists, how can I help make visible the visceral sense of loss caused by glaciers melting due to climate disruption and simultaneously promote a positive action? Ice Receding/Books Reseeding emphasizes the necessity of communal effort, scientific knowledge, and artistic expression to focus on the complex issues of watershed restoration by releasing seed-laden ephemeral ice sculptures into rivers with the help of local communities. As the frozen volumes float downstream and melt, the native seeds, selected in consultation with stream ecologists and botanists, are released and begin to plant themselves along riverbanks. This project presents a lyrical way to promote positive actions in helping restore streams anywhere in the world. My riparian projects are not about theorizing while sitting in an armchair or classroom, but rather about connecting directly, and in physical ways, with the river.
Tó is my contribution to Imagining America's 2021 gathering theme The Shape of Us: Waterways and Movements. It is a story about my childhood on the Navajo Nation, living without the conveniences of running water, and the continued water crisis that exists in Dinétah
Bad Water Rising is a hydrophobic medium art installation in downtown State College that focuses on Pennsylvania species that are affected by climate change and water quality concerns. These rapid changes make it difficult for certain species to survive and adapt. The art is invisible until it is revealed by the rain, which symbolizes this change. The hydrophobic medium is applied over stencils created by the artist and is entirely invisible on dry concrete. The hydrophobic medium is eco-friendly and biodegradable. This installation is a collaboration between the Hamer Center for Community Design and The Woskob Family Gallery and is also part of the Hamer Center Coffee Hour series “Engaging Water,” and a Woskob Gallery talk “Public Conversation: Artists and Water” featuring artists who work with water in the public realm. The stencils and Story Map are on display during both events.
Having grown up in Alaska, my understanding of the land was influenced by both the rugged monumentality of the terrain and the impact of the oil and gas industry upon the land. To this day, I feel a natural affinity for places and things that evoke those memories, such as the mountains and deserts of the southwest, and excavation sites and earthmoving equipment found in the industrial landscape.
I unfurl large rolls of paper on the floor and immerse myself in the painting, much like being in the landscape. Working from the inside out, I disperse a palette of earth-toned inks with distilled water and industrial solvents, and use aggressive tools such as wire brushes, scrap metal, and reclaimed tire shreds to push the ink around. Surrounded on all sides by the expanse of paper, I move through the work as if I am traversing the terrain.