Thursday, May 19, 2011

Project Description

The Wake Project is a multi-faceted endeavor that seeks to address racism and reconciliation. The current three aspects include: A solo dance and spoken word performance that addresses race specifically from the personal experience of Camerin Allgood McKinnon, project creator and artistic director, and her journey to awareness of white privilege and the action required by such understanding. A diversity training that uses movement as a catalyst for conversation on the subject of race and racial identity and awareness. And finally a full evening length dance work that tells the story of a family’s journey to racial awareness and healing over three generations.

Solo: The solo, entitled “wake (v): to become roused from a tranquil or inactive state” addresses white privilege specifically dealing with the journey to awareness of that privilege and the struggle to maintain that awareness on a daily bases while discovering how to use it as a catalyst for healing and justice. "Wake" finishes with a call to action, to use this awareness to address racism within the audience members as individuals, as well to address racism as it exists within institutions in which audience members are involved. The solo is designed to be coupled with a diversity training / talk back session so that the deep topics touched on in the dance work can be identified, and tackled in reflection. The design is such that participants can leave the performance/ discussion with clear objectives and enthusiastic commitments to rid their own personal lives of racism while impacting the institutions with which one regularly interacts in positive and uplifting change.

While the personal story of the solo addresses white privilege specifically, it encompasses a capacity to speak to all individuals that are involved in the power struggle of injustice. The training session following the solo can be designed specifically for the group being addressed. When working with educators of various racial and ethnic backgrounds it is relevant to relate the work to the experience of the educators when dealing with students outside of their own cultural and racial identity. When working to promote diversity in a mixed corporate workforce the dialogue can be modified to discuss how to successfully interact with co-workers that come from different cultural and racial backgrounds. The discussion encourages any group to be proactive in their approach to connecting with and accepting the “other” in meaningful and authentic ways.

Diversity Training: The diversity training aspect of the wake project is entitled “Are You Awake?” with the follow-up session entitled “When We Press Snooze”. In diversity trainings it is first necessary to create a safe environment where this volatile topic can be addressed in positive and successful manner. While the solo serves to lay some of this ground work, rules are laid out and movement based ice breakers initiated to further create such an atmosphere. Once a safe environment has been established the training uses movement as a medium to allow stories to be told and sharing to occur. Abstract topics are addressed through improvisation games that drive home specific ideas that lead to hearing and understanding the truth of all individuals involved. The follow-up session entitled “When We Press Snooze” particularly speaks to the constant vigilance required to maintain awareness as well as the daily work vital to making real change in the lives of participants and the institutions in which they are involved.

Full Evening Length Work: The evening length piece is a work in progress currently consisting of the solo “wake (v): to become roused from a tranquil or inactive state” and an ensemble work entitled “Stir” (working title) that looks at racial awareness and reconciliation from a broader and more abstract view that speaks not to one specific story of struggle toward awareness and healing, but a more general understanding of the journey we must all take to reach egalitarianism. The vision for the complete work is that it will tell the story of the racial consciousness of two families from two separate racial backgrounds over three generations. The story begins in Wadesboro, North Carolina where both families resided in close proximity in the 1930s and follows their separate journeys around North Carolina to Philadelphia and Atlanta then back to North Carolina and finally ending up in Charlotte under one loving roof. The work will use this broader journey to glimpse the individual accounts of family members across these three generations, using these specific stories to reflect a more general sense of racial consciousness and inequality over time.

The three projects together combine to create a plethora of information presented in a variety of forms that require personal reflection and will no doubt lead to conversation. Each section in itself is designed to inspire a need for and understanding of the change necessary to lead us in the next step toward social equality in our society and around the world. As in the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, the first step is admitting there is a problem and understanding that we have the power to be part of the solution. The Wake Project uses movement art to empower participants and audience members to recognize the problem, except responsibility in being part of the solution and create change.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Story Telling

I sent out this plea requesting stories and while I haven't gotten as many responses as I was hoping (keeping my fingers crossed that some are still on the way). I have been reminded that we are so close to a time when things were so much worse. I have received several stories of early memories that are pre civil rights. For my generation ( I forget what letter we are, "x" maybe) I think it is easy to forget that our parents and grandparents lived through an era that is so well studied in our history books that I wonder why we didn't study it in our homes. Is pre civil rights a time we are trying to forget? Perhaps there is some guilt on the side of whites whose world view has significantly changed since then. A feeling of pain for black and white people that lived through that time period. A pain they don't want to revisit. Or perhaps we have simply moved away from a story telling culture. I believe it is a combination of each of these things.

When I first started thinking about choreographing I knew that I needed to tell stories. With tv, computers, video games and movies our modern selves have devised multi-media possibilities for story telling. We know the big stories, the epic ones, the ones that someone chose to bring to the silver or small screen. But what about the stories so close to us, the ones of our parents, grandparents, and friends, these stories are so much more real. Some of these stories may seem insignificant but I know they open a window for the listener into the soul of story teller. Every one teaches us something about our past, ourselves, our families or loved ones. There is so much to learn in these stories.

I can't wait to listen and I know that your story is full of value.
Please tell me a story.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Help Wanted

It wasn't a moment for everyone. For some of us it was a gradual understanding that seeped into us before we were aware of it's power, before the beginning of our memories. For some of us it seems that we always knew. For others of us we were hit by a bolt of painful lightening at some early stage in our life. But we were all born in perfect ignorance without any knowledge of race. Race is not often something someone sat us down to explain guiding us toward a healthy understanding, but something that becomes part of our consciousness over time or through one major event that opens our eyes to the simple fact that in America people are treated differently based on the color of their skin.

I am currently developing an ensemble dance piece entitled "Stir". The work looks at early understanding of race, single moments or memories of awareness that changed the course of our lives and social understanding and beyond that consciousness to our actions upon awareness. The work begs the question, What do we do with racial awareness?, How do we choose to respond to those who are different from ourselves? If you are familiar with my solo work entitled: wake(v): to become roused from a tranquil or inactive state this new work builds on some of those themes in a more abstract and all inclusive way. Both "wake" and "Stir" are part of a larger project entitled The Wake Project. You interested? Want to be involved? Because you're needed :-)

In addition to creating the dance work, with the help of my amazing boyfriend Sean I am creating a sound score as well. It's possible that I have bitten off more than I can chew, but Artistic vision sometimes leads us in unexpected directions, and this is where you come in: I need stories that will probably become sound bites in a verbal mosaic. What I am asking is for written accounts or if possible audio files of you telling your story using the following prompt: Tell me a story about an event in your early consciousness when you were vividly aware of your skin color or ethnicity. I know that we all probably have a ton of stories but just pick one, the best might be the first one that comes to mind. It can be positive, negative, happy, sad, short, long, a big booming event that brought your world crumbling around on top of you, or a small moment among many that led to your understanding of race and it's role in our society. I'm looking for it all and whatever you come up with is perfect.

Unfortunately the deadline to audition the work for the Charlotte Dance Festival was announced last week and the application (with a video of at least a near completed work) is due June 15th. So my goal is to have a working draft of the sound score by June 1st. I plan to go back and re-visit the score again after I submit the application and hope to be able to connect with you directly and record you telling your own story. If you're in the Charlotte area I'd love to get together with you between now and May 28th to record you telling your story. I might even be able to make a quick trip to Greensboro. If you're technically savvy and can send me an audio file that would be great but if not just email me your story I may get someone else's voice for now and then try to meet with you after the June deadline to get you to re-record it.

I know you all have amazing stories to tell and I'm so looking forward to hearing/ reading them. If you're nervous about someone knowing a specific story is yours I will be happy to have someone else record it for you. Also please remember it's not going to be long sections of a story but just a few words at a time collaged with many other stories. If you're interested please contact me via email, facebook or here and I'll connect. Or if you're not interested in sharing a story but want to continue to be involved and possibly contribute please let me know. There will be more opportunities.

Please feel free to pass this on to people in your life that you think might be interested.

Thanks so much for reading all of my ideas and for being a loving supportive part of my life. I look forward to hearing back from you.

Camerin Allgood McKinnon
The Wake Project
Creator and Artistic Director