For over 10 years, Youth Speaks has presented the Life is Living Festival in West Oakland. This free festival celebrates life through public art, wellness activities, and environmental and social action, investigating the questions:
How do we catalyze community building?
How do we integrate the arts more vitally into our communities?
At the 2017 Life is Living Festival, Campo Santo and Cal Shakes dug into these questions by co-curating the third annual Theater Stage with the theme of BLACK AND BROWN RESISTANCE. With a pulsing through-line spun by DJ Dion Decibels & MC’d by Lisa Evans, we featured a mixtape of local artists embodying the creative ways people of color resist through word, music, and movement.
Alayo Dance Company lit up the stage with Afro-Cuban dance, embodying celebration and cultural preservation as acts of resistance.
Nyabingha McDowell performed monologues and songs from RYSE Youth Center’s original period piece Richmond Renaissance about Black ownership:not just ownership of property, but ownership of self and community, which is a resistance to the system that we are chained to.
Bonafide Rojas spit poems on art as a tool of resistance and the generations of Puerto Ricans who have fought for sovereignty against US imperialism.
Boomshake brought beats to the stage from across the globe for Streets are Free, a drumsical inspired by a Venezuelan children’s book that recounts a true story of children living in a barrio fighting for a safe place to play outside.
Through drums, song, spoken word, and freestyle dance, Rising Rhythm Project celebrated early hip hop as youth artivism in Mission District in My Soul.
Lisa Evans took a break from MCing the stage to perform an excerpt of You Really Should Sit Like A Lady (or How I Got to Femme) , an exploration of the hilarious, perplexing, and sometimes infuriating contradictions of defining one’s gender outside of cisheteropatriarchal mandates.
With poetry, rap, guitar, and vocals, Gina Madrid chanted down police brutality, racism, and discrimination.
Featuring a fusion of storytelling, spoken word and hip hop, Daniel Mora’s one-man play PASSAGES testified to the power of community healing.
In The Niggas Speak of Rivers, the Fine Ass Queer Artsy Heauxs Collective explored the intersections of blackness and queerness, radical remembrance as resistance, and how we can heal and propel ourselves towards a future that holds all of us.
Performing resistance in the tradition of the Black Arts Movement, the Lower Bottom Playaz presented an excerpt from Beyond the Bars: Growing Home on the devastating effects of the American carceral system.
For this year’s stage, we’re looking for theatermakers conjuring FUTURISM: AFROS & BEYOND. You can find the Open Call for Performers here: apply by August 20th!
And don’t miss this year’s Life is Living Festival at DeFremery Park on Saturday, October 13th — we’ll see you there!
All photos by Sonjhai Meggette/Esoteric Images