This summer, the 17 Founding Agents were tasked with planning and hosting “Imaginings” in their cities. The DC Imagining took place on Saturday, July 12th.
The 1st ever DC Imagining is a memory in the hearts and minds of (at least) the 100+ people who attended. Since then, I’ve been thinking about it’s prologue – the things that influenced my cultural practice leading up to the planning and launch.
Before I sent the first solar flare into the universe about the DC Imagining, I was in my laboratory being consumed, amazed and affirmed by Poet/Activist/Black Feminist/Architect/Ancestor June Jordan and her friendship with Futurist Architect Buckminister “Bucky” Fuller. Their 1965 (environmental and social justice) collaboration, the “Harlem Skyrise Project” was “imagining” at its core. But it was Jordan’s writing about that deliberate moment of choosing love as mode of action and resistance was a salve to the viceral emotions I hold about DC, the ever-changing place I call home.
I share June Jordan’s words about the genesis of the “Harlem Skyrise Project” as a love note to myself, a meditation on the power of imagining and a primer for some of us.
“…the agony of that moment propelled me into a reaching far and away to R. Buckminster Fuller, to whom I proposed a collaborative architectural redesign of Harlem, as my initial, deliberated movement away from the hateful, the divisive.
My first meeting with Bucky lasted several hours, just the two of us, alone. And when we separated, agreed on the collaboration for Esquire magazine, I felt safe in my love again. We would think and work together to design a three-dimensional, an enviable, exemplary life situation for Harlem residents who, otherwise, had to outmaneuver New York City’s Tactical Police Force, rats, a destructive and compulsory system of education, and so forth, or die.
This was a way, a scale, of looking at things that escaped the sundering paralysis of conflict by concentrating on the point, the purpose of the fight: What kind of schools and what kind of streets and what kind of parks and what kind of privacy and what kind of beauty and what kind of music and what kind of options would make love a reasonable, easy response?
Forward from that evening in Fuller’s room, at the St. Regis Hotel, my sometime optimism born of necessity hardened into a faithful confidence carried by dreams: detailed explorations of the alternatives to whatever stultifies and debases our lives.
My life seems to be an increasing revelation of the intimate face of universal struggle. You begin with your family and the kids on the block, and next you open your eyes to what you call your people and that leads you into land reform into Black English into Angola leads you back to your own bed where you lie by yourself, wondering if you deserve to be peaceful, or trusted or desired or left to the freedom of your own unfaltering heart. And the scale shrinks to the size of a skull: your own interior cage.
And then if you’re lucky, and I have been lucky, everything comes back to you. And then you know why one of the freedom fighters in the sixties, a young Black woman interviewed shortly after she was beaten up for riding near the front of an interstate bus– you know why she said, “We are all so very happy.”
It’s because it’s on. All of us and me by myself: we’re on.”
Source: Jordan, June, 1936-2002, Chapter 40: Foreword to Civil Wars in Some of Us Did Not Die: New and Selected Essays of June Jordan. New York, NY: Basic Books, 2002, pp. 306-308
Coming in at a close second to my fascination with June Jordan X Buckminister Fuller was this idea of “Emergence” found in complex science. I was introduced to this concept in an article by Margaret Wheatley and then again by Invincible, an amazing Detroit-based cultural worker, artist and member of the collective Complex Movements. As organizers and change agents we can learn so much from flocks of birds, schools of fish and swarms of bees. Our local, national and global social movements need to take cues from nature.
I came to thinking about the design and intention of the DC Imagining with this vocabulary and perspective.
I also came with with my share of the psychic energy connected to living, working and creating in Washington, DC – the socio-political belly of these United States. I choose to see this energy as neither good nor bad, more like latent, full of potential.
And the belief that communities are always visioning for themselves. Even when they don’t recognize it. I also believe that many of these communities share the same locale, cultural, social and economic profile for all types of reasons.