Arts & Cultural
Disrupting the Narrative
From October 4 to December 6, 2023, We will be disrupting the narrative of museum culture by empowering individuals to craft their narratives, fostering a collective dialogue on Imagination using a community-created video series spanning generations.
Arts & Cultural Organizing Fellows
Shantel Miller is Jamaican-Canadian visual artist (born in Toronto, ON) who lives and works in Boston, MA. She received an MFA in Painting at Boston University and a BFA in Drawing and Painting from the Ontario College of Art and Design. In 2021, she received the Dedalus Foundation MFA Fellowship in Painting and Sculpture, the Elizabeth Greenshield Award, the Esther B. and Albert S. Kahn Career Entry Fund and is currently the Ujima Boston Project Artist Fellow for 2022-2024. Miller’s figurative paintings represent lived and imagined experiences that often situate the body in moments of vulnerability and introspection. As part of her creative process, she uses body language symbolically to suggest relationships of tension and intimacy, often depicting interior spaces with isolated moments of realism, alternating perspectives and high contrast color relationships. Working in this way, Miller negotiates notions of a public and private self, and explores ideas relevant to spirituality and existentialism in ordinary depictions of Black life.
Mercedes D. Loving-Manley is a performer and storyteller born and raised in Dorchester, MA. With a Bachelor of Arts degree in creative writing and film, the stories she writes center the lives of Black people, especially Black trans people. Her latest musical work 'water weed estrogen', a 5-track mixtape, was recorded during her final year of college and released as a gift to her supporters. Her forthcoming film 'The World and Then Some’ highlights the experiences of Black LGBTQ+ folks from her hometown, a community near and dear to her. Mercedes’s hope is that her art can be a tool in the process of healing and community cultivation for folks from various intersections within Black identity/ies. During her year with us, Mercedes relaunched #PrideExtended, a campaign that centers the well-being and security of Black trans and nonbinary people through advocacy and wealth redistribution. As part of #PrideExtended, she organized self-defense workshops, music events, and panel discussions. In addition, she created the inaugural #PrideExtended Festival, which featured a month of music, performances, and interviews highlighting Black trans and nonbinary artists. She also led Ujima's Arts and Cultural Organizing Member Team through Transformative Inspirations, a three-part workshop focusing on storytelling and queer filmmaking.
Cierra Michele Peters employs a practice that includes video, installation, and durational performance. She works as an artist, curator, and organizer with projects that attempt to examine visual, spatial and sensory representations of blackness. Her conceptual work uses wry humor to present commentary on subjectivity and ontology against an urban backdrop. Her recent projects include Print Ain’t Dead, a pop-up bookstore and publishing platform and Demo Radio, an underground sound archive.
Ashe Ashe Grantees
A Heal Thyself Art Jam
Kyara Andrade-Howell also known as DJ TROY Frost is an artist and educator from Dorchester and Roxbury. She got her start as an educator in 2008 working as a facilitator, then DEI consultant for a local non-profit until 2021. In 2014, she hosted the TROY Frost Block Party on Juniper Street, a community event featuring local DJs and vendors. She started in DJing in 2013 and completed Scratch DJ Academy’s certification program in 2015. After graduating from Barnard College in 2017, she worked for Boston Public Schools in varying roles. In 2019, she piloted The Breaks, an enrichment program which gave 15 Boston youth an introduction to the pillars of Hip Hop. About the project: This event would be an opportunity for BIPOC Boston to engage with the Hip Hop elements and be made aware of Boston-based Black-owned health-centered businesses and resources. The hope is that folks will leave feeling more connected to each other and more supported in their health goals. Since the pandemic, people have become more aware of their health. I think it would resonate because not only would it be an opportunity for people to learn about resources and health-related black business in the city, but they'd also have a safe place to gather with their families, which is essential in the summer.
Dzidzor (Jee-Jaw) is a Ga-Ewe folklore performing artist, author and entrepreneur. Didzor’s style of call and response, has embodied Afro-futurism and transcendentalists poems and story-telling as a way to include the audience in an experience to challenge, inspire and encourage self beyond traditional forms. Dzidzor released a 15-minute meditation project entitled, "bush woman" on all streaming platforms. About the project: I envision a listening session, narrated by songs, chants, drumming and affirmations to portray the story, all the while transforming the audience into participants in the psychical space created by the performance. Thus I imagine a world where I give myself--and the audience--permission to “be.” The songs will be featured in a live performance of my new project, entitled “Wilderness."
The Blair B*tch Project
Sadiq Ervin is a multifaceted creative in the Greater Boston area with a primary focus on event production and cultivating live musical experiences. Surrounded by neighborhood youth growing up in his childhood home of Mattapan, MA, Sadiq has been organizing large group activities for as long as he can recall. Most recently taking his talents to the office of Common Spaces at Harvard University, Sadiq has committed to breathing life into events on campus and providing a platform for local artists via weekly Tunes@Noon concerts. With a renewed focus on talent management & consultation through his SZND Media Group (SMG) imprint, he has also had the honor and privilege of working with breakout talents Miya Coleman, Keianna “Kei” Richardson, Joyce Wrice and Mary J. Blige. About the project: The Blair B*tch Project (BBP) is a Halloween Party & Concert highlighting creative women in the Greater Boston Area. Combining Halloween festivities with an all women line-up of DJs, artists and entertainers, BBP centers the rich cultural contributions of women to Boston's art, music and entertainment communities.
The Chocolate Project
Olivia Fenty is a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross who majored in Psychology, with an Africana Studies concentration. Olivia is the creative director of an initiative for Black femmes called the Chocolate Project. Since founding this initiative, she has curated bonding and artistic spaces to promote healing and empowerment in the Black femme community. Olivia is passionate about addressing the impact racism and discrimination have on people of color’s mental well-being through culturally informed therapy. She is planning to be a clinical psychologist. Olivia is from Cambridge, MA, but currently lives with her mom and four siblings in Fitchburg, MA. The Chocolate Project is an initiative started in 2015, that strives to promote love, respect and sisterhood in the Black femme community through bonding and artistic spaces. Some of the spaces we create range from community talks, workshops, conferences, and photoshoots. The central focus of the initiative is to create a safe space for Black femmes to feel seen, talk about our complex experiences, and to create honest representations of Black femmes. All of which we believe prioritizes our healing, and exploration of the self.
You, Me, We
Marlon Forrester is a 2021 recipient of the James and Aubrey Foster Prize. He was born in Guyana, South America and raised in Boston, MA. He is a graduate of School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston (B.A 2008) and Yale School of Art (M.F.A. 2010). Forrester is a resident artist at African-American Masters Artist Residency Program (AAMARP) and works as an educator in Boston Public Schools. His work has been exhibited internationally at venues including Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston and Kimboseong Art Center, Seoul, Korea. "You, Me, We: (D.R.G.) Dystopian Revolutionary Gallery Pod is a creative placemaking project that bridges communities by puncturing institutional spaces with portals into communities often unseen or dismissed by the institutions such spaces represent. Each individual pod operates as a photography gallery integrated into a seating platform. The platforms are constructed from geometric forms derived from basketball that encourage play and transformation, which are then installed at politically-charged sites where the dynamics of class and power disparities are palpable. The images, a mixture of street photography and portraiture, make visible the disparate realities that coexist in Boston’s diverse neighborhoods. Together they put sitters in proximity and dialogue with communities and individuals that may otherwise be invisible within these sites while serving as a symbol of solidarity with individuals who work in and traverse these spaces who may nonetheless feel unwelcome there. You, Me, We has received initial grant funding from the Collective Futures Fund (SMFA/Tufts), and we have begun designing a website for the project and are in the process of securing approval for an installation in the City Hall Plaza during Summer 2022. With additional funding, we hope to increase the impact this project can have."
Brown II Book Club
Tomashi Jackson, b 1980, Houston, Texas, is an artist based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She was awarded the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grant in 2020. Tomashi earned her BFA from The Cooper Union School of Art, her MS in Art, Culture, and Technology, and her MFA from the Yale University School of Art. As a visual art education facilitator she has been visiting faculty in Art, Film, and Visual Studies at Harvard University, The Cooper School of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Lesley University MFA in Visual Arts Program, and the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. About the project: "I would like to use the Boston Ujima Project Ashé Ashé Cultural Assembly Grant to fund the printing of a second edition of my project driven publication titled Brown II followed by strategic distribution and a series of four online reading and discussion events. While working with a team of Harvard graduate students throughout 2020 at The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, I guided our group in producing a volume of research that animates the legal and social implications of the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas II (Brown II) decision of 1955 with emphasis of this history in the Greater Boston area. Brown II was the implementation case that followed Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas in 1954."
Art & Healing Workshops
Boston-based visual artist, graphic designer, and entrepreneur Ayana Mack has been honing her skills in the creative community for over a decade. Mack’s artistic inspiration is rooted in personal experiences, Black culture, self-love, and believing in inspiring others through her artwork. Her use of vibrant colors, linework, and expressions of Black women within her work exhibit power and softness in unison. In 2020 Mack was an honoree for “Black Excellence on the Hill,” celebrating her contribution to the arts in the Commonwealth. She has also been a featured artist in Boston Art Review magazine, a Creative Entrepreneur Fellow for the Arts and Business Council, and a board member for both the American Institute of Graphic Arts and the Arts and Business Council of Greater Boston. If awarded this grant I would offer free arts and wellness programming across four neighborhoods in Boston. Mattapan, Dorchester, Roxbury, and Jamaica Plain.
Nature vs Nurture: A multimedia portrait series
Haitian American artist and educator Chanel Thervil combines abstraction and portraiture to convene dialogue around culture, social issues and existential questions. At the core of her practice lies a desire to empower and inspire tenderness and healing among communities of color through the arts. She holds a BFA in painting from Pace University and a master’s degree in art education from Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She’s been a catalyst for change via educational collaborations, public art and residencies with institutions like The Museum of Fine Arts, The Boston Children’s Museum, PBS Kids and nonprofits across Boston. With this grant I want to create the following project to explore this concept: Nature vs Nurture; A multimedia portrait series that reflects on the relationship between elements of our identities we inherit and cultivate via interview, installation, photos and video.
Free Plants BOS
"Quontay Turner also known as "Q", is a multi-talented creative and entrepreneur. She is the founder of Q Made It and Emerald City Plant Shop, the first Black womxn-owned plant shop in New England. She has over ten years of experience in community organizing, event management, recruiting, and facilitating conversations and training around diversity, equity, and inclusion. Inspired by Free Plants ATL and my love for greenery in my community. We want to start Free Plants BOS. House plants can be expensive and inaccessible in New England. We want to make plant ownership accessible to all. House plants teach self-care, improve your environment and air quality. Air quality, as we know, is a major area of concern in urban communities.
Charles Wallace Thomas IV
Second & Fourth
Second and Fourth is a publication forged in the flames of societal chaos and in reflection of the times. Here, the reader will find a porch to confront race, the human condition, and the aspirations of a generation.
“Project Misik: Unleashing Freedom” (Project Freedom)
Kera M. Washington is an applied ethnomusicologist and the founder of Zili-fy/Zili Misik, formerly Zili Roots, founded in 2000: an all female, multi-ethnic, Boston-based world music ensemble that retraces routes of forced exile and cultural resistance through African diasporic rhythm and song. Zili performs roots music of the African Diaspora, or self-described “New World Soul.” Project Freedom, combining word and song, seeks to uncover and voice the historical contributions and reverberations of 19th Century African American residents and activists; and to teach this largely still unsung history -- about our community’s ancestors -- to those of us living and working now. Importantly, as Project Freedom explores how Black communities thrived during other times of racial injustice, we strive to inspire contemporary BIPOC communities and our co-conspirators, focusing on the successes of ancestors that are still relevant to our continuing fights against sustained systemic racism.
Boston BIPOC Film Festival
Muskaan is a Pakistani Muslim film maker studying in Emerson college Boston. She will use this grant to have her own bipoc film festival in Boston.