LETTER FROM THE ARTISTIC DIRECTOR MAY 13, 2020
#PENUMBRASTRONG || Video message from Minnesota artist Erin Sharkey & more!
Greetings Dear Community,
When I was young, my father used to gently chastise me for re-reading books I’d already read. “There’s so much out there!” he’d exclaim. In college and graduate school, I used to sit amongst my books as if amongst old friends. I would convene writers and thinkers across time, space, and geography.
Lately, I have been looking for comfort in the pages of books I read years ago. I remember feeling as if I were being greeted by ancestors who welcomed me privately, powerfully, into a circle of collective wisdom. I remember feeling like I was finding my place in the world.
The affirmation awaiting a young person who journeys into history can change the course of a life; indeed it was intended to. For generations black Americans have sent children to school not just for their own benefit but to benefit the community. During a visit to Penumbra, Amiri Baraka told me, “you did what you were supposed to do.” I was supposed to return from school and pour whatever I’d received back into sustaining our community.
Over the weekend I was revisiting A Burst of Light by Audre Lorde and a passage about her daughter’s graduation from Harvard University caught me. She wrote, “I tremble for her, for them all, because of the world we are giving them and all the work still to be done, and the gnawing question of will there be enough time? But I celebrate her, too, another one of those fine, strong, young Black women moving out to war, outrageous and resilient, plucky and beautiful.”
As thousands of students graduate virtually this spring, I hope they realize how much we need their leadership. Even more ardently, I hope that we don’t leave the work entirely to them.
Perhaps in celebration of this year’s virtual class, you’ll pick up a book you once loved and share a passage with someone in your circle. When we build on collective wisdom, we advance our world and elevate our consciousness.
To get us started, please enjoy this offering from the lovely Erin Sharkey, reading one of her favorites from Audre Lorde.
Until next time, many blessings for good health and peace of mind.
“How are we going to take the songs of all of this wonderful flock here and weave them together to create this great orchestra that will sing the song of healing? ”
—Seitu Ken Jones