Zora’s: A Brooklyn Salon
A monthly forum to discuss and debate ongoing and emergent issues and ideas that impact Black people–and to delight in our accomplishments
According to the Harlem Renaissance 100: A Community Celebration, a collaborative comprising more than 13 Harlem cultural institutions, 2018–2020 is the official 100th anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance. The Harlem Renaissance, also known as the New Negro Movement, was a decades-long identify-affirming Black enlightenment chock-full of post-reconstruction innovations in music, playwriting, literature, publishing, dance, and cultural emergence.
Today, Black artists, writers, technologists, musicians, publishers, futurists, and other creative types are abloom in the U.S., and globally. A 21st-century Black arts movement is flourishing concurrently—and in many ways is symbiotic to ongoing local, state, and national organizing movements to end state-sponsored violence and indifference toward Black people. Indeed, some of our most prolific Black work is borne out of times of heightened suffering and resistance. Author and professor Ayana Mathis addresses this paradoxical experience:
“Even as African-American writing currently experiences unprecedented mainstream appeal and critical recognition, the focus on black expression has another, uglier face: a deadly obsession with black bodies. Thus, it is possible for the Sacramento police to murder a black man holding a cell phone in his grandmother’s backyard and for [Colston] Whitehead to win the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award within a year. How are we to reconcile these truths?”
In the spirit of the Black radical tradition, we’re creating a space to gather, break bread, drink spirits (or your favorite non-alcoholic beverage), respond to Mathis’s question, and unravel this Gordian knot.
Zora’s is a monthly sociological forum to discuss and debate ongoing and emergent issues and ideas that impact Black people—and to delight in our accomplishments. Each month, we’ll be joined by a Black practitioner of the arts (widely encompassing art, writing, music, dance, publishing, food, and other creative capacities) who will offer a synopsis of how their work is contributing to Black thought and power building in this era; after that, we will engage in a debate and discussion.
Zora’s offers face-to-face community building and deliberation, a practice in dialectics and vulnerability. This is unlike online networking sites like Twitter and Reddit, which provide unique platforms to exchange ideas and information but eliminate the conditions for accountability and leave people feeling unheard and sometimes bullied.
In contrast, Zora’s offers a platform for discussion and debate in which people who share a vision for the freedom of Black people can disagree with dignity and have a safe space to examine what we do and don’t know about issues that impact our communities.
Zora’s provides a community for curiosity, free of shame and judgment, and for low-stakes, high-impact, meaningful discussion. Zora’s is a space for Black people. We encourage non-Black allies to offer resources and organize similar spaces.
We encourage other Black communities to share in this practice throughout 2019, too. If you’re considering it, email us and we’ll send information on how we organize our series, along with our syllabus of monthly topics, readings, and discussion questions.
We’ll meet in a Black-owned brownstone built in 1911 in the historic Stuyvesant Heights neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, in north-central Brooklyn. Although it’s named after Dutch colonist Peter Stuyvesant, Stuyvesant Heights has been one of the most prominent communities for the city’s Black population since the Harlem Renaissance era, when Black folks moved here in droves.
Our meetings are every third Friday from 6:00 PM–8:30 PM throughout 2019. The address and other logistical details will be provided upon RSVP, which will be limited to the first 20–25 registrants each month due to space limitations.
About the organizer: I’m Shanelle. I'm a practitioner, activist, and teacher of social change communications, and I care about using stories and narratives to shape the world around me. I’m not from Brooklyn. I’m from Black Los Angeles and moved here in January from Oakland. I don’t have the institutional memory, relationships, or exact appreciation for the neighborhood and community that some of my friends and neighbors who grew up here do. I’ve introduced myself to my neighbors, I check on them often, and I am actively looking for opportunities to maintain the integrity of the neighborhood as a humble new resident through activism or policy advocacy. Perhaps, through the creation of this space and the relationships, ideas, and, energies created in it, I will offer something to this community in return for all it has already offered me.
Find a PDF of this document for sharing here.
RSVP: Brooklyn Salon
June 21, 2019 6:00 - 8:30 PM
The address and other logistical details will be provided upon RSVP, which will be limited to the first 20–25 registrants each month due to space limitations.
In June, we will be joined by Taja Lindley.
Taja Lindley is a memory worker, healer and an activist based in New York City. Through iterative and interdisciplinary practices, she creates socially engaged artwork that transforms audiences, shifts culture, and moves people to action. She uses movement, text, installation, ritual, burlesque, and multi-media to create immersive works that are concerned with freedom, healing, and pleasure. Her performances, films, and installations have been featured at Brooklyn Museum; La Mama Theater; New York Live Arts; the American Repertory Theater at Harvard University; the Philbrook Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma; the Carver Museum in Austin, Texas; the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, California; and more. She is the founder of Colored Girls Hustle and a member of Echoing Ida and Harriet’s Apothecary. In addition to being an artist, Lindley is actively engaged in social movements as a writer, consultant, and facilitator. Most recently, she served as a Sexual and Reproductive Justice Consultant at DOHMH, facilitating a community-driven process that created The New York City Standards for Respectful Care at Birth. She continues her work at the NYC Health Department as the current Public Artist in Residence, a program of the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs.