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
July 19, 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.
July Zora’s is a special edition co-hosted by Tender Bois Club, For Women Who Smoke, and Brooklyn Boihood
About our hosts:
Wazi Maret is an independent multi-media artist based in Brooklyn, NY with a focus in music, visual arts and storytelling. Through his work, Wazi explores rituals of healing through music and he encourages the reconnection of mind + body through creative expression. Wazi began singing as a young person in his family church and when he moved to California in 2013, he prioritized growing his skills in song-writing, performance and production. In 2014, he co-founded an all Black, all queer and trans punk band named AFROFONIX. The group debuted as a headliner for the 2015 Night Light: Multimedia Garden Party at SOMArts in San Francisco. AFROFONIX quickly became known throughout the bay’s queer punk scene as a radical soul punk band and they were featured in several events throughout San Francisco and Oakland. In 2018, Wazi co-founded Tender Bois Club just before relocating to Brooklyn, NY. Tender Bois Club (TBC) is a trans-owned music and creative production house that designs streetwear and curates original music and audio productions. Through their creative services and branding, Tender Bois Club does everything with a deep commitment to making the world safer by teaching themselves and other men/masculine people how to practice love, healing and self-expression. Today, Wazi spends his time working on his creative business and building relationships with the vibrant community of artists and Black folks in Brooklyn.
You can find more of Wazi’s work here on his website.
Ryann Holmes has worked and lived in Brooklyn since 2006, and has been creating pathways of creativity, expression, beloved community, and love as wealth. Ryann found joy and magic in being a part of queer, black culture in Brooklyn. So, in 2009, Ryann co-founded the bklyn boihood collective. As of today the collective has grown into a community staple. "bklyn boihood is a collective of queer and trans bois of color who create spaces for our community to bloom." Ryann has also organized music festivals, live shows, conferences, film events, and more for communities of color in Brooklyn. In 2016, Ryann was voted one of Brooklyn Magazine’s top 100 cultural innovators. Ryann's latest ventures include co-founding Lucid Haus, an indie music label based in Brooklyn, featuring artists like Nappy Nina. Ryann was a talent coordinator for films like Stacey Ann Chin's MOTHERSTRUCK; and Mercy Mistress, written by Yin Quan & Executive Produced by Margaret Cho. Ryann is also the music supervisor for 195 Lewis, a boundary-breaking series that explores the lives of queer people of color in Brooklyn, New York.
Cee Smith is an entrepreneur and angel investor whose portfolio includes an array of LGBTQ and women-owned businesses in the sectors of technology, film and entertainment companies, and real estate. Her entrepreneurial journey began after she was let go of her corporate management job because of her “lifestyle.” After that, Cee vowed to work for herself and make a living on her own terms. Before Cee Smith founded Flowergirls Flowershop: For Women Who Smoke (in Washington DC), she rarely saw any positive or beautiful images of black women (and other women of color) consuming cannabis. Flowergirls Flowershop is a black queer woman-owned cannabis company that is passionate about destigmatizing the belief that consuming cannabis should make black women (or other women of color) feel guilty, or ashamed. Flowergirls works to create and share media that will defunct that taboo, as well as create spaces for people to enjoy and learn more about the benefits of cannabis.