Lytasha Blackwell: She's a B.O.S.S

Lytasha Blackwell is an illuminating, vibrant, and artistic soul. As an accomplished and sought after spoken-word poetry artist, Lytasha is a writer, Hip Hop Feminist, educator and Young Women's Leadership Organizerwho draws on past experiences to help other people who may be going through similar issues know they are not alone in what they are going through and that there are outlets, like poetry, that can be utilized to express one's frustrations or ideas.

In 2007, Lystasha experienced an unfortunate event in which the middle school girls' group she was charged with mentoring was told by school authorities to, in place of bringing awareness to real issues the girls were facing, like drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, poverty and gang violence (during a school pep-rally) instead focus on bringing awareness to the minuscule and unimportant issues every student faces like "gum chewing and no running in the halls. They were told that it’s better to leave community issues outside of the school". 

This prompted Lytasha to "create an environment where the voices of young women wouldn’t be silenced, overlooked and ignored". With a small grant of $800, she formed the program: "She's a B.O.S.S - Beyond Ordinary Setting Standards" in the summer of 2008. The program initially aimed to work with young women and high schools in Bridgeport and New Haven, CT, but was expanded into a curriculum and program model - making the program easy for replication in other cities where young women face similar issues.

Currently, Lytasha works in the Summer Equal Opportunity Office at SCSU. When asked about why she continues her work with youth she states that the, "main goal is to be a guide and resource for young people moving forward in their journeys while maintaining the ability to not minimize their experiences". 

Contact Lytasha:
LytashaMarie@gmail.com

Learn more about She's a B.O.S.S
https://www.lytashamarie.com/single-post/2016/02/12/Shes-A-BOSS-What-It-Means-to-Me

Learn more about Lytasha:
https://www.lytashamarie.com

  

Alisha MartindaleComment
Lucy McClure: Nasty Women Art Show and Film Festival

 

Lucy McClure is an artist and mother of two highly spirited children from Hamden, CT. A Brazilian immigrant, Lucy moved to the United States with her parents in 1999 when she was 17 years old. As an artist involved in the arts community for years, she recently and unexpectedly found herself deeply involved in the arts activism scene in New Haven after the 2016 presidential election. "After the last debate in November, it hit me that Trump might end up being our president and that scared me as a mother, a woman and an immigrant. Complacency was no longer a choice. I wasn't willing to let every right that was given to me, my children and every person, especially women, be taken away without doing something about it".

After witnessing the powerful success of the original Nasty Women Art Show in New York, curated by Jessamyn Fiore and Roxanne Jackson, Lucy decided to accept the open invitation by Nasty Women NY to develop a Nasty Women Art show in her own community. As a co-organizer, along with Valerie Garlick and Sarah Fritchey, the three organized a free, open art show in the New Haven Institute Library that later earned them one of the New Haven Arts Council's 2017 Arts Awards for mobilizing an entire community to get involved in the arts.   

"In the face of injustice, if you have the ability to be a voice for others you should use it," she says. When asked how she thinks the Nasty Women Art Show has affected her community, she says, "I think it has given them an opportunity to have a voice in an artistic way by utilizing the arts to be part of a bigger movement to come together in solidarity, because together all of our voices are stronger than one person's. It gave people a platform in a safe space to respond to our current administration's stripping away of basic human rights, especially toward women."   

After the success of the Art Show, McClure is now the lead organizer of a continued effort - The Nasty Women Film Festival - in which the goal is, "to use motion picture as another outlet of communication for social change and social justice by allowing film makers to share their stories about how they feel under this current administration and especially on LGBTQ issues, Women's issues, racism, immigration and refugees."  

As for the future of Nasty Women New Haven, Lucy hopes for continued collaboration with other local organizations to incorporate arts opportunities for their communities and to encourage people to see "how important they [arts] can be and how powerful they can be as a tool for activism".  

Connect with Lucy McClure:
nastywomenfilmnhv@gmail.com

Submit to the Nasty Women Film Festival:
https://filmfreeway.com/festival/NastyWomenFilmNH

Follow Nasty Women New Haven on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/233868990368216

Stay Up-to-date on Nasty Women Events:
https://www.nastywomenct.org

Read about the Nasty Women New Haven Show here:
https://institutelibrary.org/nasty-women

Read more about the original Nasty Women New York Art Show here:
http://nastywomenexhibition.org/about 

Alisha MartindaleComment
Patrick Dunn aka "Kiki Lucia": New Haven Pride Center

Patrick Dunn, also known as “Kiki Lucia” is the first ever Executive Director of The New Haven Pride Center; a non-profit LGBTQ community center which has operated on volunteer efforts for the past 20 years. Patrick had been involved with the New Haven Pride Center well before becoming director, serving as not only a volunteer but a consultant as well. In his first 60 days as Director, in collaboration with other local organizations, he successfully organized the 2017 New Haven PRIDE Weekend - three full days in September of celebration and awareness of the joys, issues, strides and setbacks experienced by the Greater New Haven LGBTQ community. PRIDE weekend incorporated, among many other events, a high-energy block party open to all, drag performances, and a brunch at a favorite, neighborhood, Lesbian-owned bar and restaurant, Barracuda, which culminated in a “Tea Dance” (a dance party traditionally held by queer people to be “out” together before being “out” was legal) at York Street Cafe.  

As part of his services to the LGBTQ community, Patrick performs regularly in drag shows as his alter ego, Kiki Lucia (Kiki is a slang term meaning “party”). For the past two and a half years, Patrick as helped Kiki evolve into an independent character with her own personality (and amazing wigs) to raise money for local organizations such as the AIDS Project New Haven,  LGBT advocacy group know as GLSEN - The CT Gay and Lesbian Education Network - as well as The Imperial Sovereign Court of All of Connecticut - a non-profit network of drag performers who use their artistry to raise money for other non-profit organizations of which Kiki is "Imperial Crown Princess", which is an one-year position that is appointed by the Reigning Monarchs. 

Patrick says performing in drag not only benefits local organizations when done for charity but also effects the economic value of the community when, “…they bring people into the bars and restaurants where the shows take place who then in turn buy food and drinks. This economic support then gives these venues some financial stability”.  

Not only do drag shows positively effect organizations and businesses, they are also considered to be, “…artistic expressions of the LGBTQ+ community. Drag is one of the artistic offerings that our community creates. The work that queens put into their looks, their fashions and their performances is on par with so many fine arts. This is something that we don’t talk about enough. They [drage shows] are also great statements and can have a huge impact on people that experience them. Some of these come in the form of the queens that make political statements during their performances like when Casey Fitzpatrick, Connecticut’s premiere trans drag performer did a piece about trans in the military after President Trump announced his planned ban to when performers like Malaya Love Nations did her piece at PRIDE New Haven this year about cultural identity”. 

I personally attended the mini drag performance hosted by fellow artist and photographer, Daniel Eugene, in his studio space in Westville as part of the City Wide Open Studios Westville Weekend. What is not always entirely evident in a dark bar setting while watching a drag performance is the level of professional quality and seriousness that these queens put into not only their outfits but their characters as well. During this mini show in Daniel’s kitchen, Kiki performed a lip synched version of singer Ke$ha’s “Praying” that held the audience captive for the entire five minute song. By the end of the performance, there were several standing ovations and dollar bills littering the floor.        
 

Connect with Patrick at the New Haven Pride Center:
P.James.Dunn@gmail.com
203-387-2252
https://www.facebook.com/NewHavenPrideCenter
84 Orange Street, New Haven  

Follow Kiki Lucia here:
https://www.facebook.com/misskikilucia

Alisha MartindaleComment
Daisha Brabham: "Homegoing: A Herstory of a Black Woman"

Yesterday I was lucky enough to spend time with Daisha Brabham. Daisha is a first year History teacher at Wilbur Cross High School in New Haven. Before leaving undergrad, Daisha produced, with the help of many of her dedicated friends, mentors, volunteers, family and community members, an intensely stunning, historically accurate and original choreo-stage-play called “Homegoing: A Herstory of a Black Woman”. The original show focused on the historical time line of black women’s place in society beginning with Yoruba tradition, following the characters into the days of Billie Holiday and straight through to today. All proceeds were donated to The Coalition of 100 Black Women: New Haven Chapter

She says she is updating the script to incorporate black European women’s experiences as well and will show it once more when it is more inclusive of her added characters experiences. The cast was comprised of a variety of both college and high school students in the southern Connecticut area.

If you get a chance to speak with Daisha, you will soon realize she is an overflowing fountain of knowledge, a literal spring of intelligence. Her depth of knowledge on historical and contemporary social justice issues is astounding and her passion for bringing black women and black women’s struggles to the front of the conversation leaves anyone questioning what they themselves can begin to do at that very moment to become an accomplice in the dismantling of the very real and very damaging networks of oppression she studies and speaks about. I personally appreciate her ability to educate her audience in such a warm, thoughtful, and caring way that her words empower her listeners to learn more on their own. 

Connect with Daisha Brabham: 
BrabhamD1@gmail.com

Connect with the New Haven Coalition of 100 Black Women:
https://www.ncbwct.org/about-us

Read an entire interview with Daisha about her show written by the SCSU Women’s Studies Program:
http://www.southernct.edu/academics/schools/arts/departments/womensstudies/daishabra

Alisha MartindaleComment
Justin Farmer: Hamden Legislative Council

Justin Farmer has been a resident of Hamden, CT for 20 years and currently attends Southern Connecticut State University as a second year Political Science Major. He is very active in his Newhallville / New Haven communities and has spent the last several months campaigning for a spot on the upcoming Hamden Legislative Council primary election ballot - of which he defeated the Democratic Town Committee’s endorsed candidate. Justin will be an official Hamden Legislative Council person this November representing Hamden’s 5th District.   

When asked what his legislative council nomination means to him he says, "This is a great and humbling opportunity to get a chance to represent our community and grow tougher. I think if you said 20 years ago, in two generations in Hamden, there would be a son of a disabled, immigrant,  black-man representing our community in fighting for all their needs at the age of 23, I think we would all say it would not be possible. As things have gotten harder, I think we need to be reminded that everything is possible in terms of our future - everything must be possible to rewrite our wrongs."

When asked what his primary goals during his time as a council person will be he said, "Some things that I hold near and dear to my heart is affordable housing... in our race to get more young professionals into the state of Connecticut we have neglected affordable housing and low income housing to allow for upward mobility of all of our citizens. I will be championing that everyone has a safe warm place to stay."

Justin was nominated as an Upstander by several people - I personally first met him at Southern Connecticut State University two years ago in the Women’s Studies office. Upon first meeting him, while you wonder why he wears noise canceling headphones, you get a feeling of warmth and attentive caring. It isn’t until he speaks about his interest in local politics and his own experiences being entangled in the political framework of the education system do you really get a sense of his compassion and interest in being a voice for those who typically do not have one.

One thing he wants people to know about him is that the headphones he wears are a tool he uses to help manage noise sensitivity issues due to Tourettes. "I happen to have Tourette's, it is a neurological disorder that causes tics which are sporadic movements and sound effects that are caused by electrical pulses sent from my brain. It's been five years now that I've been wearing the headphones."

I feel lucky to have been able to and continue to work closely with Justin throughout graduate school and through this project. His reach within the community was extremely evident as within the thirty minutes I spent photographing him on Audobon street in New Haven, he was approached by more than several people who informed him about issues they were facing or asked him about his political interests and then he was greeted by more than several acquaintances as they either walked or drove by. I personally endorse him as an Upstander and not a Bystander. 

Connect with him through his “FarmerforFifth” facebook campaign group that is still actively being used: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1304106523020871/

Contact Justin Farmer: 
Justin.Farmer28@gmail.com
203-200-0517

 

Alisha MartindaleComment
Adam Christoferson: Musical Intervention

The first Upstander in this series is Adam Christoferson of Musical Intervention based out of New Haven, CT. Adam has been working closely with clinical and community based social service organizations for years using music as a medium to encourage and empower people to “Explore the Song” in themselves. The goal of Musical Intervention he says is to “help people write, record and perform original music while promoting empathy and transforming lives”. 

The headquarters, located on Temple street, serves as not only a drug and alcohol free safe space for all community members to congregate and exchange ideas and learn from each other but also as a fully functional recording studio, performance space and educational learning environment. After receiving a grant though the Arts Council of Greater New Haven and the National Endowment of the Arts in 2015, Adam began working with Liberty Community Services in the homeless population and provide songwriting, recording and a performing platform that typically underserved and disenfranchised peoples wouldn’t have access to in order to “be creative, productive and connect with the broader community”. 

I spent an afternoon with him and his base of “regulars” at the headquarters and within those few hours, it was clear that something special is happening on that small stretch of Temple Street where historically, only empty space, chewed up gum and flipped restaurant after restaurant have existed. The flow of people in and out of the building, the interaction of so many different people all sharing, learning, and inspiring each other made me think that I was then and there witnessing how culture begins. When people are allowed to come together and exist in spaces of creativity and understanding, it is clear that one can only step back and watch what happens. 

The best part of the entire experience was watching everyone in the room coming together for a “family jam” session on stage with whatever instrument was in arm’s length that lasted a good 15 minutes. I absolutely sang along. Musical Intervention is a recipient of one of the New Haven Arts Council 37th Annual “Arts awards” for 2017. 

Learn more about his organization and what he does here:
https://musicalintervention.com/

Contact Adam Christoferson for collaboration:
Info@MusicalIntervention.com

Connect with Musical Intervention on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/musicalintervention/