Ntozake Shange

FullSizeRender (7)Ms. Shange,

1991.  I had the transformational opportunity to perform in your work

spell#7: geechee jibara quik magic trance manual for technologically stressed third world people

at Penumbra Theatre in St. Paul, MN.

this was my first professional production.

what a rite of passage, to take on your words, the dance of them, the physicality of them,

and to perform them, conjure the work with a distinguished group of black creative folx.

to don the minstrel mask, legacy through picking cotton, lindy-hopping and grooving till we arrived into the 70’s, where the spell unfolds through our impassioned voices.

to transport ourselves into that bar/club, that part of NYC, to embody those ‘actor’ characters as they shared, poeticized, strutted, expressed dimensions of blackness that both awakened and mystified my own blackness.

I sang a song that was not meant for me

played a guitar that was never more than plucking strings

kissed a woman deeply with all of my queer breath held tightly

and stumbled to break open my creative universe

i’m still stumbling… with the spell of your work still nurturing/resting in my soul

thank you.


I say you name

give offering to sweeten your palate

soften your pathway to foreverness

pull back into the words of the spells you have crafted

and bask


I call your name acknowledging you amongst the creative ancestors who profoundly shaped/changed the way we/I expressed and experience theatre/performance

for us

by us.


sssssssssssssssspelllllll number SEVEN!



a series of movements [Toronto]: a “c/krip” acknowledgement

offering this text i developed as a ‘c/krip’ acknowledgement for iteration of “a series of movements”  most recently presented at 7a*11d’s 2018 International Festival of Performance Art in Toronto, Canada…with thanks to curator Golboo Amani and ASL interpreter Tala Jalili for their further questions, reflections and reading of this acknowledgement, and a shout out to black disabled activist, writer Leroy Moore  who uses “krip” instead of “crip” in relation to naming/reclaiming of the term by select disability identified folx.

this acknowledgement also includes text used for a statement on access developed some years ago for 2016 Hemispheric Institute Encuentro in Santiago, Chile.

image of Barak in wheelchair inside of theatre by Henry Chan, courtesy of 7a*11d.

“Aligned with the acknowledgement of indigenous folx, their distinct traditions and ongoing care for the land we reside on, the essential actions we must take to undo the colonial practices that perpetuate the erasure of indigenous folx’ profound contributions to the planet….

This is an affirmation of a diversity of bodies. Disabled bodies, politically crip, chronically ill, sick, spoonie, Mad, Deaf,  DDBDDHHLD [Deaf, DeafBlind, DeafDisabled, Hard of Hearing, Late Deafened], interdimensional, neurodivergent, non visual learners…Folx who culturally may not identify as “disabled” but whose bodies are truly welcomed in spaces that are barrier free, sign language friendly, scent reduced, trigger reduced, low lit or well lit, relaxed, sensory friendly….with wayfinding  and haptic technology, centralized seating for wheels, scoots, crutches, walkers, canes, caregivers, companions, service animals, overflowing emotions…and alternate areas to occupy or roam when desired.  Spaces fluid and responsive.  Spaces where interdependence is never questioned but embraced. 

Communal spaces are created and we are thoughtfully invited. We ask the question: is it accessible? and we get “grandfathered” – patriarchy, colonialism and history converging to reinforce ableism and its architectural legacies of structural inequity.  How to move within a space and architecture that is not always built with our bodies in mind, is a continuing conscious navigation of humanity. This is an acknowledgement of the ways our bodies negotiate the spaces with labour, effort, finesse and grace.

WE are disabled among other identifiers that have meaning to OURSELVES and the communities we interact with and love. and when WE ask the question about access, it’s not just about OUR disability but the expanse… the invitation, welcoming anyone who’s desiring to be present for the experience of engaging with art and each other.

In navigating [a series of movements], You as a witness are welcome to also move, to sit, to be on two feet or bring a chair into the space…. to explore your own series of movements through the space within the theatre that Barak will be moving, responding to where you desire to be to view the body’s moments,  or to take a moment to be in the gallery space.  When you are viewing, we ask you to consider that you are in a space with bodies of various heights and with various potential desires to be seated, to be lower or higher in viewing. A space where some folx will be communicated to through sign, through gestures, where they may tune in with quietude or vocally respond…You are in a space with a diversity of bodies. “+++

+++ please do not use this acknowledgement without permission.

image of Barak facing set of stairs outside of theatre by Henry Chan, courtesy of 7a*11d.



what’s coming up next, coming soon


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September 14, 2018 – CHICAGO

For the opening of the new exhibit “Chicago Disability Activism, Arts and Design: 1970’s to Today” at Gallery400, Friday September 14 from 6:30pm -7:30pm, i will perform “from here to there.   Archive from my evolving lived experience navigating physical disability will also be on display. proud to be in this exhibition with other disability identified artists, activists and designers.

#ChicagoComeThrough #CripFolkUnite #ArchivingTheDisabledBody #WheelChairCrutchesCanes #Intersectionality #MomentToMomentBreathToBreath #newPerformativeExploration #BlackIsBold #UIC #ChicagoAdapt #Neurodiversity

image of black disabled man with arms folded so that the front of hands meet, supported by blue metallic forearm crutches. he is looking downward suggesting a softly contemplative mood. there is text below him and to one side noting the event details of the exhibit Chicago Disablity Activism, Arts and Design: 1970’s to Today


October 7, 2018 – TORONTO

looking forward to sharing creative work – “a series of movements” –  in Toronto, on Sunday, October 7 at 4:30pm, as part of  2018 7a*11d international festival of performance art ! grateful for the thoughtful curation of Golboo Amani in association with the great collective members of 7a*11d!

#aSeriesOfMovements #TheBlackDisabledBodyMovesQueerly #OhCanada #TravelingWhileBeingAnArtist #CreativeFlow

image of black disabled man kneeling in the grand staircase of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is on a landing in between two sets of stairs and looking at a deconstructed wheelchair. in front of him is a dark metal sculpture of a thin body like figure. to the left and below the image of the man, are details of 2018 international performance festival 7a11d’s line up


October 13, 2018 – HALIFAX

i’m performing a new explorative performance – “wha(i)le” –  as part of  Nocturne 2018 in Halifax on October 13 from 6pm – midnight (with intervals of rest) at the Maritime Museum ,  thoughtfully curated by Raven Davis.

#NomadicReciprocity #WhaileEmerges #DisabilityAesthetics #BlacknessinNovaScotia #BuildingACommunalSpace #HalifaxinOctober #OhCanada #2018CreativeTour

various smaller images of different performing artists from various cultural backgrounds in striking poses and gestures, as well as one image of a watercolor portrait of the water and sea. next to each of the images are performance details of the events for Maritime Museum

been awhile. some reflections from past year and so.

it’s been awhile since last posting.

to offer some catching up on what I’ve been up to,  some brief reflections  of past creative endeavors from 2017:

beginning of year presentation culminating my 2016 residency at Rebuild Foundation


image of black body in prone plank position on ground of Stony Island Arts Bank in front of artist Glenn Ligon’s installation – large neon word “blues”. image courtesy of artist.


early 2017 Robert Rauschenberg Residency


shrouded by dead dry  branches in a white space, large black male body lies on the ground with his back to the camera. image from step n2 this room presentation during the RR residency


which led to solo performance presentation at Seattle University

a solo presentation for Black Intersections Conference / The Claremont Colleges


image of black disabled male on set of stairs holding onto rail with one hand while grasping wheelchair with the other, seeming suspended above the steps, from “a series of movements” presentation at The Claremont Colleges in California. image courtesy of Marcus Polk


and a duet presentation at Brooklyn College in spring

travels to Canada in summer which included a brief creative interlude at Art Gallery of Ontario

speaking at Chicago’s 3Arts Foundation Awards ceremony in the fall



becoming a recipient of Art Matters Foundation award

and moving into 2018, offering a performance moment at Art Institute of Chicago




dis body.

my father’s body
has found its way into my own
the forehead expands, the hair recedes
extends into my stomach…keeps extending
seeping into leg bones degeneratively.
mom’s here too
fully in thighs widened
a rounded high end
drifting up
towards heart’s inner sanctum inner strength
to mind’s brewing bipolarity
permeable mental precarity
present whether i try to hide it or not.
like family
i’m sometimes ashamed
don’t always pay attention
struggle with yet embrace
evolving pains, woes, fissures, the growths…
all needs tending
tenacious softening
a responsive love
this cultured body

one reflection from witnessing “what the body knows”

taking a moment to take in/look at various thoughts shared via facebook and email of those who witnessed the world premiere of what the body knows : a dance suite of two solos and a duet here’s one in particular, reflecting on various moments within the solo “ele’fant” and duet “carry”:

“To make a new world, we need to create new aesthetics. Barak Adé Soleil is making a new aesthetic, and it is the most destabilizing thing I have ever seen. This is more than a remix of existing body politics; beyond addressing the oppression and hegemony of current race, disability, gender, and sexuality behavior/discourse, his work is opening a door to a new way of being human in our crazy world. He eats the poisoned apple from our hands and regurgitates the pieces for us to see. He crawls the floor with the force of a freight train and ploughs through our psyches. He slams his body against the walls, and the walls shake. After “what the body knows,” someone asked me where do we go from here? ANYWHERE WE WANT.”

Mary Wu

more reflections to come from what the body knows and other presentations this year…