Tag Archives: Arts and Culture

Born in the Aftermath of 9/11, Tasveer Festival Centers South Asian Stories

by Beverly Aarons


On Sept. 11, 2001, the twin towers fell, and the face of terrorism became Muslim, Sikh, and South Asians of all religious persuasions. Xenophobia burned through the American landscape, unmasking deep-rooted racism hidden just beneath a thin foliage of inclusivity. Many people who were perceived as foreign were harassed. Rita Meher, the cofounder of Tasveer, was told “go back to your country” only weeks after she became a citizen. The experience shook her. She began to doubt her decision to immigrate. Was America really the land of inclusivity and opportunity she had imagined it to be? But out of the embers of her disillusionment the seeds of a new vision began to sprout — Tasveer, an arts organization, festival, and platform to showcase South Asian film, literature, and storytelling.  

“It’s never so straightforward that this happens and then we do this,” said Meher during an interview with the South Seattle Emerald. Her journey to cofounding Tasveer with Farah Nousheen in March 2002 was filled with many twists, turns, and surprise destinations. But if one had to highlight an important waypoint, it might be Meher’s first film, Citizenship 101, an autobiographical account of what life was like for South Asians in the shadow of 9/11. Nousheen, who Meher said is an activist and a friend, encouraged her to make the film and helped cultivate Tasveer into a social-justice-centered organization. 

“Our existence hasn’t been weaved into the community yet,” Meher said of the South Asian community, “but as you see in Seattle or greater Seattle, our population is huge.” She wants South Asian characters to go from sidekick to center stage. Tasveer has begun achieving that goal by funding films like Coming Out With The Help Of A Time Machine, which opened the Tasveer Festival Oct. 1, 2021, and introducing audiences to filmmakers like Aizzah Fatima and Iman Zawahry, the producers of Americanish, a romantic comedy about Muslim immigrant women navigating love, career, and family. Americanish will screen at the festival’s closing night on Oct. 24, 2021. 

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PONGO POETRY: I Wish I Knew

Pongo Poetry Project’s mission is to engage youth in writing poetry to inspire healing and growth. For over 20 years, Pongo has mentored poetry with youth at the Children & Family Justice Center (CFJC), King County’s juvenile detention facility. Many CFJC residents are Youth of Color who have endured traumatic experiences in the form of abuse, neglect, and exposure to violence. These incidents have been caused and exacerbated by community disinvestment, systemic racism, and other forms of institutional oppression. In collaboration with CFJC staff, Pongo poetry writing offers CFJC youth a vehicle for self-discovery and creative expression that inspires recovery and healing. Through this special monthly column in partnership with the South Seattle Emerald, Pongo invites readers to bear witness to the pain, resilience, and creative capacity of youth whose voices and perspectives are too often relegated to the periphery. For an opportunity to learn Pongo’s trauma-informed techniques for facilitating personal, healing poetry in your classroom, therapeutic practice, or community space, join their training on Oct. 23.


I WISH I KNEW

by a young person, age 17

I wish I knew my biological dad
I wish I knew my dad’s side of the family
I wish my path was easier
I wish I knew how to get through life
I wish life was easier
I wish I could remember the talks
my auntie gave me
I wish lessons were easier to learn
I wish I knew how to make good, positive money
I wish living life wasn’t so hard
I wish I knew more about my education
I wish I knew ways to be better
than what I’ve become

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‘Packaged Black’ Sparks Conversations of Representation, Black Identity, and Cultural Resistance

by Nina Dubinsky


Masked visitors were greeted by warm yellow walls featuring sculptural vignettes, precisely cut paper portraits, video installations, and collages at the inauguration of Packaged Black: Derrick Adams and Barbara Earl Thomas at the Henry Art Gallery last weekend. 

The exhibition brings together the brilliance of Brooklyn-based artist Derrick Adams and Seattle artist Barbara Earl Thomas. It is a perfect mesh of works and mediums born from the two artists’ shared dialogue about representation, Black identity, and practices of cultural resistance. Though the concept of a shared exhibition between two artists is not new, there is something special about the visual dialogue between these artists.

“One of the things that is so exciting about this project is its origin out of mutual respect and shared conversation between these two artists,” said Henry Art Gallery curator Nina Bozicnik. 

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Wa Na Wari’s ‘Walk the Block’ Fundraiser Will Center Community Art Experiences

by Sarah Neilson


On Saturday, Oct. 16, from 3 to 6 p.m., Wa Na Wari will be holding its annual fall fundraiser event in a brand new way. Tomorrow, “Walk the Block” will be a pop-up Central District art walk of art installations, dance and musical performance, video, and food. The outdoor festival will showcase and celebrate the work of Black artists working in a multitude of mediums across a 0.8 mile stretch starting at Wa Na Wari and including neighborhood spaces like parks, gardens, and Black-owned homes and businesses. There will be food and drinks available for purchase, live DJs, and even “artbrellas” — umbrellas featuring work from artists Zahyr Lauren and Jazz Brown. 

Community is at the center of Wa Na Wari’s ethos. Specifically, the vitality and presence of Black art and creativity in the historically redlined Central District which, according to Wa Na Wari’s website, has seen a reduction of its Black population from 80% in 1970 to less than 10% today due to multiple waves of gentrification. Located in a fifth-generation Black-owned home, the space itself is stewarded by one of the four founding artists, Inye Wokoma, the grandson of Frank and Goldyne Green, who purchased the house in 1951. Despite the ongoing neighborhood displacement, Wa Na Wari and the people behind it are committed to decentering the narrative of erasure that often gets tied into discussions of gentrification.

“Showing the stories of people that made this neighborhood so great, are still making this neighborhood so great, is really important,” said Elisheba Johnson, Wa Na Wari’s curator and a co-founding artist, about Saturday’s “Walk the Block” event.

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Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month at the Seattle Latino Film Festival

by Kathya Alexander


The Seattle Latino Film Festival (SLFF) opened for in-person viewing on Friday, Oct. 8, and continues through Sunday, Oct. 17. 

The festivities began last Friday at the Seattle Asian Art Museum with an opening night gala and after party reception. Dennis Mencia, a Honduran American actor known for playing Mateo Villanueva on CW’s Jane the Virgin, was MC for the event. The gala showcased the Uruguayan comedy, The Broken Glass Theory, one of the festival’s 106 in-person and online films supporting the magic of filmmaking as part of Hispanic culture globally. 

The in-person showcase continued at The Beacon Cinema in Columbia City on Saturday with an American film called Coast, directed by Jessica Hester and Derek Schweickart. Also shown was the Venezuelan film, Opposite Direction, and an LGBTQ film called Liz In September. The director, Fina Torres, known for Fox Searchlight’s Woman on Top with Penélope Cruz, was present for the Q&A after the screening. 

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Multifaith Coalition Will Kick Off Conversation on Criminal Justice Reform With Documentary Screening

by Ben Adlin


More than two decades ago, Kimonti Carter was sentenced to 777 years in prison for his role in a devastating 1997 Tacoma drive-by shooting that left a college student dead. Since then, he’s become something of a role model — an example of how education and empathy can build bridges between traumatized groups and direct them toward common action.

From inside prison, Carter built a program within the Black Prisoners’ Caucus that teaches for-credit college courses to incarcerated people. Through an emphasis on shared humanity and empowerment through learning, the project has brought together prisoners of various backgrounds and identities, often shattering racial and ideological boundaries.

Carter is the uniting thread in the 2020 documentary Since I Been Down, which will be available to watch online later this month. The free screenings are being organized by a multifaith coalition initiated by the Blacks and Jews Building Beloved Community initiative, a Seattle-based project built in recent years to strengthen connections within and between Black and Jewish communities. The screenings will lead to a community conversation about criminal justice issues in Washington State, including calls to action around sentencing reform, prisoner reentry, prison debt, and housing justice. The organizers also hope the program will inspire people to get involved during the upcoming state legislative session.

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The Kinsey Collection: Art, Archive, and History of the Black American Experience

by Jasmine J. Mahmoud


Boundless fascination, pride, and exuberance captured my mood while touring the “Kinsey African American Art & History Collection” at Tacoma Art Museum. In late August, I traveled to Tacoma by bus to visit the touring exhibition which opened on July 31. The exhibition centers art and artifacts (from as early as 1595) collected by Shirley and Bernard Kinsey emerging from African American and Diasporic experience. 

Here, specifically, are a few works that mesmerized me:

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PONGO POETRY: Home Base

Pongo Poetry Project’s mission is to engage youth in writing poetry to inspire healing and growth. For over 20 years, Pongo has mentored poetry with children at the Child Study Treatment Center (CSTC), the only state-run psychiatric hospital for youth in Washington State. Many CSTC youth are coping with severe emotional, behavioral, and mental health challenges. Approximately 40% of youth arrive at CSTC having been court ordered to get treatment; however, by the end of their stay, most youth residents become voluntary participants. Pongo believes there is power in creative expression, and articulating one’s pain to an empathetic audience. Through this special monthly column in partnership with the South Seattle Emerald, Pongo invites readers to bear witness to the pain, resilience, and creative capacity of youth whose voices and perspectives are too often relegated to the periphery. For an opportunity to learn Pongo’s trauma-informed techniques for facilitating personal, healing poetry in your classroom, therapeutic practice, or community space, join their training on Oct. 23.


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‘Seattle City of Literature’ Sends Two Local Writers to Korea for Residency Programs

by Chamidae Ford


Last month, two Seattle writers were selected to participate in writer residency programs in Korea which will begin this fall. Jeanine Walker will be Wonju City of Literature’s inaugural writer in residence for six weeks while Takami Nieda will be in Bucheon for four weeks. 

The residencies are offered through the partnership among UNESCO Cities of Literature. Seattle was named a UNESCO City of Literature in 2017 and the local program is run by Seattle City of Literature, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting Seattle’s vibrant literary community and connecting that community with the rest of the world. 

Bucheon also received the title of a UNESCO City of Literature in 2017. Soyoung Jung, the coordinator for the Bucheon City of Literature, feels the history of the city makes it the perfect place to receive that title. Bucheon grew rapidly during the 1970s and ’80s during Korea’s industrialization and has developed a community very involved with improving lives through knowledge.

“People were gathered together and they were anxious and very eager to learn things,” Jung said. “Many movements, like social and labor movements, were very active in those areas. So we really have that kind of strong heritage about thinking radically and thinking socially about how to make an inclusive society.”

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