Datline- The next four days will be full of opportunity for Dallasites to experience the intersection of the arts and activism as ROOTS Weekend kicks off.
Hosted by the 40-year-old arts service organization Alternate ROOTS, ROOTS Weekend (see schedule here) is bringing together artists, activists, and cultural organizers under the theme of “Creating Vibrant Communities.” The event will feature performances, installations and presentations on social justice organizing strategies surrounding the issues of racial injustice, the immigrant experience, and climate change.
The South Dallas Cultural Center, the Latino Cultural Center, and Southern Methodist University’s Ignite/Arts Dallas are partners. Local organizations Cara Mía Theater Co., Trans.lation: Vickery Meadow, The Meet Shop, and The Pan African Connection will be featured, along with local artist Lauren Wood (Dallas Drinking Fountain Project), New York’s Theater Mitu (Juárez: a Documentary Mythology) and Houston’s Progress Theatre (Plantation Remix).
Alternate ROOTS has networks in 14 southern states and Washington, D.C., and they have organized ROOTS Weekends in four other cities. This is their first major event in Texas.
“When we started organizing ROOTS Weekends, we knew we wanted to hold a gathering in Texas,” says spokesperson Nicole Gurgel. “What pushed Dallas to the top of our list was that we had two local members, Harold Steward, Manager of South Dallas Cultural Center, and Clyde Valentín, Director of Ignite/Arts Dallas, who were pushing hard for Dallas and offering themselves as active partners.”
Dallas has recently been the stage for some of the most poignant and galvanizing events surrounding social unrest, racial issues and immigration, bringing President Obama to North Texas to address the issues surrounding this past summer’s police shooting downtown. Several years before, President Obama touched down at Love Field to talk to then Governor Perry and local leaders about finding solutions for the thousands of children who continue to cross the border themselves. Too, the Ebola crisis put a spotlight on Dallas’ refugee community and the challenges they face.
In the local arts community, artists have become more civically and politically minded with protests and counter-plans in response to the City of Dallas’ $15 million assist to AT&T Performing Arts Center’s construction debt. They’ve also been angered by fire marshal shutdowns of galleries and performance spaces, and worries about the possible privatization of Fair Park. And in Fort Worth, musicians are striking against the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra over compensation issues.
"Our hope is that more Dallas-based Artists become Alternate ROOTS members,” says Valentín. “As this city begins to change, local artists, and our students for that matter, stand to benefit for the network, knowledge base and additional resources AlternateROOTS provides to Southern-based artists working at the intersections of art, activism and community practice."
DJ Spooky’s “Re-Birth of a Nation” performance Wednesday night at the Texas Theater in Oak Cliff is a fitting unofficial opening for the arts and activism event. The “DJ mix” reinterpretation of DW Griffith’s 1915 film Birth of a Nation is being presented in part by the Video Association of Dallas, which is also hosting its 29th Annual VideoFest this week (see a preview of Dallas VideoFest here).
The official kick-off for ROOTS Weekend is set for Thursday night at the South Dallas Cultural Center. The KickOff Party is free and open to the public, and will feature spoken word performances by Rebel Planet, Krudas Cubensi, and King Shakur.
Participants will have an opportunity to see how artists in North Texas are responding to, documenting and looking for creative solutions for many of the issues that are perhaps being shoved to the side in this raucous and distraction-driven campaign season.
A full schedule of events can be found here.