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A Moment of Reflection

A Moment of Reflection

By: Mallory Carbon Looking back, nothing could’ve prepared me for what came after unceremoniously clicking the zoom link to join my first CD Forum staff meeting. I was greeted by literal screams of joy as my mentor and dear friend popped up on the screen, clearly surprised by my face. Of course, I’m talking about the one and only Dani Tirrell. I was welcomed with completely open arms by staff who were strangers then, but have now come to be members of my extended family. After what seemed like a half-day of introductions, business, laughs, cries, and “soap-boxes” (a new term for me), I had one thought in my mind: I am so lucky that this is where I have found myself. My name is Mallory Carbon and over the past couple of months, I had the privilege of interning with CD Forum through Northwest Folklife’s Cultural and Creative Workforce Development Program. I’m a University of Washington senior studying Science, Technology, and Society with a huge passion for the arts. I’m a musical theatre performer, a scientist, and a lover of sparkly things. I would be kidding myself if I didn’t acknowledge that I was nervous to be walking into a Black-led organization as a white woman, especially during a historic time for racial injustice. My extensive time in Dani’s Street Styles classes at UW had completely opened my mind to experiences of Black and brown bodies through dance, culture, and activism. With Dani’s guidance, I had seen many CD Forum shows and sponsored events, usually alongside a mighty cohort of my classmates. However, my time as a CD Forum employee would go on to provide me with educational experiences that I could never glean from my time in academia. At CD Forum I have developed in professional and artistic ways as well as in my understanding of what it means to listen to and represent voices other than my own. CD Forum has shown me what it takes to be a leader for change in the world. I look forward to my CD Forum meetings for a lot of reasons (sharing space with exceptional people, getting to laugh and be my full silly self, hearing about the art we support) but what I find to be most enriching is to be able to listen to Black change-makers talk about their experiences. Our fearless leader and Executive Director Sharon Nyree Williams quickly made it high on my list of people I truly admire for her ability to step up and lead, especially when it’s most difficult. She, alongside her incredible team, create a safe space that allows me to be brave and ask questions as I’m continually defining what it means to be a young white woman wanting to put in the work to understand my privilege and how to combat racism in the world around me. The kind of leadership that has been modeled for me while at CD Forum from all corners of the organization has and will forever inform how I lead, ask the hard questions, act on my words, and find meaningful connections in my work. One of my many duties as an intern was supporting the rehearsal process for Showing Out: Black Choreographers Festival. Originally I was paired with artist Milvia Berenice Pacheco Salvatierra, whom I had never met, to make sure she had things set up and sanitized to safely rehearse. In her first few rehearsals, I tried not to bug her too much but would selfishly catch glimpses of her creating something truly unique. Things changed when halfway through the process she asked me to film a run-through. It was the first time I got to see start to finish what she was working on. Needless to say, I had chills from the moment her booming voice marked the beginning of her piece. After that first recording, I was caught off guard with her asking me simply, “What did you think?” From then on we would engage in intellectual dialogue about purpose, meaning, artistic expression, and the deep history of her piece. Most rehearsals were accompanied by a full history lesson when I would ask about what different elements of her art meant to her and represented. I went from just popping my head in the room to check on her to fully assisting her rehearsals by filming, talking about the new elements she added each week, and helping her begin her piece by wrapping a rather difficult to work with tapestry around her head, representing Black women’s hair. What I learned in the conversations we had as I helped her wrestle this huge, stiff, cloth on her head could fill a book. During our final rehearsal together I was literally sweating as we wrapped the tapestry on her head when she asked me to be there on the day of filming to support her. I was completely excited and felt honored that she had even asked me. Filming day rolled around and I realized that it was the first time in 8 months that I was going to be back in a performance space. After fulfilling my duties as the official tapestry wrangling assistant, I sat in the dark and watched it all come together into its final product. The second marvel of that day was watching others in the room be entranced by what I got to watch develop for months. Seeing Milvia advocate for her artistic vision, be in relation with her musician, and exude her strong presence in a performance that demands your attention, I could not help but reflect on the process that I had a small part in supporting. I was watching a talented, intelligent, strong, expressive, kind, and beautiful woman in her element. I could think of fewer more powerful experiences as I teared up in the darkness. I am incredibly grateful for what I have gained from my time thus far at CD Forum. I am incredibly grateful to Northwest Folklife for providing me the opportunity to have a job in the arts during the COVID-19 pandemic. I am incredibly grateful for the people I have been in community with along the way and what each of them has taught me about myself, working in the arts, leadership, supporting incredible work, how to be a better person, and how to show up for each other, especially during times of distance.

A New Path in Fundraising

A New Path in Fundraising

by Nina Yarbrough, MFA Expectations are a funny thing. Many of us spend a majority of our time trying to manage them in a way that a) doesn’t get our feelings hurt and b) keeps us moving forward with at least a modicum of confidence that we are actually capable of making good life choices. The kind of choices that all of our mamas could be proud of. That said, if you would have told me that 2020 was going to turn into the type of sucker-punch that knocked us all squarely on our collective behinds the way that it did, I don’t know if I would have bothered getting out of bed after the first of the year. Like many of my colleagues in the fundraising profession I have had to become very comfortable with an even greater level of ambiguity. Projecting revenue goals based on the voluntary donations of kind and generous people can get a bit tricky at the best of times. Every gift that CD Forum receives is a joy, but it is just that, a gift. Something not to be begged for nor demanded. Like any act of good will, it is to be welcomed, honored, and stewarded with the best of intentions when, and if ever, it arrives. While we can anticipate receiving certain donations from individuals at different times of the year, as well as funding from institutions, and some government support here and there, fundraising–especially in the arts– has always been a bit of a gamble. That said, each organization has its own cycle of giving that carries an innate degree of dependability and predictability. But today? Forget it! Gone are the days of planning ahead by six or twelve months. Nothing is really predictable or knowable anymore and those of us in the fundraising profession cannot be certain when that security might come back. With the widespread impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on all of us, the task of planning for a brighter tomorrow seems almost insurmountable. It would be a disservice to say nothing of the economic hit that many Americans have faced during the past several months. In particular those of us who were already at the economic margins, such as BIPOC, LGBTQAI+, and folx with disabilities. It is the psychological, emotional, and spiritual assault that we’re all reckoning with that feels the heaviest to bear. Being cut off from friends and family and managing an existential crisis all while simultaneously living through the Trump administration? This is NOT how I thought the year would go. I had PLANS! I was supposed to go to Japan and see hundred-year-old temples and write deep, beautiful poetry while riding the bullet train between prefectures. Weddings and celebrations and newfound love have all had to take a backseat to the pressing civil and political turmoil that is our new reality. Knowing all of this, how in the world are any of us fundraisers meant to look at another forecasting document with the same level of interest? The answer: “And still she persisted.” While this was not the disaster many of us had been preparing for this is nonetheless the disaster we find ourselves in. So, how did we find a way forward? For CD Forum it involved an early recognition that this year was going to be unlike anything we could have anticipated. It also required our leadership to make some tough calls early on. The health and safety of our staff, artists, volunteers, and audiences, cancelling all in-person performances, rescheduling our fiscal-year-end fundraiser, and figuring out how to shift our contractors to best maximize their expertise were the best decisions for us to make. Watching our artists re-invest in themselves and seeing our community prioritize their mental health and well-being have been huge bonuses of the past year. What we discovered while transitioning our programs and operations has and continues to delight and surprise us. Luckily, CD Forum had already been on a path to creating a more robust lineup of online content. While the pandemic did accelerate those plans, we were able to continue engaging with our community and our artists.

Black creatives find themselves at the crux of vulnerability. For this reason it is even more important that we maintain a lifeline to them during this time. By using Instagram, StreamYard, and Facebook we have been able to continue the equitable compensation of artists and we have been able to grow our audience in ways we were not able to achieve with local, in-person events. Even knowing though our 'likes' and click-through rates had improved, it was worrying to contemplate how we were going to transition that digital audience to attendees and donors at our newly designed fundraiser. Like most of CD Forum’s success stories, it was through great partnerships, letting the artist's voice take center stage, and by providing leadership opportunities to our team members, that we were able to pull off one of our most successful fundraisers of the past three years. We partnered with local event planning company Synchronicity Events who provided us with a project manager, technical support that made it both smooth and accessible for participants, and they helped us design and execute CD Forum’s first Peer-2-Peer fundraising campaign. While overseeing this event with CD Forum’s Season Curator Dani Tirrell, we made a joint decision well before the pandemic: any fundraiser that CD Forum did would be a fun celebration that highlighted the work of our incredible artists and one that encouraged people to make a night of it. We still held this as our north star even as the nature of the fundraiser shifted. Instead of a grand masquerade ball we made it a “Boujee Brunch Soiree.” Rather than having a fully catered event we came up with a list of incredible Black chefs that were still operating and adhering to COVID-19 food safety guidelines and were able to either provide pick-up or delivery for orders the day before the event. We chose Remo as our online venue platform rather than Zoom because it gave guests the closest experience to an in-person event while also giving everyone an opportunity to engage with an online platform not many people had even heard of. We also made sure the host, just like at our in-person events, was dynamic, comfortable with quick changes, and someone who could speak to the importance of CD Forum’s mission. Those things combined with investing in a savvy and brilliant production lead and film crew (who we had worked with on previous projects), meant that our July 11th Brunch Soiree was a big hit. Peer-2-Peer fundraising was a new activity for the organization. It was unclear if this would work for us, but the results were better than we could have imagined. Our community continues to surprise us and with an overall fundraising goal of $20,000 we went into our event with over $14,000 already raised by our Peer-2-Pear Table Captains. To that end I want to thank: Tairaya Allen, Maris Antolin, Divas for Black Artists, Dan Bannerman, Sandra Brierley, Timeca Briggs, Coyote Central, Amy Chasanov, Seattle Center Racial Equity Cohort, Liz Dawson, Kristen Faiferlick, Liz Houlton, Kristen Ramer Liang, Hersh Powers, Janice Price, Becca Roy, Stephanie Shushan, Randy Steiger, Hailey Tayathy, Tonieh Thompson, Dani Tirrell, Kathryn Wahlberg, Sharon Nyree Williams, Leslie Womack It was proof that nothing in the arts can be done alone. What does the future hold for CD Forum? Uncertainty for sure, but also the joyful chaos of figuring things out. It is clear that people recognize the importance of supporting and centering Black voices. CD Forum has a 21-year track record of providing a much-needed platform for innovative, creative Black storytellers who work in varied disciplines and mediums. Even though the landscape of fundraising is filled with unknown challenges we can be certain that our resilience, spirit of innovation, and investment in Black joy will continue to see us through any trial.

Black Love looks like:

Black Love looks like:

By: Dani Tirrell This new season of Intimate Conversation I have asked each guest to share with me what Black Love looks like to them. I have purposely avoided that question. I think now is the time to share. Black Love looks like: My queer ass Black ass Trans spectrum experience Forgiveness Peach cobbler Big Mama talks And Grand daddy handshakes Dressing (not stuffing) on the holidays Thick sisters in move something dresses Brothers with lime green suits and matching gators Family reunions with matching shirts Seeing the young Queens voguing down to some nasty beats The no shirt brothers playing ball and the sweat hitting all the right places Playing hide and seek outside with the cousins Spades/Bid Whist and Tunk My granny takin’ sips of my granddad's TEA (V.O.) Shakin’ my ass in the club with a bunch of beautful Black gay ass people Black Trans women owning every ounce of their womanhood The soloist at church sangin' you down to lay prostrate in front of the altar Preaching Sin……...all of them! Box braids, wraps, weaves and bobs……..and the colors…..oh the colors Loud talking and even louder loving The bass as cars roll down the street The smell of the trees (those happy cigarettes) if you happen to indulge Having your aunt and uncle clear the dance floor….to show you how it is done Embracing your HIV positive friends for what will be the last time Young kids dreaming about a future of fame and fortune Kissing your man and not being afraid of what the world thinks (some gay shit) Yes….all the gay shit! Black love is laying your aunt and mom to rest, with the understanding that the gift they gave you was to keep loving, discovering and always seek healing. Black love is your father supporting and loving your Black ass, queer ass, trans spectrum experience. Black love is knowing your deaf grandmother is always with you…...it is knowing that you can not make it without her whispering in your ear how you are worthy. Black love has no rhyme or reason….it is beyond anything that we could ever imagine. Black love is Goddess and she is divine and she is feminine and she is me.

"The Show Must Go On", but How?

"The Show Must Go On", but How?

By Merri Ann Osborne When the Governor signed into effect a statewide emergency on March 16th to temporarily shut down ‘life as we know it’ because of COVID-19, I understood that decision. A lot was still being learned about the virus and no one knew for sure how it was spread or how long it would be with us. The one thing we did know was that people were dying because of it. The 4 months prior to that shut down I had auditioned, hired and was rehearsing a show with 4 actors for a March performance through my arts organization The Mahogany Project. And at CD Forum, we were getting ready for our spring shows featuring solo artists, Sunday Dinners, Kitchen Sessions, Galas and so much more. I remember the week leading up to that shut down announcement. Sharon, our ED, had said to our team, ‘Everyone, grab your computers now, because we may be working from home for awhile.’ Boy, was she right! Now close to 8 months later, so much has changed. As the weeks turned into months, the global pandemic worries were joined by the continued murders of unarmed Black people, murders of Black Trans women, protests, marches, voter suppression, unemployment, healthcare inequities, fights over wearing masks, white supremacists (they never have gone away), unease about upcoming election, etc. etc. Every day brought something new and it usually wasn’t good! Constantly on my mind was how I was going to navigate living life while taking care of myself and others in this new reality of social distancing, masks, self-isolation, 6-feet and stay safe. How would I deal with the fear, anger and mistrust that this country is going through in 2020? I have found that creating art and working with other artists has continued to be my anchor in these very choppy waters! Art does heal, save lives, and can uplift and empower people, even when we feel powerless. I’m so thankful to have art and creativity in my life both personally and professionally. As an artist and arts administrator, I’m constantly checking in with artists and other arts organizations as we work together, as a community, to share information on Covid-19 best practices in our spaces and how to financially survive this pandemic. But more importantly, and what I love the most, is that the arts community – individually or as organizations – is reaching out to others in our creative community to make sure that artists and their loved ones are doing okay as we support each other through these challenging times. The Mahogany Project and CD Forum has thought carefully and seriously about this new reality and have dedicated ourselves to our commitment of providing a platform for Black artists and conversations centered around our community, with or without COVID. Both organizations took their programing 100% virtual and CD Forum also pumped up its social media presence. This shift has allowed us to explore new production opportunities and to continue to showcase Black artists while at the same time, connecting with audiences nationally and globally that we wouldn’t have reached in traditional performance settings. For the Mahogany Project, we ended up producing our planned March event but split it into two events that were held in August and September. These events, in collaboration with our annual and community partners (including CD Forum), focused on voter suppression in Black and Native communities. As virtual town halls, we were able to have expert panelists (local and national) who could talk on these issues. The event still had its signature Q&A session, but this time, because it was a virtual event, the panelists received a broader scope of questions from all over the country. During these Town Halls, we screened clips from documentaries that addressed voter suppression in Black and Native communities, adding an artistic element to this serious issue that continues to haunt the integrity of our democracy. The Mahogany Project also had been planning, since the summer of 2019, for a stage reading event to take place in summer 2020. Because of the pandemic, we switched to a virtual event and filmed 6 new short plays by playwrights from the African American Writers Alliance. This production engaged over 20 artists including playwrights, directors, actors, tech support and other artists. The whole project was a huge learning experience for me and I couldn’t have done it without the openness and talents of all the artists involved and from our community partners and donors. All of these projects are accessible for viewing on YouTube and, once again, have introduced audiences to emerging and established artists in our community. Because of the play festival production, I am also happy to say that some of the artists received additional employment opportunities due to their involvement in the festival. As for CD Forum, we went ahead and rolled out CD Forum TV, an online viewing portal where creativity just flows and flows. The first virtual performance we presented since the pandemic began was a May solo show and we haven’t stopped since. Throughout the spring, summer and fall, CD Forum Curator Dani Tirrell, has been having Instagram Live conversations with Black artists, leaders, thinkers and makers through Dani’s show ‘Intimate Conversations’. We also did our first online fundraising party in July called the Boujee Brunch Soiree. Thanks to Dani, Nina (CD Forum’s Business Manager) and the organizing team, this event was not only successful but lots of fun! A chance to gather with friends, dress up, relax and enjoy during a summer where most of us were hunkering indoors. In a few weeks, we will be filming our annual ‘Showing Out’ program featuring Black Choreographers. ‘Showing Out’ is the official start of our 2020-2021 season for CD Forum and will be the first of three performances by the seven Showing Out artists featured this season. As the Production Manager for CD Forum, I am thankful that we have been able to successfully make this transfer to virtual thanks to the film production talents of Michael B. Maine, and that I can continue to work with artists to showcase their talents and for the viewer to still be able to connect with the performers and their art. Like I said before, The Mahogany Project and CD Forum haven’t stopped doing what we do because of the pandemic and social unrest. In fact, it motivates us even more to bring quality, thought-provoking and joyous productions and conversations that artists can be proud of and audiences can enjoy. Wishing all a peaceful holiday season and wishes for a super-feeling-good 2021! We all could use it.

MY WISH: A message from CD Forum Executive Director, Sharon Nyree Williams

MY WISH: A message from CD Forum Executive Director, Sharon Nyree Williams

You know it's funny, I can’t help but to now think about how wrong I was in what I wished for CD Forum. It’s not a secret that I was the sole employee of CD Forum for years. During that time, I use to dream about the day I would have employees to help run the organization. I knew I had to build a team because just me and my board of directors wasn’t going to ultimately be enough. A couple of years ago, my wish came true. Me and my board was excited, we could finally put a team together of staff and contractors that would help sustain the organization and support our mission. Fast forward to today, we are in the midst of a pandemic, The Corona Virus. I find myself worried about my team, worried about them taking care of themselves, praying that they will stay healthy, asking them constantly, “How are you doing? What's going on with you? How is your family?” and just making sure that they know I’m here for them. In addition to that, I'm realizing that artists have already been doing what I wanted to achieve when it came to running CD Forum. I've learned and truly believed in having a diverse revenue stream. Now I'm most worried about those who have diversified their revenue stream, our artists. Until now it seemed like the perfect plan. But I’m learning it doesn't matter if you teach classes as an independent creative or for a local organization or for a college and/or if you’re performing for events, commissions and/or workshops. You diversified, you've came up with a plan, a master plan and it was working until now. If one job fell through you hustled and found a new job. Or better yet created your own opportunity. That’s just what artists are trained to do. Survive. Now I'm worried about them. I'm worried about all of us because now everything is threatened. Be careful what you wish for because now I have the harsh reality that I may have been wishing for the wrong thing. I'm questioning everything I know about how to run an organization, how to take care of the CD Forum family (staff, contractors, artists, caterers, etc.). Being an artist has never been just about creating art. It’s about impact, giving voice to the voiceless, allowing someone to be their authentic self, shaping the narrative about culture, sharing experiences, telling stories and having fun. Art is nothing without the people making it, the audiences that support it, the funding that supports it, the teams that produce, the experiences that shape it and the foundation that built it. I must confess I don’t know how to be a leader at this particular moment in time. I can’t tell you if a diverse revenue stream is now a bad idea. I can’t distinguish between what’s right and what could be wrong. I don’t know how to make it through this. I’m at a point where I have no answers.

Last week I texted Stephanie Ellis-Smith the founder of CD Forum. She is one of the wisest women that I know and I reached out to her because I was hoping that she would have an answer for me during this time. She said, "Sorry, Sharon. This is unprecedented." However, the wisdom that she was able to give me was, there's just things right now that we can't control. My response was, you’re right we can only do what we can do. We can only worry about what we can control right now, the unknown is uncontrollable. I sit here in my house feeling beat down, looking past my computer and out the window thinking, but how do I help my community? I know I have a purpose, CD Forum has a mission, our family has a vision, and our community has a mandate to thrive. With all of us doing what we can do when we can do it. I believe that we will be stronger in our quest to be of service.

My new wish is that we make it through this together and we do that in the most loving and humane way.

Coping With What You Cannot Change

Coping With What You Cannot Change

Written by Savannah Parker, CD Forum Intern Life is an experience that is forever changing; nothing is ever the same. There is a common belief that the only thing inevitable in life is death, but I disagree. There are two things that are indefinite about life; death, and the matter of discomfort. Many encounter this feeling when they cannot see the outcome of a challenging situation; they become so enthralled in valuing the physical fruits of an experience rather than its lessons; when often the greatest value of an experience is the lesson you've learned, the knowledge you've gained, or the experience itself. I am a living testament to such behavior. Naa Akua is an accomplished queer African American, writer, poet, actor, and teacher of performing arts. They were featured in CD Forum's 2018-2019 season of performers, and they help develop and participate in CD Forum’s FagGod event. Their work is versatile but holds a general purpose of shedding light on marginalized perspectives. Recently they took part in a series of live interviews hosted by CD Forum, titled Physical Distancing: Intimate Conversations with CD Forum's Curator Dani Tirrell. The interview was centered around Naa Akua's mental and physical experience during COVID-19, as well as how it's affected their artistry. Out of the many things discussed, Naa Akua's ability to maintain a positive outlook on a devastating reality was most intriguing to me. During this time, many of us feel surrounded by sadness, negativity, and confusion. It's easy to focus on what we don't have, or what's no longer here, rather than what remains. Why is that? Negativity is a convenient emotion. It's always there for us to fall back on when we can't see past the unfortunate circumstances of life. It's there when we don't have the patience to work through hardships, and when we want to sulk in an emotion, negativity is our go-to. Why can't we sulk in happiness? What's so difficult about putting aside what isn't working and focusing on what is? Maybe it's the fact that we feel we have nothing to be happy about? Despite the massive effect that this pandemic has had on my life, it's the last thing that I want to think or talk about. Now, my ignorance towards this situation can be seen as an act of immaturity and negligence towards the reality that I'm living in, or it can be seen as an act of optimism. While I'd very much rather be on the optimistic sides of things, the truth is I'm struggling to let go of what this pandemic has taken from me. It's like, I've acknowledged the situation, but I haven't confronted it. I'm afraid that I've become numb to the situation as a whole. And to top it all off, as if a pandemic isn’t traumatic enough, the Black community has been experiencing a multitude of losses. How do we confront the reality we live in, knowing there's nothing we can change? Naa Akua says that what's been helping them to stay grounded amid chaos is focusing on what is living, acknowledging the things and people that have remained during this storm. Let's try this! I think the most important thing to recognize for starters is the fact that I am living. Ok. My neighbors are living. The plants outside are living, the birds that fly, and the bees that buzz are living. What next? Naa Aku says that they also keep a "Gratitude Journal" a device that reminds them of things to be grateful for. If you are still wavering around the significance of what I am trying to say, I'd like you to imagine a sunflower. A sunflower feeds off of sunlight without it; the flower will not grow. Of course, a sunflower that has already blossomed can survive in the dark. Still, it's only a matter of time until the flowers stem begins to weaken, causing it to break. Soon the roots become dry and malnourished, and the flower becomes completely unrooted and loses it's grounding. If you haven't caught on yet, the sunflower is you. The sunlight represents positivity, and the shade is negativity. The stem is your physical well being, and the root is your mental stability. Now you might be wondering, what if my stem has already been broken? What if I've already become entirely unrooted? There comes a time when even a stable flower dries up and has to let go of its seeds and relocate, reroot itself. This may be a time for you to move into a new mindset, root yourself in fresh soil, and start over. Change is never comfortable, and it's not always wanted, but it is often needed. We often look past the simple aspects of life, thinking that there must be more, but at the end of the day, essentials are all we need; and sometimes all we have. In this instance, I have the essentials, I have a roof over my head, food to eat, clothes on my back, shoes on my feet, life, health, and strength. Most importantly I have a family and community that is here to get through this with me. For that, I show gratitude, because the aspects of life that I miss most are wants and not needs.

Balance among the unsteadiness of life

Balance among the unsteadiness of life

A reflection on Monique Franklin's work, Mama'z Muezz, written by Savannah Parker, CD Forum's Intern. There are many unleveled, inequitable, and unsettling things within the world, but how do we balance the manipulable aspects of life? How do we find a balance between the experiences that make life a bit lopsided? On May 19, 2020, I sat down, via Zoom, with Seattle’s very own Monique Franklin. Monique is an accomplished poet, performer, activist, and scientist. She has been featured in CD Forum's 2018-2019 season of Artists and is currently a part of the 2020 season. Her most recent project is a one-woman play titled, Mama’z Muezz. The play captures the beautifully inevitable challenges of being a mother, and more specifically, a Black mother. Like many of her projects, Monique uses a variety of mediums to enhance the delivery and presentation of her work. She uses song, instrumental, dance, and movement to emphasize the message she intends to send to her audience. While there were many aspects of our conversation that intrigued me, a recurring theme was the underlying thought of Balance. As an Artist, I often struggle to find a happy medium between the personable and community aspects of my work. For the most part, I end up feeling as if I’ve shared too much, or I decide not to share. Monique and I spent some time talking about poetry and the influence it’s had on our lives, and we similarly expressed that poetry is a medium that helps us process and communicates our emotions and experiences. During this part of our conversation, Monique began to discuss the difference between writing for one’s self and writing for an audience. She said, “There was a time where I’d write for me and somebody else seeing it wasn’t a possibility. There was another time, as an Artist, where I would write for me, and people might get to hear this one [poem], there also was a time when I was writing for an audience, which is very different… Poetry is an opportunity for me to communicate.” I believe there’s a general understanding that there are some things that are meant to be shared and others that aren’t. Art is a form of therapy, so when we as Artists express ourselves, we are walking ourselves through the aftermath of an experience, and within that, there is vulnerability. How do we ensure that we, as artists/individuals, receive healing from experiences shared? As mentioned earlier, Monique’s most recent work is a one women play titled Mama’z Muezz. The play captures the raw experiences of being a Black mother. During quarantine, Monique developed new works for the piece, some of which touch on topics that remain highlighted during these times. She expressed she had to take into deeper consideration, whether she wanted to release work, that spoke of death, grief, and isolation. The release of such work would be an outlet of healing for her, but could simultaneously cause her audience to revert into a dark place. She explains, “Mama’z Muezz is also a healing for me, and as Black Woman, I often take the role of caretaker, so then I developed this internal conflict of, do I take care of my audience or do I take care of myself?” I was intrigued. It’s a question that I believe many of us, as human beings, consider. In moments of personal growth, do I care for those around me, censor or be cautious of the feelings I present, or do take care of myself by ensuring that all of my emotions are acknowledged and expressed in a way that enables me to release and heal? Reflecting upon the moments where I decided not to share my poetry, I struggle to understand if I made those decisions, considering my well being or in spite of others. Did I choose to withhold my thoughts from the public eye, because I was afraid of what they’d have to say in response, and how that response would affect the authenticity of my thoughts or, was it out of consideration of not tarnishing or changing their mindset? You may ask, why am I questioning myself? I generally think that some things are meant to be publicly unknown, while there are some thoughts and moments in life that we as individuals are meant to reflect upon, alone. I say this because it can be easy for experiences in our lives to become crowded with the projections of others, and it can cause us to miss the lesson or opportunity of self-healing. But, as Monique and I’s conversation continued, she explained to me that, a lot of the time, we don’t realize to move in a progressive direction, we have to endure the dimness of past experiences. She says, “This time has made me realize that people need an avenue to heal, and sometimes, in order to do that we need to have the tough conversations, and we need to go through the dark places, and having those conversations puts us in a better place, it doesn’t just leave us in a hole.” Conversation and communication are an essential part of healing, and healing is a necessary part of being able to balance. If there’s something on one end of the scale that you’ve continued to hold onto, the scale will be unbalanced, and it will remain that way until you take the time to work through and shed the weight that’s dragging you down. It’s important to consider that sometimes the message that’s communicated through your art isn’t always directed towards an audience, but instead yourself. How do you take what you have written down, to better center your emotions, and how you interact with the world? Often, I find myself so overwhelmed that I don’t know how to feel; that’s where poetry comes into play. Ultimately, when we share our work, those who are projecting may as well be in the process of healing. I think to create a balance between writing for yourself and sharing it with the world; you ought to set an intent. Setting an intention may help you hold the purpose of your art and the healing behind your writing. A huge thank you to Monique Franklin for taking the time to converse with me, and essentially helping me to further evolve into the Artist I am today.

Savannah's Mural at SAAS

Savannah's Mural at SAAS

CD Forum's Summer Intern, Savannah Parker, was a part of a mural project at Seattle Academy (SAAS). Read below for Savannah's Artist Statement about her mural and her poem, "Yes, and." You can see Savannah's mural in person at the intersection of Broadway, Madison, and Union in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood. The piece is inspired by a James Baldwin quote, "What is it you wanted me to reconcile myself to? I was born here almost 60 years ago. I'm not going to live another 60 years. You always told me, "It takes time." It's taken my father's time, my mother's time, my uncle's time, my brother's time, and my sister's time. How much time do you want for your progress?" - James Baldwin We have seen that police brutality doesn't discriminate, they'll harm children, men, women, trans women, trans men, they will harm any human being. As an African American, since the day you are born, you have a target on your back, and that target remains until the day you die. The words above the figures are from a poem I wrote titled, "Yes, and". The poem reflects the perspective of the African American struggle to stay the course. In some of the lines, I mockingly represent how African American Allies have failed to hit the mark. The colors presented in the piece are red, black, and green, the color palette of the African American Flag. "Yes, and."  

You are not like them. They're not like us.
We think that being ourselves isn't enough. 
So we're careful of what we say, careful in what we do.
Only to remain the dullest color in an ocean of blue.

We are here for our brothers
We'll stand for our sisters. 
You'll rise for those who have given up, as long as the bare minimum is enough. 

Well, see, being human is already tough.
And living as a human being, with a racial identity 
Adds a layer of complexity.

Because who I am is based upon what you see of me. 
And who you are is based upon what I see in you and what you do.

I stand in solidarity with those who have given up, but I refuse to inherit their bitterness, simply because life's been rough. 

I stand in solidarity with those who are trying but are too scared to ignite the words that give light to voices that are slowly dying.

But still, I will not accept your compliance with our current state.

I stand in solidarity with those who have been so bold, to share how they feel, I appreciate your effort to keep it real.

But I will not accept the fact that you struggle to listen to the thoughts of others, simply because you refuse to heal, heal from the pain, or to find warmth after a year of cold rain.

Acceptance can cause you to be stagnant or lead to change.

I stand in solidarity with you because we have all been there; we have all been here. 

I have questioned my ability to make a difference in the world.

I have tried and given up, reignited the spark, and tried again.

But through it all, I've chosen not to accept what I can change.

The CD Forum Team Votes

The CD Forum Team Votes

Your vote is your voice. Election day is less than a week away. Tuesday, November 3, 2020 is fast approaching. At CD Forum we firmly believe in the importance of making your voice heard by casting your vote. Demand to be heard and counted through voting and through taking the census. Keep scrolling to read about why the CD Forum Team votes! And click below for voting guides and resources You have the right to vote. If anyone tries to stop you, call the Election Protection Hotline at 1-866-687-8683. Here's a handy guide that outlines your voting rights from Vote.org.

Q&A with Curator Dani Tirrell

Q&A with Curator Dani Tirrell

CD Forum Curator Dani Tirrell answers a few questions about Dani's approach to curating, continuing to learn, and memorable moments in conversation during 2020. Did your approach to curating change during the pandemic and 2020? Dani Tirrell: It actually stopped for a little bit. As a team we did not want to rush into putting programs out there. We wanted to first make sure that the team was doing as well as anyone could, then we took some time to think about what we are doing and who we are. We are still in this process. What new things did you do and learn? DT: Currently I am learning to reimagine and to think outside of what has been done and what is currently being done. That does not mean to invent something new. It just means to go down while others are going up. I am learning to be more clear, I did not want to be overbearing with the team. But giving little to no direction or clarity was not moving us forward. So I am becoming more clear and sure of myself. What's a thought, idea, or quote from your Intimate Conversations that has stuck with you? DT: There is an IC with Kristi Brown and she talked about how the enslaved African women would cook for the masters. She said at any given time those women could have killed the entire families with the food they cooked. But they did not. They could have served them dishes that would have taken them out, but the humanity and love and fear that Black women carried/carry kept them alive. And to this day black women are still saving people that do not deserve them.

The Royal Youth KiKi Ball

The Royal Youth KiKi Ball

Calling all Kings, Queens, and Mystical Beings! CD Forum’s Youth Kingdom and The Royal House of Noir are proud to be hosting a Royal Youth Kiki Ball outside Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute. Join us on June 5th at 5pm for a COVID-19 safe evening of royal grandeur. Mask up and come ready to show off your most magnificent attire for four categories! Saturday, June 5, 2021 5pm-8pm Graphic design by Chino Gonzales Have we peaked your interest? See below for more details!! Ball Categories 🦋Monarch Majesty (Best Dressed - OTA): Orange you glad we didn’t make it binary!! You are the ruler of your realm!! Show us your finest attire, be like the Monarch Butterfly and rule your flight on the runway!! Bring it in Orange with a butterfly effect!! ✨Jousting Jewels (Runway - Open To All [OTA] European & American): Show us your dominion’s Royal Jewels! Are you flaunting the treasury because it’s your right or because you acquired it in the night? Bring it drenched in your most show stopping gems; COME THRU DRIPPIN!!!! 🧜🏾Mermaid Mug (Virgin Face - OTA who has never gotten 10’s in this category): Only few on this earth get to witness the brilliant beauty that lurks in the unvoyaged dark of the sea. Are you an all Natural, wet, dew-y-eyed beauty, or are you using the entire pallet and serving colorful rainbow realness? Give us the once in a lifetime opportunity to witness the 7 seas’ most prized possession, your face!! Don’t be a LochMESS, bring it with a magical mystical mermaid effect!! 🧚🏾Fae-way (Vogue w/ a prop - OTA): Not old way, not new way, but fae-way! ALL fay, fae, fey, fair folk, faeries or fairies this is your time to shine!! Whether it’s vogue fem, old way or new way, bring it the Fae-way and cast your best spells with a ribbon effect!! Ready to Rip the Runway? Register here! For Our Non-POC CD Forum Family CD Forum's Youth Kingdom and The Royal House of Noir are creating this event for and in celebration of Black and other POC bodies in Ballroom culture. We welcome the love and support of all non-Black folx and respectfully ask that non-POC individuals show their support through financial contributions, volunteering their time, social media follows, and by viewing the event online through CD Forum's Instagram feed. COVID-19 Safety Measures Your health and safety is our biggest priority! We will be doing our best to keep you and all of our guests safe by following local, state, and federal safety precautions. The evening’s events will be held outside, and we ask that masks will be worn at all times and to follow social distancing of 6 feet apart. If you need to use the restroom or use our changing room, a lovely volunteer will kindly take your temperature at the door. Staff, volunteers, and those with changing room access will be wearing color-coded wristbands to help manage the flow of traffic. We also suggest that you get a COVID-19 test prior to the event. We hope to make this event safe for everyone to show up and have fun, and we appreciate the steps we are all taking to take care of our community. Ticket Info Tickets are FREE with event registration. We'll just need your contact information and you're ready to have a ball! Click here to get your tickets. *Ticket sales close on June 3rd. Get your tickets before then to make sure you ensure your spot!* Know Before You Go What to Expect We ask all guest, participants, judge, and volunteers to keep their masks on throughout the event, unless otherwise directed. 17th Ave. S will be closed for the Ball. Street parking is available around the building and adjacent side streets. Limited free parking in the parking lot located at the E Yesler Way & 17th Ave. S intersection. In order to access the restrooms, staff will check temperatures for each person before allowing access. Volunteers will be on hand to help ensure COVID safety protocols are being followed Directions and Parking For directions to the venue click here. The Ball will take place in front of the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute located at 104 17th Ave. S, between E Yesler Way and S Washington Street 17th Ave. S will be closed to all thru traffic Free street parking is available on S Washington Street and other adjacent side streets Limited spots will be available in the open parking lot directly across from the building at the intersection of E Yesler Way and 17th Ave. S. This parking is first come, first serve. Questions?
Contact CD Forum's Season Curator Dani Tirrell at danit@cdforum.org Ways to Support Want to Volunteer at the event? Click here to sign up for a shift! Want to keep our events accessible? Click here to donate! Are you a white ally? Watch and share our event on social media! Want to support The Royal House of Noir? Follow them on Instagram! Thank You to Our Partners! CD Forum's Youth Kingdom is excited to present this event in partnership with The Royal House of Noir with support from Town Hall Seattle.

Graphic Designer: Chino Gonzales is an activist, educator, director, music producer and graphic designer from Seattle AKA Bonnet Black in the music world. Learn more at bonnetblack.com.

Decadent Descent: A Super Sexy Fundraiser

Decadent Descent: A Super Sexy Fundraiser

This is an 18 and up event hosted by the one and only Randy Ford! THE EVENT IS LIVE!!! LOGIN HERE: https://live.remo.co/mic-cam-check?event=decadent-descent Whether you are lined in latex, dripping in gold, or ravishing in all red we know you will be utterly divine. Leashes are optional but highly encouraged. Event Details Title: Decadent Descent: A Super Sexy Fundraiser Date: Friday, August 20, 2021 | 6:30 PM - 7:30 PM Platform: Virtual | Remo.co | Link sent with Registration Accessibility Information CD Forum is working towards making our events more accessible to folks that live with a disability and we strive to do our best to center the needs of our community. We are committed to offering the following services for the August 20th virtual event: Pre-recorded captioned videos Scheduled Service Provider(s): Erin McClure Deaf Client(s): General Audience Link to Event Captions: https://www.streamtext.net/player?event=Menrva-Labs-809257 WHY ARE WE GETTING SEXY? Why not is the bigger question😉 After working to reach our $20,000 fundraising goal to kick off our 2021/2022 Season, this virtual event is all about honoring what we have accomplished as a community and all the amazing things that are ahead of us. Poet Lucille Clifton wrote "...come celebrate with me that everyday something has tried to kill me and has failed." We have and continue to survive and thrive in a world that was not designed for the care and love of the Black body. We are here and we are living and making this world better. Won't you come and share in this joy with us? WORLD PREMIER WORK Not only is our Mistress of Ceremonies none other than Seattle's tastiest snack The Randy Ford, but we are premiering BRAND NEW WORK by three of the most scintillating, sensual, and rapturous femmes in the tri-state area! Artists Kamari Bright, Sadiqua Iman, and Jennifer Moore have come together to create something that just makes you feel oh so good. And you do NOT want to miss it. We promise. YOU DESERVE TO BE SPOILED ROTTEN! TICKET INFORMATION 😉 Whether you just like to watch from the comfort of your own dark little corner or you prefer to play with friends, we have a ticket level that's just right for everyone. Each ticket includes admission to the virtual event - streamed live on the Remo platform. If you want the Full Monty the we suggest starting at Tease Me Please. See below for a breakdown of the prices. Voyeur's Delight (Free Admission) for those who just like to watch Heavy Petting ($50) for those ready to feed the mind AND body with a lovely meal Brothel Babes ($150) for watch parties of five who want fun and yummy food too CATERING Bring your appetites because we plan to feed all your needs. The amazing team at The Pot Pie Factory has whipped up a sinfully delicious menu. With gluten-free and vegan options Pot Pie Factory has it all. Choose an individual meal or have a watch party with four of your closest friends and order something yummy for everyone to enjoy. Each meal will come with something savory, something sweet, and a lovely mocktail to be mixed with sparkling and tame or, if you prefer, something hard and wild! Menu - CLICK HERE TO ORDER Savory Pie Options Classic Chicken (Regular or Gluten-Free) Vegetarian Alhambra (Regular, Gluten-Free, or Vegan) Sweet Pie Options Caramel Apple (Regular, Gluten-Free, or Vegan) Peach Ginger (Regular, Gluten-Free, or Vegan) Salad Field Greens (With cherry tomatoes, cucumber, shaved carrot and balsamic vinaigrette) Beverage Pure Passion Mocktail (Passion fruit hibiscus, ginger, and lemon) About Our Spectacular Caterer Chef Logan Niles of Pot Pie Factory Logan Niles is a chef, entrepreneur, and mother. Trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. Logan has worked as a private chef throughout Manhattan plus founded and ran Blue Nile Catering, an upscale private catering company in New York City for 10 years before becoming a culinary consultant and wellness coach at her company Mind Over Manna and Blue Nile Consulting. As a mom, she knows how challenging it can be for families to cook and eat together. Motivated by a passion for health and the nourishing power of delicious comfort food that brings communities together, she began crafting pot pies as a Josephine.com chef in 2016. 2017 saw the official launch of Pot Pie Factory and the journey towards creating the first ever custom pot pie Fast Casual retail chain with franchising opportunities. More information is still on the way so stay tuned and Signup for the CD Forum Newsletter to stay up to date on what's happening. Questions or need help? Contact us at info@cdforum.org and we'll do our best to take care of you. Prepare yourselves. The descent into our devilish evening will have you panting for more.