A Day at the 2015 NOCD-NY Forum

David Johnston

From Katie Cox, EtM’s new Program Associate:

On Friday, October 23rd I attended my first NOCD-NY Forum at The Point in the South Bronx. This was the first time I had ever visited the South Bronx and I was excited to find a thriving arts community! The forum had a diverse group of artists, activists, educators, and other community leaders to discuss how arts and culture impact change in a community, how to fight for cultural equality, and how to build a community from the neighborhood up.

The day started out with tours of several different cultural facilities. Some of the tours included BronxArtsSpace, The Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance (BAAD) and The Point. I chose to tour The Point which is where the NOCD-NY forum was held.

The Point is a community organization dedicated to working with the youth of the South Bronx in developing arts and culture. I was immediately drawn to their spaces, including a black box theater, community garden, cafe, radio station, weather station, and studios for dance, music, and photography. The Point is also home to powerful murals curated by local artists.

The Point (Mural)

After morning tours and lunch at The Point’s Kelston Bascom Cafe, we gathered in the black box theater for an afternoon forum with community artists and activists  including the The Point’s Executive Director Danny Peralta and Mychal Johnson, Co-Founder and Organizer of South Bronx Unite. The forum started off with a beautiful performance by kora player Salieu Susos. (The kora is a virtuosic instrument from West Africa made of 21 strings, lute-like in shape with a bridge similar to a violin’s but played with the hands like a harp. The timbre is similar to a banjo.)

The forum was thought provoking, inspiring – and posed questions I have for myself as a musician, presenter, educator, and administrator. Many of the arts organizations represented use their programs to organize for social change, tell the story of communities, and educate young people to fight for cultural equality.

As the discussions continued, I began to ask myself – how can I contribute to these discussions with my own work? Where does my organizations fit into the wellness of the community? I began to get an idea of community needs in the South Bronx – green space, clean air, waterfront access, fresh produce, job creation, and space reclamation.

“Activists are artists and artists are activists” said Sharon De La Cruz, an artist resident who spoke on growing up in the South Bronx, coming to The Point as a kid, going away to school, and coming back to serve the community.

As I sat listening, I had a view of this quilt on display.





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