Mermaids and magic: Conjuring a future for us all
By Jennifer Lentfer, Director of Communications
I had fear installed about art as livelihood from as long as I could have imagined, because I had to – before anything – “support” myself. In settler white farmer culture where “survival” and “capture” are intertwined, there is no time for such frivolity as art. We have an empire (and ourselves) to feed.
Us baby children, who see the world with such glorious new eyes are told,
“It must be this way.”
“A tree must look like this.”
“You should read this book, this author, this newspaper…”
It must be like this.
Implicit message to our unevolved, limbic brains is this: “Do it like this, or the group will leave you. And you will be without safety.”
And because we mammal parents are interested in keeping our young alive, we say, “Listen, because I don’t want you to be left behind.”
And thus, authority is built in our minds.
Conform. Don’t stick out. Make sure you adhere to the rules. It must be like this.
But think for yourself.
And so artists, those sacred holders of the possible are maligned.
It’s the fear that feeds us.
The day after Thurman Blevins, a father of three, was shot by Minneapolis police, I sat down in the front row of the Pillsbury House Theater to behold ‘Dat Black Mermaid Man Lady/The Show.’
The currents swirled and swirled around us. There was a new mermaid, Blevins, now among us.
The Divine arrived through Sharon Bridgforth’s words and being and ancestors – and our ancestors too – and we were all seen.
Seen. And wrapped up with strength and myth and healing.
And it was available to us all, in the midst of the daily, disturbing, grinding pain of the inhumanity around us and in us.
To have Sharon Bridgforth as one of our Thousand Currents artists-in-residence is to begin – and I mean begin – to understand how we reimagine, not just our own lives as the artists we are, but also the world we want to create.
Along the way, we received glimpses of dem Mermaids’ magic, as it was emerging from the vessel that is Sharon, as it was forming, as it was shepherded and joined by other willing souls.
And isn’t that how social transformation happens? We use words like “philanthropy” or “systems change” or “sustainability” or “movements”, but what we mean is:
dem Mermaids have been conjuring it.
Our partners are creating it – every day.
Seeing the work take form, within our partners’ work or through Sharon, is such a privilege. To be invited into the process is to be invited into the sacred, where we are joining to make the world anew, gathering up the shards and remembering the whole. We are calling forth the healing and welcome and equity and pearls and fishes and time and love and chances and belonging and love and love and love to be where innovations are born.
Societal bias against artists and “soft skills” in philanthropy reveal only the patriarchal, capitalist forces that shape the systems around us. But we are not the systems. We are not the change makers.
We (we! – all of the Thousand Current community) are the creators.
We may use words like “organizing”, “justice”, “grantmaking” and “solutions”, but it is artistry – expressed via vision, rigor, and love – that returns us all to a time before we told that we couldn’t be artists anymore.
This is where the magic emerges.
For those babies/artists/seekers who were unable to make it to Minneapolis for The Show last month, have no fear! You can join up with the Dat Black Mermaid Man Lady performance installation in Austin, Texas in August or get an oracle reading here.