Imagination and repair are two words that, as Rev. Billy pointed out during our Imagine Repair event in April 2022, do not normally go together in our throw-away culture. The performances and presentations in the Nave of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, however, invited us to imagine how to rebuild some of the connections our communities had lost during Covid. We invited the general public to listen to presentations and participate in performances by people we admire and love from a wider community of thinkers and artists.
The many forms of expression–– the songs, chants, rants, secular sermons, and clanging of pots–– created a space in which our outrage and anger could give way to hope and joy in our togetherness. We placed a sign marked “¡Presente!” on multiple chairs to hold a space for those who are no longer here. Words and images from that performance event continue to resonate: “I am here. We are here” (Imani Uzuri). “In these inhuman times, be human.” “Live life!” “Live life with a radical, brave, and courageous imagination.” “Remember that the inequalities we face are man-made.” “We can’t see the future we want if we can’t see the present in which we live” (Fred Moten). Living, like, “sorrowing,” like imagining, are active verbs. “Rise! Stand up,” Alicia Grullón prompted us. “Demand justice. Imagine repair.”
Click here for program and bios.
Imani Uzuri is an award-winning vocalist, composer, librettist, and improviser. Uzuri is the founder and artistic director of Revolutionary Choir, intergenerational singing gatherings teaching historical and new freedom/protest songs to communities around the globe.
Noni Carter is a speculative and historical fiction writer, a Ph.D. candidate and instructor at Columbia University, a freelance editor, and a pianist. She maintains a passion for aiding
young women in becoming leaders in their communities of color.
george emilio sanchez is a writer, performance artist and social activist living and working on the ancestral homelands of the Lenapehoking, today known as Fort Greene, Brooklyn, New York.
Reverend Paul Anthony Daniels, II, an assisting priest at the Cathedral, is a Ph.D student in systematic theology at Fordham University. His research interests live at the intersection of Black theology, Black feminist literary criticism, Christian mysticism, and Black critical philosophy.
Fred Moten is an American cultural theorist, poet, and scholar whose work explores critical theory, black studies, and performance studies. Moten is Professor of Performance Studies at New York University. In 2020, Moten was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship for “creating new conceptual spaces to accommodate emerging forms of Black aesthetics, cultural production, and social life.”
Alicia Grullón moves between performance, video, and photography. Grullón’s works have been shown in numerous group exhibitions including The Bronx Museum of the Arts, BRIC Arts | Media House, El Museo del Barrio, Columbia University’s Wallach Art Gallery, and Performa 11.
Amyra León is a musician, author, director and Harlem native. Her work, often autobiographical, tends to generational trauma, Black liberation and communal healing. She has performed everywhere from the back corners of bars in New York and London to the Lincoln Center,
BAM, Brooklyn Public Library, The Apollo Cafe and more.
Reverend Juan Carlos Ruiz is a migrants’ rights activist and head Pastor at The Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York. Exiled from the Catholic Church, Ruiz later joined a coalition of multi-denominational faith leaders which became the New Sanctuary Movement. Starting in 2006, they opened their places of
worship to provide sanctuary to migrants facing deportation.
Marie Howe is the author of four books of poems, most recently Magdalene, Poems (WW Norton 2017). She was NY State Poet from 2012 to 2014 and is a chancellor of The Academy of American Poets. Currently, Marie Howe is Poet-in-Residence at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine.
Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir are a 20-year old New York troupe, directed by Savitri D. The gathering each week of the 30-voice choir and preacher, in their East Village space brings humor, music and ritual to environmentalism.
The Illuminator, whose projection appears towards the end of this clip, is an art-activist collective comprised of visual artists, educators, filmmakers, and technologists working for social justice who live and work in New York City.
Header: Projection by The Illuminator, photo by Desiree Rios