Sara Abdullah & Taja Lindley

December 18, 2014

Sara and Taja connected via G-chat to talk about their art practices, self-definition, moving beyond mediums, and the connection between art-making and social justice. Read on for more!


Taja Lindley – 10:09 AM

ok. i’m here


Sara Abdullah – 10:10 AM



Taja Lindley – 10:10 AM

sorry about that. my computer needs rest yeah, lets talk about what we wanna talk about


Sara Abdullah – 10:10 AM

Thanks for rescheduling


Taja Lindley – 10:10 AM

no problem. 
we can start by talking about our art practice and what ideas/themes/concepts it is engaging


Sara Abdullah – 10:12 AM

Sure that sounds like a good starting point


Taja Lindley – 10:12 AM

ok cool. 
remind me what you do for your art practice


Sara Abdullah – 10:13 AM

Performance art, theater, and playwriting


Taja Lindley – 10:14 AM

can you be more specific? do these have genres or particular approaches or influences?


Sara Abdullah – 10:19 AM

Sure, I generally create solo, site specific pieces around muslim identity, islamophobia, queer identity, immigration, and my own diasporic performance traditions. My playwriting work also revolves around similar themes in addition to stories around body positivity, forced cultural assimilation, and survival


Taja Lindley – 10:19 AM

so you create work from your identity and personal experiences primarily right?


Sara Abdullah – 10:21 AM

Exactly, my stories are informed by my lived experience and the mythologies of my ancestors Can you describe your artistic practice?


Taja Lindley – 10:22 AM

i prefer to say that i’m an “artist” it frustrates me to define by medium. but when i have to, i say visual and performance artist.
i don’t like saying: “actor” “painter” etc because it feels so limiting


Sara Abdullah – 10:23 AM

Definitely, that really resonates with me


Taja Lindley – 10:23 AM

i’m less interested in mastering medium and more interested in mastering my self-expression and knowing my medium(s) well enough to know how to express myself through them.

talk more about that: why does that resonate with you? 
and then i’ll say a little bit more about my art practice


Sara Abdullah – 10:24 AM


I think that as I’ve grown in my creative capacity, I’ve realized that my interest and experimentation with various media has expanded. It feels like there is so much pressure to define oneself by the wider artistic community, funders, etc and it feels challenging to be feel validated around utilizing a media new to me and one in which I’m not formally trained.


Taja Lindley – 10:27 AM

i think the art world (as I know it thus far) is organized around these categories and there is an expectation that artists should desire or be required to be a master of a medium. which can lead to really awesome artwork… but i don’t think it’s a requirement.
some of the best things people do is when they don’t understand how things are “supposed” to work… we can be more creative, create our own rules (without knowing it, we can be “breaking” rules) of a medium because our starting place was our desire to experiment with materials in a way that was unfamiliar.
i recently went to home depot and got some materials that are primarily used for electrical boxes. i don’t know how people normally use these things… but I was attracted to it because of it’s texture and shape . i used it on a mixed media collage.
i think folks who experiment or cross mediums get tagged “mixed media” “multi-media” or “interdisciplinary”… but what if we were less concerned about the medium and more concerned about the message, or the inventor? not that the medium wouldn’t be important, but it wouldn’t be our first or primary focus… some things i think about.


Sara Abdullah – 10:33 AM

That’s fantastic, yes I want to hear more about your practice


Taja Lindley – 10:34 AM

my visual art is a lot of things. lately i’ve been obsessed with drawing circles. i also paint and collage, and I use found or handmade objects. my visual art tends to be tactile: i like to make things you can touch and feel
. my performance art includes being an MC (i rap) for Colored Girls Hustle… and it’s a lot of fun! and i also do ritual theater. an ensemble I was a part of, Body Ecology, has really informed my ritual theater practice and i like to infuse burlesque in there as well.
my performance art is more related to my identity, my experiences and my politics.
my visual art tends to be less identity based… at least right now. i’m more concerned about questions of infinity, place, outer and inner space, futurism, symbols, and ancient ways of understanding and navigating the world


Sara Abdullah – 10:40 AM

I love that. I feel that recovering the past and connecting with my ancestry is integral to developing a vision for possible futures


Taja Lindley – 10:42 AM

yeah, its all interconnected.

a lot of people understand time and space as a linear thing… and it’s not. our past is intimately connected to our futures


Sara Abdullah – 10:45 AM

I’m working more recently on homegrown embodied practices that are trying to recover folk medicine and their performative nature, which requires the presence and cultivation of community. so through seasonal and lunar based ritual practices


Taja Lindley – 10:45 AM

ritual is performance that makes sense

i was at an event at the human rights project at the urban justice center
and one of the panelists, Paloma McGregor, was talking about the choreography of blackness (how we walk in the world), the choreography of violence (the impact of anti-black police violence) and the choreography of protest.
there is choreography in how we navigate and move through the world… including the ritual practices and folks medicine that you’re talking about


Sara Abdullah – 10:50 AM

Yeah, definitely, I think extending the narrative of what constitutes performance enables us to more deeply understand identity creation and the systems that are constructed to define them, e.g. violence


Taja Lindley – 10:51 AM

mmm! Exactly.
this is why i believe artists are integral to social justice movements


Sara Abdullah – 10:52 AM

For sure!


Taja Lindley – 10:52 AM

our creative practice(s) have the potential to help us understand societal problems and also give us space to think of creative solutions/next steps


Sara Abdullah – 10:55 AM

I know that we both have to varying degrees over the development of our respective creative practices, linked to community based initiatives or social justice movements, so I was wondering if you could speak to how your work is integrated with community or social justice movements?


Taja Lindley – 10:58 AM

my creative practice has different levels. i’ve been discovering for myself that all of my work may not be, and doesn’t have to be, community based or through a social justice lens… that there is some work that i need to create because my imagination requires it.
but of my work that is related to community and movement building
. i’d have to say that my work with Body Ecology Performance Ensemble has been the most engaged with social justice, namely reproductive justice (RJ). 
we create performances rooted in our experiences as Black women to talk about reproductive health, abortion, and the history of violence committed against Black women’s bodies in the name of science.
we took these performances to conferences and engaged with RJ activists around our work.

my Colored Girls Hustle Hard Mixtape is connected to social justice. we rap a lot about our authentic lived experiences as Black women and talk about a range of social issues impacting our community. we also celebrate how our community hustles for justice and our communities.
celebration and imagination are important for our movements!
how about you? how do you see your work engaging community and connected to social justice?


Sara Abdullah – 11:02 AM

I actually feel really similarly

My writing can’t be disconnected from my place in the world, but it definitely springs from my desire to create stories and imagine futurisms. Much of my performance work though is definitely connected to community.
I am involved with The Forum Project and work on using embodied practices to initiate conversations and find creative solutions to dismantling power, privilege, and oppression. Also, more recently I am working on a collaboration with other self-identified artists to create an ongoing healing group for folks most affected by state violence where we are utilizing collective art making to heal, share stories and strategies in resisting state violence


Taja Lindley – 11:09 AM

that sounds awesome!


Sara Abdullah – 11:11 AM

Thanks for sharing a look into your practice. I am feeling really inspired to incorporate some found objects into my forays in visual art

And to play with tactility in visual media


Taja Lindley – 11:12 AM

go for it! looking forward to what you come up with.
i think we should al pursue our desires and curiosities… our curiosity is an instruction. follow it



Abdullah_SaraSara Abdullah is a multi-disciplinary performance artist, and has created solo and collaborative performance pieces for the past five years. She is formally trained as a theater artist and playwright, but is a firm believer in The Theater of the Oppressed pedagogy that stresses the inherent creative capacity of everyone regardless of formal ‘training.’ Read The LP interview with Sara here.



Lindley_TajaTaja Lindley is is a self-taught visual and performance artist, full-spectrum doula, writer and founder of Colored Girls Hustle. Her current projects and affiliations include: Echoing Ida, Body Ecology, The Doula Project, and the Colored Girls Hustle Hard Mixtape. Read The LP interview with Taja here.




#BlackLivesMatter: Our Community Responds

December 16, 2014

Image by Hollis King.


We asked our artists for their reflections on the #BlackLivesMatter movement and responses to the recent news of non-indictment in the Eric Garner and Mike Brown killings.


Below, you’ll find responses by:


LeConté Dill

Rudy Shepherd

Sasha Phyars-Burgess

Hollis King

Aisha Cousins

Dennis RedMoon Darkeem

Katherine Toukhy

And, additional readings and resources


LeConté Dill, Board Member:


another blackgirl seeking, another blackgirl stranded
for Renisha McBride

Nineteen year old Rashida keeps checking
Google News
Amassing all of the ways
Media slice
Roll dice
Our names
Our bio
a nuisance
painted over


We must rally for our own
We always have


Rashida checks her GPS
Gas gauge
Tread on her tires
She also is urban
Suburban streets get her lost
and anxious
She also drives hard
and aimless
to keep calm
and make time to charge her cell phone
that stay dyin


Police and Prosecutors play tag
Reminded that this is a game
And you never get to play
But you’re always It


Rashida kicks her legs when she sleeps
Sistagirl found on a porch
Heard “Knock, and it shall be opened unto you”
every Sunday
Heard wrong


“She was shot in the front of the face, near the mouth”


We must rally for our own
We always have


–LeConte Dill



Rudy Shepherd, 2006 Resident & Special Edition Print artist:

Garner and BrownPortraits of Eric Garner and Mike Brown



Sasha Phyars-Burgess, 2014 Fellow





Hollis King, 2012 Resident

This piece is a tribute to all the young people taking to the street and holding on to the light in peace and love.



Aisha Cousins, 2013 Resident & Teaching Artist:

“Lemonade for Letters” is a project I created that turns a lemonade stand into a tool for community organizing. When I tested it in Crown Heights, it generated a very productive intergenerational dialogue between people ranging in age from elementary school students to grandparents.

The project can be remixed for current events by using news articles of your choice, substituting warm drinks or baked goods for lemonade, and/or shifting the location to highly trafficked indoor areas such as school cafeterias, church basements, etc.

lemonade-stand_ys-letter_inside-at-72dpiClick here for the performance score of Lemonade for Letters.



Dennis Darkeem, 2014 Resident:

“I wanted to share some of my art students’ posters from Junior High School 127 in the Bronx.”



Katherine Toukhy, 2014 Fellow:

If you are an arts educator or a person who works with students, it is important to know how to bring up conversations about race in the classroom at historically charged moments like these. But it’s not easy, and no one has all the answers.

So last Monday Dec, at City College, arts professionals and educators met to strategize the facilitation of art-making activities that can strengthen students’ capacity to voice themselves on these very real issues. Educators discussed the different kinds of challenges faced in settings like Title One (underserved) public schools, or private schools and museum programs, with ethnically diverse groups, or more homogenous groups. There is no “one size fits all’ solution; but it became apparent that navigating these discussions takes a good amount of knowing your students, providing a safe space and framework for real conversations, and knowing how to challenge them by asking good questions and exposing them to relevant art and literature that provide catalysts for exploration.


Here is a rundown of basic themes and activity ideas that came up in the forum:


  • Know your students. Build trust and community as a group first.
  • Get real with students. Mine their minds.
  • Prompt them to answer: My greatest fear is… My greatest hope is…
  • Don’t preach. Guide students to their own answers.
  • Use more questions than answers, via the Socratic method.
  • Use your art medium to enact: “What does community look/feel/sound like?”
  • Use your art medium and senses to enact how different feelings can be represented: i.e. color to represent anger or loud drum beats to represent violence.
  • Educators in predominantly white classrooms reported that many kids fail to recognize that racism still exists, because we are supposedly living in a “post-racial” post-slavery society. Give them the language to understand different levels of racism: internalized, interpersonal, and institutional racisms.
  • “Institutional racism” is the way racial inequity is covertly or overtly perpetuated by institutions and systems in our society (like schools, prisons, the media, housing, etc).
  • Border Crossers is an important organization with more resources on this topic:
  • Provide nuanced representations of people of color (which educators agreed were very difficult to find in literature, at a middle school level).
  • Stay away from binary notions of identity.
  • Children’s book illustrator and writer, Christopher Myers wrote a strong article about this after the Zimmerman case
  • To introduce the topic, use an age-appropriate image, artwork, text, or quote.
  • Ask students to list: what I know; what I don’t know; what I wish I knew.
  • Provide some context for the source you are using.
  • On police brutality, this video is visually rich and provides context: “How Ferguson showed us the truth about police”
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ixRx4kOBPU
  • Open up questions of deep topics like “power” and “violence” by putting up large chart paper with words or phrases like “What is power?” around the room.
  • Ask students to brainstorm or define these concepts as they walk around the room and talk it out with each other.
  • Ask students to create an artistic response based off of engaging with these concepts and source images/texts.
  • End a session with “what I know” lists, or a “next steps” list.
  • Create group activities that emphasize working together.
  • When presenting images or texts of political movements, emphasize the collective action (as opposed to the individualistic hero narrative) required to make change happen.
  • Connect them with other kids working through these issues.


More readings and resources:

  • This Stops Today is doing 11 days of actions, and many are arts based. So if anyone is planning an event by Dec. 20, they could align themselves with this org and their demands”—via Nancy Agabian (2013 Fellow)



  • Another resource is Claudia Rankine’s book Citizen, and her recent PBS interview“—LeConté Dill (Board Member)








Introducing 31 Days of The LP

December 1, 2014

What do Mayor de Blasio, Derrick Adams, and La Casa Azul Bookstore have in common?


You guessed it: The Laundromat Project!


Over the next month, we’ll be sharing one of our favorite memories from 2014 each day, on Facebook, Twitter, as well as here on our blog, Spin Cycle. It’s been a year of amazing collaborations, exciting new programs, and growing support and recognition for The LP’s work.


Finally, we want to say another BIG thank you to everyone that made our People Powered Challenge a huge success. We look forward to celebrating with you in person!


Check in with us later in the month as we look back and reflect on some of the amazing highlights of 2014 for The LP. We’ll be posting on social media using the hashtag #31DaysofTheLP and sharing regular updates here on our blog as well. Stay tuned!


Day 1

This year, we announced our brand-new Commissions program, which supports socially engaged public art projects by our Create Change alumni. Check out videos featuring 2014 Commissioned Artists Bridget Bartolini and Sukjong Hong and learn about their projects.