Kemi Ilesanmi’s Farewell Reflection

Kemi Ilesanmi has been the Executive Director of The Laundromat Project for ten years. What we’ve been able to accomplish as a community under her leadership is a reflection of her vision, dedication and love. We are so grateful to her and wish her well on her next adventure. Read on for her official farewell.

A group of six people smiling; from left to right: Cheryl Wing-Zi Wong, Ibi Ibrahim, Kemi Ilesanmi, Ayesha Williams, Kendra J. Ross, Jamel Burgess
From left to right: Cheryl Wing-Zi Wong, Ibi Ibrahim, Kemi Ilesanmi, Ayesha Williams, Kendra J. Ross, Jamel Burgess

Audre Lorde reminds us, “Without community, there is no liberation.” As I transition out of my role of Executive Director at The Laundromat Project, I feel profoundly fortunate to have found such a nourishing community here and to work towards our liberation within it. Indeed, The LP family has been part of my NYC story from the very beginning.

I met the incredible founder Risë Wilson at a mutual friend’s brunch just two weeks after I moved to the city. In that first conversation, she dazzled me with her beautiful idea to bring art, community, and justice together in everyday spaces. That was fall 2004, and I was immediately intrigued. A year later, I joined The LP’s founding board, and seven years after that I became our first full-time and paid Executive Director. 

As LP employee #2, I have worked with dozens of passionate, dedicated and hard working board members, staff, interns, and consultants, as well as supported over 300 incredible artists, neighbors, partners, thinkers, dreamers, activists, instigators and creators. Collectively, they make the world more just and more beautiful every day – just by being themselves. In turn, they have inspired me to seek more joy, ask harder questions, raise my fists higher, and to love more fiercely… because it matters for all of us. Thank you.

This community has taught me what it means to live our LP values out loud.

In other words, this community has taught me what it means to live our LP values out loud. Through them, I have learned so much more about art, politics, commitment, accountability, connection, legacy, abundance, and radical love. That is exactly the toolkit that will be needed as The LP moves through our leadership transition and further into the work of building an enduring arts institution grounded in community. One of our guiding organizational beliefs is that art and creativity can change strangers into neighbors whose collective efforts can change the world. As we make our home in Bed-Stuy, I am certain that our circle of artists, neighbors, and friends will keep finding bold ways to deepen the ties that make a place a home. 

To continue manifesting this work, just as Risë passed it to me, I now pass The LP baton to Ayesha Williams as the next Executive Director of The Laundromat Project. During her job interview as Deputy Director six-and-a-half years ago, I asked her the usual interview questions until she said, “Don’t let the fancy places fool you — Lincoln Center, Chelsea gallery, etc. — I can do the scrappy work, too. And I want to do that for our people at The LP.” The rest is history. Hiring Ayesha was my best decision in 10 years of leading The LP. Full stop. She has the big heart, clear vision, and creative spirit to take The LP even further. I’m so excited for our future.

Thank You, LP, for 10 years, 17 years… indeed, a lifetime of gifts. Thank you for being my forever home. I promise to remember all that you have taught me and to carry on the work towards our collective liberation. Once LP Fam, always LP fam. Ashé.

— Kemi Ilesanmi, Outgoing Executive Director of The Laundromat Project