The LP’s Liberation Series continues! In celebration of Women’s Herstory Month, we partnered with the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office, local stakeholders, and small businesses in Bed-Stuy to honor the rich legacies of women in Brooklyn. The events, which are just a few of the many in our yearlong Liberation Series, amplified the work of artists and community members whose work is making an impact in Brooklyn and beyond.
All of the events are in alignment with The LP’s mission and values and developed around one of three missions: Make Art, Build Community, Create Change.
Read on to learn more about this month’s offerings to our community: Celebrating Women Who Tell our Stories, Letters for Liberation: Women & Transfemmes Organizing Through Writing, and Support Magnolia Tree Earth Center.
Celebrating Women Who Tell our Stories
The Laundromat Project was invited to participate in Celebrating Women Who Tell our Stories, an annual community event hosted by the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office, alongside our neighbors Brooklyn FAM and Brooklyn Comedy Collective to celebrate Women’s Herstory Month. We’re grateful to Borough President Antonio Reynoso, the event partners, and the over 150 Brooklyn residents who came out for the evening!
“Storytelling is at the heart of everything that makes us special: the traditions of our ancestors, the compassion of community, and the subversive imagination that spurs local and global change,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. “This month, we’re celebrating the women who carry our stories beyond borders and across time – whether through spoken word and oral history, song and music, poetry and prose, and so much more. It’s through their creativity and perseverance that once-whispered stories and people nearly lost to time have secured the place in our cultural memory they deserved from the beginning.”
During the event, 2023 Create Change Artist-in-Residence Kira Joy Williams shared her oral history and visual storytelling project, “Home is in the Stories,” and invited attendees to participate in an artmaking workshop on storytelling and placemaking. This workshop honored the radical history of Black Women storytellers and craft-workers who used quilting to preserve cultural memory. Attendees reflected on and shared their own stories of home and made portraits of one another. Ultimately, the works were then formed into a collective, photo-based story-quilt displayed during the event.
Executive Director Ayesha Williams thanked Brooklyn Borough President Reynoso for inviting The Laundromat Project and Create Change Artist-in-Residence Kira Joy Williams to participate in this dynamic Women’s History Month program, stating: “It is not just a privilege but an honor to uplift and amplify the stories of women. Each story holds power to inspire and transform our communities and the world for the better. This is evident through Kira’s project Home is in the Stories, an artistic archive comprising portraits of and oral histories from Black residents of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. With Women’s History Month’s focus on Storytelling, Kira’s project reminds us that it is imperative we take control of our own narratives and that our stories are the essential basis for building lasting community power.”
You can read more about the event from the Brooklyn Borough President Office’s press release.
Letters for Liberation: Women & Transfemmes Organizing Through Writing
We closed Women’s Herstory Month with Final Fridays, a new social event for local residents, artists, and LP staff to mingle and connect over snacks and beverages in our storefront! We held an intimate storefront social dedicated to exploring the history of women––particularly queer women and transfemmes––organizing through letter writing.
We set up a display to walk attendees through the rich history of women-led and trans-led community organizing in prisons and around incarceration, including historical and contemporary writings and letters for reference. This touchpoint grounded participants in the power of prisoner correspondence and reporting as tools for liberatory political practices. With a renewed sense of the stakes and the lineage that we were in, participants had the chance to sit down with one another at our storefront letter writing station, where they designed postcards and participants could sit down, grab a pen, and take a few moments to write to Black transwomen and transfemmes who are currently incarcerated.
“”A pattern we are hoping to break is one where organizations look to start working with queer and trans communities in June, ” shared our Senior Manager of Artist & Community Development, Isa Saldaña. “Not only is it often very difficult to coordinate deeply due to the oversaturation of Pride-related asks and events (similar to how Black-led organizations or Black organizers are inundated in February), but it creates a tokenizing effect. At The LP, we want to set a precedent of being committed trans and queer artists and organizers year-round. As such, it was crucial for us to see through the intention of centering transwomen within celebrations of Women’s History Month. Just by luck, our introduction of Final Fridays meant that the event happened to fall on March 31st, Trans Day of Visibility.”
As Final Friday came to a close, several attendees headed into the night in conversation, discussing newly discovered points of connection over the evening’s activity. We were thrilled to see this real-time community building, evidence that reinforces The LP value & belief that artmaking can be a basis to bring people together to build communities oriented to cultural change
“My time at The Laundromat Project’s [March] community building event gave me a way to focus my energy and do something simple yet impactful for more vulnerable Black trans community members,” local Bed-Stuy resident Marissa Hatten shared with The LP team. “It was special to spend some time together with Black trans folks and our legacies on the Trans Day of Visibility and to uplift Black transwomen and femmes in particular. It also just felt good to spend a couple hours on a Friday night in a space where you could feel that people had a shared vision and values.
While drawing and writing the postcards, I remembered previous pen pal projects I’ve had with incarcerated folks in the past. The shared activity not only reignited the spark of inspiration, but also talking about those experiences––the challenges and the rewards––with other people while getting to know a bit about them and their experiences reminded me how much easier it is to do these kinds of things together rather than alone.”
Support Magnolia Tree Earth Center
This month The Laundromat Project called its community to help save the legacy of Hattie Carthan, the mother of environmental work in Brooklyn. In 1972, Mrs. Carthan founded the Magnolia Tree Earth Center of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Inc. (MTEC) and her pioneering efforts brought a variety of green programs to her neighborhood during the early emergence of the grassroots and environmental education movements.
The center is now raising money to pay for urgent repairs to its deteriorating façades—without these repairs, MTEC could lose the building to the city. As their GoFundMe states, “In a historically Black community facing upheaval from gentrification, cost of living increases, and other threats, MTEC represents a Black -founded, -owned, and -led institution whose mission is rooted in social justice, self-determination, and land ownership by and for the Bed-Stuy community.” It’s critical that we support and sustain our community’s legacy and institutions.
Simultaneously but independently from The LP’s March community engagement program planning, the 2023 Create Change Fellows had begun ideating around their final projects. Local Bed-Stuy artist, organizer, and former LP Intern, Maat Silin, is a member of the current fellowship cohort who had been connected to Magnolia Tree Earth Center and felt called to pitch in to efforts to save this community cornerstone. Along with fellow group members Anna Parisi and Mica Verendia, they developed a multi-part proposal to amplify Magnolia Tree’s on-going work for their Create Change Fellowship activation.
After meeting with the center’s board chair, Wayne Devonish, the group embarked on designing a poster to get the word out more widely about the center’s dilemma and funding needs. Combining their skills as artists, designers, organizers, writers, and researchers, they used the poster to uplift the legacy of Hattie Carthan and honor the Black and Indigenous histories of stewarding Brooklyn’s plant life. While they continue to help the center get in contact with architects and search for trustworthy contractors to support the much-needed repairs, the Create Change Fellows group, nicknamed “The Hatties” after the MTEC founder, encourages other folks to get involved in any way possible––whether offering professional services pro bono, directly donating funds to the campaign, or purchasing a special edition print of their commemorative poster, which will be sold on a sliding scale with all sales benefiting METC.
We had an incredible time learning more about women’s stories and legacies this month and hope all our attendees and supporters did, too! The Liberation Series continues—we’ll be partnering with local artists, cultural producers, community members, stakeholders, local business owners, and community-based organizations in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn for the rest of 2023.
About Our Event Partners and How to Support Them
Kira Joy Williams (she/they) is an artist and community builder based in Brooklyn, NY on occupied Lenape land. Kira strives to contribute positively and generatively to existing visual representation of Black people in the U.S. by creating archival materials in collaboration with the very people being represented. Through photographs and oral history, Kira’s art explores notions of diaspora, home, care, and community. Her photographs and recorded histories exist in the wake of longstanding memory-work traditions that use the past to make sense of the present and construct a new future––one in which we all belong. Kira received a BA from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University in 2015 and is currently a Master’s student at Gallatin.
Antonio Reynoso was elected as the first Latino Brooklyn Borough President. He’s a native Brooklynite, born and raised along with two sisters in South Williamsburg to Dominican immigrants. Reynoso is serving Brooklyn to make the borough the progressive capital of the world by building on his extensive record in the City Council. Reynoso’s twin guiding principles throughout his life, have always been the concepts of justice and equity, and he has vowed to fight each and every day to give all Brooklynites the opportunity to thrive and succeed. Learn more about the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office.
The Brooklyn Comedy Collective is an alt comedy theater in Brooklyn with a mission to produce irreverent, fearless shows from a wide range of voices, pay its artists, and inspire students to approach performance from a place of joy and fierceness. We believe in the power of collective decision making and ensuring a diversity of voices are at the table. From year-round comedy classes to workshops for businesses large and small to improv festivals and live comedy produced Tuesday-Sunday nights in East Williamsburg, we celebrate anyone who wants to let their freak flag fly.
Brooklyn Festival of Arts and Music (FAM)’s mission is to offer high-quality, family-friendly, culturally diverse arts programming that invites the community to observe, connect, and create. Their programs will always be free to the public.
They provide access to innovative arts experiences rarely available to families, often due to sheer lack of availability or prohibitive scheduling, location, or cost. They believe that access lies at the crux of our values of diversity, inclusion, social justice, and empathy.
The Magnolia Tree Earth Center (MTEC)‘s goal is to be urban America’s leader in creating community awareness of ecological, horticultural and environmental concerns and to introduce inner city children to careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) that foster urban beautification, earth stewardship, and community sustainability.
About the Liberation Series
Throughout 2023, The Laundromat Project will be hosting our Liberation Series programs: curated community activities focused on the collective power of cultural organizing for change. Each event is a partnership with local artists, cultural producers, community members, stakeholders, local business owners, and community-based organizations in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.
We’re hosting these events in alignment with The LP’s mission and values, so all events will be developed around one of three themes: Make Art, Build Community, Create Change.
Join us for future Liberation Series events, and continue to learn more about The LP’s work in our new home in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, as well as our many celebrated neighbors and change makers.
Support The Laundromat Project
If you are interested in supporting future programming like this and other LP initiatives, we invite you to join our Catalyst Circle—a dynamic group of change makers who believe in the power of creativity to create change. Starting at $5 a month, the Catalysts provide sustained support. Learn more.