Cultural Organizing for Community Change 2020

Cultural Organizing for Community Change
December 5, 2020
10am - 6pm on Zoom

Access the program book here.

Arts & Democracy joined with Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts NY (NOCD-NY) to present our annual Cultural Organizing for Community Change virtually in 2020. The daylong workshop included a cultural organizing framework; connecting in small groups; and two rounds of participatory arts and popular education workshops. While we missed connecting face to face, our Zoom version of the annual workshop allowed us to extend the workshop to national and international participation.

Fellow organizers, artists, media makers, and policy makers learned effective ways to deepen their work and engaged their creativity in organizing for community change. We came together at a time when community and solidarity are more meaningful than ever.

Sessions and performances were led by Arts & Democracy, Andrea Assaf, Maria Bauman-Morales, BombaYo, amalia deloney, HECTOR urban design, Ricardo Levins Morales, Ayako Maruyama, NOCD-NY, Jaclyn Roessel, George Emilio Sanchez, Storyline, Joe Tolbert Jr., and Urban Bush Women.

The program included:

Framework, Values and Mapping the Room
with Emily Ahn Levy, Hasiba Haq, amalia deloney, Caron Atlas, and Claudie Mabry of Arts & Democracy and NOCD-NY and our colleagues: Karen Mack, Mark Valdez, Michael Higgins, Tamara Greenfield, Gonzalo Casals, and Judi Jennings.

Yes, Even Zoomland is Indigenous Land
with Jaclyn Roessel, US Department of Arts and Culture
Jaclyn Roessel is the director of decolonized futures and radical dreams at the US Department of Arts & Culture where she steward the Honor Native Land project. She's a Mama, partner, recovering perfectionist, coach, and cultural equity and justice consultant fiercely reimagining futures where Indigenous Sovereignty, rights, lands and cultures are revered, celebrated and protected.

Get Activated
with Urban Bush Women

Ash-Lee Henderson, Highlander Research and Education Center and Movement for Black Lives
Video clip from Activating the Cultural Power of a Movement event by Arts & Democracy, NOCD-NY and USDAC

Movement for the Movement
with BombaYo co-founders Jose Ortiz and Melinda Gonzalez
A discussion and brief dance tutorial on Afro Puerto Rican bomba as a way to foster connection and community building through traditional forms of music and dance. Organizers were encouraged to add these simple movements to their wellness practice to relieve stress and for group work.


  • Accountable Development 
    with Jae Shin & Damon Rich, HECTOR urban design
    Who decides what gets built in your city or town? This workshop explored the idea of accountable development, one way people are thinking about how to make more democratic, environmentally just, and anti-racist places. Together participants used all their senses to consider how places connect to politics, map power struggles over environmental planning, identify strategies for making development more accountable, and describe what roles artists and designers can play in this work.

  • Asking Questions for Deeper Conversations 
    with Rachel Falcone, Storyline
    Stories are at the heart of social change work, so how do we create the spaces for them to be heard, documented and shared? How do we ask the right questions for deeper conversations, especially in a moment when we are all so isolated? In this workshop, participants joined artist Rachel Falcone to learn oral history and interview-based techniques as tools to strengthen connections and relationships and create powerful narratives for change.

  • Augusto Boal’s Theater of the Oppressed and Civic Practice 
    with George Emilio Sanchez
    Participants were introduced to Boal’s Theater of the Oppressed games and exercises and how they impact our individual imaginations and shape how we view the world around us. The group was be involved in various forms of collaboration ranging from individual, dyads, and group activities.

  • Dynamic Reflection/Dynamic Learning 
    with amalia deloney, Arts & Democracy
    To facilitate significant, transformative change in our organizations, we need to make a profound change in how people interact—especially as we problem solve, innovate and design new futures. Rooted in the popular education principle “we are all teachers and learners,” this fast-paced and highly interactive session introduced tools for self discovery and co-learning, while also providing time for practice. Against the backdrop of COVID, participants unpacked, explored and elevated what we have learned about ourselves, our communities and our visions for the future.

  • Making it Visible 
    with Ricardo Levins Morales
    Visual images are a powerful form of communication. With them we can tell about the past, reexamine the present, dream about the future, and share questions and insights about our very nature. Oppression depends on us believing lies about all those things. Whether it takes the form of colonialism, child abuse or poverty, it causes traumatic damage to our sense of self. This workshop was about using art to tell powerful truths. Using simple materials (artistic experience not required), the group identified lies that keep us, our communities, and our peoples from moving forward; the truths that can counteract them; and ways to turn those truths into accessible messages. Working in groups, they came up with images based on the campaigns, issues, or dilemmas of workshop participants.

  • Mind the Gap: Zines for Connection Amidst Distancing 
    with Ayako Maruyama, Design Studio for Social Intervention (DS4SI)
    Our stories matter. Zine-making is a powerful way to reflect and share stories as we navigate new ways of being together during this pandemic. In this workshop, participants learned how to make zines while sharing stories. They build their personal practice with the infinite possibilities of this fun and simple tool, making booklets for memoirs, advocacy and justice in the year 2020.

  • Mindful Bodies Reflective Practices 
    Urban Bush Women with Chanon Judson, Elaisa van der Kust and Mikaila Ware
    This interactive experience focused on self-care, rejuvenation, and (re-) constructing healthful images of ourselves and our communities. As participants moved, shared stories, and discussed holism practices from food choices to daily stress relief, Builders, Organizers, & Leaders through Dance (BOLD) facilitators offered simple tools for reinhabiting our bodies and reinforcing holism from the inside out.

  • Renew & Restore
    with Maria Bauman-Morales, MBDance
    As a community organizer and artist still creating work and holding space for communities, like so many of us are, Maria is keenly aware of our dwindling opportunities for rest, stillness and renewal even amidst the global pandemic. The collective stress of navigating a break-neck pace while learning new ways of being and of connecting with people creates high levels of cortisol and keeps us from being the best family- and community-members we can be. During this workshop, the group slowed down to invite in restoration with guided breathing and light physical centering practices. The session included both time with cameras on to take solace in one another and with cameras off to relax inward and be guided. The experience was for people of all shapes, sizes, genders and abilities.

  • Spiritual Practice as Cultural Practice
    with Joe Tolbert Jr, Art at the Intersections
    In this interactive workshop, participants explored why it is essential to include spiritual practices in \cultural strategies when working with communities. Participants left with not only a deeper understanding of spiritual practices, but how they can begin to implement these strategies in their local community work.

  • Writing Change
    with Andrea Assaf, Art2Action
    This workshop explored how to approach writing when we're in the midst of a powerful change, either personal or socio-political. How do we capture or document changing times, even as we navigate our own experiences and feelings about what is happening around us? How do we write about the change we want to see, and where this change is taking us? The group also looked at how writing can catalyze or contribute to change-making, and what role our writing plays in movement building.

with Maria Bauman-Morales

This program was supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the New York City Council, the New York State Council on the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, City Council Member Brad Lander, and Humanities New York.