UhuruAfrika: Everything You Need Is In This House

It often takes me a bit longer than others to process things and really get to the heart of my own understanding. I often also let things “age” in my own mind – which I hope/think leads to something akin to wine or whiskey – betterment with aging.

Such is the case now, as I return from 10 days with the Urban Bush Women at their Summer Leadership Institute in New Orleans (well – here is another symbol of that long processing – SLI was July 19-29, and I started this post 2 weeks ago). At the point of starting this post, things really started to synthesize for me around a few particular thoughts. And writing this and synthesizing that have also brought forth some really old thoughts.

My original example of this long processing was that at UBW SLI we had to complete the phrase “I come from. . . ” for homework one night, and then the next day at the end of one session say a brief bit about how we completed that phrase. I went with “the earth” to reference my two grandparents and six great-grandparents that grew up on farms, and thus the connection we have to the land (as we were charged with researching our personal history and connection to the land prior to arriving in New Orleans). It also for me referenced the multitude of geographical spaces inhabited by my recent ancestors (counties, states, countries). Other folks in my Cohort came with much more nuanced and poetic depth, with two of them literally reciting breathtakingly beautiful original poems about where they come from. I came away feeling like a bit of a shallow crunchy hippy. But also determined to really continue to examine more of where I come from, and where we are going. At the same time, I felt safe and un-judged (by others), as we were working hard all week to create a space “Full of Value, Free of Judgement” to let us each process and be in our own work.
Such is an example of my delayed processing.
Another example has to do with the work we were doing with the Tekrema Community Center. When we had our initial walk through of the space I saw a sign up high on one of the shelves for “Gibbons Feed”. The space was formerly a neighborhood hardware store, and was filled with reminders of that past. This sign struck me because of our local DJ/Promoter/Activist Adam Gibbons, who has been throwing UhuruAfrika parties for the past few years in Cambridge. 
As a group we created a piece over the next 5 days and performed it / presented it to the rest of the UBW SLI crew and the Tekrema community.
Throughout the creative and performative process, I kept thinking about the Gibbons sign.
One of the phrases (both in words & movement) that we incorporated into the performance/offering was “Everything you need is in this house” which referred to the house of the Tekrema center itself, as well as the house of our bodies. This idea of self-sufficiency and self worth is staying with me as a powerful reminder.
It, and the sign, also bring up some feelings I’ve been meaning to write about UhuruAfrika, and the power of that community for a while as well – another of the aging of my thoughts.
UhuruAfrika is a unique party, a unique community gathering. It is a space filled with joy, acceptance, light, history, and a space full of value, free of judgement. If you haven’t been, you must go. Regularly held in Cambridge, the UhuruAfrika crew (Adam + Max, Sidy, Jay and Andre) also regularly perform/hold-space in Miami, Mexico, and New York. Wherever you find them, you will find the travel worth your while.
To describe the Cambridge happening in brief – you arrive and were greeted at the door (until his recent retirement) by Brother Andre Edwards, who holds down the door with grace, strength, and dignity. You enter a room decorated with love, a space that on all other nights may be dingy, dirty, and otherwise unremarkable. On these nights, the physical shortcomings of the space are present, but through the vision and love of Adam are made much less visible. Adam & Max Pela hold down the decks, spinning songs bringing people to estatic places. Jay Medina creates a visual score for the music and space via projections.
At some point in the night, Sidy Maiga will bring out his djembe and start accompanying the mix. I’ve known Sidy the longest of any of the UhuruAfrika crew (since 2001), and had the priviledge to play at some ceremonies in Mali with Sidy – ceremonies where people were put into trance for healing and for communication with the other worlds and planes of existence. So when Sidy starts playing, I know that he has the power to help people move into a healing space. It has been a very powerful thing to watch Sidy adapt his learning and skills from a traditional space into a new realm. Initially I’m not sure he really knew what he needed to do – but in the past couple years he has adapted and grown his craft to help people transcend. The adaptation to a new culture, a new space, a new music – but maintaining the power to safely transport and transform people and energy – has been a joy to watch.
Some club nights are a place to pick up someone and have a grand adventure. UhuruAfrika is not that space in the traditional sense. By and large you won’t see young women in tight black dresses nor will you see men grind up on women. What you will see is bodies on the dance floor, moving to the music, with the music. There are no wallflowers in the room. It is a house party – house dancers, breakers, african dancers, capoeiristas, and beautiful movers. The space IS inhabited by a variety of people expressing a variety of desire – but that generally is being expressed in a safe and respectful way.
The space is also inhabited by a slice of Boston that doesn’t often come together – all shades of skin, all sorts of gender expression, all sorts of ages. While house music often brings out a great diversity of people – UhuruAfrika somehow manages to take this all to another level.
So – as you can by now imagine, as I’m sure you’re quicker than I – the other night I had this revelation that everything that I need is in that house, and is fed by one Mr. Gibbons. That deep soulful house of UhuruAfrika, the space created by Adam, Sidy, Max, Jay, Andre and the rest of the UhuruAfrika crew.
So – THIS Saturday, the 25th of August, you need to come out to Cambridge, and get down. For, as you might imagine, everything you need is in this house. The last party before UhuruAfrika moves on from the aforementioned AllAsia, and a party blessed by the fabulous Rich Medina as a special guest – I’m sure the energy will be simply gorgeous.
And in one more shameless plus – please PLEASE support the Urban Bush Women as they approach 30 years of movement, research, community building and research. I have not seen such a combination of amazing effective art + amazing effective activism ever. The movement *is* the movement. Join the movement.
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