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Ocean Ana Rising's production of GYPSY & THE BULLY DOOR (July 2011)

Happy New Year! Ocean Ana Rising has been up to lots of good work all throughout 2011, and we are enthusiastic about continuing our mission into 2012 and beyond. We are approaching our 7th year of doing this work! We can’t believe how fast time flies, when committed to such an important mission! We want to share all that has been going on with us and all that is approaching. We have truly grown, expanding our community and work through ground breaking collaborations and a continued evolution of our programs.

20ll started out with our Safe Spaces Arts Outreach program joining DC Rape Crisis Center for a Day of Healing in January, featuring our Safe Spaces: The Soul’s Mask Workshop. OAR teaching artists, Sofale Ellis and Alexis Flanagan, led this workshop, during which women from DC Rape Crisis Center created beautiful masks, adorning them with paint, beads, and feathers, as personal expressions of discovery and healing.

In February of 2011, Ocean Ana Rising co produced and co curated our Women on Wednesdays Art and Culture Project with Betty’s Daughter Arts Collaborative and the Brecht Forum at the Brecht Forum in NYC for the second time! This series began in 2010 and has continued forward. During the series, women and girls of color were featured performers, as they shared their creative expressions through dance, poetry, music, theater arts and video. Some of our featured artists were vocalist Ayanna Williams; poets Cheyenne Sabrina and Carmen Mojica; The Body Ecology Performance Collective; Zoe Flowers and her theater ensemble; dancer J. Jewels Sandy; and youth performances from The Black Light Performance Ensemble, El Puente, and Medgar Evers College students. The series also grew to include two community arts residencies, through which professional artists who performed in the series led performance arts workshops with youth groups through Medgar Evers College Center for Women’s Development and El Puente-Bushwick. It was amazing to watch these young artists affirm their voices and realize empowerment through artistic expression. The 2011 series also expanded to include a Teach In and Healing Cipher, where cultural organizers and arts activists provided workshops dedicated to holistic wellness to the public. We opened with a yoga class led by Dehejia Maat, and opened out into workshops facilitated by Hip Hop Ambassador, Toni Blackman; a writing workshop led by Carmen Mojica, and a life planning workshop by Burn Bright Life Works. This Teach In and Healing Cipher also featured Ocean Ana Rising’s Safe Spaces: From Trauma to Triumph workshop. Though the series began in February, it extended into May, closing with a community arts residency with Medgar Evers College LIFE Club. What a series! We thank every artist, cultural organizer and collaborator who helped to make it all possible.

In June, Ocean Ana Rising began rehearsals for our workshop production of GYPSY & THE BULLY DOOR, a play emerging out of OAR’s Live On Stage program. Through this program, we hired Howard University Theater Arts students and alum for a laboratory production at the Warehouse Theatre during DC’s Fringe Festival. The show ran for five days in July and helped to expose emerging theater artists to the world of professional theatre, under the directorial guidance of Eric Ruffin.

Clearly, 2011 was a productive and exciting year for Ocean Ana Rising! And we’re taking that energy into the new year! Already, 2012 is off to a beautiful start. We’re bringing the Women on Wednesdays Art and Culture Project back to the Brecht Forum with our collaborating partners, Betty’s Daughter Arts Collaborative and the Brecht Forum, while expanding the team to include a new collaborator, GroundFloor, a visual arts program and exhibition featuring the visual art of women of color throughout the Brecht Forum while the Women on Wednesdays series goes on there. This year’s series includes the featured performances of women and girls of color in poetry, dance, film, theater arts and music, as is our tradition through this project. We have also added a Global Women’s Empowerment Forum discussion, which will engage our community in conversations about various issues affecting the lives and well being of women of color all around the world. We will also continue our Teach In and Healing Cipher through the series. Furthermore, Safe Spaces will be returning!

We thank you for your support! And we look forward to sharing our programs with you in the future!

Love and Light,
Ocean Ana Rising, Inc.

I’ve been in love once.

Not the type of love that comes in the form of a tall, strong man, dipped in hues of chocolate and mahogany. But one that blossomed in vintage Adidas and weathered toe shoes. In secondhand t-shirts and baggy jeans. A love that manifested in standing alone on a studio floor in front of long blocks of mirrors, placed together behind horizontal double bars. A love that echoes in the resin purposely left in the corner of the room, creating a powder beneath my feet.

Smitten by the thought that my love embraced the whole me, I went barefoot on cold, hard floors. Free. In these moments, I forgot that I was one of a few brown faces among a colorless wall. I forgot that I once despised my reflection. Here, I could shape all the dirt and pain into masterpieces of flawed art.

Fast above the universe, I rose on the floor every day, embracing the callused skin on the balls of my feet from all the Chaînés I did across the room. Spotting the picture of the black ballerina on the wall, I’d twirl rapidly. Ripping band-aids off of my toes to gain more momentum as I leapt. I was never great at it, but that moment of air held me tighter than any feeling I had ever felt.

Many times, I lost myself in love. In the middle of that studio, alone and with the lights dim, I’d turn up the black box stereo as high as I could, and listen to beats of soul, jazz, and hip-hop. Grabbing the rhythm from underneath its hiding place, I’d go into a place far from this ordinary life. Painting my life’s story on the floor with vintage adidas, I’d create movement. Shake, pop, twirl. Leap, bend, extend. Fusing African, ballet, and hip-hop, I’d dance until I didn’t feel my limbs moving anymore. Until, I looked down at the chest, only to watch it stretch up and down, while my lungs begged for deeper breaths of oxygen. Until, I felt the warmth of blood flow through my hands, and heard the drums of my heartbeat in my ears. Until the last drop of sweat fell from the tip of my nose, to the floor that I’d just given my soul to.

Freedom.

-Tranaé Farmer-Boston

You haunt me some times, when the flicker of your memory flashes in my head. Your voice nauseates me when I hear it faintly in my ear. You are a tainted awful sliver of a thought, the poignant scene of the last time ever I would let you near me.

I’ve never had violent sex before. Not until I pissed you off somehow and you pounced on me, unannounced from behind. Pinning my arms to my back, there was nothing gentle or loving about what felt like an assault on my body. I feared for my safety; it felt dangerous. It felt ugly and violent; I felt powerless to stop you. I remember trying to free myself but you tightened your grip on my arm and continued, unaware of how I felt. I don’t think you cared. Truly don’t feel it mattered.

My mouth was dry by the end; cottonmouth couldn’t have come at a worst time and I was too sober for this shit. The high was gone as I prayed you’d just finish so you can let go of me. I felt my heart space hollowed; a cry lodged in that emptiness and a rude slap that this was the disgusting ending to our story. I couldn’t get the words out at any point to tell you to stop. I was in shock that this was even happening.

Later, I would tell my confidant about this. She would then tell me that the way I felt and what you did could be counted as rape. Rape. An assault by a person involving sexual intercourse with another person without that person’s consent. That word sounds foreign. I’d always equated it to dark alleys, a stranger and an unfortunate meeting that ended in medical attention and years of counseling. She told me that rape can come in different forms.

I would have never used that word to describe what happen. Even right now, it’s hard for me to say it in relation to you. It sounds like something I never would associate with my life or as an action that would happen to me, ever. That word slapped me in the face as she and I walked through the woods after I recounted what happened.

I realize that my normal response is to think that I’m overreacting by calling it that. But I do know it was a violation. It was an assault; a very unwelcomed one. And that I felt powerless. And scared. And that it was terrible. That you ripped into my soul in a way that no one had ever done. And that I have to forgive myself for the actions that happened, no matter what I call it. I will not be your victim. I am not a victim or survivor. Just a woman who is letting herself remember who you really are beneath the facade and the bullshit you present to others.

-Carmen Mojica

Hija De Mi Madre – Carmen Mojica

Hands on her
Love bruises, that’s what she’s dubbed them
Shaken violently so that her brain can rattle back in place
Her mind deteriorates with every bitch slap she swallows; he’ll change, she just knows it
The line where physical violation was a crime unto her psyche was rubbed out with each thrust, each orgasm – “I’m so sorry I won’t do it again.”
It’s okay, he loves her so much he has to leave marks all over her body
Her eyes were so beautiful he had to adorn and adore them with black and blue kisses, just swelling with love
The arms that hug him so tightly, maybe he cared for them so much that they went limp with broken bones
Threw her down the stairs to show her the way to a better life with him
Love bruises, that’s all they are
He loves her, he really does
Loves her so much he can’t bear anyone else being around her, and he means anyone
Her friends and family understand; she’s not allowed to go near the door…that’s a breach of their love
This passion, she felt it in her ribs as she struggles to breathe, cracked under the intense devotion he shows her
The wall’s to blame for the contusions that enhance her back, it crashed into her, she’s so clumsy
Love bruises, they decorate her and show everyone how much he adored her
Insults are just compliments in disguise, can’t have him telling everyone how feverishly he loved her, now can we?
Climbing on her to look into her swollen eyes, playing connect the dots with the blacks and blues he placed on her body like a treasure hunt
She searches for logic with every painful orgasm that leaves her battered vessel

-Carmen Mojica
Hija De Mi Madre – Carmen Mojica

My Pen and Poetry

I hold you tight between my fingers.
Caressing your every curve,
As my thoughts lead me down the path towards…release.
And now our love is spilled like ink across paper.
Scrawled out into fanciful wordplay, like foreplay, becoming all part of the experience.
And here we remain to begin again and again for as long as it takes for us to release that tension.
Not…sexual tension but mental tension.
For my love for you begins with your ability to seem to read my mind,
As my thoughts leave your mouth faster than I can even think the things I think.
I often wonder why I treat you like my other woman
When my other woman is nothing but paper thin and ruled by her college expectations.
And with that you must realize that those long nights spent embracing you,
As my hand explores your every curve and as i stroke your every line.
You dot my every “i” and cross my every “t”.
I love you forever more,
And you, you complete me

-Showtime: The FlyyGuy

That DAMNED Guitar

My heart strings
Were once strummed
By the fingers of an ebony angel
Like that old beat up guitar you used to play
Now my heart strings lay covered in dust and discarded
No longer feeling the out-pour of heavenly melody
That once used to flow down those magnificent fingers of ebony
Like that old beat up guitar you used to play
That now sits next to my heart strings
In the corner, collecting dust
Hoping and praying that one day
Those ebony angel’s elegant fingers
Will one day pour the melody of a seraph over them once again
But unlike that old beat up guitar you used to play
My heart strings can be restored and renewed
But they won’t, they will no longer be used by any cherubim
In heaven nor hell never will these heart strings play
The lovely tunes that were once played on that old beat up guitar

-Showtime: The FlyyGuy

Freedom

Freedom (written May 12, 2010)

a shattered dream
the deafening silence
my soul cried out
you answered with violence

your words cut deep
and your lies left me bruised
turning in circles.
manipulated. confused.

‘marriage is hard’
is what they all said
yet none of them spent
a single night in my bed

you’d have to walk in my shoes
to see how it felt
then you might understand
the shitty hand I’d been dealt

time eases all
but the memories stay
little did i know
you’d fuck around and betray

the trust that i gave
the respect from my core
and piss it all away
inside a home-wrecking whore

i gave you my soul,
my love and my heart
and you were content
to tear them apart

I’m lucky I left
and I knew I was done
only a spineless coward
makes threats with a gun

how the hell did I get here?
the path seemed so clear
swallowed up by the pain
paralyzed by the fear

in your greed and desperation
your blind eyes failed to see
this lioness’ transformation
her spirit was set free

my strength and my freedom
are what kept me alive
this soul knows the answers
to overcome and survive

my heart is still beating
my self worth is restored
lessons learned, not repeating
a new life, my reward

jaded and bitter,
i won’t let myself be
i’ll just hold the next man
to a higher degree

in the end, all is well
I’m safe and I’m sound
freed from that jail cell
a beauty unbound

~Corrin Ordner

Peace. I want to welcome you to the Ocean Ana Rising family.  We’ve just started our blog.  And though we’ve been around since 2005, we’re expanding our community, hoping that you will find this space familiar and free.  We want to share this forum with you, because we believe that it is crucial for us to build global forums for critical conversation and creativity.  But first I want to let you all know a little about Ocean Ana Rising, how we got started and what we hope to share with you through this blog.

In 2004, I was writing “Gutta Beautiful,” a play that began as a personal journey toward healing from the hard-core ills of urban life in this nation.  I’d been troubling home and love after surviving a family member’s substance abuse addiction and its impact on many lives.  The personal fall-out was intense: spiritual, emotional, and economic instability; layers of scar-tissue I didn’t even realize existed, and a soul-rocking scavenger hunt for myself.  In the process of writing my way out of all of that, I took a journey to Ghana with one of my closest friends from college, Roslyn Satchel Augustine.  During that journey, we visited the dungeons used to hold enslaved Africans hostage as they were forced to wait for ships to carry them over the Atlantic to what would become the Americas.  Inside those dungeons, the spirits of our ancestors cried, moved, and demanded my attention.  While I felt deep sorrow for the intense strife born during their capture and Middle Passage, I also recognized the undeniable strength of a people who would eventually build many countries on the Western hemisphere.  I took that experience and lesson back home with me, and it became a spark that set off a fire of infinite fortitude and love.

When I returned to Washington, DC, I continued writing “Gutta Beautiful.”  At the same time, my mother, Janis James Mercer, began the process of researching our family’s history.  She was able to trace her mother’s lineage from Birmingham, Alabama to East Asia, the United Kingdom, and the Yoruba people of Nigeria.  One of the most poignant stories she collected from family elders in Birmingham was about a woman they lovingly called Ocean Ana; she was given that name because she was born to her mother while on one of those ships transporting enslaved Africans over the Atlantic Ocean during the Middle Passage.

When I realized that I would need to produce “Gutta Beautiful” for an audience, I was also faced with the urgent need to incorporate a non profit organization to birth the production and support the team we would need to develop for the project’s success.  And in determining what the name of that organization would be, I thought about Ocean Ana, my ancestor and her lineage, and the countless others from whom we have all descended.  I thought about the endurance, persistence, and creativity they had to maintain to survive and thrive on this side of their crossing over.  I recalled the energy I felt in the dungeons of Elmina and Cape Coast, Ghana, and how that energy helped to inspire me to push forward in my life, connecting me more intimately to the continuum of rebirth and communal uplift that has been our ancestors’ greatest gift to us all.  And I decided that I wanted the non profit organization to bear the name and mission of that collective legacy, its tenacity and deep-rooted love.  I knew then that Ocean Ana Rising would help to birth many artistic projects by emerging and seasoned artists, responding to the global need to sustain the lives and stories of women of color in the tradition of our ancestral mothers.

Since our first production in 2005, OAR has continued producing theatrical productions, film & digital media projects, and outreach workshops.  We have collaborated with D.C. Crime Victims Compensation Unit, Barrios Unidos-Virginia Chapter, The Gathering for Justice, Betty’s Daughter Arts Collaborative, Brecht Forum NYC, and the Amnesty International Human Rights Arts Festivals. And we have worked with countless amazing artists! As we continue to move forward as an organization, our work expands, and so does our community.  This blog is part of that growth.  We want to extend the opportunity to tell (y)our stories while building a stronger community bond in the process, opening up a forum for us to share our lives, transcending our differences.  We know that silence is never an option in a world that often seems heavily weighted against our testimony, beauty, and transformation in the face of global tensions. We also believe that when space is opened for the voices of women of color, we will ALL get free.  So, we welcome you to take the mic, the stage, and the page here on this blog no matter your cultural and ethnic origins, or your gender.  Our intimate and global healing depends on empowered diversity and the ability to let real talk happen and share vision beyond our historic divides.  This mission belongs to all of us; it is love; it is our legacy in perpetual motion.  Let’s build!

In the spirit of love forever becoming and our healing,

Nina Angela Mercer, OAR Founder and Executive Director