Announcing the Louisiana World Makers Awards

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We believe that being a culturally rooted Louisiana artist can be a radical act. We believe that resourcing artists and culture bearers to do their work in Louisiana is absolutely essential to the wellbeing — cultural, social, political, communal, spiritual, and ecological — of Louisiana. In order to create a more just Louisiana, we must ensure that artists and culture bearers, especially those who are born and raised in Louisiana, have the ability to stay and thrive in their communities.

 

Following a competitive open call and peer review panel process, Foundation for Louisiana’s inaugural round of arts and culture grantmaking, the Louisiana World Makers Awards, has been awarded. 32 Louisiana artists, cultural workers and tradition bearers across the state of Louisiana will receive a total of $320,000 in unrestricted funds to support the visionary creative work that helps point our communities toward justice while explicitly identifying artists and culture bearers as critical to liberation work throughout the state.

 

The World Makers awards will support a broad array of creative disciplines of those whose artistic and cultural work addresses climate impacts, mass incarceration, cultural memory and legacy, or displacement and erasure of Black and Indigenous communities. Over 360 artists applied for this first-time opportunity from FFL. Priority was given to Black artists, Indigenous artists, and artists of color born, raised, and/or with generational ties to Louisiana. Additional priority was given to elder artists and culture bearers, and transgender and gender-nonconforming artists and culture bearers.

 

Our panelists for the World Makers awards brought rich collective experience and perspective on Louisiana arts and culture to the review process and sought out visionary work with the ability to transform our sense of what other worlds are possible. Our intergenerational World Makers panel was diverse in artistic and cultural practices, as well as race, gender, and geographic roots within Louisiana. Our panelists were (alphabetical by last name): Jeffery Darensbourg, Desiree Evans, Nathalie Nia Faulk, Cherice Harrison-Nelson, Gerri Hobdy, Fernando Lopez, Nana Anoa Nantambu, Kristina Kay Robinson, and Monique Verdin.

 

Our inaugural 2021 Louisiana World Makers are:

 

 Adella Adella The Storyteller, New Orleans

Spanning 50 years of practice, Adella Adella The Storyteller’s creative work encourages collecting and preserving Black traditions through storytelling and theater. Ms. Adella will complete two documentary storytelling projects with her award. The first A Headful of Stories and Dreams is a bio-documentary on the generational impact of Adella Adella The Storyteller on Orleans and surrounding parishes. The second is based on interviews of members of the New Orleans Black Panther Party who were arrested and incarcerated by NOPD in the Desire Housing Project in 1970. Now in their seventies, the members need to give voice to the injustices they have endured and a deep need to record their stories.

 

Artist Journey Allen, New Orleans

Artist Journey Allen will pursue her children's book/animated motion picture project, an original New Orleans fairytale that features text and beautifully hand-drawn illustrations that speak to the culture of New Orleans while also offering historical context to the controversial events that unfolded in the wake of the covid19 pandemic where many Americans rallied in favor of dismantling confederate monuments following the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. With a theme dedicated to youthful imagination, adults are invited to have conversations about race and social justice with their young children in a context where the topic can easily be embraced.

 

Black Life Response Collective, New Orleans

Black Life Response emerged out of the SONG new Orleans chapter in the wave of worldwide uprisings against violence towards Black lives and bodies. With community, Black Life Response co-creates altar spaces and rituals that are publicly created and curated spaces for remembrance, reflection, & celebration. By tending community altars and ritual spaces,  Black Life Response taps into lineages and traditions of memorials and mutual aid within the city, disrupts the white-washing of Black and Creole neighborhoods, and claims space for affirming Black Life. Black Life Response will build on this work by initiating a week-long Black TGNC Artist/Organizers Residency. The residency will provide space for Black TGNC+ artists to create and share work, and reinvigorate their spirits. It will support their daily survival and invest in them as artists and change-makers.

 

Bvlbancha Collective, Bvlbancha

Bvlbancha Collective is a mutual aid, medicine, traditional craft, and activist collective whose art mediums include plant relationality, mutual aid as embodied practice, poetry, weaving, basket-making, linocut/block printing, comics, story-telling, bead and leather work. Bvlbancha Collective is planning a series of zines focused on their gardens and the revitalization of ancestral trade networks; creating a sustainable hide and fur supply for tanning and regalia; expanding ancestral medicine arts and providing Covid care packages to community; and deepening their work with elders to learn land-stewardship, basket-weaving, and traditional Gulf South plant dyeing methods. As a long-term accessibility initiative, they will record and livestream workshops and gatherings, in order to create a digital archive.

 

Christine "Cfreedom" Brown, New Orleans  

Christine "Cfreedom" Brown is a New Orleans photographer, filmmaker, and visual and performing artist committed to elevating the Black community and culture. She is an advocate for Black artists, businesses, and youth who works towards strengthening their relationships and economic growth within the Black community. One of Cfreedom's most recent projects is House NOT For Sale Nola, which fights gentrification, the displacement of native Black New Orleans artists, and the loss of historically Black spaces in New Orleans. She is also working on an on-going project called the Essence of N.O.W (New Orleans Women) that features and archives New Orleans women through photography, film, and event productions. 

 

 Cierra Chenier/ NOIR ‘N NOLA, New Orleans  

Through written articles, visual and collaborative projects, and poetry/narration, Cierra Chenier works to preserve the "history, culture, and soul of Black New Orleans" through her digital platform NOIR 'N NOLA and shares stories of Black New Orleans' past in connection to its impact on Black lives today. Through this work, Ms. Chenier amplifies Black Louisiana histories and defies their erasure. Ms. Chenier will build on this work through pursuing storytelling, individual, creative bodies of work through multiple mediums, access to resources and materials needed to conduct historical research, supporting self-published works, and expanding the reach and potential of her digital platform. Ms. Chenier is excited to continue to amplify the voices of the Black New Orleans community – particularly histories, contributions, challenges, resilience, and more.

 

Flagboy Giz, New Orleans

Flagboy Giz of the Wild Tchoupitoulas tribe of Black Masking Indians designs and creates handmade, unique suits that tell specific stories and pay tribute to New Orleans culture. His album Flagboy of the Nation debuted this year. He is also a member and the designer of the Prince of Wales Secondline Club, the second oldest social aid and pleasure club in New Orleans.

 

 Gian Francisco Smith, New Orleans

Gian Francisco Smith is a filmmaker, poet, organizer, and founder of the Black Film Festival of New Orleans, which provides support, leadership, and an audience for local Black filmmakers. Gian is currently working on several projects. A feature-length film and a narrative episodic series about the New Orleans artist community. Summer of 2021 he is preparing for a festival run with his most recently completed project, "The Possibility of Harriet", an extended short following a middle-aged lobbyist battling institutions of systemic oppression while her own substance use straddles the thin line between therapy and abuse. 

 

Greer E. Mendy, New Orleans

Greer E. Mendy is a dancer, choreographer, writer, founder of Tekrema Center for Art and Culture, a cultural arts organization dedicated to the maintenance, development and perseverance of African and African Diaspora art and culture, and author of Black Dance in Louisiana - Guardian of A Culture. Ms. Mendy’s life’s work has centered Louisiana’s African American social and political histories, spiritual retentions, and evolving cultural practices. Ms. Mendy is currently working on Black Dance in Louisiana’s second printing, and completing a written body of work that addresses the ethos of our artistic practices through the lens of art and identity.

 

Gregory Williams, Jr./ Hoodoo House, Baton Rouge and Shreveport

“Grits” follows the story of a Black, queer community surviving and thriving in the deep South. Set in Plaquemines, Louisiana, Grits tells the story of a Black, queer chosen family brought together by various hardships and struggles. “Grits” is a response to the lack of representation of Black queer life in the deep South. With equal parts Realness, Love, Sex, Strife, Church, and Family, Grits paints the true mosaic of Southern Black queer life. Hoodoo House is excited about creating new opportunities to tell Black queer Louisiana stories and hopes that Grits will pave the way for more projects featuring Black, queer Louisiana stories.

 

Herreast J. Harrison, New Orleans

Herreast J. Harrison is an 83-year-old quilter and beadworker whose work is rooted in the Black masking Indian tradition, and generational traditions passed between women. Currently, Mrs. Harrison creates beadwork embellished wall-hanging quilts and other narrative beaded creations that combine her family tradition of quilting with the beading learned from her late husband, Big Chief Donald Harrison, Sr. She also creates Carnival dress for her family and community rooted in the “Masking Indian” tradition. With grant funds, Mrs. Harrison will continue to create an inventory of original works to sell, including framed beaded images and wall hangings (small bead-embellished quilts). Mrs. Harrison will also ensure the Donald Harrison, Sr. Museum’s future as an institution that centers the core values of preservation, perpetuation, and presentation of African American indigenous cultural art expressions.

 

Jeremy Stevenson, Slidell

Jeremy Stevenson is the second chief of the Monogram Hunters Mardi Gras Indian tribe and has been active in the tradition for 30 years, through building and designing costumes, and teaching chanting, drumming, and dance to neighborhood youth and adults who want to learn the tradition. Mr. Stevenson is excited to continue this important legacy work and keep the tradition alive.  

 

Justin Cloud, New Orleans

As Chief of the Red Flame Hunters, Justin Cloud is the youngest Mardi Gras Indian Chief in New Orleans and is committed to keeping the tradition alive by teaching youth sewing and beading and passing down the traditional Indian songs and chants. The mission of the Red Flame Hunters Tribe Mardi Gras Indian Tribe is to preserve, promote and teach the traditions of the historically Black neighborhoods of New Orleans. The Red Flame Hunters teaches the traditions of the Black Masking Indians and Secondline Club Culture to local youth and gives them the opportunity to share the culture through performances and parades with the larger New Orleans community and beyond.  Now in their 12th year, the Red Flame Hunters are the oldest established youth-focused Mardi Gras Indian Tribe.

 

Karen Kaia Livers, New Orleans 

Actress and theater artist Karen Kaia Livers will launch Moments that Matter in Louisiana History, a theatrical video series that will bring to life historical figures, culture bearers, and moments of African-American Louisiana history on virtual platforms with an emphasis on connecting the past to the present.  This project will share the traditions, culture, and people that evolved out of the rich soil of Louisiana and engage viewers with questions and resources to encourage further research. All participants for the series are actors, storytellers, musicians, historians, educators, and culture bearers who have showcased these traditions and art forms for decades. Through Moments that Matter in Louisiana History we remember the past, help honor the present, and create a future.  

 

 Kelly Love Jones, New Orleans

Kelly Love Jones creates her own style of New Orleans Swag Music influenced by the traditional rhythms of the Second-Line, R & B, funk, and Indian heritage celebrates the lineage of New Orleans’ legendary artists and their traditions, and honors love, well-being, ancestry, family, tradition, and good times. Kelly is currently working on a musical compilation album called TRUST that centers self-love, healing, self-confidence, and pride in culture.

 

Larry Sanchez, Shreveport

Indigenous artist Larry Sanchez’s work combines traditional ancestral practices with his own present-day knowledge and perspective. He creates tribal art, drums, turtle rattles, medicine wheels, breast plates, and more, along with contemporary visual art pieces that speak to the native experience today. Mr. Sanchez is committed to keeping his traditions alive while creating a platform for generational healing.

 

 Mwalimu Gardens by Adia Heisser, New Orleans

Named after the artist’s grandfather, Mwalimu Johnson, who spent twenty years wrongfully incarcerated at Angola Prison, Mwalimu Gardens is a socially and ecologically beneficial landscape that draws upon Louisiana's eco-cultural history, innovative hydroponic technology, and green, stormwater-management infrastructure to promote cultural representation, healthy food access, and climate change adaptation. Mwalimu Gardens reflects Louisiana's own eco-cultural history and Creole culture, which is largely contingent upon a mutualistic relationship with land and waterways. The produce grown in Mwalimu Gardens will be entirely reflective of Louisiana's own cultural cuisines. Mwalimu Gardens will also serve as a community wellness hub and feature movement classes, arts activities, and culturally relevant cooking classes.

 

 Mwende 'FreeQuency' Katwiwa, New Orleans

What’s the MoveMe(a)nt (WtMM) is a documentary exploring the last century of Black organizing in Louisiana and highlights how Louisiana organizers have incorporated arts & cultural expression into resistance efforts. The project will have a special focus on organizing efforts in the last decade. WtMM will serve as a political education tool for organizers and community members and expand traditional narratives on what organizing is. WtMM also challenges the erasure of organizers with marginalized identities from Louisiana’s archive by mainstream media and traditional archivists by highlighting the contributions of LGBTQ+, migrant & rural organizers, and those at the intersection of those & other identities and experiences. WtMM will honor the cultural legacy of organizers in Louisiana and provide historical context for how Black Liberation movements form and sustain themselves in the container of community.

 

Nic Brierre Aziz, New Orleans  

Nic Brierre Aziz is a Haitian-American interdisciplinary artist and curator born and raised in New Orleans, LA. His current practice is deeply community-focused and rooted around the utilization of personal and collective histories to reimagine the future. With this project, Nic will explore the nuances and racialized histories of two of New Orleans’ most charged symbols: confederate monuments and the fleur-de-lis, and work to create new dialogues around erasure, honor, and legacy within our community. 

 

Randell Henry, Baton Rouge

Randell Henry is a painter, known for his African infused style of abstract/cubist style of paintings, mixed media works, and collages. Randell Henry is currently working on five large-scale paintings and three assemblage sculptures for exhibition in Baton Rouge that will allow onlookers to feel connected to the culture of African Americans. Mr. Henry will also conduct visual arts workshops and talks on art in the galleries where the works will be on exhibition, highlighting important artists across the state of Louisiana.

 

Robert Jones, New Orleans

Artist Robert Jones is a formerly incarcerated person who was wrongfully convicted and served a 23-year sentence. Mr. Jones will combine this lived experience with his art practice to launch Disregarded Black Boys, a collection of visual art and creative writing, with a deep community engagement component that will spark deep discussions, capture real stories, and create community-based solutions to end the mass incarceration of young Black and brown boys in Louisiana and provide solutions that can be used by stakeholders to implement change.

 

Ron Hardy, Shreveport  

Musician, percussionist, and instructor Ron Hardy’s artistic practice centers preserving and sharing the rhythms of the African diaspora, including those of the Caribbean and the Americas.  In the tradition of Congo Square, and creating spaces for the descendants of enslaved Africans to remember, connect, celebrate, and pass on traditions, Mr. Hardy is organizing a weekly drum gathering in Caddo Common Park in Shreveport, and establishing it as the drumming spot for Shreveport and North Louisiana, with the intention of creating a space where we can share what we all have in common - rhythm! 

 

Sacred Wellness, New Orleans

Sacred Wellness responds to the need for more holistic wellness reentry programs for women in New Orleans. Cohorts of formerly incarcerated women participate in workshops led by other formerly incarcerated people, a clinical psychologist, holistic healers, and artists. Through story circles, theater exercises, movement techniques, healing modalities, and clinical methods, participants will center their own experiences and gain tools of self-care, healing knowledge, and ancestral wisdom. At the end of the cohort, these women will present a performance that reflects the realizations and aspirations they experienced through participating in the program. The program expands on 20 years of work at the Louisiana Correctional Institution for Women, in particular with the performance group Graduates Rising. Sacred Wellness helps participants identify where they are in their decarceration challenges while building a sense that no matter where they are, they are valued and worthy.

 

Sage Michael Pellet, New Orleans

Sage Michael Pellet leads a community-driven effort to restore historic Lincoln Beach, an important cultural hub, in a way that honors its legacy and nature while improving the quality of life of our community, as well as our empowerment. A component of the restoration will include an open-air marketplace for local artists, cultural practitioners, and vendors.

 

Sha'Condria "iCon" Sices-Sibley, New Orleans

Sha'Condria "iCon" Sices-Sibley will convert her collection of poetry, My Name Is Pronounced Holy, into a one-woman multimedia production and sensory experience for audiences in New Orleans and her hometown of Alexandria, LA. My Name Is Pronounced Holy seeks to amplify the rich heritage of Black Louisiana culture—particularly the manner in which things are done based in religion, superstition, history, accessibility, and sheer environment. It will also explore the impact of both memory and forgetting, and (re)imagine a world where even the most “simple” everyday existence and actions (past and present) can transform both a people and the landscape. This work will honor a region - Central Louisiana - and a people whose stories are not always highlighted.

 

Sharita Sims, New Orleans

Sharita Sims is a writer, poet, performing artist, who curates spaces and opportunities for people to work on their wellness through writing and performance. Ms. Sims will collaborate with the members of the Scribe Tribe writing workshop to create a collection of writing to document the times, collective emotions, and spiritual well-being of New Orleans during a cultural renaissance, and speak to the role of artists and healers in modern-day New Orleans.

 

Shirell Parfait-Dardar, Chauvin

Shirell Parfait-Dardar serves as Chief of the Grand Caillou/Dulac Band of Biloxi Chitimacha Choctaw of coastal Terrebonne Parish. Chief Parfait-Dardar designs and creates American Indian Regalia, clothing, and crafts, which are inspired by the inherited cultural traditions of her tribal people. Chief Parfait-Dardar is excited about the opportunity to ensure her tradition is continued via teaching design and traditional dressmaking and will create educational videos which can be shared through virtual platforms. This will provide Chief Parfait-Dardar with the opportunity to educate the public on the traditions and practices of her Tribe.

 

Sistah Rfuaw Diarra, New Orleans

Sistah Rfuaw Diarra is a dance artist (African dance) and folk artist who practices Louisiana stripe quilting, bead weaving, and crochet works. Working with youth returning home from incarceration, and youth at risk of incarceration, Sistah Rfuaw will create Grandfather and Grandmother stories through quilting, teaching the art of storytelling through fabrics. Sistah Rfuaw will also launch "Daughters and Son of Africa" a youth dance, drumming, and poetry touring company.

 

Sokari Ekine, New Orleans

Sokari Ekine is a Nigerian British visual scholar and photographer centered on Black queer subjectivities and African and Diasporic spiritual practices. Sokari is currently working on “Altars: Black Ecologies of the Spirit,” a visual and textual intervention that addresses the making and significance of altars in the imagination and identities of Black queer people. Using visual imagery and conversations, the project explores how queer Black folks participate in African Diasporic spiritual practices through the creation of altars as models of resistance, recognizing that altars are central to Black people as a way of engaging with the past, present, and future of Black life.

 

Sunni Patterson, Algiers

Seeded in the experience of acquiring her great grandmother’s house that went up for auction in Algiers, poet, performer, and healer Sunni Patterson will pursue a production that sheds light on the often forgotten “history and mystery” of the Algiers community of New Orleans, with a particular emphasis on the Maroon community and “Free Town,” and the stories of worship and spirituality of the enslaved and the free people of the area. Through poetry, music, visual art, masking Indian tradition/culture, and intense prayer, Sunni will learn, inform, pay homage, and celebrate the African Presence and Black life of Algiers. As the faces of Algiers change, Sunni will document and re-tell stories of those who settled, lived, and cultivated this land and create a living, communal altar honoring and igniting Black presence and history in Algiers.

 

Terrance Simien, Lafayette

With an artistic practice spanning four decades, Zydeco musician and Creole culture bearer Terrance Simien is committed to passing down the tradition to future generations while elevating the long and complex history of Zydeco music in Louisiana and the many notable contributions of BIPOC musicians in the genre. While creating quality recordings, educating students and performing all over the world is paramount to his mission, Simien has also been intentional in his effort to ensure his culture and culture bearers are not erased. With support from the Louisiana Worldmakers grant, Mr. Simien will continue to create and share music, and also develop video and digital media content to ensure his work, as well as knowledge of the tradition and Louisiana Creole culture, is accessible to wider audiences, particularly during this time of pandemic.   

  

Ms. Vanessa Carr, New Orleans

Musician, vocalist, and Drag artist Ms. Vanessa Carr produces performances that educate about the history of Drag as a performance art while infusing stories around coming out as LGBT and non binary, and the bias that LGBTQ people face. Ms. Vanessa is currently working on a theatrical solo show and music collection featuring traditional New Orleans sounds that will catalog her personal story of  coming from a very traditional New Orleans Creole family, her trials as a young person, to growing up to be a loud and out voice for the LGBT community, and detail her many trials and triumphs along her journey to self-love and acceptance.

 

In the coming weeks, we are excited to share more about our process and learnings, as well as to continue to highlight the incredible work of our Louisiana World Makers. We commit to continue growing this body of work – we know that in these times of great upheaval, we must support visionary creative work that helps point our communities toward justice and liberation. 

This work was made possible with the generous support of the Kresge Foundation, the Surdna Foundation, and generous individuals who believe in the power of culture to create change. For additional information, please reach out to Maria Cherry Rangel, Director of Strategic Initiatives at mcrangel@foundationforlouisiana.org.

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