The Smoke Liles and Jade Arts Initiative by photographer, Gabriel BienczyckiFeb 5th, 2009 | By | Category: Dance On Film
Photography by Zebra Visual, Gabriel Bienczycki
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The Smoke, Lilies and Jade Arts Initiative (SLJ) was conceived by Artistic Director Zane Booker, in 2004, when he returned to Philadelphia from touring the globe as a world class performer with such companies as; Netherlands Dance Theater, Les Ballet De Monte Carlo and Mikail Baryshnikov’s White Oak Dance Project. Through Booker’s experiences abroad, he became aware of America’s lack of tolerance for issues concerning race, gender and HV/AIDS.
SLJ, established in 2006, is a socially conscious, multi-media dance theater production company dedicated to educating and exploring experiences of the African American Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community. Through the use of dance, spoken word, and film SLJ is designed to provide education, services and support to organizations that assist those affected by HIV/AIDS.
SLJ maintains a great conviction that the arts can: (1) make a tremendous impact on the culture of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered (LGBT) and African-American communities, (2) serve as a tool to bring awareness to caustic global ills such as HIV/AIDS (3) stimulate the imagination and creativity, (4) nurture the values of cultural diversity.
The company is in a position of tremendous growth as we develop our organizational infrastructure. The Greater Phildelphia Urban Affairs Coalition (GPUAC) has been a firm partner as our fiscal sponsor and has given us a podium to implement our programming. Our Executive/Artistic Director,along with our advisory committee and strong volunteer base, are prepared to carry out all projects.
Proclaimed as one of “25 to Watch”for 2007 in Dance Magazine, the article announced SLJ’s highly successful first evening length production “Ebony, Beige and Bronze: The Philadelphia Show” that premiered April 2007 at the New Freedom Theater. Thus far, “Ebony, Beige and Bronze” has been focused on African-American LGBT men. Included in the three-act show is an artistic performance juxtaposed by a documentary film entitled “The Madness Chile”. The process that began with interviews, to create spoken word/monologues has become a lengthened and fascinating study of people and their environments. The documentation includes important history of African American men who reside in Philadelphia and who have made an impact on the LGBT community such as; Tyrone Smith, long time gay activist and the founder of Unity, a nonprofit black gay service organization, formed to deal with the Aids crisis and Ramon Flowers, the first black male dancer to join the Pennsylvania Ballet, among many more.
This project is a yearly production produced to create a powerful tribute to the African-American LGBT community whose lives have been claimed by AIDS. This venture is a way to speak directly to this population. SLJ’s intent is to delve even further into the basic sub-culture of the LGBT society.
Also, SLJ and The Attic Youth Center, (The Attic), Philadelphia’s only agency exclusively serving LGBT youth, conduct a twelve week program of dance workshops. The workshops offer instruction in a semi-formal environment and introduces the skills of choreography, which expose the youth to dance as an occupation. The Attic encourages and supports a process for youth leadership, which validates the efforts of LGBT youth to take personal responsibility for their lives and communities.
The goal is to offer The Attic youth an avenue to tell their stories through movement while raising awareness of the current HIV/AIDS epidemic that disproportionately affects their communities. The workshops will also provide opportunities for mentorship, intergenerational dialogue and interaction in a safe environment through arts and culture for these youth. The target is to have these youth bring a friend and create an infectious dialogue through the culture that they live in. These youth, who range from 14-21 years of age, will be able to maximize this opportunity as an outlet to express their stories.
In addition, SLJ hosts a studio performance and panel discussion every January to open up conversation within and beyond the LGBT community that presenting Dance Theater can inspire social consciousness and responsibility, as it relates to HIV/AIDS. In 2007, The Importance and Power of Using the Arts to Make Social Commentary panel discussion was a huge success. It was attended by the International Federation of Black Prides (IFBP) who hosted their annual conference in Philadelphia at the same time. We plan to cultivate this relationship in coordination with the president of IFBP Earl Fowlkes and utilize it for potential promotion. Over 200 people attended our 2007 studio performance and panel discussion.
In January 2008, we completed our 2nd annual studio performance and panel discussion, A Genius Generation Lost to HIV/AIDS. This event combined resources from organizations including; University of the Arts, Black LGBT Archivist Society of Philadelphia, The Attic Youth Center, Aids Activities Coordinating Office and Dance Advance. This socially conscious event included free testing for HIV/AIDS, condom distribution, a special exhibit by The Gay Archivists Society, dance and musical performances, as well as a panel discussion. The panelists included, George Faison, Obediah Wright, Jaye Allison, and Tyrone Smith, Charles Anderson and Rev. Jeffrey Haskins who educated about this devastating illness through sharing their personal stories of artists or loved one lost to HIV/AIDS. This momentous event annually is dedicated and will directly educate, entertain and explore the experiences of the African-American LGBT community.