As we build towards the future we want, we witness it manifesting around us right now.
Here are a few local things I am celebrating at the moment:
On the day before the Vance Monument starting coming down (a “the future is now” moment for sure), Vice’s United States of i-D, “a series in celebration of diverse communities, scenes and subcultures across America,” released an article and a video (produced by Moses Sumney) about the “underground art and music scene” in Asheville, of which Different Wrld is a catalyst.
Excerpt from the article:
“Asheville has been known as an arts city for a long time, but also has a long history of rendering life largely unlivable for marginalized people. We’re known as a destination arts and beer city, but with this prestige comes a pattern of hiding what might be upsetting or uncomfortable for tourists: poor public housing, chronic homelessness, and the widening wealth gap, to name a few. The arts scene to which tourists are funneled might look like fancy galleries, gift shops, etc. The communities I’m a part of are built in response to these spaces not speaking to us, being for us, or platforming intersectional artists. There are new communities making an organized effort to carve out spaces for inclusivity and safety with a touch of mutual aid, and that’s a real bright spot in Asheville.” ~ Annelise Kopp
And the beautiful, beautiful video:
In 2018 I wrote an article for Mountain Xpress about Slay the Mic, Broadcast ‘Slay the Mic’ spotlights Asheville’s black community and culture. For founders and DJs Alexis Wardlaw and Elizabeth Lashay Garland, Slay the Mic has been more than just a radio show on Asheville FM, it has been a way to build visibility and synergy for and among Black artists in Asheville, particularly musicians. This year, the Slay the Mic duo and their team have launched WBMU JAMZ radio station on the TunedIn Radio app, with an expanding roster of great live programming.
For folks who grew up in Asheville, you might remember the original WBMU radio station, whose founder Jim Robinson is part this re-launch. As a post on the WBMU JAMZ Instagram page shares, “In April of 1974, there came to the city of Asheville a Radio Station located at 91.3 on the FM radio dial with the call letters WBMU-FM, the music of a people…Black people. That Black owned, Black operated Radio Station’s sole purpose was to address the informational and musical needs of the Black community in this Western North Carolina city with pride and unity! The call letters WBMU said it all…’Where Black Means Unity.'” Sometimes the positive past is part of the future.
Asheville Racial Justice Coalition
While I’ve written about them before, I want to highlight the Asheville Racial Justice Coalition again, as their organizing is filling an previously unmet need in our community. “The Racial Justice Coalition (RJC) is a broad-based alliance of individuals and organizations committed to addressing systemic racism and state-sanctioned violence against Black people and those most impacted by poverty, criminalization, and mass incarceration. Through grassroots-led organizing and community collaborations, the RJC seeks to achieve and sustain deep equity by building power to those historically underrepresented, dismantling policies and institutions that uphold racism, and reimagining a community where justice exists for all people.”
RJC has volunteers following City and County government, and has been putting out very helpful calls to action, such as their latest calling for the City of Asheville to vote at their June 8th meeting to Fund Reparations Now. That link also includes advocacy on the city budget which will be voted on later in the month, I believe.
Visit rjcavl.org to sign up for their email list.
In the future we want, we remember the lessons of the past, and celebrate liberation. To that end, there are multiple Black-led events happening in Asheville in honor of Juneteenth. There will be Juneteenth Celebration event at Martin Luther King Jr. Park from noon until 8 on Saturday, June 19 (this is a larger version of an annual event that has been held in Hillcrest), GRIND Fest is June 18 – 20, and the James Vester Miller Walking Trail launch on Saturday June 19 at 1 pm at the YMI (29 Eagle Street). Buncombe County even declared Juneteenth a holiday for their employees. Together, this feels like a new day. I also hope that we can can start to acknowledge our own “Juneteenth” – as April 26 of the same year as Juneteenth (1865) was the day enslaved people in Asheville were finally emancipated (thanks to the Asheville Blade for their story about that history).
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