“What role does collective prayer have and how can it inspire our healing?” This is the driving question behind Patrisse Cullors’s upcoming performance this Saturday, June 13. It is the inaugural event of Pride at the Fowler Museum.
There are many ways to talk about Cullors and her achievements. She is, together with Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, one of the three women who founded the Black Lives Matter movement. She is the founder of the nonprofit Dignity and Power Now, and is behind significant prison reforms, including the stopping of a $3.5-billion jail expansion plan in Los Angeles and the ballot initiative to replace another jail with a mental health hospital for inmates. She is also a performance artist.
Cullors, who originally trained as a dancer, sees her work as an artist and activist as intertwined. Last year, when she graduated with an MFA from USC Roski, she told the Los Angeles Times that performance gives her “a sense of agency.” She elaborated, “I get to dictate how the world sees me and what they see me doing, what they hear me saying, or feeling. And oftentimes, we don’t get to make those choices. As black people, choices are made for us, and often it leads to deadly consequences.”
The Fowler performance will be “a public act of mourning,” grounded in a prayer that Cullors co-wrote with artist Damon Turner after 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery was killed by racially motivated white vigilantes earlier this year while simply jogging outside. “This piece takes us through ritual, prayer, and ancestry,” Cullors says of the upcoming performance. “Black death, trauma, and pain are age-old crises. Our bodies have been used as sacrifice. How do we manage?”
The performance will be followed by a talk-back with Melinda Abdullah, founder of the Los Angeles chapter of Black Lives Matter and the former Chair of Pan-African Studies at California State University, Los Angeles. The two women will exchange thoughts on grief, healing, and the experience of Black motherhood in the United States.
“If all lives matter, we would not need a hashtag Black Lives Matter,” Cullors said back in 2015. “And if all lives matter, then you’re going to fight like hell for Black lives.”
In addition to this urgent performance, Pride at the Fowler will also feature an introductory dance class on AfrikFusion/VogueAfrik and a conversation “tracing queer Angeleno artists’ contributions to contemporary art.”
When: Saturday, June 13, 12–1pm (PDT)