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I've been thinking a lot lately about how narratives are spun and delivered—who controls what narratives, and how the origin and relevance of narratives cause harm or support health and increase understanding and compassion.

Some incredible stories by, for, and about Black life and experiences are being told right now.

Tonya Mosley, co-host of NPR's Fresh Air and former Seattle journalist, has produced one of the most compelling and stunning stories about the family she didn't know she had, who finds her to help solve the crime of her sister's death. She Has A Name podcast is expertly produced and captivating. Tonya is a top storyteller and she has brought new light to the craft of owning a narrative in seven engrossing episodes.

The stories of Black artists and makers in the Pacific Northwest have been, and continue to be preserved through the Black Arts Legacies project, hosted by Crosscut. Four years ago, a small group of people had an idea about how to elevate and hold tight, the history of Black contributions to the cultural significance of a place like Seattle. Having been involved in the origins of this project, I'm excited to have been the subject of a recent podcast episode that speaks to its history. The storytellers involved in Black Arts Legacies have taken true care to tell these precious narratives not about, but with, each subject. The voices of those profiled can now live on, allowing each to be the owner of their story.

Father and son team Rick and Marques DuPree have embraced the story of Seattle's Chapter of the Black Panther Party, and with co-founders Aaron and Elmer Dixon have dedicated themselves to producing a documentary film, Seattle Black Panthers, Fight for Justice and Freedom. Acknowledging the existence of multiple such documentaries on the Panthers, this team of father and son, and two brothers have come together to tell their very specific and unique story about the origins of the Seattle Chapter and goals of the party which were centered on self-defense and empowerment. One of the more compelling elements of this story is the influence and encouragement the Dixon brothers received from their activist and artistic parents.

The current exhibit on view in the ARTE NOIR gallery, Parallel Perspectives weaves together a history of the sacred Indigeneity of people and calculations that predate the formalities of science. The swag of apparel design and the beauty of sacred geometry featured in the gallery tell stories of Black evolution and Black futurism. The Artist L.Haz and Wolf Delux, the two artists featured in this show, have spun imaginative visions for Black people and locate us wherever we can imagine ourselves in the future.

In our last issue, Sharon Nyree-Willams wrote about the then-upcoming production of The Lion Tells His Tale. The title comes from an African proverb, "Until the lion tells the story, the hunter will always be the hero."

Controlling the narrative of our lives is taking center stage these days, and we are encouraging that not all of the stories have to be about trauma and oppression. Even when sad stories are being told, we know that laughter is often inherently present. This is especially true when we are the lions telling our own stories. Listen to Tonya's podcast and try not to smile when laughter erupts during some of her conversations discussing the disappearance and death of her sister.

Over the next few months, ARTE NOIR is focusing on Black Thought for Black Futures. Generously supported by The Maven Collaborative, this is a series of programs and activations that encourage forward and future thinking, and the creation of new narratives about Blackness. These programs are designed to celebrate and advance the well-being of the Black community through the arts. The Maven Collaborative is dedicated to fully dismantling gender and racial inequality within our economy. ARTE NOIR has partnered in this venture as we strive to create an expanded economy for Black artists.

To accomplish our goals and to see ourselves fully in the future, our narratives must reflect the fullness of who we are. We see it happening everywhere we look and what is becoming the norm will only become better!

A performance at the Parallel Perspectives exhibit opening on May 18, 2024.

Vivian Phillips, Founder + Board President


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