The American Assembly announces its first cohort of Assembling Voices fellows!

 
 

We at The American Assembly (TAA) are pleased to announce our first cohort of Assembling Voices fellows!

Khadijah.jpeg

J. Khadijah Abdurahman is the founder of We Be Imagining, an initiative applying the Black radical tradition to developing public interest technology. Through the Assembling Voices fellowship, Khadijah will continue to bridge siloed disciplines and activists, using art, technology, and community networks to combat harmful systems of surveillance, exclusion, and exploitation. Khadijah will organize a series of events in Brownsville, Brooklyn to support political education, organizing, and mutual aid with those most impacted by the New York City Administration for Children’s Services (NYC ACS). These events will support a community-designed mural celebrating Black family life and abolition of the Family Regulation System.

Asha Boston.jpg

Asha Boston, a filmmaker, and storyteller from Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, has spent her career exploring and documenting the history of Black neighborhoods struggling to retain their culture and self-sufficiency amid gentrification through her film project, A Time Before Kale. With support from Assembling Voices, she plans to expand on this work through a series of peer-to-peer storytelling workshops that teach residents of Bedford-Stuyvesant to digitally collect, preserve, and archive pictures, oral histories, and artifacts of their life in this neighborhood. By gathering residents in trusted spaces, the workshops also provide sites to coordinate resistance against rising rents, predatory development, and other threats to neighborhood  stability.

Kisha:Jasmin 2.png

Through the Winston-Salem Portrait Project, JCKB Studios (artist/organizer Jasmin Chang and photographer/ storyteller Kisha Bari) developed a new model for intercommunity exchange: they brought together activists and leaders from across Winston-Salem to participate in workshops, and placed them into pairs to learn one another’s stories and take portrait photographs of each other, which were then displayed in public art installations around the city. Chang and Bari now seek to expand on that model in New York City, by systematically identifying and connecting community activists and representatives across boroughs and issue spaces, creating pathways through which skills, experiences, and resources may flow.


These fellows’ initiatives combine mediums to meet audiences where they are, identify community-defined needs, and encourage sustained involvement. Through their use of such interactive, accessible mediums and their reliance on community members and trusted messengers, these programs redefine expertise, deepen understandings of pernicious social problems, and refine strategies for action and resilience. Though the programs are based in New York City, they confront issues of national relevance and offer inspired models to replicate elsewhere.

“With this fellowship, we hoped to expand and reimagine notions of who produces knowledge, how trust is built, and why assembly matters. These remarkable fellows and the initiatives they have proposed bring this ethos to fruition through art, education, dialogue, and activism. We couldn’t be more thrilled to assist them in this work, to learn from them in the process, and to see the impact of these community-centered approaches to addressing social problems,” said Peter Bearman, President of The American Assembly.

“The fellows were selected not only for their respective visions, but for the potential for intracohort learning and collaboration. Each member brings unique skillsets and experiences that become assets to all involved, as they seek to bridge communities, preserve histories, and address injustices and inequities here in New York City,” said Executive Director Michael Falco. 

The fellowship will encourage and facilitate these exchanges through regular seminars, designed around the fellows’ own identified needs, in which they will be able to share their initiatives-in-progress, engage in professional and educational development, and build connections between themselves, their communities and partners, INCITE/TAA, and the institutional resources of Columbia University. 

The fellowship will launch officially on September 1 of this year. Keep an eye on our website or subscribe to our mailing list to stay up to date on these projects as they unfold in the coming months!