ame of Collective: Scopic
Project Name: PWR
Project Location: Brooklyn, NY
Material Presence: Community Org/ Storytelling/ Workshop/ Digital
Issue(s): Criminal Justice, Immigration, Race
Immigrants face many problems such as costly and lengthy asylum and residency procedures; low wages; and unfair work conditions. While seeking legal status immigrants may feel alienated; having to move through their daily lives in a form of secrecy. These issues strain the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities; making it harder to traverse the murky legal landscape required to prevent deportation or attain citizenship. Black immigrants are one of the fastest growing demographics in the United States and New York City. Difficulties in the immigration process are exasperated for Black immigrants who are disproportionately policed and deported.
PWR is a model for immigration reform that that uses personal narratives and targeted problem solving to activate a community and transform how we all experience the immigration process. PWR is a stylized abbreviation of the phrase “The power in the word, the rhythm in the word” which was used to define a revolutionary musical movement that grew out of Trinidad in the late 70’s in response to injustice and inequality against Black people.
PWR is a series of storytelling workshops for Black Immigrants in Brooklyn. Each workshop will use different technics to collect personal narratives that go beyond the immigration stories. By expanding one’s story beyond immigration as a “pain point, we gain a better understanding of how to maintain a healthy lifestyle outside of these problems and discover what other skills we have to cope with then.
At the beginning of each workshop participants will brainstorm and agree upon a storytelling technique. During each workshop we hope to build a sense of togetherness and fellowship; develop a shared diagnosis of needs and evaluate available resources. With permission, some stories will be recorded.
The collected stories will be archived on a website and used to create a collection of Black immigrant avatars; animated characters that are placed in augmented reality around New York. These avatars shall be viewable through a custom app and they will relay testimonials from workshop participants along with useful information for people who want to better understand the immigration process. Some of this information can be site specific; placed at court houses, detention centers, transportation hubs or places of employment. Use of apps and smartphones is important because a smartphone is the primary means of accessing the internet and sharing information for many immigrants who cannot initially obtain a laptop or internet access at home.
Workshops will take place in roving locations around Flatbush, Midwood and Crown Heights which are home to large Caribbean and African Immigrant populations. Local businesses like Island to Island Restaurant and Bar, Charlie's Record Shop and alternative locations will host each workshop. Community partners, like CaribBeing, will assist in securing locations for each workshop and attracting participants. Representatives from BAJI and other community organizations that provide targeted services will be available at each workshop to provide assistance to participants in need. Possible topics include mapping out the immigration process, exploring alternative bail bond fundraising strategies, job preparedness such as introduction to coding and app development.
This is an early stage project; our ultimate goals include immigration reform especially for Black immigrants to the US.This transformation includes: Working with local law enforcement to do away with broken window policing in favor of community controlled policing; partnering with organizations that focus on job placement, preparedness and skills training; increasing awareness and access to mental health and wellness programs for Black immigrants; reducing the partnerships and collaboration between ICE and local law enforcement; and raising funds to assist with immigrant bail bonds.
Scopic is the studio and research practice of artists living and working across the African diaspora. When combined with other words, the term “scopic” describes how something is seen and examined; artists in the Scopic collective look to writers such as Achebe, Ellison, Fanon, Hurston and Said to frame their analysis of the African diaspora today. Scopic uses hypervisibility to critique the visual and speculate on cultural production. They source sound and music from West African Afro-Beat to Trinidad’s Rapso to deep house and electronic music that originated in the clubs of New York, Chicago and Detroit to represent the cacophony of the diaspora voice.
Scopic members Eto Otitigbe and Zane Rodulfo are both first generation immigrants based in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn. Otitigbe is a US-born Nigerian-American and Rodulfo recently emigrated from Trinidad. The two met at NYFA’s Artist as Entrepreneur Bootcamp. Through an ongoing dialogue they were led to use the principles of socially engaged practice to address issues of inequity that were personal to them and systemic within their community.
The Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) is a racial justice and migrants’ rights organization that engages in education, advocacy, and cross-cultural alliance-building in order to end racism, mass criminalization, and economic disenfranchisement of African American and Black Immigrant communities.