On Radical Expression

January 10, 2016

My given name is Queen Nefertiti Shabazz.

 

My social names include: Underrepresented. Black. Woman.

 

The labels of my social position have a paradoxical power of simultaneously uplifting and debilitating.

 

Roughly ten years ago, my social identity as an “at-risk youth” was silencing. I had no audience to talk about the struggles of growing up in a single parent household. No one knew that the “at-risk” experience featured 40 minute BART rides, from Berkeley to San Francisco, just so that I could get to school every day. I wanted to vocalize my experience as a young person growing up in the Bay Area, California, because I knew no one really understood the depth of being “at risk.” When I sought refuge in arts organizations, I learned the power of my voice, my expression, and my beliefs.

Self-expression names a person’s strength, the manifestation of all they possess. A person’s creativity functions as a window to that person’s perspective of whom they are and why they are. To me, and since childhood, self-expression means writing and performing. Cultural production is the catalyst affirming my identity, the radical part of me no one would otherwise know. Throughout my experience working with non-profit organizations, as both a participant and facilitator, my interests to share this radical expression have consumed me. I have aspired to encourage other young people from San Francisco, South Berkeley, Oakland, and other communities to arise from the margins, using creativity as a tool for radical self-expression to achieve self-actualization. 

Radical self-expression saves lives. The exchange of experiences, narratives, and perspectives, broadens worldviews, and liberates us all of the positions society forces upon us all. As both a participant and facilitator, my interests to share expression, a manifestation of divine creativity, have consumed me. I have aspired to encourage other young people from South Berkeley, Oakland, and other global communities to arise from the margins, using creativity as a tool for self-actualizing achievement.

 

I want to hear the stories and perspectives of young people who were told they would not live long enough to form a single narrative. I want to hear the exchange of narratives between people of varying beliefs and social identities. I want to hear our global community engage in dialogues that inform and uplift. While not every person identifies as a storyteller or literary artist, every person has an experience that offers a chapter in the story of the world.

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In the course of my worldly work, I found a solution for my desires of radical expression. Radical Cards is an interactive multicultural card game and tool that encourages verbal, visual, and performative self-expression. Inspired by approaches in expressive arts therapy and the concept of Critical Consciousness presented by Paulo Freire, Radical Cards builds radical friendships by bringing out the truths the experiences that connect us all. I have played the Radical Game with roughly 500 people in California, Rhode Island, New York, Massachusetts, Tanzania, Dominican Republic, and Mexico. The playfulness of the game keeps people wanting to express. So, my plan is to keep the game going.

 Queen is pictured in this final Radical Card (left)

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Pachaysana Executive Director, Daniel Bryan, has been mentoring Queen and the Radical Cards project for the last year. Here he offers some words related to this blog entry:

 

"As we have said so many times over the first years of Pachaysana's existence, if we truly want to bring about change in our world, we must first practice the philosophy and tools needed to bring about that change, or we must Rehearse Change. Queen's life and work, dedicated to a vision of "radical expression," have provided us with an incredible tool for practicing social change. I am grateful to have played a small role in the development of her Radical Cards venture and we at Pachaysana cannot recommend them highly enough for your education, arts and activist work."

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