Baltimore’s Artful Activism Summit marked both the kick-off of the puppet and prop-making for our participation play on Our Harbor Day and the first of hopefully many summits that the Backbone Campaign will be facilitating in communities across the country. Thanks to the Nathan Cummings Foundation, Bill Moyer, Steffon Moody and Chris Lutter from the Backbone Campaign were able to fly to Baltimore and spend four days with the United Workers and allies to develop the imagery, the storyboards, props, puppets, and music for all four plays.
Over the course of the four days, we transformed a drab warehouse space into a bustling puppet factory. The “education” play churned out dozens of graduation caps and gowns, along with a beautiful school backdrop created by Steffon. The “earth” play rehearsed their magical harbor fairy tale with their very own orchestra, the Barage Band. The “work” play worked out the details on how to simply retell the Baltimore’s harbor labor history from industrialization to the rise of the service sector economy through the wonderful use of canta historia. And last but not least, the star of the final act, Harriet Tubman, is beginning to be resurrected in the form of a beautifully rendered puppet.
On Saturday night, after a long day of prop-making, we held an Artist Show & Tell, so we could learn more about the incredible talented people involved in Our Harbor Day. Janelle Treibitz shared work from an amazing DC based puppetista collective that she works with called the Puppet Underground. Valeska Populoh showed images of her work ranging from humorous interventions in public space to imaginative drawings and collages. We learned more about the individual artistic talents of Chris and Steffon. We heard spoken word, songs, and music from Ryan Harvey, Anna Simmons, Eli Cohen, and Katie Lautar. The night was completed with the newly formed Michael Coleman and Shannon Gillette drumming duo.
But we did not simply build puppets, we built community power through sharing stories, lessons, skills, and experiences. We have reinspired ourselves to tell the people’s history of human rights struggles. With only a month away and still much to do, we are emboldened by Tubman’s story to keep going.
To learn more about the Backbone Campaign, visit http://backbonecampaign.org/