This is a guest post by Marcella Camara.
To be transparent, I didn’t come up with the name “Freedom is Free” by myself. I take much pride in coining the name “Young, Gifted, and Broke,” but the credit for Freedom is Free lies in the hands of Mexican-American indie rock band Chicano Batman. It’s the name of their latest album and lead single.
One day while lying in bed their lyrics surrounded me.. “and while i’m on this earth, i’ll rejoice in its worth. Cuz Freedom is Free…and you can’t take that away from me.” They covered me like a blanket and spoke to me. The words were beautiful, while being seamlessly political, artful, and poignant. I knew that I would use that name and sentiment for a Young, Gifted, and Broke art show one day. Afterall, that sentiment was at the crux of this project that I started a year ago this week.
Young, Gifted, and Broke is a cultural arts initiative and pop up art show that centers artists of color at the intersection of wellness and community. The goal is to reframe how and where we view and access art, as well as use art as a tool for sustaining community. That’s usually what I say when people ask about the project.
But truly, YGB is my baby. It started years ago as my Tumblr blog, where I’d post and repost thoughts about black girlhood, art, pop culture, and self care. It was rebirthed last year in honor of my 25th birthday in a completely different format. I wanted to host a pop up art show to not only bring my friends and community together, but to create the type of social spaces I want to exist in Durham.
As a Durham native, I always saw the magic of this city. While so many of my friends and outsiders critiqued the landscape of this land, I knew and still know what it’s capable of…what it is and can be…what it reproduces when honored and nurtured. When I returned here after college at the end of 2014, I was excited about the spaces people of color were creating in spite of (and in tandem with) the rapid gentrification. Open mics, festivals, art gallery’s…people were reshaping what the art world and social scene looked like in the city. But still so much of that centered whiteness and capitalism.
I wanted more spaces for black folks and other people of color. All kinds of spaces, created for us by us. So on June 16th, 2017, two days after my birthday, I curated and hosted the first pop up show at The Mothership one street away from the house that I grew up in. A collection of curated work by Black and Mexican artists adorned the walls. Local sound artists Brynn and Trandle performed music sets. There were a couple vendors and the door fee was sliding scale to make it accessible to most people. While sitting on couches in a garage drinking beer, wine, and malt liquor dozens of attendees took in intricate works of art created by some of the most talented people that call North Carolina home.
The first show was packed, some folks traveling as far as Charlotte to get there. I remember looking around the gallery space as people vibed and talked about art, and just feeling full. Feeling free. This was the type of space I wanted to consistently create and these are the people I wanted to bring together. This wasn’t just an art show, but a community healing space. Art doesn’t have to live on white gallery walls or center the experiences of the most powerful. Sometimes, it is a young woman, sick of being invisibilized, sending text and DM’s to local artists bringing them together for an art show in a garage.
So here we are a year later. Young, Gifted, & Broke has hosted 4 pop up art shows, a women of color conversation series, and helped other local brands curate art and experiences for the community. On June 16th, two days after my birthday, we will host a special pop up art show and party called “Freedom is Free” in honor of the one year anniversary of the project and Juneteenth.
Once again at the Mothership, folks will be able to share space with one another as they view a collection of work that I curated from four local artists including William Paul Thomas and Erica Danielle. For the first time we will have two food trucks, Soul Fresh Spring Rolls and Shrimp Truck, both local black owned businesses, and a mobile healing space that will be constructed in the parking lot.
The theme of the show and the night overall is freedom and liberation. My goal is for anyone who comes to feel like they belong there. To see themselves in the art on the walls. To meet new people, drink good beer, and recognize that we all deserve access to art and creative spaces. Freedom is Free is an extension of the work Young, Gifted, & Broke has worked hard to do over the last year. Creating space for art and community, even when there are individuals and systems saying that we don’t deserve them. I will be spending the coming days working hard to make the show come together on the 16th, and while I’m fielding e-mail’s, buying mounting supplies, and communicating with the artists, the words of Chicano Batman will be playing in my head.