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“There’s truth in this break” André Zachery Brings Untamed Space to the Wexner

Richard Sanford Richard Sanford “There’s truth in this break” André Zachery Brings Untamed Space to the WexnerAndré M Zachery and Renegade Performance Group will perform Untamed Space at the Wex this weekend. Photo by Richard Louissant.
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Some of the most exciting art the Wexner Center has brought to Columbus over the years has been from the realm of modern dance. Going back to Merce Cunningham and William Forsythe to more recent cutting-edge works from Faye Driscoll, Pavel Zustiak, and Joanna Kotze, it’s been an eye-opening ride for myself and many others in Columbus.

The first taste of dance in the 2018-19 season promises to be another pinnacle in that mountain range as Brooklyn-based André M Zachery presents Untamed Space. I sat down with Zachery at one of my favorite campus eateries in the days after its final date was announced but while we’re still in the long shadow of the wrecking ball.

Zachery summed up his mission thusly: “Untamed Space is a work that’s based in my interest and research in Afrofuturism. So it’s talking about how within black culture across the diaspora, but specifically looking in my own lineage within African American lineage, I’m part Haitian as well, and how that’s also looked across time. how the culture of blackness itself has really created space in circumstances that have been quite hard, but have yielded some of the most beautiful and spectacular instances of culture and reading and art and dance and performance. And how that really can only manifest first by building community.”

Zachery talked with me about the use of his work to strengthen connections but also highlight important distinctions. “In this instance where we are now, especially for young African Americans and to a greater extent, yes, people of African descent from around the diaspora. I think right now we’re figuring out more ways that we actually are connected through various instances that weren’t really articulated or even acknowledged before. I think now we’re all understanding, no, this is actually important to delineate the difference. But to understand, oh, it’s similar here. Or that difference makes that specific thing unique to that instance. Even within the United States itself.”

André M Zachery and Renegade Performance Group will perform Untamed Space at the Wex this weekend. Photo by Richard Louissant.

André M Zachery and Renegade Performance Group will perform Untamed Space at the Wex this weekend. Photo by Richard Louissant.

Zachery continued, “ the articulation that black culture, even African American culture, Afro-culture in the Americas, in South America, the Caribbean is not a monolith. You have these amazing amount of nuances that are just almost … that’s the beauty of it, they’re impossible to quantify. It’s never about well, how many are there? That’s not the point. It’s actually saying, well, good lord, there have been so many things that have been done with it qualitatively and that will continue to be done with it. And those are the futuring practices which I’m interested in. And continually making space for in every corner of where we are on the globe.”

Afrofuturism coalesced as a term in an interview with writer Mark Dery but the strains go far back, to the novels of Samuel Delany, the music and poetry of Sun Ra, both from the ‘60s, and has always been one of the thickest, deepest strains of underground enrichment for American art.

Zachery talked about the current moment Afrofuturism is having and how that informs his work. “I feel that this is a really ripe time for those stories and those histories to really be told with a sense of urgency and a sense of reconnection for African Americans within those communities. Especially for the new generation coming into their own. I feel all of those spaces and those artists and myself are doing are definitely taking our own personal histories and narratives and unpacking them in ways that are unexpected.”

He continued, “So we’re using our sense of technological awareness. We’re using a sense of black folk stories and legends and they’re remixing them and reconsidering how those archetypes and caricatures, which are an important part of the history, resonate now within the 21st century. And what that means with again, a sense of identity, a sense of place.”

Zachery talked about his work’s unique relationship to place, and called his use of place “a futuring practice.” “The practice of migration in the United States brought African Americans mainly from the agrarian south, post-reconstruction, and post-slavery. That meant how those communities were formed in cities in the northern United States, but it goes deeper than that.

So [Untamed Space] then looks at migration in the sense of Caribbean migrants that came into the United States as well and how that manifested. That’s an important part of what happened with the music, what happened with the art, what happened with the dance. Within rock, within funk, then especially in the burgeoning of a hip-hop culture, which was really an amalgamation of all of those new senses. I think people, especially a different generation, actually isn’t sometimes quite aware of. In the sense of the history of yes, funk and blues and soul [informing hip-hop]. But then the importance of dancehall culture coming from Jamaica: the MC and the mic man. And moving the crowd. And the call and the response. So again, that’s what I mean, that’s the residue that we have from these very real practices.”

Music has been the gateway drug for generations to black culture and ideas not within our backyards, especially for the generation this writer (who was born in 1980) and Zachery (b. 1981) share. Zachery spoke on that evolution from a personal perspective. “I’m old enough to remember this era of hip-hop that went from the DJ and the MC to more focus of the MC to then the producer. But then the music video. The importance then of the music video and what it was doing. So I grew up in an era where we couldn’t wait to see the new Aaliyah video. You know what I mean? Then of course back then BET had … it was Caribbean rhythms. You’re getting, okay, what’s going on with Shabba Ranks and Sista Nancy and everything. You’re realizing, well wait a minute, the west coast has this whole other thing of hip-hop. Then all of the sudden in the late 80s, all of the sudden you got Geto Boys. Then suddenly here comes Atlanta with LaFace and Outkast and Goodie Mob.”

Then Zachery zoomed onto a subculture that was in his backyard, at least in one of its liveliest, most prominent forms. “Where I’m from in Chicago, you have this other phenomenon of music coming out of the New York club culture mixed with Chicago funk. That becomes something called this thing house music. Detroit techno and how that really becomes a subculture in a sense other than the warehouse itself. You have to then give credence to black queer and gay and feminine culture for creating that space. Especially with hip-hop and house, what you cannot do is separate the politic from it. You cannot separate the body politic.”

André Zachery took care at this point to draw connections to filmmaker Ja’Tovia Gary. “Ja’Tovia Gary’s a filmmaker I respect very much. We need more space for black women filmmakers working in the avant-garde. If I can just use this to shout Ja’Tovia Gary out. I think what she’s doing, she had an amazing explanation of what they’re doing with this thing called The Glitch. And how it’s a disruption and an interruption of what can be seen in the frame. The Glitch, these practices, the technological disruption: that’s kind of the Molotov cocktail, if you will, being thrown in ‘92 LA hits.”

Expanding on his allusion to the LA riots, Zachery said, “That’s what we grew up with. We were there. We were well formed when it happened. We lived through an epidemic of crack cocaine, AIDS, police brutality at a height. You know what I mean? That essentially what’s being highlighted now through technology.”

Zachery worked through that to a more panoramic view of his personal – and by extension, American – history. [Our] generation, that has been really two generations removed from I guess you could say the Civil Rights Movement properly. And the Black Power movement.Then looking at our grandparents and great-grandparents: they were that migrated from their various instances of Mississippi, the Caribbean. So much of that has landed in our laps, in our beings, in our blood. To not do anything with all of that history, all of those stories, is almost impossible.”

He traced that further. “It’s just kind of like we have so much of that bottled up in us that our family members told us, that they didn’t tell us. That they tried. That we found out ourselves. It’s a proud moment. Is like we’re just like, you know what? In the sense that the surreal is our daily life. It’s just like, well, how the hell did they do that? You know what I mean? You look back at your people and you’re just like, yeah, you came from the sharecropping South. Okay, you came from these islands where electricity was but a mere dream.

“Then all of the sudden within a generation, you worked to create a so-called middle-class existence. Which then they gave our parents. Which then our parents worked their ass to give to us. Then you couple that with the sense of okay, well, there’s still a huge disparity of inequalities in economics, in education, in access, in gender politics.”

Zachery continued, “Essentially in this kind of a use of the space that the space that James Baldwin kind of occupied. Where it’s just like, wait a minute now: we’re not quite necessarily just still instilled in this idea of the black Christian tradition. Some of us, yes, found the black political tradition, which of course had its apex, if you will, with the ascendancy of the Obama family presidency. I do stress the Obama family. We have to look at that as a black unit of an incredible black woman, who could’ve been president in her own right in Michelle Obama. And an incredible family of two children that are just the product of an amazing community in Chicago. And at the same time, this black radical tradition, which many of us [in Chicago] grew up in or were surrounded by. So our art is all infused with that.”

Zachery circled back to that space for art. “These are the questions I think that our generation is asking. What was it that allowed a space for a Temptations? And a Melvin Van Peebles.You know? For a Kerry James Marshall and a Nikki Giovanni and a Sun Ra. Then going into a Run DMC.”

Those thoughts about space naturally lead to discourse on digital space. “I think that as much as technology has been an opener, I think there’s now even more where we’re finding that the digital space is still not an equal space. This was kind of at the advent of my work. I was very conscious of that and I was very clear about the need to not let that be haphazard. But to actively, for us to take a role in shaping how we wanted the digital space to really engage and react with people. How are we framing the ways in which black life and instances are being received by people?”

This line of question ties back to the earlier mentions of Afrofuturism. “I think is Afrofuturism at a very important juncture. In a sense that, are we gonna continue to say, well black life will only be received by the rest of the world through these instances of now digital lynchings? Or are we going to now [acknowledge], yes, that is a reality? Not to negate that. But are we gonna also then show, at the advent, creativity at its fullest [apex]? With the potential for economic sustainability, environmental awareness, health and access to food.”

Zachery continued that thought into ways of seeing. “Acknowledgment of ancestral history and lineage across time and generation. With a sense of culture that was built within the Americas. And of course then extends back to the continent of West Africa. I think that’s where this thing of Afrofuturism, especially in this idea of the frame and the gaze, must be a conscious effort collectively. Especially for us in our generation to say, yeah, okay: [we have to be active in] decentralizing maleness. Decentralizing heteronormativity. Decentralizing this idea of Americans and understanding that our global diaspora, just in this hemisphere, is unbelievable. You’re speaking of the Afro-Colombian community and the struggles that are definitely going on there. And how they are related to environmental issues. Understanding that this is a social justice issue and an artistic issue.”

Zachery tied this aesthetic into his educational mission. “What I’m finding is that this next generation actually does not know how much there has been just within African American culture. Then not even to exclude again what’s going on in the African culture in South America and the Caribbean. There’s so much endless possibility to enter and find yourself. Whether you are from the place or not, that really gives black and brown people a sense of purpose. To say you know what? Our community values can be instilled in these real things.”

With so much rich narrative, biographical, and historical material to draw from, I had to ask how he found his art form of dance. Unsurprisingly, that answer was as personal as everything else in the conversation. “I didn’t have a choice in that. My mother put me in dance when I was four years old. So that’s kind of the shout out to my family and my mother and my grandmother who put her in dance. So what that did for me, once I decided to really start to pursue this as an artistic life path. When I was in college and kind of my late high school years, that’s when I started to open up and taking … ’cause my formalized training in dance was in ballet. But then growing up in Chicago with house music, I mean dancing and hiphop culture, dancing was all around you. High school parties, house parties, everybody was dancing. That was just a thing.”

That training was formalized in college, “Long story short, yes, I got my degree at Ailey ’cause for me, that became important to understand the most recognizable form. [The most] widely known instance of the tradition in the United States was the Ailey American Dance Theater where I got my BFA. Then I became more interested in these connections beyond what we saw in the roots of the black vernacular. With Afrofuturism, what I started to realize when I started to … for me it was just like, well, yeah, I’m a dancer and a choreographer in the black dancing body.

That realization opened up new connections. “What I found when I started doing my work, there was hardly any people articulating Afrofuturism in dance. Save for Guy and there were some people. Makeda Thomas, Guy Thorne, and Michelle Gage, who were former dancers with Garth Fagan. They’re based in Rochester. I want to shout out to these people. I was like, okay, yeah, they’re doing it. D’Sabala Grimes, shout out to D’Sabala. But within this larger realm and concept of Afrofuturism, this idea of dance and the body wasn’t there. And I started challenging people. I said, well, how can you have all of these instances, but not the actual black body itself?”

Reactions to that challenge surprised Zachery. “What I realized, especially in the United States, people would pause and they’d be like, ‘Oh, shit, you’re right.’ They just had never thought about it. This is a very particular instance based on being in the United States. I’ll just say it, the tyranny of Protestantism, of really this mind-body separation. More and more, especially African Americans, we remove ourselves from the body.”

André M Zachery and Renegade Performance Group will perform Untamed Space at the Wex this weekend. Photo by Richard Louissant.

André M Zachery and Renegade Performance Group will perform Untamed Space at the Wex this weekend. Photo by Richard Louissant.

Zachery gestured up, to the bar’s playlist of ‘70s soul and funk. “The music we’re listening to now, it was just soul. That was the body. Hip-hop was in the body, but then it became more like … So I started to see wow, these things have put up this control in these instances of really constricting the body we’re working. Whereas people who were in their bodies as dancers, the way in which we move through space and we move through a city, we feel it. That’s an important instance. That yes, we as black people feel and express and communicate through our bodies. That is a real cultural thing. Which my [earlier] piece Dap Line, essentially a collaboration with Mia Hamilton, was explicitly talking about, without any shame, without any sense of apology. It’s like, no. This is what we do. Yo.”

Zachery tied those thoughts together. “So with this thing of Afrofuturism, what I started to realize, there had been of Sun Ra, yes, he had started, he was definitely working. But he had a whole crew of dancers that he would work with. So that was a part of that lexicon as we kept moving forward. Yes, it became more, in a sense of intellectual property, based in the academy, the idea of the black body in relation to Afrofuturism, had to be re-initiated, if you will. In the sense of articulated. What does it mean for the black body to exist and express itself? And for the work to come from that place first? And not a tertiary or extremity. That became something where I was like, yeah, this is actually [a] 21st century [idea]. As much as we’re talking about new technology and instances that the digital and virtual landscape, it’s gotta start first in the source of the body. This communication of corporeal connection.”

Zachery talked about trying to find acceptance for those ideas early. “It became more of a challenge to people and people responded in like, oh, yeah. Back in 2012, 2013 when I was articulating this, not a lot of people in the dance community knew what I was talking about. I mean it was quite barren. I’d say Afrofuturism and people’s eyes would just go blank. They were like, ‘What the hell are you…’ Like, ‘What?’ I mean it was few and far between.”

As he dug deeper, Zachery found other like-minded spirits in dance working on similar thematic fields. “The thing is, there were definitely a lot of people, shout out to Thomas F. DeFrantz, the scholar extraordinaire, historian, technologist. Now based at Duke University, director of the Slip It Space. That was a thought of mine, where I was just like, gosh, I should’ve been reading Tommy’s work way earlier. Tommy was already there. Shout out to, Dr. Nadine George Graves, who is now on faculty at Ohio State. Dr. Nadine’s work was already there. So I began to … as my research started to take me to the place, it was just like, oh, wait a minute, there are a lot of black scholars. I mean I say a lot, but there was a cohort who was there and had been working there for decades. I was like, okay, now our work is starting to be aligned in the legacy of their tradition and what they’re doing. So that started to open up these … what it started to do as well for all of us, is create space for these questions.”

Zachery talked about the clarity this grounding gave him. “I don’t want to say these new questions, but these questions had yet to be materialized, to be answered or to be addressed. In ways that we could now speak with more clarity. From dance, from visual arts, from all these contexts. So yeah, man. Dance and Afrofuturism became the most important places because there had to be first this reassertion of the black body. The black queer body, the black feminine body, the black masculine body. The black trans body, the black immigrant body. The black southern body, the black Chicago body, the black … You know what I mean? All these bodies, we had our own stories. The black west coast body. We had our stories in very specific ways that are important. I think that’s what I’m realizing is they cannot be generalized. You know what I mean? Yes, they are all … they create this framework and this space of blackness, but each one is its own ray of light that shines.”

Zachery went a step further in Untamed Space’s mission. “I think that’s the thing with Afro-Futurism, we are absolutely articulating the nuances, qualitative … yes, differences, but the qualitative specificities and differences that allow it to be collectively unique. It’s all related, but now all of us are doing some different things and that has to be okay, because there’s space for it.”

He also took time to highlight figures in the black dance tradition who have not received as much mainstream notoriety. “he legacy of, especially of Bebe [Miller, OSU professor emeritus] and Ishmael Houston-Jones, Bebe Miller and Ishmael Houston-Jones, really, in the lineage of the black experimental avant garde, post-modern tradition, yes, which found, in part, we know … Yes, then we can look at Blondell Cummings, Ralph Lemon, then later on, Dean Moss, artists who I’ve seen, Reggie Wilson. Now, looking at Nora Chipaumire, Okwui Okpokwasili, Jaamil Kosoko, who will be here.”

“Then, for me, we have to go back even further, and we have to honor the work of an Eleo Pomare. Eleo doing work that was not pretty, asserting black queerness when it was not popular. Eleo, who was a contemporary of James Baldwin and Bayard Rustin, I feel definitely could be celebrated more. The tradition of improvisation, which I feel also needs to be more acknowledged again that, that’s a really a tradition of blackness. As I tell my students, in relationship to music, if you don’t have improvisation, you don’t have jazz.”

Zachery expanded on improvisation. “This thing of improvisation is, again, very much a black thing, which then causes a cross into the black movement tradition, which, yes … I think for me, and this is my own personal opinions, the power of the black vernacular, meaning, which existed in the juke joints, the dance hall, the nightclubs of funk, of soul, of rhythm. Going into the jukes:  the twerking, the whining, the getting down, the working off, tossing it back.”

He talked about the social impact of that dance. “Those spaces, which, I think within the black body, didn’t sometimes posit a bodily image that was necessarily aligned with order, in the sense of an order of whiteness. Basically, I’m getting now to the respectability politics because we have to then really acknowledge that the more that this Lindy Hop, and all these things, the Nicholas Brothers, the tap tradition, Sandman Sims. The black dance tradition, especially in the United States, can get a very marginalized place because, especially in the black power movement, it was like, we’re not shucking and jiving no more. Then all of a sudden you’re doing the watusi, the wop.”

Zachery tied the need to keep this flame of history alive with America’s sometimes shameful tradition of silencing voices we’re not ready for. “Jawole Willa Jo Zollar has a class on black traditions of funk. Jawole really creates an amazing array of the history of the black movement in relationship to black politic. Jawole is the director of Urban Bush Women, again one of the most important companies, historically, and currently, in this tradition of black dance, especially in these, articulation of black, feminine presence. Asadata Dafora. Again, what is unfortunate is that yes, rest in peace to the late, great Paul Taylor, he was radical. He was renegade, but now, again, I’ll take it back to Eleo, at the same time Paul Taylor is doing that and you’re having Eleo Pomare, who’s saying, ‘I’m that too, but I’m fervently articulating I’m black, I’m an immigrant, I’m Communist, I’m gay.” Do you know what I mean? Is that acceptable for America?’”

Zachery talked about seeing the great Dianne McIntyre speak and the ways black and white art have been talked about separately. “I listened to a talk [McIntyre] had at for the 90th anniversary of James Baldwin. It was a performance that she co-billed with Charles Edison who’s currently at University of Texas, shout out to Charles. I remember Dianne McIntyre, who Jawole also worked with. Dianne McIntyre explained how she didn’t want to say that she was doing improvisation, because getting the language for her and for the critics, improvisation was just natural to the black body. Whereas, if Trisha Brown improvised, it’s ‘indeterministic.’ Then it has a sense of intellectual rigor, then it has a sense of cognitive capacity for space, whereas you don’t think we weren’t doing that? If you’ve got 60 couples in the Savoy Ballroom Lindy hopping, you don’t think they had the consciousness of time and space not to kick the shit out of each other? They’re flipping back and forth, and no one goes home with a black eye. That takes a lot of consciousness from an early age. Do you know what I mean? We have to literally articulate and theorize that into the Pythagorean theorem. Oh yes, there is cognitive awareness there. If you’ve grown up with that your entire life, that ain’t easy to do. Listen, teach your people to clap on the two and the four is harder than you’d think.”

Zachery tied Untamed Space back to both music and that idea of conceptual rigor with a discussion of Fred Moten [Professor of performance studies at NYU]. “What Fred was talking about with In The Break, man, what we’re listening to right now, that’s what he’s talking about. The break. Do you know what I mean? That space right there, where it’s like, you know it’s coming and then you release. Again, I got to say, this thing, that sense of articulation is such an affront to the set order that’s needed of where we are, capitalist patriarchy. Everyone’s just like, yeah man, that’s that space, essentially, bringing it all the way back now to untamed space.”

He expanded on that thought. “That’s that untamed space, where it’s like, that’s where we live, man. It’s not an easy space to occupy, but there’s life in that space. Shout out to one of my friends and contemporaries and guides, spiritual guides, yon Tande. yon Tande, born Whitney V. Hunter, his work and articulations, what he’s saying about this idea of possession. He’s saying that this idea that the power of a body being possessed by ancestors, by spirits, In The Break, yields such a sense of beauty that only contemporary dance and modern dance can only dream of approaching.

“When he said that, I was like, ‘Man, dude … ‘ It sent me back, or sent me forward, I don’t know what it did. When Tande says things for me, I’m just like, ‘Good lord.’ It was Tande that really said Afrofuturism is not an aesthetic, it’s a movement. I guess you can hear the excitement in my voice when I talk about it, because it is something where we all are feeding off each other in a way that is imperative for our survival, we’re not just saying our survival in the sense of just blackness, but we need our survival on the sense of a localized level. Yes, you can’t help but get down to James Brown.”

He continued, “There’s truth in this break, that the world recognizes and that you cannot deny. We’re just like, cool, let’s just live here for a second, and what are the value systems that share spaces we can find here that built the house space? That built the break dancing space? That built the punk space? That built the voguing spaces? Yeah, man, because there’s beauty in all those. You can’t deny that Madonna would not have been co-opting and gentrifying all of it if she didn’t find some beauty in all of that.”

So many proper nouns are in this piece because their importance was loud and clear as Zachery and I spoke. Every shout out has a place in understanding his vision for the work and in understanding our shared world. “Again, what Afrofuturism is doing is asserting and saying, no, we’re going to make sure that they get their credit. Shout out to Betty Davis. Shout out to Bad Brains and H.R., all of it. You hear that trombone, that slide coming in. Shout out to New Orleans. I guess that the thing, as much as we cannot take any instance of our culture for granted. I think that that’s happening on a globalized level. Yes, it’s happening in relation to popular artists right now, it’s happening in the relationship right now to what’s going on with the emergence of Afrobeat and Afropop. What’s happening right now with the emergence of new sounds coming from the Caribbean.”

On the piece he’s bringing to the Wexner Center, Zachery said, “Unsafe Space does follow my own familial lineage. This is one of the first pieces where I’ve unpacked more of who I am as a person, the more I did that the more I started to say, wait a minute. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for these ancestors literally creating the way out of no way. To have a Haitian grandfather and understand the history of Haiti, which as a nation and a people have been so villainized. Who  the United States has to thank for the 1804 Louisiana Purchase?”

Zachery traced that forward. “They organized themselves and created a nation. Then moving on and moving to my family, in the American South, my grandmother is from Mississippi. My father’s from Georgia, then looking at how fondly my grandmother speaks of Mississippi. She can speak of it like the back of her hand, even though she left in 1957. Then to look at, this is a woman who, as my grandmother says, ‘I had to leave Mississippi because I couldn’t get a Master’s degree as a black woman.’ This is a woman who is only 90 miles away, maybe less than that, actually, in school, in college, when Emmett Till is killed.”

Continuing on the importance of family history, Zachery said, “The rest of my aunts, these are the histories that exist within so many of other African Americans, but they still created a way out of no way. We think that’s so far removed, it’s like, no, let’s go talk to your aunt. Let’s go talk to your grandmother. They were right there. Her older sister, who was in Chicago, went to the [Till] funeral. That’s what I mean, this idea of black history being far removed, no. It’s right here. It’s a part of my bloodline and so many others. Then it moves on, it goes from the Haiti section to the Mississippi section, then into the Chicago section. How did this Harlem Renaissance get created? There was this migration of African Americans from the south, especially in Harlem you had this migration of Caribbean immigrants. In Chicago, the south side, mainly coming from the Mississippi Delta and others, all of the sudden you have this burgeoning black middle class, which America pretends does not exist.”

Discussing the work, Zachery said, “Then it moves from the Haiti section to the Mississippi section, to the Chicago section. Then to the section called Black Space, which is this place here where we are now and moving forward. What are we going to do with all of this knowledge, this history, this potential, this energy? This space that so many of us had that our parents and grandparents could only dream of? Friends of mine, and myself, that have toured the world, that have lived abroad. It’s just like, man, if this is not the future, what is?”

Zachery emphasized, “Really saying, no, the future is us. The future looks like us, the future has to be us. Not from a sense of selfishness, but from a sense of, our people have gone through so much. The fact that we’re still here is a testament to that sense of legacy, that when we say, how does it intersect with people from around the world? This is the space that we now occupy, that we now are expanding, that we have to learn from. I think that’s the thing, for some in the United States, it’s not … they’re just like, what the hell is this?”

Looking back on the world in Chicago that birthed him, Zachery said, “For us, this was our everything. Black astronauts? Yeah. Black astronauts exist, Dr. Mae C. Jemison an alum of my high school. I went to Northern Park High School. That’s the high school she went to. That is the south side of Chicago I am from. The Chicago that gets mentioned in the news, with all the shootings? Okay, yes, that’s a Chicago too. From a Chicago public school system, you’ve created a black woman astronaut and a black woman First Lady. A school system can’t be that bad if it’s creating that type of people. That’s not half bad. It’s like, something was going right because that’s not an accident.”

“I don’t think people understand that we are born in the legacy of that, of those parents, of those grandparents, of that community which knew us, kept us in line, and has given us a sense of purpose and continuum to maintain our sense of self and connectivity, whether it’s through, and that’s where technology comes in. Whether it’s from Facebook, Instagram, email, whatever, we’re still all there for each other. We can give each other that digital dab if we need to, you know? That’s where we are.”

Zachery emphasized, “[This moment is] quite wonderful. As much as there’s so much pain in this moment, yes, it’s true. It’s not an easy moment to be in, at all. I’m not faking around that. Yes, there’s anger. Let’s not even shy away from it, it’s there. It’s in there, but I think what we’re doing collective is hell yeah, we’re angry, and now we’re going to channel it through some art. We’re going to channel this through some education in the hopes that we’re going to pass this on, to allow someone to do something else with it that we might never have thought of. That’s the Afrofuturism part, that’s the futuring part.”

Untamed Space runs September 27 through September 30 with performances at 8:00 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2:00 p.m. Sunday. For tickets and more info, visit wexarts.org.

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