To get you closer to the frontlines of radical community organizing in this country, we're bringing you the Amplify series (formerly called "Lift Up"). Each piece in the series will highlight the work and members of one Resist grantee, up close and personal. In November we profiled a collective of immigrant parents organizing for educational and economic justice in Pomona, CA called "Gente Organizada" (1), this month we're amplifying the work of the adé Project, a multi-generational, intersectional, and grassroots cooperative bringing together indigenous and artists of color to actualize equity, spark creative inquiry, and reclaim the narrative of the South.
Cortina Jenelle Caldwell is a queer, Two-Spirit artist descending from generations of Southern, West African, Latinx & Native American peoples. They are the Founder and Creative director of the adé Project, in addition to being an activist, community organizer, creative facilitator, social designer, and communication architect.
What impact does your work have on you? What small steps have you taken that have a big impact on your life and other people's lives?
All of my life, I have been in search of the deep answers about my life's purpose, why I had to go through the hardships I had, what lessons those situations were meant to teach me, and how to apply what I had learned. adé PROJECT was born both from my lived experience as a Black queer artist, facilitator, and organizer from the South, and also the lack of experience, opportunity, and growth I see plaguing my community...my people.
I wish the social issues hitting the Black, brown, and Queer communities could give us a BREAK and let us catch up...let us breathe, live, and be in our joy rather than sprinting from one problem to the next. The system is designed to keep us busy, and distracted. So if we want a moment to breathe, live, and be in our joy, we must take it. We must declare our right to exist, and be relentless in our pursuit of purpose, happiness, and creativity. I celebrate moments when I can laugh, be in space with other melanated folks, or create something...even if it's just making myself a meal. In that tradition, I have grown accustomed to hosting dinner parties, gatherings, and ceremonies of sorts for my beloveds, friends, and community.
Sitting around enjoying a meal together, or dancing together - daring to take a moment to BE with each other is anti-oppression work, and it is justice, and it is evolution. I find small moments of joy, gratitude, laughter, and celebration each day and count those as big wins towards our liberation.
What narratives do you want to shift and why?
I want to shift the narrative that being Black is criminal, violent, unintelligent, poverty-stricken, and deadly. The untold narrative about our people is that we have been and ARE innovators, educators, leaders, artists, musicians, engineers, teachers, and so much more! We ARE beautiful. We ARE magical. We ARE resilient. We ARE royalty. And that truth is worth fighting for. We must know who we are to know where we're going, and the world around us hasn't ever fully given us room to celebrate that we're the sh*t.
How can people get involved with your work?
There are a number of ways to get involved, including but not limited to:
making a financial donation (2)
making a donation of your time as an advisor or consultant
helping to fundraise, friend-raise, and bridge-build
providing healing arts services to artists and activists of color
joining the media team
volunteering at an event
To express an interest named or unnamed, contact Cortina Jenelle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On the last day of Black History Month, we affirm the work of the adé Project and other Black led groups across the country. They are re-imagining a new world for all of us and creating Black futures beyond the twenty-eight days of February. This is an invitation to think about, support, and amplify the work of the diaspora not just for one month but 365 days a year.
Learn more about the work of the adé Project, here.