Our Members, Fiscally Sponsored Artists, and other program participants represent a wide range of career stages and disciplines. We love them - and, as fellow artists, we're always inspired by them. With this monthly feature, we hope you'll feel the same way!
What's your name?
What do you do?
I am the founder and director of The Jinah Parker Project, a non-profit arts organization created to inspire all people through dance, choreography, and education. As a dancer, a commissioned choreographer, and a full-time dance educator, I see dance as a transformative tool to tackle major social issues while encouraging courageous conversation and action. My newest major effort in that regard is SHE, a choreoplay that deals with issues around sexual violence against women and girls, what happens to women like Sandra Bland, and it is about empowerment and healing.
What inspires you?
The art of others inspires me most. I recently saw the film Crown Heights. It shows the brutal, manipulative, and racist structure of the American prison system and how the persistence and love of your family and friends can help you find freedom. Work that gives such rich historical content while also connecting to the social, political, and cultural climate of today’s reality while offering hope is what really connects to my heart. It makes me consider what my next project will be, and what work can I do that will have the greatest effect on my people, black people, women, the oppressed, and humanity as a whole. Work like this builds knowledge and creates a greater amount of empathy. It makes me contemplate how I can further move the needle forward for humanity.
What are you proud of?
My crowning achievement is my choreoplay, SHE, representing a series of risks I have taken over the past 2 years, and the ability to act on faith even when you are fearful. In 2015 I took the biggest risk of my life: I pressed send on my letter of resignation for my teaching position with the NYC Dept. of Education, where I had worked for nearly 5 years, and started The Jinah Parker Project. SHE forced me out of my comfort zone. I was gifted with the lives of 4 survivors who trusted me with their stories, and through this process I discovered my own story. SHE has afforded me greater self-esteem, courage, and the ability to express myself and educate others. This is Freedom.
What are your goals?
My main goal is to be happy and enjoy life while helping other people enjoy theirs. One of the ways I plan to accomplish that is to continue to produce work that is about the concerns of community as a way to create awareness, build solutions and healing. That also means taking my work globally. I would also like to create a foundation in the future that offers assistance to women of color who want to jump into their artistic/business careers but need an extra boost of support. I have encountered so many miserable artists at their 9-5 jobs that have incredible ideas but simply need a little assistance to get it off the ground. I was one of them. I have come to realize that it is impossible to do everything alone. Many people that are successful are not there on hard work alone but because at some point in their life they were given an extra hand or a boost from someone that was willing to help.
How does The Field help you?
The Field enables my organization to receive tax-deductible donations and affords me the opportunity to apply for grants and fellowships that require 501(c)(3) status. In artist circles, The Field often comes up as a reliable and friendly organization to work with.
Do you have any advice for your fellow artists?
To remember and quickly understand that everyone has a very different journey and that there are many paths to success. Your path and your success will not look like anyone else's, so don’t compare yourself to the people around you. And when you are feeling lost, always go back to what you love the most. Your purpose and life's work will usually lie close to that thing. Stay laser-focused and know that every opportunity is not one that you should take even if it seems good at the time.
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