Havanna Fisher is a 2018 Urbanist-in-Residence and a choreographer. We have known Havanna since she was a high school student advocating for her community in Harlem. She was a key collaborator on our Youth Urbanism Summit and a co-creator of The Domino Effect. This Saturday we will are so proud to host the NJ premiere of The Cotton Series: Birth of a Workforce. We asked Havanna to share some thoughts with us.
What is the inspiration for this piece?
The Cotton Series as a whole is an investigation of Black womanhood and our unspoken sisterhood as we interact with the many facets of living in America. It is a collection of dance works that explores Black women’s relations with our food, men, children, family, community, jobs, emotions and our overall contribution in America. Birth of a Work Force seeks to uncover the many ways that Black women have had to perform labor in America. From having the responsibility of giving birth to America’s primary free labor workforce for over 200 years all the way to being the forgotten leaders of many labor rights movements in the USA.
In what ways do you see the connection to Ernie’s work and Homeboy Came to Orange?
In Homeboy Came to Orange we see the importance of having allies. The beginning stages of building ally-ship is to recognize, learn and honor people’s stories. A side of the labor history that is often overlooked is the many ways Black people and women reformed and shaped labor movements. Ernie Thompson used his brilliance to build ally-ship with groups of people who had similar tasks to perform and built coalitions that produced change.
His approach to organizing laborers was then taken to under resourced communities as a means to produce community revival. Throughout his story I see labor take many forms that move way beyond actual common manual skill trades: the labor of knowing who you are, the labor of having courage, the labor of recognizing that there is something wrong and the labor of moving into action to fix it. To be Black and Woman is an absolute guarantee that labor is something you will have to perform in this life. Because of this I believe that Black Women sit at the crux of building coalitions for major change of Big Train’s magnitude in today’s time. In order to build ally-ship with others we must first sit with our history, the work that we’ve been doing in order to insure not only our survival but the survival of our loved ones and the future generations that we will birth. From the middle class to the working class, from richer well resourced black communities to the disenfranchised black communities, Black Women are major force of movements for change. I created “Birth of a Work Force” to honor the stories of Black Women that might get lost if not told. I created this piece to show our emotional investment with having to perform labor in various ways. I created this piece to introduce all forms in which one might engage with labor. We give birth, we fight, we build (both literally and metaphorically) we organize, we stand up when no one else will, we lose, we comeback with a better game plan and win, We love but most importantly we are unapologetically human. We can’t be allies if you don’t know where I have been and what I’ve been through.