AMP: Grassroots²

Muthi Reed with Scribe Video Center

What do you do? I am an artist artist/community media facilitator. My work is about empowering people to make their own media, tell their own stories. Right now, I’m talking and listening to my family members, conducting oral history. I’m looking at this town where we grew up in the 80s and 90s. Crack was big then and it affected my family and our neighborhood. I want to think about our story as an opportunity to think about what we carry from that experience—what do we keep and let go of? What are the vestiges of that time that is in our lives today, how is trauma recycled and how do we personally manifest the pain of that time in our lives now? How are we in conversation with the made up wars— “war on crime” & “war on drugs.” In a sense I’m asking, what our own rhythmic call & response should be.

What is your why? Why do you do what you do? There’s a lot that doesn’t get expressed in Black culture. We have been pigeon holed to a visibility factor and I enjoy disrupting that. Whose stories are told, what is depicted? I like to work with every day people who you may never see on television. These folks are working class, queer, women, Black people. My work is about documenting every day life stories. Some people are living their lives; having tea with their grandmother—that can be activism & political too. That’s what I like to document, not the glorified stories of media. I like to validate people stories and to hear the richness of people stories. Feels more real to me than just the sensational acts of every day life.

What moment or experience motivated you to become an organizer/fighter of justice? Louis Massiah of Scribe Philadelphia, a neighborhood & grassroots video organization, came to college. His approach was so beautiful to me because it was about every day life and about the city I come from where people do the mundane stuff in such a beautiful way. I wanted to document my city and the people living in it. Seeing his stories made me see differently and I learned to dig into the most political—how we live our lives every day. His movies and working with him helped me develop my listening ear so I know how to really listen to people. People want to be heard. They want you to bear witness.

How has your work been different over the past year? My response has been migration so I can be close to those who matter to me. I now structure my time around family and community because those are the political entities that I want to work for. I work with people I can see and who are around me—that’s the political for me. I’m more conscious of local politics. I’m also understanding that there is a need for more visibility. Self presentation and representation is more important than ever. Being more embellished and taking up more space is what I’m doing more of. There is something in my training that says that talking is how you are visible but there are other ways. It’s important to be the mirror—a reflective force that is aware, quiet, present, and ready . My movements are more deliberate. I’m trying to draw out another narratives.

The ask: I am working on an installation called ▽The House of Black Infinity△. Part studio practice, part migration practice; The work uses public walking, portraiture, photographs, seeds, and recipes/remedies as materials for research study into translocal Black ceremony, gesture, posture, vernacular, love, and memory. I am continuing my studies into Blackness- defining scope and prismatic appeal through the gathering and rendering of first-person artifacts and offering some queered up “talk back” in conversation with mainstream popular media stories about Black folk. Any money raised with AMP will support ▽The House of Black Infinity△. Expenses include transportation, installation, food, and production fees.