Santa Fe has long been known as a hub of creativity, but last summer the three founders of Earthseed Black Arts Alliance, a new artist collective, decided something was missing: a way to bring together Black artists and creatives in Northern New Mexico. Earthseed answers that need.
Born during the pandemic and amidst the protests for racial justice that arose across the country last summer, the collective was established to connect with, support and celebrate Black creatives in the community. The founders, Raashan Ahmad, Nikesha Breeze and Tigre Bailando, are artists, activists and educators who see a global need for increased Black representation in the arts and are seeking to address that need in New Mexico.
Bailando, a multidisciplinary artist, says it is easy to buy into the fallacy that there is no Black community in New Mexico. One of the goals of Earthseed, they say, is to draw on that community and “grow it in a way that is visible and active in the larger local conversation.” Ahmad, who is also an emcee and DJ, adds, “Having Black art in public spaces and being in a community with other Black folks is important and really healing.” Currently, the collective has members throughout the state, and the group intends to collaborate with Santa Fe’s artist community as a whole, especially Indigenous artists and artists of color.
Due to the pandemic, many of Earthseed’s early initiatives have been virtual, but that hasn’t stopped them from making and celebrating art. Last September, Ahmad and several other Santa Fe DJs hosted a drive-in concert called Love & Happiness at HIPICO Santa Fe. [HIPICO Santa Fe has been the city’s premier venue for equestrian events, but is available for other events.] A portion of the proceeds went to Earthseed. At the end of October, members of Earthseed collaborated with Walk the Talk Santa Fe to create a public art installation in the Railyard Park. The O’Gah Po’Geh Altar Project uses the Tewa name for the territory where Santa Fe now sits and honors the intersectional struggle for liberation by marginalized communities across New Mexico.
One of the Earthseed Black Arts Alliance’s virtual initiatives has been a weekly community check-in. Those who sign up to be a part of the Alliance are welcomed to a weekly Zoom meeting where they can support each other or just hang out. Says Bailando,“I’m nearly brought to tears every week I’m there, in a very simple way — just the simple necessity of being together and seeing how much each person who’s there really needs to be there. It has been really beautiful.”
Although none of the three founders is originally from New Mexico, they were all drawn to the Land of Enchantment in a similar way: a deep, almost spiritual connection with this space and its energy, and in particular the dirt and the sky. In building a supportive and curative community, the Alliance will contribute to the heart and soul of New Mexico. “Strengthening the Black creative community brings strength to the entire New Mexico community,” states Bailando.
The name Earthseed comes from Octavia Butler’s dystopian Afrofuturistic novel, Parable of the Sower. In it, the main character rebuilds her post-apocalyptic community based on the tenets of Earthseed, the invented religion in the novel. The fictional Earthseed and the arts alliance here share the same basic credo: “Caring for the earth, caring for each other and creating systems, even in the midst of incredible oppression.” Breeze, a Taos-based, multidisciplinary artist, notes the powerful symbolism the name holds, given the state of the country today.
Beginning in April and running through June, Breeze will hold a large solo show at form & concept: Four Sights of Return — Ritual, Remembrance, Reconciliation, and Reparation. The show will focus on the Black body and will have multiple performance interventions from performers and musicians from the Earthseed collective, in whatever capacities they can, given the pandemic. The show will also feature art by twenty-five international African diaspora Indigenous artists, called Hand Tools of Resilience.
Concurrently with Breeze’s show, Bailando will be performing as half of a two-person production in the upstairs gallery of form & concept. The concurrent shows will share overlapping themes and other connections.
Katerina Barton grew up in Santa Fe and recently received a dual-MA degree from NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Institute in journalism and in European and Mediterranean studies. She is now a freelance writer and journalist in New York City, but the magic of the Southwest still calls to her.