Introducing The Jean Moye Dark Fund
The “Moye Girls” — From left to right, Marlene Witherspoon (my grandmother), Barbara Owens, Jean Moye, and Jean Brinkley.
We live in a society that loves art, but does not value artists; that loves blackness, but not Black people; that loves “Queer Eye,” but not queerness. I realize this is likely not new information for you, but I want to talk to you about what it means specifically for artists like me and the communities for whom I create work.
If we, Black women, femmes, and TGNB folks not only dare to make art, but make art that has to do with ourselves - that is, art that does not cater to the white gaze, art that is invested in Black and Indigenous ways of understanding the world, art that is grounded in grassroots and activist organizing, and ultimately, art that is in alignment with liberation and sovereignty, we take on tremendous social and financial risk, stigma, and punishment.
Even in the best of times, we often end up working multiple jobs outside of our creative labor, simply to make life work, in addition to the countless days and nights in rehearsal rooms, studios, libraries, and educational settings to push our visions into the world. Much of this is invisible, uncompensated, and even costly labor. We do not have easy access to inter-generational wealth, health insurance, or government bailouts. When tragedy hits, we are hit extra hard, as members of several communities at the intersections of many margins.
Some of us stop being artists. Some of us continue, wounded and fatigued, but die before our time. Some of us will not be remembered, having buried what we perceive as our “failed” dreams, and we will guard our descendants the way our elders tried to guard us from stepping out of line. We become traumatized by “our poor choices,” when the reality is that we live in a society that does not support artists, let alone Black women + TGNB artists.
I am asking us to invest in another future. I am asking you – your institution – to invest in another, better, more equitable future.
MAKING REAL CHANGE
My great-grandmother, Willie “Jean” Moye, a Black-Native woman from Meridian, Mississippi, was a writer. No one knew that this woman who grew up in the early half of the 20th century, who had once run into a burning building to rescue her daughter, was a writer until two decades into the 21st century when a manuscript was discovered in her basement, long after she’d departed this physical world.
I share this because it is but one story that illustrates the reality: Black, Women/Femmes + TGNB Folks are discouraged from dreaming. We are not encouraged to experience vulnerability, wonder, or our own selves as manifestations of The Divine. I’m taking a step to change that and need your help to create a different story.
The Jean Moye Dark Fund will primarily support the creation of a collectively-imagined residency space that centers Black Women (Cis and Trans), Non-Binary Folks, and other Transfolks to be artists, world-makers, healers, and visionaries. Our ultimate goal is to purchase land and be self-sustainable by offering our beloved community time and space to vision, recover, and rest from the ongoing trauma of white supremacy, heteronormativity, and transphobia as they rob us of our ability to be fully well. It is only through offering this kind of restorative space, we believe, that we will be able to fully support the revolutionary bodies and creative visions of our communities.
A portion of the The Jean Moye Dark Fund will also directly support our community of Black women, femmes, and TGNB artists + organizations who have made incredible sacrifices to help reimagine a world in which we are sacred.
We need you, in your position as a trusted arts organization in your community, to help us achieve the vision.
Here are some concrete action steps you can do now to make an impact:
BE AN AMBASSADOR. Research and communicate with donors: make introductions, or even make an ask on our behalf. Lift up our fund - be in community with us.
SHARE OUR STORY and encourage your folks to support the fund (links below). We are launching a social media campaign to make available content from performances over the past few years, written reflections, and quotes from my great-grandmother’s manuscript – work that was largely produced with uncompensated or undercompensated labor. It is offered here as an inspiration and modality of exchange, and we hope you will consider it supporting it by donating and spreading the word.
The Jean Moye Dark Fund: https://artistservices.bax.org/jean-moye-dark-fund-black-womenfemmes-tgnc-artists/
Thank you for your belief in this dream and for your continued support!