Contributor Jaden Faulk is a senior at Highland High School, Centro Sávila Youth Leadership Council (YLC) member, a Keshet Arts and Justice Network Youth Leader and recent participant in the 2020 City of Albuquerque Mayor’s Creative Youth Corps.
For as long as I can remember, the arts have been a very prominent part of my life. I started dancing at Keshet Dance and Center for the Arts when I was five years old, during which I also began training in various African Dance techniques with women in the Black community of Albuquerque. Creative spaces always instilled in me a sense of safety, whether they had been rooted in dancing, literature, other visual arts. To me, the beautiful thing about art is that there’s no one way to create something, because it’s always unique to the individual; it’s versatile. Art is also a universal language; while it’s subjective to our own interpretation, it’s also a way for people to connect with and relate to each other, sometimes without even using words.
The arts have also played a major role in my journey towards finding my identity as a Black woman. Growing up in Albuquerque, I didn’t always have the Black community that I yearned for. However art has always been a platform that’s accessible, through which I can connect with artists who reflect me, simply by immersing myself in what they’ve created to be experienced by others. In artistic spaces, the things we create are subject to our own truths, through which a freedom is manifested that allows us to tell our stories in all of their raw authenticity.
I first reached out to Keshet regarding my interest in becoming involved with their Arts and Justice Network midway through the 2019 school year. I had become increasingly involved in restorative justice work after I joined a council that was organized by my peer Emani Brooks. Upon becoming a part of the council, I felt that working with Keshet would amplify the work that we were starting. Originally, Emani and I had planned to work with Keshet’s Artistic Director Shira Greenberg as a resource to build the curriculum that we are currently trying to integrate into our school, Highland High School, and eventually want to see implemented throughout the state. However, she also asked us if we were interested in becoming a part of the Movement for Mercy project, and I was beyond thrilled to jump into the creative process of something so needed in our community.
Movement for Mercy is a live dance performance which honors the intersections of experiences and shared history throughout our community. It is a production that has been co-created by a team of artists from Keshet and participants of the M3 (Movement + Mentorship = Metamorphosis) program, both within and outside of the New Mexico juvenile prison facilities, and highlights the impacts of youth incarceration.
When I began working on Movement for Mercy in December 2019, I didn’t know at all what to expect. Most of my experience with Keshet had been training in their community classes and pre-professional program and performing in productions like Nutcracker on the Rocks and the spring concert series. While restorative justice was always something that had been important to me, I had never become involved with the arts and justice element of Keshet. However, becoming a part of the Movement for Mercy creative process made me realize something: all aspects of life are connected. The thing that is so special about the arts is that it amplifies everything we do in our lives. Because it’s a universal language, it will never fail to bring people together and make them listen, and that’s where change begins.
Following our first performance of Movement for Mercy in February 2020, I’ve decided to create my own piece to be included in future versions of the production. It’s going to be a story about me. A story about my people. A story about being Black in America and the system that has continued to violently target our communities. Being able to manifest art in spaces such as the Movement for Mercy process further affirms the pride that I hold in my identity and my right to use my voice.
But to me, the most beautiful part of all of this has been the way that it has reached the community. Connecting with other people through the arts allows us to share our stories and understand the world through different lenses, and that is why I continue to utilize the arts as a platform to spark restorative justice and visible change.
Movement for Mercy: Conversation with the Artists
Thursday, July 9, 2:30-3:30pm MST
Register here to receive the Zoom link.
A round table discussion with the MfM artists about their past, current, and ongoing work at the intersection of arts and justice.
Movement for Mercy: Performance Screening
Saturday, July 11, 2:30-4pm MST
Register here to receive the Livestream link.
A special viewing of the February 2020 Movement for Mercy work-in-progress showing in its entirety, along with new pieces created in quarantine, as well as insights and commentary from the artists.
Please be advised: Movement for Mercy addresses complex themes and contains language which some might find offensive.
Keshet’s NM Arts & Justice Network supports the unfiltered voices of system-impacted and justice-oriented youth advocates through a judgement-free process within which these voices can be included, explored, and honored. We believe it is important to hear these voices, and we amplify the voices of these youth and young adults through the vehicle of the arts.