by Chamidae Ford

In response to the COVID-19 delta variant, the Seattle Public Library (SPL) has partnered with an array of artists, community organizations and artists to create “What the World Needs Now: A Dreamathon “. The Dreamathon is a series dedicated to encouraging community members to imagine a better life in the event of a pandemic through art, music and knowledge.

“We started COVID response projects in 2020, but intentionally decided that community-led work should be at the center of what we do,” said Davida Ingram, SPL’s public engagement program manager. “So there’s a really nice range of culture-specific work that has taken place in response to COVID that has a lot of implications for racial justice and the role that arts and culture kind of play in amplifying. public health concerns. ”

This series began with eight weeks of “Soul Clinics” in addition to online campaigns that encouraged viewers to engage on social media using the hashtag #DreamathonWA. Selfie stations set up in southern King County allow participants to take a photo and share it online, along with their hopes for the future, using the hashtag #DreamathonWA. And it’s all inspired by the idea of ​​merging health with dreams and creativity.

“[We are] really highlighting the concept and idea of ​​the dream as an essential part of health and art as an essential part of health and creativity, ”said Candace Jackson, African American Health Board. “Putting these things together for the people leading up to the event was very important to us. I think traditionally people don’t think of fun when I think of wellness or health, so before this event we wanted to create this space for people online.

Soul Clinics were another aspect of the holistic approach to health and wellness. SPL has hosted more than 20 since the spring, allowing people to connect with their community while improving and caring for their well-being.

“Soul Clinics are an example of those times when we are able to bring several communities together to think about holistic care,” said Jackson. “[We] had masseurs or other types of healers on site. We had games, food and outdoor activities and a place for people to connect because this connecting piece is so essential to our health. Especially when you add layers of oppression to the mix, that element around being in community is so important. “

The idea for the Dreamathon was inspired by hackathons, a type of event where a large number of people meet and participate in collaborative computer programming. Wanting to push the community on tech, Ingram created Dreamathon as a more inspiring and accessible take on the series.

“We’re on Zoom, and technology played a big role in keeping people together during the pandemic, but it was the power of the people. And so [it was] the notion of “let’s listen to the people dreaming right now,” Ingram said. “When we say that one of the most practical things we can do right now is dreams, it’s because when we go into a dream state of mind, we think of the possibility, we let’s think about the potential. And there are so many crises in COVID, but there are also so many opportunities to take systems that weren’t working and reimagine them. “

Featuring artists from across the state, SPL encourages all Washingtonians to connect.

“This is certainly a joint work and with a vision to truly listen to Communities of Color in Washington state as a whole, but there is also a heartbeat in Seattle, Tacoma and Spokane as notes from the work, ”Ingram said.

Illustration for “What the World Needs Now: A Dreamathon” by Jessie Vergel. Image courtesy of Seattle Public Library.

The Dreamathon series will conclude with a two-day virtual event that will also air at Station Coffee Shop.

On October 22, there will be a virtual dance party starting at 7:30 p.m., co-hosted by CarLarans and Rell Be Free, with DJ sets from Tremenda Diosa and Toe Jam.

The second day of the celebration will be filled with speakers, artists and discussions. Starting at 2 p.m., the event will feature an opening song by Will Jordan; a panel discussion of young artists with Emery Spearman, Jessie Vergel, Kisira Hill and Victoria Olivera; and keynote addresses by Dr. Ben Danielson and Seattle Black Panthers Chapter Co-Founder Aaron Dixon.

Following the opening speeches, there will be a live performance by Lexi, a local musician, and De’Brea Cavaiani from Seattle’s hip-hop program The Residency will read a poem by spoken word artist Jordan Chaney and young people. artists incarcerated in Spokane. Amir Islam will also speak about recovery and dreaming during the pandemic, and there will be opportunities to learn more about mental health resources and bereavement support.

The afternoon will also feature workshops where participants can discuss issues ranging from abolition to food sovereignty to restoration.

This celebration is a time to learn what is going on in your community while sharing your own experiences and providing feedback to community organizers.

“Hopefully this is the time when the community can co-create knowledge together and build relationships so the work is a bit higher after the event,” Jackson said. “We’re going to identify the things that are coming to the top of the conversation, and we’re going to work to move those messages forward over the next nine months.”

The Dreamathon represents a space to develop the solutions that we have already created to address the inequalities in our systems, while recognizing those that we still have to resolve.

“Our communities deserve more than a hit in the arm,” said Ingram. “I’m not at all eager to pick up on the inequalities that existed in 2019. So when we talk about recovery, we also have to talk about some of the things that we were recovering from before? As we continue to design new solutions, I also want people to know that figuring out what our connection points will be is just part of the job and its work in progress. It’s not the work that started with COVID, it’s just the way we’ve been responding to conditions and the United States for a very long time. “

Register for events on the following Eventbrite webpage.

The following SPL community partners have participated in this program: African American Health Board, African American Reach and Teach Health (AARTH), A Sacred Passing, Black & Tan Hall, Columbia Legal Services, Converge Media, Fred Hutchinson (CoVPN), Gathering Roots Retreat & Wellness Center, Harborview Medical Center, King County Equity Now, King County Library System, KVRU 105.7 LPFM, Pacific Islander Community Association (PICA-WA), Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, Seattle Youth Commission, Tubman Center for Health & Freedom, UTOPIA Washington, Washington State Department of Health, Wa Na Wari, Washington Community Alliance, and #SeattleTogether Initative.

Ford of Chamidae is a recent graduate in journalism from the University of Washington. Born and raised in West Washington, she is passionate about giving voice to the communities around her. She has written for The Daily, GRAY Magazine and Capitol Hill Seattle. Reach her on IG/ Twitter: @chamidaeford.

?? Featured Image: Illustration for “What the World Needs Now: A Dreamathon” by Jessie Vergel. Image courtesy of Seattle Public Library.

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