May 23rd 2017

The Politics of Land Sovereignty and Environmental Racism

@ Gallery 400

400 S Peoria St, Chicago, IL 60607

Opening Tuesday, May 23rd, from 5PM - 8PM

On view through Wednesday, May 24th

Join Gallery 400 and UIC’s Native American Support Program for discussions examining environmental and land-based injustice against communities of color. As multiple communities work to fight corporate and state environmental violence we contemplate the role of art, shared experience and how to build coalition. This 2-day symposium features a lecture on The Art of Indigenous Resistance exhibition by activists Charlie Thayer and Kim Smith of Honor the Earth; a panel discussion on environmental racism featuring Olga Bautista, Petcoke activist, and Bryant Williams, President of BK Environmental Industries; a teach-in led by Dr. Kyle Mays, University of North Carolina and Kelly Hayes, The Chicago Light Brigade; and a keynote lecture by artist Torkwase Dyson.

This symposium offers free registration on a first-come, first-served basis. Please register

May 23
5pm – Reception featuring Chi-Nations Youth Council
Join us for refreshments and a short drum performance by Chi-Nations Youth Council , a diverse group of youth and adults, with a mission to create a supportive open environment for Native Youth.

6pm – Conversation with Kade Twist of Postcommodity and author Heid Erdrich
How do we center Indigenous knowledge to “make art of weapons”?
Enjoy a conversation with artist Kade Twist and author Heid Erdrich as they explore connections between their work while examining ways of building capacity for honoring generosity, reciprocity and stewardship, and transferring knowledge and methods intergenerationally and interculturally.

May 24
9am – Breakfast (provided)

10am – The Art of Indigenous Resistance: a lecture by Charlie Thayer and Kim Smith
Join Kim Smith and Charlie Thayer as they discuss the exhibition The Art of Indigenous Resistance, featuring work by indigenous artists curated by Honor the Earth. The exhibition highlights Honor the Earth’s 32 years of Indigenous outreach and community resistance featuring new works exploring social & environmental injustices across indian country.

11am – Radioactive Colonialism: a panel discussion
This panel discussion will explore Chicago’s fight against environmental racism, a structured practice of deliberately concentrating toxins and other hazardous waste and pollutants in low-income communities of color. Moderated by Makeda Austin, leaders Olga Bautista and Bryant Williams will speak to their work in social justice, guide us in understanding power structures, and help us understand how we can build solidarity across neighborhoods.

12:30pm – Lunch (provided)

1:30pm – Acts of Resistance: teach-in sessions led by Dr. Kyle Mays and Kelly Hayes
Dr. Kyle Mays | From Flint, Michigan, to Standing Rock, artistic and cultural expression has been a key source of social transformation. This interactive workshop will explore how Indigenous Millennials–artists, intellectuals, and activists–use expressive culture as a tool for social and environmental justice, and beyond.
Kelly Hayes | Explore ways to combat state violence through direct action organizing and learn best practices of protesting when your body is on the line.

4pm – Keynote lecture: Torkwase Dyson

Presenter Bios

Torkwase Dyson works through multiple forms and describes herself as a painter who uses the language of architecture and minimal geometric abstraction to generate descriptive fragments of space. The works are distilled deconstructions of natural and built environments and consider how individuals negotiate and negate various types of systemic orders that impact environmental justice. Dyson’s work has been exhibited at the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Corcoran College of Art and Design, the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, and the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. Dyson is the recipient of Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors award, Nancy Graves Grant for Visual Artists, Visiting Artist grant to the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University, the Culture Push Fellowship for Utopian Practices, Eyebeam Art and Technology Center Fellowship, and the FSP/Jerome Fellowship. Dyson’s work has also been supported by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Drawing Center, Lower Manhattan Cultural Center, The Laundromat Projects, the Green Festival of New York, the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, the Mural Arts Program of Philadelphia, The Kitchen, and the Rebuild Foundation. In 2016 Dyson was elected to the board of the Architecture League of New York as Vice President of Visual Arts. Torkwase is based in Brooklyn, NY and is a visiting critic at Yale School of Art.

Kade L. Twist, is an interdisciplinary artist working with video, sound, interactive media, text and installation environments. Twist’s work combines re-imagined tribal stories with geopolitical narratives to examine the unresolved tensions between market-driven systems, consumerism and American Indian cultural self-determination. Mr. Twist is the founder of Postcommodity, an interdisciplinary artist collective. With his individual work and the collective Postcommodity, Twist has exhibited work nationally and internationally. Mr. Twist is a US Artist Klein Fellow for Visual Arts. Postcommodity have been the recipients of grants from the Harpo Foundation, Joan Mitchell Foundation, Art Matters, Creative Capital and the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation. Postcommodity’s work has been included in the 2017 Whitney Biennial and documenta 14.

In addition to his art practice, Twist is also a public affairs consultant specializing in American Indian health care, technology and community development. Twist received his MFA in Intermedia from the Herberger Institute School of Art at Arizona State University. He is an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.

Heid E. Erdrich is the author of five collections of poetry including Curator of Ephemera at the New Museum for Archaic Media new in 2017. Heid’s nonfiction work, Original Local: Indigenous Foods, Stories and Recipes from the Upper Midwest, earned a City Pages Best Food Book of 2014 designation. Her writing has won awards from the Minnesota State Arts Board, Bush Foundation, The Loft Literary Center, and First People’s Fund. Her book National Monuments won the 2009 Minnesota Book Award. In 2013 she was named a City Pages Artists of the Year. Heid’s poem films have been screened widely at festivals and have won Best of Fest and a Best Experimental Short awards. She is an independent scholar and curator, a playwright, and founding publisher of Wiigwaas Press an Ojibwe language publisher. She teaches the MFA Creative Writing program of Augsburg College. Heid grew up in Wahpeton, North Dakota and is Ojibwe enrolled at Turtle Mountain.

Kim Smith is a Todích’íí’nii (Bitterwater clan) woman from St Michaels Arizona and is an artist, organizer, activist, water protector, and board member for Honor the Earth. As a woman of a water clan she holds her responsibilities to water dear and has dedicated her life to protecting water & her homelands from resource extraction. For the past 10 years her organizing efforts include art activism, raising awareness about resource extraction on the Diné Nation, water rights, food sovereignty, permaculture & indigenous empowerment in efforts to uphold many inherent responsibilities. As a young Diné woman looking at personal and political choices she makes efforts according to her cultural teachings and values; thinking and behaving in a way that is consistent to the teachings of ancestors and with the laws of nature. In an effort to restore balance to the land and community. Kim is also a board member for Honor the Earth & Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment ( Diné CARE) two pioneer indigenous environmental organizations. Kim is also the curator for a national traveling exhibition called, “The Art of Indigenous Resistance”.

Charlie Thayer is a 2014 Bush Fellow and a 2016 graduate from University of Minnesota with his MA in Education Policy & Leadership. Thayer currently works for Honor the Earth which has been a catalyst for environmental and social justice issues through art & music for 31 years. Thayer spent the past 7+ months at Standing Rock and was amongst 21 other water protectors who recently had charges dropped for criminal trespass on 1854 Treaty Territory.

Olga Bautista is a life-long resident and community organizer of Chicago’s Southeast Side. She is a founding member of Chicago’s Southeast Side Coalition to Ban Petcoke (petroleum coke, or petcoke, is a byproduct of the oil refining process).

Bryant Williams is a 15-year veteran in industrial hygiene and environmental engineering. He currently serves as the Board Chair for the Southeast Environmental Task Force and tbe Vice President of the Board for the Plant Chicago in addition to his leadership at BK Environmental Industries. Bryant also served as the manager of engineering for the Cook County Department of Environmental Control, where he was involved in developing and implementing the Demolition Debris Diversion Ordinance, one of the most impactful mandates in the Midwest. Bryant holds a degree in biology and environmental science from Olivet College. A lifelong resident of Chicago’s Southside, Bryant is using his experience to help establish the Chicagoland area as a world-class model of sustainability.

Makeda Austin is a doctoral student studying health psychology at Northwestern University. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Virginia Commonwealth University. Much of her work focuses on understanding the intersections of race, class, and health. She is particularly interested in holistic health frameworks that promote a mind-body understanding of health and disease. She is currently working on a project to understand how residential segregation influences psychological stress and cancer outcomes of Chicago residents.

Kyle T. Mays, PhD. Kyle T. Mays is an historian of modern US, Afro-Indigenous, and Indigenous studies, with a particular focus on how various actors construct indigeneity and other social meanings in modern US cities. Dr. Mays is currently a postdoctoral fellow of the University of North Carolina, and is working on a forthcoming book. A cultural and social history, the book will tentatively analyze how indigeneity functioned in Detroit’s modern development. An idea central to the project is that we cannot comprehend the development of modern US cities without also understanding how indigeneity was central to their development.

Kelly Hayes is a direct action trainer and a cofounder of The Chicago Light Brigade and the direct action collective Lifted Voices. She is community relations associate and a contributing writer at Truthout and her photography is featured in the “Freedom and Resistance” exhibit of the DuSable Museum of African American History. Kelly’s contribution to the anthology Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? stems from her work as an organizer against state violence and her ongoing analysis of movements in the United States, as featured in Truthout and the blog Transformative Spaces.

Major support for This Land/That Land Symposium: The Politics of Land Sovereignty and Environmental Racism is provided by the Humanities Without Walls consortium, based at the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The Humanities Without Walls consortium is funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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