Tom Minter's Off The Stoop Blog

a playwright's journey, creating, connecting, and conversing.

threading time..

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In a joint project of 2009, WNO partnered with the Ward 7 Arts Collaborative to collect the oral histories of residents of Ward 7 and record the stream of memories the community holds.

I was hired by the opera company not only to facilitate the recording of the histories but to fashion the questions which would best create conversation and reflection. By the end of the daylong interview process, we felt that we needed more balance from the youth of the neighborhood, and so made another date to head to the Teen Center to collect their side of community.

What emerged in these two sessions was a portrait of a neighborhood under siege and trying to navigate the buckling strains of disillusionment, violence, decimation of local business infrastructure, and the dismal duality of poverty and gentrification.

The Elders of the community felt unheard by both the youth of their community and the politicians they had voted into office; the youth felt unheard in their community, by both the elders and the officials of their neighborhood. They believed that their best chance for advancement, as well as survival, was to move out of their community, and establish themselves elsewhere. With this action, Ward 7 would continue to create a population base of elder residents, as any business or recreation aimed at a young market would disappear entirely.

In addition to these issues, and overarching them, was the reality of violence that was endemic in the area. Both youth and elders felt that they daily survived life in a terror zone of gunfire and threat. The dread both groups endured was oppressive, and fueled a deepening sense of hopelessness and anger.

In putting the collected narrative of this community together something else became apparent; despite their perception of divisiveness, the neighborhood’s youth and elders shared the same fears and worries about their community. Looking out from opposite corners, their view of their environment wasn’t at odds, but was a shared concern.

Several artists of the community shared in listening to the recorded stories, and developed pieces of art that reflected the tales and currents they felt in the words.

I was commissioned to create a ‘scene’ from the collected stories that would then be set to music and presented to the community as WNO’s contribution to the collaboration.

The resulting piece I wrote was called Threading Time, and involved four characters of a neighborhood, moving to a street corner, immersed in their own thoughts. As they come together their voices reflect the commonality of their concerns, and become injected with the strength of one another’s convictions. The piece ends in a single voice of hope and perseverance.

The various pieces of art, rap, dance and song which were the result of the various artists’ reactions to the community’s words were presented at a local high school, with community present, as well as various members of the political landscape of Ward 7, and the District of Columbia.

The day was a wonderfully successful one for all concerned, and each of us pledged to continue to speak about the challenges that faced this particular community, as example of all communities that worked with such challenges.

This event took place last October.

Move forward to this past Tuesday.

I’ve been working with WNO in creating the components of the Opera In Color event being held this coming Saturday, in Ward 7.

It was decided that Threading Time should be a part of this concert, as it came out of the words of the community, and represents WNO’s pledge to community.

But the landscape of violence, touched upon in the words of the song, reached out to take the life of a member of the WNO chorus this past Tuesday.

The victim of a violent act of carjacking, the chorus member lost his life, and his body was left on the grounds of Fort Dupont.

A horrific event, compounded by the fact that the chorus is coming to that place –had already been scheduled to sing in the Opera In Color event this coming Saturday, at that very spot of Fort Dupont, in the National Park.

As Threading Time was rehearsed this past Thursday evening, its words echoed and reverberated in a way I’d never anticipated –the violence, as well as the voices of hope, perseverance and community.

The concert will be dedicated to his memory.


Written by tomminteroffthestoop

June 13, 2010 at 8:59 AM

2 Responses

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  1. It was wonderful meeting you this past Saturday at the Juneteenth Art in the Park event. I enjoy your blog. Your research results are very heart-wrenching. Thanks for posting video from the production.

    Khadijah "Moon" Ali-Coleman

    June 21, 2010 at 5:10 AM

    • Your participation in the event, Khadijah, was a wonderful part of community, facilitating talents and music that platformed a beautiful spectrum of Voices and Lives! Thank you so much for that, and your kind words.


      June 21, 2010 at 7:57 AM

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