Aaron: I guess the questions that I had, The first one was just, what drew you to the Legacy Quilt Project? Yeah, we can just start there.
Jordan: Well, I think I just related to the idea that this project is sort of a response to what's going on in the world right now. I've kind of got it in my head that protest and resistance takes a lot of different forms.
Jordan: And that as artists there's different ways to go about that, about activism, about, even like, I like the word activism more than I like the word protest in some way, because I think there are a lot of things to protest, but I'm really into this idea of positive action. Like, nobody can be on the street every day protesting. So what are you positively doing to influence the world? And if art is what you love to do, how can you use the art as a vehicle to talk about things like social justice?
I'm a Buddhist, and in Buddhism, we have the idea of a lineage. So, before you do any sort of practice, you basically bring to mind your lineage. And, the people that I practice with, it's not just like, learn these names of these Buddhists or whatever. Of course have expanded it. And so you give thanks in your practice to the people that have come before you that you've learned from no matter if it's your grandmother or a fictional character or an animal or a tree or, people like in the Legacy Quilt Project. Like who are the people that we bring up their legacy in order to get strength and in order to find out how to move forward?
Jordan: You know?
Aaron: And so you picked Mary...
Jordan: Mary White Ovington.
Aaron: Yeah, so tell me a little bit about her.
Jordan: Her main I guess contribution to the history books is being a part of the founding of the NAACP.
And, working along with, like, the conversation that was going on with W. E. B. Du Bois and Frederick Douglass, , there was a lot of different opinions about how to move forward, how to organize, whether you use the system, whether you create your own things outside of the system. The system being the white supremacy system, basically, that was sort of altered post the Civil War, but then reconstructed in new forms. The quote that I put on here, these are difficult days, but there is always hope. I think, you know, I think you could probably use that in any time. Yeah, you know what I mean?
Jordan: But she was really into the idea of like I said positive action and organization. Like let's organize our own organizations so that we don't have to rely on the old ways. What's the new form of organization where people are going to come together? It's somewhat related to the church, of course, but it's not the church. It's a civic organization, NAACP. So, how does the community organize itself?
Really, I was just drawn to like her gaze in the image that I used. And, um, I, I really enjoyed making this. I don't know if it's because I'm in the studio with all the stuff I've been making, but I really enjoyed making it. But I think the thing that's going to stick with me the most was like the research, was the workshop, and like connecting with people at the workshop, and just learning about who she was is really for me the most important thing.
Aaron: Yeah, that's awesome. Are there aspects of, her activism and her legacy that you feel inspired by or that you are thinking about, how can I incorporate that or carry that on in my own work?
Jordan: Yeah, yeah, I think specifically the idea of being motivated to create new community organization is what is the most inspiring to me. , and also, it's like something that I think a lot of people think about, but she did it. She was like we're going to move forward with this. And there was debate about how to do it and what form it would take and that conversation was all part of it, but they did it.
Yeah, you know, yeah. A friend of mine here, we've talked about starting some sort of artist cooperative, starting with it being a food co op. So it would actually be organized around the structure of a co op where we would, as a co op, we could buy food at bulk prices basically.
And so we could in the future do shows or look for studio spaces or projects together, all these things, but we're going to start it based on what are concrete needs that people have. That we all have, but we're artists. So how to make it a little easier to be an artist in St. Louis. Or just in general, is, okay, we'll make this organization where you can buy, tubs of beans and rice for a cheap deal. Like what the natural food store would pay for it before their markup, you know.
Aaron: I love that. Especially that, feels like it flies in the face of the starving artist trope.
Jordan: Totally, absolutely.
Aaron: Let's start with the most basic need. And in the form of a co op, individuals get nourished, but then you're also nourishing each other through that community. Yeah. I love that.
Jordan: But, you know, I think like, who I am and sort of what I intend to do in my life, has been influenced by, a number of things, obviously, but two things, working with hospice, you know, and George Floyd. I Mean, it goes back all the way. Michael Brown and George Floyd were two of the kind of catalyzing moments for me, as they were for many people. When Michael Brown was killed, I was in Austin. , but, knowing that it was St. Louis, and my family lives here, I'm from Missouri, , I remember just watching images online and just being like, there's no white people there. At the time I was like, well gosh, what am I going to do when this happens in my town? You know? But what I took from that era of the pandemic and George Floyd and protests and all that, what I took from that is exactly what I'm talking about now, what are the positive things that you can work on every day and have your hands involved and create that is helpful? You know? , it's one thing to say like, I want to change the world, but it's another thing to be like, well, what is concretely helpful on a daily basis? They're very different. Yeah. And being in grad school, you sort of have these big lofty, like, I'm gonna change the world.
Jordan: You know? You're writing these statements and all that stuff, but working with people in hospice, and also just thinking about organizing people that I relate to, artists, no matter how they identify, no matter where they're from, no matter what they look like, any of that. Those are my people. It doesn't even have to be political, you know what I mean? We're all gonna die, we all need food. All artists share a similar, way of thinking about the world, you know?
Aaron: Yeah, I keep thinking of that Michael Jackson song, Man in the Mirror. Like, you know? When we say like, I want to change the world, there's something that's sort of detached about that. Because it's like, , we are a part of the world. And the greatest place of potential lies within our own life and our own actions. And I think we can get caught up in this sense of urgency, because there are so many terrible things that are going on that we wish we could end and that can be stopped. But, I think that a lot of times people can hit a wall because they don't actually have the capacity to do something about this big problem that we're seeing, but at the end of the day, there's so much potential.
Aaron: For each individual. And when we think about what makes up this world, it's relationships with ourselves, with each other, with the environment. I think as a Buddhist, it's that respect for all life is such an important piece of the resistance. It's a resistance to binary thinking... to, there's one way to solve this problem and it's like, there's infinite numbers of ways that we can all be engaged and involved.
Aaron: I had my moment of activation when Mike Brown was killed because I was here and, totally burnt out. Like, I was out on the streets, fight, fight, fight. When I think about those months, August, September, October, November, it's all kind of a blur. It was a time in my life where I was just, I'll eat when I have time, I'll sleep when I have time. I was really foregoing a lot of the most important things in terms of taking care of myself, because I felt that sense of urgency. And it's really hard to slow things down when you know that 20 miles away, people are getting tear-gassed in their neighborhoods.
But the difference with this catalytic moment of George Floyd and Brianna Taylor and the pandemic was that I had been through the urgency and the burnout already. Been through is maybe a hopeful way to think about it, because I think it still lives with me. That's where the art came in. It wasn't sustainable and it wasn't the truest form of resistance for me to be out there chanting and marching. There's definitely times when I need that release, but I wanted to be engaged long term.
I think it's such a powerful thing to really think through, Who am I? What are my passions? And how can I infuse this desire to help and to change the world for the better into that? I think a lot of times people feel like they have to take whatever it is that they've done and push that off to the side and reinvent how they're going to be a part of this change. When in reality the strongest and the most sustainable change comes from when you are incorporating that into your everyday practice.
Aaron: It gets back to Buddhism again. When you're sitting and meditating, when you have that regular practice, that changes how you see things and how you live and move in the world. And I think it's the same with , activism, like what you were saying before.
Jordan: Yeah, there's someone in my cohort named Matt Green. And they are doing a really great project. So basically their father was a MMA fighter and trained them to fight. And There's a Riverfront Times article about them from when they were young. Of a girl who fights. And is ranked in MMA for a certain age. So they've done a lot of work about that, about their family, about this past. And the project that they've come up with is a social engagement project that's now becoming sort of like a documentary that will move forward into thesis. It's just so genius. They started a queer fight club. And so they're training a group of people that they just set, you know, the word out on, on social media through their friends, if you want to be a part of this, like, learn how to fight and defend yourself.
And, last night, the Queer Fight Club met and they did a manifesto workshop and I don't know, I just, I think that's such a, like, we were talking recently about, you know, protesting with what's going on, in Palestine, and me and Matt and an undergrad were talking about this event that we were working on that the administration was pushing back on and stuff and it was like seeing like three different ages you know what I mean? Like, the younger person is really passionate. We have to do it on campus. We want to do it here. We're all really passionate about it. It has to be like, pro-Palestine. And then I was just sort of like, I don't even... Fuck with institutions if I can help it. I'm just like, don't, just don't get them involved. Like, make it a secret, you know what I mean?
And then Matt was in the middle because, Matt also said that, they had burnt out from just, that passion of being young and then finding out the kind of, resistance that there is in institutions. So their way of moving forward is I just think just so genius. They have this history of fighting, and so what I'm going to do is I'm going to train other people who don't necessarily feel safe because of who they are, and train them to defend themselves, train them to fight, train them to have this like strength and power.
Aaron: Yeah. Yeah. What a great example of that. Especially because from the way you were talking about it at the beginning it sounds like that's something that's a part of their past that's troublesome to them.
Aaron: And to take a part of your identity and reinvent it in such a positive way that's also then giving a skill to people. That's really, it could be life-saving.
Aaron: You know, that's awesome.
Aaron & Jordan: I love that. Alright! Well, thank you, Jordan. It's been such a good, thank you. It's a great conversation. Great project.