You Sow What You Are: “TRACES/REMAIN: Seed to Harvest: The Wooden Book”

Banner by ArtsEmerson

Seed to Harvest: The Wooden Book
Presented by ArtsEmerson
Based on the Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler 
Featuring the artistry of Toshi Reagon, Letta Neely, Deen Rawlins-Harris, Jenny Hughes, Dyllan Nguyen, Leo Alarcon
Parable Path Boston is Toshi Reagon’s year long artist residency at Emerson College
ArtsEmerson is a sponsor of Boston While Black.

April 8 – June 26, 2021
TRACES/REMAIN incorporates in-Person & online events. Please see below for more details. 
Boston, MA
ArtsEmerson on Facebook

Remaining opportunities to see/submit to the Wooden Book:
Frugal Bookstore, Nubian Square
MAY 24–JUN 07
57 Warren Street, Roxbury, MA 02119
Drop Off Hours: MON–WED 10:00AM–3:00PM;
THU–FRI 10:00AM–5:00PM
SAT 10:00AM–3:00PM
Sower Session: MAY 25 @ 5:30-7:00PM (Zoom)
Neighborhood Tabling Session: JUN 12 @ 4:00PM-6:00PM (Nubian Square Park)

Franklin Park Tennis Courts
JUN 06
Circuit Drive, Boston, MA 02130
Neighborhood Tabling Session: JUN 06 @ 1:00PM-3:00PM (Across from Lemuel Shattuck Hospital)

BCYF/Shelburne Community Center
JUN 10–24
2730 Washington St, Roxbury, MA 02119
Sower Session: JUN 10 @ 6:00-7:30PM
Neighborhood Tabling Session: JUN 13 @ 1:00PM-3:00PM (Malcolm X Park, behind Shelburne)

Egleston Branch Library 
JUN 26
2044 Columbus Ave, Roxbury, MA 02119
Culminating Celebration: 1:00PM–3:00PM

Review by Kitty Drexel

BOSTON — Moments from Reagon’s 2017 concert of her opera, Parable of the Sower still haunt me. So when I heard about Parable Path Boston, I got excited. When I heard about TRACES/REMAIN, I did a little wiggle-dance in my seat. Butler’s Parable Series is excellent reading whether you enjoy science fiction or not. It’s exciting to see Reagon and Butler inspiring new audiences. 

I signed up for the May 25 Sower Session and put a visit to the Frugal Bookstore in Nubian Square, Boston in my calendar. I Googled the series to remind myself of the content of the novels. I thought I was ready. 

Sower Sessions are 90 minute sessions with Sowers (artists stewarding the Seed to Harvest project) during which attendees will respond to four prompts. Those prompts are HERE. The theme of the book is Memory as Medicine. The ArtsEmerson website says, “Your memory can serve as medicine and be germinated with this project in a plethora of ways: sharing inspirations, creating your own dance medicine, finding people with whom to create, writing, drawing, singing, and video.”

White people, if you are going to attend the Sower Sessions and visit the Wooden Book, please arm yourselves with as much knowledge about the books, Reagon’s opera, Parable Path’s mission, and the Black experience as possible. Because, I was ready to be an ally in a space that didn’t belong to me. I wasn’t ready for other white people not to be. That’s my fault. 

In the session on May 25, Sower Letta Neely said that, if illness is contagious, then healing can be too. By sharing our memories, we can heal others. 

Who has 1.5 thumbs and visited Frugal Bookstore on a Sunday? This nerd.

Letta Neely and Deen Rawlins-Harris led the session with joy. They took each of us as we were, skills or not. Most of us were an artist of some kind and that helped us connect, but I got the feeling that Neely and Rawlins-Harris would welcome everyone if their intentions were pure.  It felt like church for artists. 

We wrote. We read. We giggled a lot and danced a little. It was liberating. If only it had remained that way. 

When I arrived at the Sower Session, I made a promise to respect the boundaries and the artists in that space. I can’t say exactly what happened during the last quarter of the Zoom session out of respect for those guidelines. 

I can say that I used my legacy as the grandchild of WWII Nazis to assist another white, drunken person with their white guilt. I am not patting myself on the back when I say, I stopped this person’s public tanty. I didn’t know what else to do. No one ever expects anyone to admit to knowing a Nazi much less to being related to three. Lucky me, it worked. 

A Sower Session is not the place to ask Black people to explain racism. Don’t ever do that.  Read a book. Take a class. Drink some rosé about it. Leave Black people alone. 

White people can’t expect Sower Sessions to be centralized on whiteness. We’re so used to everything being about us. Those times are over.

The book and the installation around it look wonderful from the outside! Sigh.

Writing this review is terrifying. I share it so other white folks will know that they aren’t alone. We all make mistakes. What matters most is that we keep trying to be better. 

I’m examining my responses so I can react better next time, to remove the literal white supremacy from responses. I hope I didn’t make things worse by speaking up. 

Letta Neely and Deen Rawlins-Harris rescued the session from our white supremacist interruption and guided it back to a healing, safer experience. They were generous with their spirit and their kindness. We two didn’t deserve it but I am grateful regardless. 

Information on Seed to Harvest: The Wooden Book is HERE

For submissions, please see the community guidelines defined by the artists.

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