On October 19th, 2023, we spent the evening kicking off a celebratory year for 15 years of We the People of Detroit (WPD) at Spot Lite. We are immensely grateful for all of the people who came to show their love for our organization. Without the support of our community, none of this could have been possible. The Theme for the celebration was “Art is Revolution.” At WPD, art has been an essential form of resistance. Over the years, we’ve used art to express our feelings on the injustice of water insecurities and to advance our social justice message. Our expression has come in many forms, including music, photography, and spoken word poetry. We would be remiss if when celebrating our 15-year anniversary, we did not also celebrate the role art has played in our fight for meaningful change and peace in our Beloved Community.
The night began with a welcome from WPD team members, Tiana Starks, Director of Communications, and Taylor Pine, Marketing Assistant. Following that, we heard from our Co-Founder and CEO, Monica Lewis-Patrick.
Following Monica’s account, the co-founders of WPD were honored with a gift of flowers. Monica Lewis Patrick, Debra Taylor, Cecily McClellan, and Aurora Harris accepted a gift on Mother Chris Griffith’s behalf. Without the work of these exceptional and inspiring women, none of the work WPD has built would have been possible. We are inspired every day by the legacy they are forging.
As the night moved on, there was a panel discussion. The panel included local advocates and artists Bryce Detroit, Producer and Business Owner, Aurora Harris, award-winning poet and co-founder of We the People of Detroit, and Justin Kearney, Filmmaker. The theme of the panel was “How to speak your truth as an artist and an advocate”. Each panelist brought a unique perspective to the table and made for a rich, thought-provoking conversation.
When the panel wrapped up, we welcomed our spoken word artists to the stage to perform. First up, we had our revered co-founder, Aurora Harris perform an original piece. Next, we had Rachel Claxton, performing her original piece, Smell the Wool. Last, we had Kai Walker, performing her original piece, Rage is Art.
After live performances, Taylor Pine introduced the gallery. We are honored to have featured art from incredible local artists Dr. Chanel Beebe, Nicolena Stubbs, Lulu Fall, Stephanie Mae, Tia Nichols, Robert O'Banner, Sara Harajli, Jatonah Henry, Maia Regman, and Andrew Kaplowitz.
Attendees were then given the opportunity to explore the gallery. So many wonderful conversations were had and we are grateful that we were able to host a space for these meaningful exchanges among artists and advocates.
Following this period of discussion, we announced the winners of our Art Contest. Contestants were graded by our judges, Aurora Harris, Bryce Detroit, and Norrel Hemphill. 1st place prize of $1,000 was awarded to Jatonah Henry for her piece “Bando”. 2nd Place was awarded to Andrew Kaplowitz for his piece “Water is Life”. 3rd place prize of $500 was awarded to Rachel Claxton for her poetry piece and spoken word performance of “ Smell the Wool”. All of the artists involved in this event created pieces that were powerful and unique to their own voice. It was truly an honor to hold space for their artwork to kick off our 15 year anniversary celebration.
Again, we would like to thank our featured artists, Nicolena Stubbs, Lulu Fall, Dr. Chanel Beebe, Rachel Claxton, Stephanie Mae, Tia Nichols, Robert O'Banner, Sara Harajli, Kai Walker, Jatonah Henry, Maia Regman, and Andrew Kaplowitz. We would also like to give a huge thanks to Roula David and Jessica Kindle for allowing us the opportunity to use the incredible space at Spot Lite Detroit. And of course, we send all of our love to our team, who is always willing to lend a helping hand when organizing events such as this. The biggest round of applause goes to our founders, who have been the change they want to see in their communities. Their hard work, grit, and fearlessness are so worthy of celebration.
Rachel Claxton, performing her original piece, Smell the Wool.
Kai Walker, performing her original piece, Rage is Art.
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