It’s not just our students who are involved in extracurricular activities. Our staffulty stay busy on the weekends, too! Last weekend, our Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Ms. Ebony Booth, was involved in one of Albuquerque’s biggest festivals of the year: SOMOS. The festival’s goal each year is to “illuminate the beauty and brilliance of Albuquerque,” and showcase “the talent, creativity, and spirit” of our city.
Ms. Booth is the founder of Burque Noir, a performance and visual art showcase that centers around black artists. She was invited to collaborate at SOMOS with a woman named Shawna Brown, the creator of a pop-up series of community engagement events called “The Syndicate.” The Syndicate “curates events that celebrate black [and brown] experiences, queer voices, and other creatives.”
It was their first collaboration, but likely not their last. While brainstorming ideas of what they would showcase at the festival, they had conversations about safe spaces for brown and black bodies, for homeless people, trans people, queer people, and everyone in between. Ms. Booth shared, “It’s not safe for these groups of people to lie down in public spaces, but everyone needs to rest.” They wanted to create this necessary space. “We wanted to look at rest as a form of resistance,” Ms. Booth added.
After designing the interactive installation, named “The Dreamscape,” and 16 hours of setting it up, Ms. Booth was happy with the results. “Once we built it, they came,” she reflected. “When the festival started, people immediately engaged with the space as we had hoped they would.”
They filled the space with furniture from “The Prop House,” a business that primarily rents to the entertainment industry. The installation also had a very special virtual reality aspect. Ms. Booth worked with another friend, Dafina McMillan, co-founder of Crux, a company that procures and curates digital content for virtual reality spaces that center around black characters. They wanted to use Dafina’s talent to create a virtual oasis within their own physical one. Using a virtual reality headset, people were able to virtually be at a beach and customize it in a myriad of ways, from adding palm trees to lighting up the sky.
Ms. Booth said that throughout the day, close to 200 people interacted with the space. As the day progressed to evening, the space changed both literally and figuratively. In the daytime, air flowed under the canopies; at night, small lights lit up the ground. The space would also change depending on who was in it and what they were using it for—whether they were taking a break from walking around art installations or resting from hours of dancing. This rest space was free of charge and had no strings attached. It was not important for Ms. Booth and her team to focus on monetary success, but in her words to simply “let the space exist.”
After a lot of hard work, we think it may be time for Ms. Booth to get some rest she truly deserves.