2022 End of Year Wrap!
Published on December 8, 2022 by hannah mayree
Hello Again and Seasons Greetings!
We have made it through another year of Black Banjo Reclamation Project innovating and committing to uplifting the creative, land-based, community, folk pathways of the banjo. For us, the banjo is a tool of changing our world. By working with inter-generational, diverse, and growing populations of Black folks across the country, the work of the BBRP has been instilling historical truths and transforming our Black experience into creative art forms of music, craft and community design.
It has been an honor to have you all on this journey with us. Thank you for reflecting with us as we recap our year and plan for an amazing year ahead!
Accomplishments: What did you accomplish during 2022? How did you use money?
The amazing thing about this year is that so many of our accomplishments have been tangible and we can really recognize the ways they have affected us and our community. Some of our accomplishments have been more subtle, the underground ways that we have grown and charted our path into the future of sustaining and elevating this work. By raising almost 40,000 our first year on OCF, we were able to fund 2 fully produced projects which included administrative and educator costs, travel, the funds for our zoom account and now we can start out the year with a small cushion in which to plan our next endeavors.
~ Community Building:
Our community is the heartbeat of the BBRP. It is our continual love and desire to express ourselves in creation that brings us together and allows us to make connections that support the growth of this project. This year, we started by bringing together the community online and in person in Oakland for a 12 week session where we focused on learning to play the banjo. The Winter Cohort was the first that has been hosted and it brought so many people together for weeks that allowed us to get to know each other and the depth of each person’s banjo journey. We also were able to learn music, banjo techniques, songs and explore expression. This paved the way for later on in the year, when we joined together for three different banjo builds across the nation. Each time we had the opportunity to gather in person, we got to build on work we had previously done. Taking knowledge from each experience, we collectively have had so much to share and learn together through our time this year. The best part is that we were able to accomplish a big goal of moving toward a stronger collective organizing path. Members of BBRP who have been deeply involved have been able to meet regularly since September on zoom to coordinate and organize projects. We are being regular and consistent about coming together virtually and this has resulted in members taking on leadership roles in BBRP and in their localities to work with the banjo through music and craft around the country. This was our hope and we are starting to see this blossom.
~ Building Banjos!:
This was our biggest year of banjo building to date. With 3 large scale community events, we facilitated over 25 banjo’s being built by hand. Our Sacramento build had been in ideation for a year prior and we had been very excited to try a new model of gathering community. We did this over 3 days and were able to have an immersive experience camping and being outside in nature during our build. The second build was the Washington Fellowship that took place for a week in Port Townsend, WA. This was a very strategic build that was built on the foundations of our Winter cohort and was a way to ensure deep banjo and woodworking skills were able to be transferred to 5 banjo artists from the BBRP. Our last build was our youth focused banjo build on the west side of Chicago where we worked with Team Banjo Class, our youngest group to date, to construct and complete their banjo project over a 5 week period as they learned foundational information and skills that come from African people.
~ Cross-Cultural Collaborations:
One of our ongoing aspirations deals with addressing the white banjo community in ways that can presence our important message and garner support from allies and accomplices who want to support this work economically and energetically. Over the last year, we have had many supporters who have come through from white folk music communities to be in relationship and community with us. While this relationship building is ongoing, we recognize how important these contributions have been to our success in funding these projects over the past year with the help of OCF. Nearly half the funds that we raised this year came directly from money intentionally fundraised by the BBRP Community Support Team, who volunteered their time and energy to support and create access to for all of us to do this work in an economically supported way. The OCF platform has been amazing for us because it has made connecting with our supporters easy and accessible through this blog and the transparency with the budget. We are looking forward to being back in touch with everyone who has been part of these cross-cultural collaborations. We want to as much as we can, support folks outside of the Black community, in finding their own voice in ancestral healing. Through the redistribution of resources and doing so in a deeply intentional and relational way, we hope that this has been a positive year and a way to grow together in our healing.
Challenges: What challenges did you face during 2022? What did your collective learn? How did you change or grow?
I would say the biggest challenge of this year was that it very much felt like a transition year. As an organization we are growing and that comes with challenges. My goal as the director of this organization was and still is to continue shifting toward a more collective model of organizing. This can be a challenge with people living all over the place only finding times occasionally to be together in real life. However, it is definitely still possible and we are writing that story now on how that is happening in the coming year.
What I learned about this collective process is mostly to be patient with it and to be realistic. Cooperativism comes from collaboration and collaboration is just learning to work together. We have to be willing to show up for that in real time to make that happen. We have to be willing to be on the phone or zoom or travel across state lines to meet in person when we have only met each other on zoom. These were all things I witnessed us totally willing to do and be part of and it gave me so much hope and inspired me that there are ways to work cohesively and collectively in the variety of situations we function in.
I see things changing because I’m seeing other members of BBRP other than myself feel more comfortable in leadership roles. Not only have I witnessed firsthand the teaching team at the Sac and Chicago Banjo Builds, totally lead the project, but now we are seeing the results of the Washington Fellowship and of folks who have attended workshops, ready to take on teaching roles and continue expanding their practice around banjo craft and music. I’m seeing and hearing people be brave enough to share the art that is closest to them and be willing to be vulnerable. All of this is major growth and we have done this by sharing ancestral knowledge and supporting each other in showing up in all the ways that allow us to express our passion and love regarding folk traditions and afro-futures. This is helping to expand our capacity as a group. We have the time and space to go at our own pace and share the work of reclaiming the banjo with joy! No one person can or should try to do this alone. The BBRP is based on the idea that we all own and steward this instrument and want to do so in right relation to earth and to each other. There is much to look forward to as we keep moving together in our intentions and our movements.
~ 2023 Plans: What are your plans for 2023? Anything exciting coming up?
We are so excited to be entering a new year with exciting plans ahead!
For me, Hannah, Im excited that I have landed in Sonoma County and will be working out of my home office on a lot of different administrative plans as we grow and create programming and projects for the next year and beyond. My home is also going to be set up as a craft studio so there will be lots going on here! In Oakland, we have decided to become members of a maker space in order to access some great crafting tools that we can use for building banjos. We also connected with a local mill that we are looking forward to sourcing local sustainable woods from! We are also curing and storing gourds that will be used in our 2024 workshop series. All of this is happening locally in California but we are excited to be working on some multi-media projects as well as projects in other states.
Our main banjo building workshop project that we are focusing on right now is taking place in Kansas City this year! One of our banjo fellows is a stellar musician and crafter who is taking on some ambitious projects in her hometown. Bailey will be leading out and collaboratively organizing some group banjo building that will be happening in the spring time. This is an amazing accomplishment to be working on and expanding in the midwest, an area that has deep history with the blues and with Black musical traditions. They currently have a studio space and are taking the knowledge from the Summer build into this new and exciting project. https://opencollective.com/banjo-reclamation-project/projects/kc-black-banjo-reclamation
We are planning some digital projects that will be ways to tell our stories through our website online, equip with audio and illustrations by one of our members Anita, meanwhile in Seattle, Le’Ecia will be supporting a short film we are editing to show some of our work from the Summer. Patrice and some of our other members across the country will be focusing on community song groups online to continue hosting musical spaces throughout the year and supporting our coming together in our musical practices.
One extremely important development I am working on with Sule Greg Wilson is that we have been able to be in contact with Daniel Jatta, the Gambian Akonting player and banjo researcher who is starting a cultural centre in The Gambia called the Akonting Centre. We look forward to bringing you all updates about this project and the collaborations between us! We are so honored to be in conversation with the folks who have been dedicated to claiming their own heritage, preserving it and teaching it to their local communes in West Africa. This is important work that is directly tied to the work of the BBRP and we look forward to watching this grow. To read a new book out by Daniel Jatta, see the link below!
We are getting geared up to do some fundraising this year as well in the late Winter. As well as applying for some grants, we are planning to be innovative about the ways that we fundraise this year to accomplish a larger budget that will fund administrative costs and all of the named projects. Very soon we will be providing more information on our plans for this. We really look forward to sharing our work with the larger community and continuing to grown our relationships to your all. There is so much more to share so we will continue using this platform to update you and share the journey.
For more details on all of our 2022 projects, read our previous blog entries!
Photo descriptions: The Sacramento Banjo Build, the top right is the Oakland in-person Winter Cohort and the bottom right photo is from the Washington Fellowship
The larger photo is from the Oakland in-person Winter Cohort, the top right is with Hannah and Patrick from Pisgah Banjo Co which was a major funder and member of the BBRP Community Support Team, the bottom left is a homegrown gourd in Deep East Oakland, CA at Castlemont High School.