By Gennifer Rollins
...all stemming from the hearth, the central meeting place in non-linear space time; the fireplace ‘round which the Move family gathered. As in real life, the event was full of complexities.
The heart has many ventricles, but the blood moves everywhere the body will allow. No matter the motion, every drop will find its way back to the heart. No matter the motion, there is an inevitable draw towards that central organ and the stories radiating from it.
Staring at the burnt sienna walls surrounding the one arguably complete facet of a home, something peculiar was going on. In a literal breakdown of structure, there was so much gravitation bringing bodies in that had only intended on circling. Passersby became spectators with heads glued to the beams of non-existent walls in hovering awareness. One young attendee had planned to come for only a few moments, but found themselves magnetized by the transient heads of house, within the living room. Gathered around the fireplace, stories diffused into the air.
The home has many rooms; one within which to sleep, one to eat, one for communing, one for canoodling. In the room entitled ‘Sanctuary,’ the mess of the heart was left behind for sorting. The opportunity to listen presented itself in many ways. An audible station held seating for one-on-one interactions with Kirtrina Baxter, El Brujo De La Mancha, Lan Dinh, and the self. Headphones deafened outer worries and allowed for an almost meditative concentration after internalizing so much within the Perelman walls.
Hexagonal stages of conversation sat on the floor with you. Community leaders spoke on police brutality and inquiring cityfolks energetically bounced back with curious dialogue. Laos in the House made contact through history in visual, audible messages. At the farthest corner of the open corridors, portraits presented themselves. A young Magdaline exuberantly showed off her rainbow-haired portraiture on a locked up mirrored vanity. The entrance into these sacred spaces were bound by metal locks, and their keys were not to be removed. If you were so brave and unruly as to open up, the sensation of seeing within posessed a very intimate and all-revealing feel.
Two friends of thirty years sat smiling before the mirrored portraits. Unassuming in all the work they’d done, the first bit of news they had to share was about their friendship. Unbeknownst to me, they were the leaders of “Adapt,” a disability rights organization founded in Philly in 1983. They asked for a photograph together, in front of the faces on the wall. Thirty years of sanctuary in each other, 18 arrests later, and just getting started. Cathleen Holdsworth and Michelle McCandless sat grinning in their wheelchairs on the satisfaction of having moved mountains with the power of two.
A sanctuary city gathers from all spaces, and this one is no exception. At the coloring table sat a vibrant Caribbean sister, with a story to tell. A lover of Liberal Arts, she onced studied psychology, and now champions multiple sclerosis from a critical lens. Her father is from St. Thomas, and she is a daddy’s girl through and through. Her hand did not touch the paper once, but her words hit softly. She talked on her experience with teeth, and how the medicine she takes to be well, bites on her sense of beauty. Nothing about her was anything short of vibrant. If you were there, you were there to listen.
The auditorium was enclosed like a music box, open to a fortunate handfull. Up on stage, authorities of their own future stood firmly in place. As the mic got passed, Black Quantum Futurist, Moor Mother took pose in a stance that was decidedly un-performative. The roles a black body can take are shapeless and endless, and Moor Mother was unafraid to speak their truth. That time portal of listening & experiencing passed into a wave of soliloquies spoken by deeply voiced storyteller, Denise Valentine. She pointed to the far end of the room to request the thumping beat of her shakeray. The direction turned the gaze from speaker to audience, illuminating just who sat in the private-room crowd. In a body of many, few were black or brown. Each time a story is passed on, a breath leaves something to be deliberated, and it is no tail too tall to claim these materials delicate.
Still, the thumping beat on beyond the auditorium doors.