A small group of women gathers for sunrise prayer and libation on the banks of the Gwynns Falls River by Woodlawn Cemetery. Under the shadows of dusk, a teenage boy quickly adds his RIP graffiti tag to the side of an abandoned building memorializing fallen friends. Every Sunday afternoon, African drums call the living and the dead to the center of Druid Hill Park. Like so many places, Baltimore City is filled with ordinary sites that hold extraordinary meaning for people. This short-short video, produced in 2022, explores the meaning of such outdooor spaces created and sustained by African Americans while offering a rare view of Baltimore's rich spirARTual legacy.
"Making Our Spaces Sacred" is my first video documentary and features some of Baltimore's most dynamic artistic, spiritual, and cultural leaders, including Mama Rashida Forman Bey, Embu Seitu, Steven Xavier Lee, Rev. Bernette L. Jones, and Dr. Henry Gregory. It is rooted in my deep love of stories about the African American experience, especially our untold and rarely heard stories. It also embraces an important part of my story; for almost 40 years I have co-created prayer circles, sacred fires, peace walks, peace pole plantings, and healing ceremonies in forests, parks, and urban settings in the U.S., Mexico, and Ghana. I love the work of it all, the mysteries, and the complexities of a "stolen people on stolen land" (Fe, 1997) who somehow made sacred spaces out of their pain, hope, and determination to live freely.
This video began as a conversation with a friend in 2021. I now have over 10 hours of recorded conversations along with footage and photographs of outdoor sites around Baltimore City. My challenge was to either wait until I raised enough money to produce a full-length documentary OR share what I had with funding received from a modest MSAC individual artist grant. I'm glad I followed my gut. However short, there's so much meaning and beauty in this video that invites repeated viewings, which may be the gift of its length. Sometimes we artists must make the most of what we have and let the work stand for itself.
To follow the “Making Our Spaces Sacred” documentary as it unfolds, visit our Partlow Art YouTube channel.