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Simone Leigh’s “Free People’s Medical Clinic”

7 Oct 2014

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Visitors at the Free People’s Medical Clinic interact with visiting nurses from the Black Nurse Association of New York. Image courtesy of Creative Time.

Artist and friend of Ballroom, Simone Leigh has teamed up with Creative Time and the Weeksville Heritage Center as part of the organizations’ Funk, God, Jazz, and Medicine: Black Radical Brooklyn project, which is described as:

a walkable month-long art exhibition of four community based art commissions…. (which) launches from the site of Weeksville, a Brooklyn community established by free and formerly enslaved Black citizens 11 years after abolition in New York State. Black Radical Brooklyn draws inspiration not only from this story-achieving self-determination through the claiming and holding of a neighborhood- but also from radical local battles for land and dignity from the 1960s to today.”

Leigh’s contribution is the Free People’s Medical Clinic (the “medicine” from the project’s title).

As described by Creative Time, the Free People’s Medical Clinic (FPMC) will:

engage the critical intersections of public health, racial consciousness, and women’s work as it asks viewers to consider the often-overlooked players—most especially the unknown Black women nurses, osteopaths, gynecologists, and midwives—who have overserved an underserved population for centuries. While the project name borrows from the Black Panthers’ community-based healthcare efforts in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, its gaze lingers on 19th century medical pioneers including Dr. Susan Smith McKinney Steward, the first Black woman doctor in NY State and a Weeksville resident; The United Order of Tents, a secret fraternal order of Black Women nurses founded during the Civil War; and Dr. Josephine English, the first African-American woman to have an OB/GYN practice in the state of New York, delivering all six daughters of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz. Leigh will convert the late Dr. English’s home at 375 Stuyvesant Avenue into a temporary space that explores the beauty, dignity and power of Black nurses and doctors, whose work is often hidden from view. Leigh’s FPMC will point to a larger need for dignified healthcare experiences by offering a limited array of homeopathic and allopathic services ranging from yoga instruction to community acupuncture, all offered by Brooklyn-based practitioners.

The FPMC‘s classes will continue until the project’s end on October 20th, 2014. Other artists involved include Xenobia Bailey (Funk), Bradford Young (God), and Otabenga Jones & Associates (Jazz).

Creative Time Reports: “Fracking Away Our Air, Water, and Land”

29 Jan 2014

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Christy Rupp, Exploit/Exhale, 2010. Included in the Cooper Union exhibition “Emissions: Images from the Mixing Layer” as part of Marfa Dialogues/NY.

In partnership with Marfa Dialogues/NY, Creative Time Reports recently published an article by artists Barbara Arrindell and Ruth Hardinger. In it, they “argue that natural gas is not a ‘bridge fuel’ to less hazardous energy sources, but a grave danger to communal resources and the global climate.”

An excerpt:

The gas and oil industry would like to craft a wholesome image of natural gas as a clean resource and a “nonfossil” fuel. Neither of these characterizations is accurate. Yes, gas does burn with a nice blue flame at the end user’s stove. However, getting that gas to the stove is seriously contaminating our air and water. This is because pumping it in means using high-volume, slick-water hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Unbeknownst to many, the process has profound health and environmental impacts. Thanks to aged and faulty infrastructure, often built on the cheap and left unchecked for years, gas inevitably leaks on the way from wells to pipelines. Add up all the dangers along the way, and one will soon find that gas has a larger global climate impact than oil or coal.

Later in the article, the authors discuss how even a place like New York City is affected by the fracking that happens miles away:

When we mention fracking to people in New York City, they often ask if we’re concerned about a place upstate, as though we are protected because it happens so far away. Nothing could be further from the truth. The numerous risks associated with fracking for New York City residents include contamination of drinking water from the Delaware Catskill Watershed and exposure to radon, a radioactive gas known to cause lung cancer, from gas used for cooking. Since November 1, 2013, the Spectra pipeline, built by the Texas-based company Spectra Energy, has started pumping a mix of Marcellus shale natural gas that has the highest levels of radon in the United States from Manhattan’s West Village to the East 14th Street Con Edison plant, and to New Yorkers’ homes.

The Spectra pipeline is not the only recent danger New Yorkers face from the gas industry. The Rockaway Lateral pipeline, if approved, will run from underneath Brooklyn across Jamaica Bay and Rockaway Beach, threatening the ecosystem of Rockaway Bay. As we continue to develop natural gas, there will be more air pollution, contamination and impacts on food and the foodshed. With more drilling, there will be more waste and cuttings from drill sites, which trucks will be transporting to Long Island waste plants, likely resulting in spills and the contamination of Long Island Sound and the ocean beaches. Greater dependence on increasingly limited supplies of natural gas will also lead to much higher prices. The high levels of methane emissions unleashed by projects like the Spectra and Rockaway pipelines will contribute to accelerating climate change and attendant dangers like rising seas.