Dear PFP Community:
I write to you in unsettled, and unsettling, times. Yet I join the Philadelphia Folklore Project with a full and open heart, knowing the resilience and power that collectivity fosters. As I get to know PFP, I hold the following statement close:
“While there are many definitions of what folklore is, we focus on what it does: folklore connects people and creates community, which provides a people-centered means to stand up against powerful institutions.”
PFP was founded in 1987 with a vision of documenting and supporting the arts and cultural practices of Philadelphia’s underserved communities, including immigrant and refugee groups. In its 36 year history, the organization has done that through highlighting traditional artists, providing technical assistance to artists and community groups, and developing ethnographic research and other projects that center the self-determination of local communities.
I join this history with my own background, expertise, and practices, but I enter into community with you through a desire for shared learning and building together. In this role, I am here to listen and to facilitate the new directions we can imagine, for a Philadelphia and a world which nurtures our creativity and thriving.
It is right that we should be unsettled now, as the people of Palestine resist a brutal occupation, decimation, and a long history of colonial violence. It is right that we should be unsettled by the silencing of anti-Zionist Jewish voices, whose own folk traditions speak to values of home and community that should not be confused with the colonial project of Zionism. Here in Philly, our communities understand what it means to fight displacement and cultural erasure. Recent efforts to save the UC Townhomes or to stop the development of the proposed arena in Chinatown remind us that it is up to all of us to decide the future.
This is a time to consider what is important to us, to test our values against our capacity for action, and to seek deeper understanding of each other and the world we live in. The gift is that we do not undertake that journey alone. I thank each of you and the PFP board for welcoming me into the work we can do together. When I pass our beautiful yellow facade and enter the PFP building, I feel the energy of song, dance, food, storytelling, and so much more. May we meet there soon and unsettle ourselves into liberation.