Ujima Invests $80,000 in Boston’s Arts & Cultural Ecosystem

Keep scrolling to read about our Ashe Ashe Cultural Assembly Grantees and Arts & Cultural Organizing Fellow!

This month, we welcomed our 2022–24 Arts and Cultural Organizing Fellow, Shantel Miller, to the Boston Ujima Project!

The Boston Ujima Project’s Arts and Cultural Organizing Fellowship supports emerging artists and cultural organizers, and is awarded to an Ujima member who demonstrates a commitment to their artistic practice and to the principles of the Boston Ujima Project.

The Ujima Arts & Cultural Organizing Fellow spends two years — an extension intended to provide deeper engagement and long term support — in an emergent, self-determined program tailored to the needs and interests of the fellow.

Shantel Miller’s figurative paintings create visual language to transcend the lived and imagined experiences of her inner world. While exploring constructs of race, gender, and religion, she pulls from personal narrative as a departure point for understanding broader social realities — and uses a syntax of metaphors to represent complex emotions, themes and experiences relevant to spirituality and faith.

Since receiving a BFA from OCADU in 2013, Shantel has exhibited in group shows and art fairs across North America and has placed work in numerous private collections around the world. She has participated in the Cuttyhunk Island Artists Residency(2018), the Nia Centre for the Arts Artists-in-Residence Program (2018) and more recently the Converging Liberations Residency at Mass MoCA (2021). She is the recipient of the Dedalus Foundation MFA Painting and Sculpture Fellowship, the Elizabeth Greenshields Grant and the Esther B. and Albert S. Kahn Career Entry Award. Shantel currently lives and works in Boston, MA where she recently completed an MFA in Painting at Boston University in 2021.

Ujima Announces 2022 Ashé Ashé Cultural Assembly Grant Winners

Last year, Boston Ujima Project held its first-ever Cultural Assembly, Ashé Ashé, alongside many partners including Black Economic Council of MA, Artisans Asylum, Mass MoCA’s Assets 4 Artists, The CreateWell Fund, Mayor’s Office of Art & Culture, Mayor’s Office of Resilience and Racial Equity, Massachusetts Area Planning Council and New England Foundation for the Arts.

Ujima’s Cultural Assembly began with a seed grant in partnership with the Boston Mayor’s Office of Arts & Culture; we built on this effort by inviting additional partners who contributed matching funds. NEFA and the Mayor’s Office of Arts & Culture see their participation in the Cultural Assembly as a learning opportunity to inform their own grantmaking processes.

For the first time, we gathered foundations, non-profits, governmental bodies, and arts institutions to collectively distribute $60K and to artists and organizers of color across Greater Boston. The grant recipients were chosen through a participatory process undertaken by Ujima’s Voting Members, who chose their top five preferences.

The $5,000 grants will fund the creation of innovative new projects by 12 individuals and collectives working across visual arts, film, literature, and socially engaged and multidisciplinary practices. We hope this offering creates more space for participatory and community-led granting practices in Massachusetts and across the field.

After a momentous $3.4 million investment in the arts community by the Mayor’s office, we’re proud to see support for Boston’s artists and cultural workers continue, and excited to be part of this step towards substantive resourcing for arts and culture. We look forward to coordinating with peer organizations to bolster arts funding citywide.

Please join us in congratulating our cohort of grantees, and check out their projects below.

2021 Ashé Ashé Grantees

Kyara Andrade

Priscilla Dzidzor Azaglo

Sadiq Ervin

Olivia Fenty

Marlon Forrester

Tomashi Jackson

Ayana Mack

Chanel Thervil

Quontay Turner

Charles Wallace-Thomas IV

Kera Washington

Muskaan Zaidi

Ashé Ashé Grantee Project Descriptions

Kyara Andrade

Kyara Andrade-Howell also known as DJ TROY Frost is an artist and educator from Dorchester and Roxbury. She got her start as an educator in 2008 working as a facilitator, then DEI consultant for a local non-profit until 2021. In 2019, she piloted The Breaks, an enrichment program which gave 15 Boston youth an introduction to the pillars of Hip Hop. Kyara now works part time as a library coordinator at a charter school in Cambridge and at Frugal Bookstore in Roxbury. She loves supporting her students and community in finding the right book. She is in a season of learning and re-learning various art forms and in the future hopes to grow The Breaks from a curriculum into a learning center and lounge.

Project: A Heal Thy Self Park Jam

Priscilla Dzidzor Azaglo

Dzidzor (Jee-Jaw) is a Ga-Ewe folklore performing artist, author and entrepreneur. Didzor’s style of call and response, has embodied Afro-futurism and transcendentalists poems and story-telling as a way to include the audience in an experience to challenge, inspire and encourage self beyond traditional forms. Dzidzor released a15-minute meditation project entitled, “bush woman” on all streaming platforms.

Project: “Sisters in the Wilderness”

Sadiq Ervin

Sadiq Ervin is a multifaceted creative in the Greater Boston area with a primary focus on event production and cultivating live musical experiences. Surrounded by neighborhood youth growing up in his childhood home of Mattapan, MA, Sadiq has been organizing large group activities for as long as he can recall. Most recently taking his talents to the office of Common Spaces at Harvard University, Sadiq has committed to breathing life into events on campus and providing a platform for local artists via weekly Tunes@Noon concerts. With a renewed focus on talent management & consultation through his SZND Media Group (SMG) imprint, he has also had the honor and privilege of working with breakout talents Miya Coleman, Keianna “Kei” Richardson, Joyce Wrice and Mary J. Blige.

Project: The Blair B*tch Project

Olivia Fenty

The Chocolate Project is an initiative started in 2015, that strives to promote love, respect and sisterhood in the Black femme community through bonding and artistic spaces. Some of the spaces we create range from community talks, workshops, conferences, and photoshoots. The central focus of the initiative is to create a safe space for Black femmes to feel seen, talk about our complex experiences, and to create honest representations of Black femmes. All of which we believe prioritizes our healing, and exploration of the self.

Project: The Chocolate Project

Marlon Forrester

Marlon Forrester is a 2021 recipient of the James and Aubrey Foster Prize. He was born in Guyana, South America and raised in Boston, MA. He is a graduate of School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston (B.A 2008) and Yale School of Art (M.F.A. 2010). Forrester is a resident artist at African-American Masters Artist Residency Program (AAMARP) and works as an educator in Boston Public Schools. His work has been exhibited internationally at venues including Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston and Kimboseong Art Center, Seoul, Korea.

Project: You, Me, We: (D.R.G.) Dystopian Revolutionary Gallery Pod

Tomashi Jackson

Tomashi Jackson, b 1980, Houston, Texas, is an artist based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She was awarded the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grant in 2020. Tomashi earned her BFA from The Cooper Union School of Art, her MS in Art, Culture, and Technology, and her MFA from the Yale University School of Art. As a visual art education facilitator she has been visiting faculty in Art, Film, and Visual Studies at Harvard University, The Cooper School of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Lesley University MFA in Visual Arts Program, and the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

Project: Brown II

Ayana Mack

Boston-based visual artist, graphic designer, and entrepreneur Ayana Mack has been honing her skills in the creative community for over a decade. Mack’s artistic inspiration is rooted in personal experiences, Black culture, self-love, and believing in inspiring others through her artwork. Her use of vibrant colors, linework, and expressions of Black women within her work exhibit power and softness in unison. She has also been a featured artist in Boston Art Review magazine, a Creative Entrepreneur Fellow for the Arts and Business Council, and a board member for both the American Institute of Graphic Arts and the Arts and Business Council of Greater Boston.

Project: Free arts and wellness programming across Mattapan, Dorchester, Roxbury, and Jamaica Plain

Chanel Thervil

Haitian American artist and educator Chanel Thervil combines abstraction and portraiture to convene dialogue around culture, social issues and existential questions. At the core of her practice lies a desire to empower and inspire tenderness and healing among communities of color through the arts. She holds a BFA in painting from Pace University and a master’s degree in art education from Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She’s been a catalyst for change via educational collaborations, public art and residencies with institutions like The Museum of Fine Arts, The Boston Children’s Museum, PBS Kids and nonprofits across Boston.

Project: Nature vs Nurture; A multimedia portrait series

Quontay Turner

“Quontay Turner also known as “Q”, is a multi-talented creative and entrepreneur. She is the founder of Q Made It and Emerald City Plant Shop, the first Black womxn-owned plant shop in New England. She has over ten years of experience in community organizing, event management, recruiting, and facilitating conversations and training around diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Project: Free Plants BOS

Charles Wallce-Thomas IV & Second and Fourth Review

Like art, Second and Fourth is a publication forged in the flames of societal chaos and in reflection of the times. Here, the reader will find a porch to confront race, the human condition, and the aspirations of a generation.

Project: Second and Fourth Review

Kera Washington

Kera M. Washington is an applied ethnomusicologist and the founder of Zili-fy/Zili Misik, formerly Zili Roots, founded in 2000: an all female, multi-ethnic, Boston-based world music ensemble that retraces routes of forced exile and cultural resistance through African diasporic rhythm and song. Zili performs roots music of the African Diaspora, or self-described “New World Soul.”

Project: “Project Misik: Unleashing Freedom” (Project Freedom)

Muskaan Zaidi

I’m a Pakistani Muslim film maker studying in Emerson college Boston. I pay for college through student loans and I want to make engaging films and be able to bring about culturally diverse stories on screen. It is very important to me to create the space for poc artists in the film and tv industry. Especially those who don’t have the funds to be able to put their work out.

Project: Boston BIPOC Film Festival

We received some truly amazing proposals, which you can still explore in Dreams of You This Morning, and we thank everyone who voted and engaged in this process!

We invite you to explore how you can support the work of the grantees and artists who submitted proposals — consider purchasing, collecting, or following their work!

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Boston Ujima Project

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