If you’re paying attention there’s a counting down. May 9, 2015

by Tina LaPadula

If you’re paying attention there’s a counting down.

Are you listening?

There’s only room for a lucky few.

If we are witnessing this, maybe it’s too late.

The situation was worse than we feared.

The warning from our Detroit family is a string of dire truths. Our city is on a similar apocalyptic trajectory, accelerated by the same oppression and greed.

If this is the end times, I’m glad to be in this escape pod with Henry Luke, Brian McGuigan and Dani Terrell.  If we have any possible hope left, let it be fueled by art and poetry and dancing.

But who the hell are these other people? Are they getting any of this?

I had a similar experience viewing Kara Walker’s A Subtlety or the Marvelous Sugar Baby an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant. I felt overwhelming awe and sadness, simultaneous understanding of the historic and systemic plot points that brought us to this moment in time, and an unnerving awareness of how people around me were responding to the work. In Brooklyn responses ran the gamut from audible sobbing to awkward laughter, from pride and anger to cluelessness and inappropriate selfies.

To be fair, I don’t think anyone from last night’s 10pm audience of Beware the Dandelions took a photo pretending to lick a black woman’s vagina and posted it on instagram. Instead responses ranged from knowing nods and “mmmhmms” of affirmation to stoic silence. I found myself wondering about all the ways white silence can be equally racist, sexist and traumatizing. At times I wanted to shake people and scream. I didn't though, and I have a lot of complex feelings about that. Despite my background as a teaching artist, youth worker and facilitator of workshops on equity and undoing oppression I wondered if it’s possible to have truly meaningful and transformative dialogues about social justice with strangers.  What expectations, shared understanding and trust is required to be in “brave space” together? I wondered about Seattle’s racial and economic demographics, and how different this experience would be in Detroit, or New York or Baltimore.

Time is ticking and we’ve got so much work to do together. I’ve got so much work to do.

Massive thanks to Complex Movements for sounding the alarm, waging peace and for taking time to link up and learn from activists and organizers in our community. Huge gratitude to On the Boards for hosting these artists, and for supporting the community workshops and conversations surrounding this piece. I have hope that it’s in those spaces where the deep transformational work can happen. Here’s to creating a better future. 

Love and solidarity,



Tina LaPadula | Performer, Teaching Artist, ArtsCorps Education Director

Tina is a performer, and teaching artist connected to wide network that crisscrosses art forms. Since she moved to Seattle in 1990, Tina has cultivated community and communal spaces where collaboration and change can happen. Tina co-founded both the Speakeasy Gallery and Performance Space, and the local arts education non-profit Arts Corps. She has performed in Seattle, New York, London, and Pennsylvania. Tina regularly facilitates workshops on social justice and equity in the arts for the Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs, Seattle Public Schools, and various local and national conferences. Tina is part of the 14/15 OtB Ambassador Cohort. Read more about the Ambassador Project.