The Guiding Manifesto

Collective imagination has the power to transform reality.

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I am a Truth speaker, someone who embodies Cornell West's words that "the condition of truth is to allow suffering to speak".

For me, truth is experienced. It’s the spectral journey from oppression to joy, encapsulating stories lost, stolen, and buried in time. When you ask for the truth, you ask for the pain suffered from it.

It’s difficult to listen. But, it can be nearly impossible to speak. Because to speak the truth, you are in motion, owning your stories without shame.

I was a bright-eyed college graduate when I moved to Knoxville. Without second thought, I went to work, surviving because every penny depended on it. When covid forced us into lockdown, the fast-paced hustler was forced to stand still. I went stir-crazy, as if youth and possibility were slipping through my fingers.

To cope, I danced. I woke up at 5 am in the morning just to dance before my morning commute. Dance became a cornerstone to my truth. And much like puppy-love, my affection for dance changed, as I was confronted with the isolating truth that art isn’t meant to be created alone.

When restrictions were lifted, I dove head first into the community, hoping to discover an awe-inspiring space that jolts me to the core. Where creativity radiates. Where stories are shared. Where dreams are action items. Where artists, neighbors, and activists relish in the brilliance emitting from everyone’s artistry.

I call this Collective Imagination, and I believe it has the power to transform our reality. Collective imagination is the fusion of our stories, voices, and dreams into a shared truth. It is the anchor of humanity and made limitless by our shared capacity to wonder.

Collective imagination is more than a dream, it’s a practice. And, it’s alive in our black community. Imagine this: a one-night only immersive experience designed to question, explore, and decolonize the black imagination. Guests were invited into an alternative world where modern constructs of blackness no longer existed and all that mattered was their willingness to express. Through art making, we transported our melanated neighbors to a new realm of their own design.

Too many of us are trapped in someone else’s dream. We lose our autonomy, data, and imagination by unconsciously succumbing to the dreams and desires of those in power. Our community doesn’t have a resource problem, we have an imagination problem.

I invite you to come aboard the SpaceCraft. In this vessel, mess is encouraged. Expand your imagination and show up for a new legacy. By embracing collective imagination, we can speak with a new courage and become world builders.

You and I are neighbors. We all have a right to our own story, and many of you will be surprised by how many chapters we share. To create a future that houses all of our dreams, we must speak up and speak our truth loudly. We must decentralize ownership and engage in solidarity over our futures.

In cities around the country, people are redefining how we gather to support one another. For example, The Guild, is an organization that stewards change in real estate development by giving ownership to its community. They disrupted the status quo to protect long-standing neighbors from gentrification. Through a shared purpose and grit, The Guild changed the rules, rewriting policy in their own image to reflect the needs of their people. They are proof that dreams are a powerful tool that can inspire people, unite causes, and create generational prosperity.

Knoxville is on the cusp of change, offering us the chance to shape the city's future in our united image. It’s no secret that artists and young people are leaving, counting the days until they can flee for cities like Austin, Asheville, Atlanta.

This is our current truth: On Central street, both a beloved food truck park and a neighborhood mixed-used space were sold to a regional brewery. On Fourth & Gill, neighbors fought for a nearly century old community center on the cusp of being sold for its market value. On Jennings Ave, two art maker spaces are being priced out in exchange for another corporate venue. Who will be left if the only ones who can afford to dream are development groups and private companies?

The future is untouched. It is not written. It is not said. It is imagined. I stand in my ancestor’s shoes. The large shoes of powerful dreamers. When I close my eyes, I feel their momentum and steward our dreams forward.

My invitation to you is this: tell the truth. In the face of judgment, In the face of fear, In the face of comfort, tell the truth.

Whatever your truth, story, or dream, you own it and you speak it because you are in my orbit now. And, our next stop, collective imagination.

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