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Activists unite for change at YBCA 100 Summit

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Poet-writer-activist Chinaka Hodge appears on Saturday at the 2018 YBCA 100 Summit, a gathering of people and groups dedicated to making change and social justice. (Courtesy YBCA)

For each one of the 100 people and organizations being honored at the 2018 YBCA 100 Summit in San Francisco, there are thousands of conversations to be had about change.

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ gathering on Saturday invites honorees on its fifth annual list of people, groups and movements aiming to move society forward and the community to engage in spirited dialogue about power, healing, education, radical citizenry, and racial and political equity.

Among participating list-makers are Me Too movement founder Tarana Burke; producer, transgender activist and model Janet Mock; 3 Percent Movement founder Kat Gordon; “Black Panther” comics author and novelist Nnedi Okorafor and Bay Area poet-writer Chinaka Hodge, who says, “I want to know how each of us can use our respective privilege to make headway for each other’s causes.”

The day begins at 1 p.m. with “Calling Youth to Power,” a free gathering for people under 24 hosted by student activist Naudika Williams and KQED’s “Above the Noise” host Myles Bess with a focus on establishing the next generation’s political voice.

“The Future of Visual Culture” at 5 p.m. offers filmmaker-spoken word artist Rafael Casal (“Blindspotting”), entrepreneur Gordon and writer Okorafor in conversation about visual culture as it relates to equity. Appearing on the same program are Hodge, opera singer John Holiday and comedian-writer Luna Malbroux, who combine forces in improvisational performances.

During “Reimagining Political Power” at 7 p.m., Hodge moderates a panel with Burke, Mock and New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow.

She says, “I’m hopeful and solution-oriented. I want people to leave that room with something tangible they can do, whether it’s extending a cause to trans people, to black women, to black men.”

Hodge will ask artists to share their stories of resistance, how they fell in love, in what ways they use their privilege — uncomfortably including having lighter brown skin, super model appearance, or being a male — to make headway. The lessons they learned from their grandmothers and the legacy they push forward also play a role.

“My questions of them allow audiences to see themselves in the panelists,” Hodge says.

With discussions about citizenship, freedom and democracy, the summit might also invite anger. It’s a topic Hodge finds in the forefront lately, after years of controlling, and being complimented on, her modulated, metaphoric artistic expression.

In the performance she will share with Holiday, she says, “Our jobs — poetry and opera — require us to code switch, to keep the anger under wraps, but I’m going to have a nice rant.”

While channeling exhaustion she experiences each time a friend is killed by police, or the fear that is her daily reality as a woman and black person in the U.S., Hodge is not satisfied to perform sorrow without stepping into rage: “I’ve known that fear my whole life, but just since 2016, I feel vindicated in my anger. If I can’t be angry about this (violence and racism in society) unfolding, there is no cause and I should shut the f— up from here forward.”

Ultimately, she says, anger and shock sparked by “a young woman being slashed at a BART station, a man accused of rape sitting on the Supreme Court and a country that prefers racism and doesn’t protect women” will translate into art, with therapeutic catharsis for performers and audiences moved to heartbreak or important realizations.

Solutions are found in alliances, and in melanin not dividing people into segregated islands.

“It’s going to take people stepping out of the privileges and allowing other people to have a little of what they have,” says Hodge. “It’s the critical moment: Are we willing to give up comfort for justice? If we put our muscle together, our voting together, then I do believe we can move this. It will be a long fight, so I’m hoping the shift is not a fad. I’m hoping we learn to do this work with and for each other.”

The summit concludes with “Black WOMEN Rock! Performance,” a party celebrating black women rockers of varied generations produced by jessica Care moore in YBCA’s Forum.

IF YOU GO
2018 YBCA 100 Summit
Where: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, 700 Howard St., S.F.
When: 1, 5, 7 and 9 p.m. Nov. 3
Tickets: $16 to $35 most programs
Contact: www.ybca.org

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