Could you introduce yourself?
My name is Suzanne Victoria Cross, born and raised in North Minneapolis. I’m the Productions Manager and Resident Stage Manager at Pangea World Theater. I’m honored to be the curator for This Is How We Stand. I also identify as an actor, writer, partner and most importantly I’m the caregiver and daughter of Laurel Osterberg.
Could you tell us about the format of This Is How We Stand?
Artists from different disciplines have been invited to present their artwork in response to the theme of navigating the healthcare system as Black artists. After each artistic piece is presented, we will have moments of reflection and questions for the audience, facilitated by another local artist in the community. Then at the end we’re gonna create a live art piece. This is meant to be an interactive experience where I’m hoping for reactions from the audience about how these different forms of art, addressing one theme lands on them, even though it will take place on Facebook Live.
What does it mean to explore this theme with this group of artists?
I am very humbled with this group of artists that I get to be on this journey with. Working with Briauna, who is an incredible visual artist, has been so moving. Seeing her work, the colors she uses, her form, already invokes a deep reaction inside me, I can't wait for the world to see what she has created. She is absolutely the perfect visual artist I could work with on this project. I feel very similar about DejaJoelle. She is a movement artist I have admired in our community for going on over five years now, since I’ve known about her work. Her commitment to promoting self love and ritual is so inspiring to me. Finding out both of those artists have a very strong connection to the healthcare system after I had invited them to participants due to their beautiful craft, proved to me that the ancestors were guiding the curation of this room. I have felt, and still feel very isolated in navigating the care for my family and after meeting and spending time with these artists, that feeling has shifted forever because I am not alone. I hope others can experience that feel after this presentation.
I’m also so blessed that this whole presentation will be facilitated and held by my best friend in the whole world, Ricardo Beaird. They’re a sensational artist, facilitator, and just a beautiful holder of me and also the art I like to create. I honestly couldn’t ask for a better group.
Left to Right: DejaJoelle, Ricardo Beaird, Briauna Williams
Why is this project called This Is How We Stand? What is the significance of that title?
I am the primary caregiver, along with my brother, of my mother who has Alzheimers. We have been her caregivers for going on ten years now. One of the most intimate and tricky things we do every day is stand. It’s also a surprise. Sometimes we stand easily. Sometimes it’s difficult. Sometimes we can’t stand at all. There are certain ways that you have to stand with somebody who has varying levels of ability. For my mom, she has low mobility and tremors in her right leg, so standing is a very purposeful act. We have to adjust how I navigate that every day.
During a Pangea staff meeting, we had a prompt to write a three line poem. All I could think about was how I stand with and for my mother, and that refrain: This is how we stand, always on the count of three. Then from that one prompt at a staff meeting, I wrote a piece about how my mother and I stand.
Since then, it has evolved into an act of survival, this is a purposeful act of us moving forward every day; that she’s not just going to lay in bed, I’m not going to just lay in bed. Always on the count of three, we’re gonna move forward and stand for each other.
This is how I know how to navigate the world. But a trained movement artist will respond with their body in a way that I’m not in touch with, because that’s not my medium of art. How does this movement artist stand, individually and in solidarity with the theme? How does a visual artist stand in solidarity but also individually in moving forward? Thats my motivation for the piece and where the title comes from.
What do you hope the audience will take away from this?
I’m really passionate about the idea of how we create community empathy. How do we create empathy for each other? How do we create loving, understanding kindness for each other? It can be very hard, and messy, and not always beautiful but always necessary for our survival. I believe empathy is humanity's strongest tool to turn thoughts into actions.
So what do I hope the audience takes away? The pain that myself as a Black artist and caregiver goes through? No, not everyone will ever understand that fully. Empathy is a practice, that is never completed. So I’m asking the audiences to go deeper in their daily practice of empathy for someone different then you. Part of that practice is that you can stand in support, solidarity and love for these amazing Black artists that navigate this unfair system every day and still find a way to put beauty out in the world. Everyone can also put their thoughts, hopes and dreams into actions that support the health of the Black Community.
Watch This Is How We Stand, Sunday, February 20, 6:00 - 7:00 PM CST
RSVP at bit.ly/HowWeStand
This Is How We Stand is part of Pangea World Theater's series
Another World Is Possible: Pangea Artists Envision