Marc Bamuthi Joseph identifies as father, husband, educator, artist, and second generation American. His roots are on Broadway (The Tap Dance Kid
; Stand Up Tragedy
), his grounding is in spoken word (1999 National Poetry Slam Champion; HBO’s Def Poetry), and his recent productions include red, black & GREEN: a blues
and the break/s
. He is artistic director emeritus and founding program director of the San Francisco nonprofit Youth Speaks, for which he curated the Living Word Festival, Life is Living, and Left Coast Leaning as well as the documentary series Brave New Voices
for HBO. His many honors include the USA Fellowship (2006), the Alpert Award in the Arts (2011), the National Guild for Community Arts Education’s Leadership Award (2012), and a re-mounting of Word Becomes Flesh
for the National Endowment for the Arts’ “American Masterpieces” series (2010). Joseph currently serves as Director of Performing Arts at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.
Suppose you just met someone who didn't know your work, what project from the past 10 years would you direct them to as an entry point to you and your work, and why?
Since 2008, I’ve been the principal architect of Life is Living
, a series of single day, hip hop centered eco festivals taking place in under resourced parks throughout urban America. Taking place in Chicago, New York, Houston, Minneapolis, and Oakland, Life is Living
grew out of local collaborative efforts to humanize the vocabulary and diversify the iconography of environmental consciousness. The festivals have ultimately connected more than 300 partner organizations on a model we called the creative ecosystem, inviting nearly 15,000 black and brown folks across the country de-exoticize environmental practice… ’to think about “green” action through a newer, more approximate urban lens.’
In 2011, I premiered a show called red black and GREEN: a blues
which is a performed documentary of the process of making Life is Living
happen across African America. Each moment is a hyper dream or cold truth of this process. The performance and gallery experience of the piece is a reflection of mothers too wrapped in grieving to march, activists too steeped in self-righteousness to progress, children too focused on wonder to avoid celebrating.