BURNING THE MIDNIGHT LAMP #IMAGININGGERMANTOWN
— Maleka Fruean
The full moon was out. The ghosts of Sun-Ra and Rufus Harley were floating through the air. At exactly midnight on Saturday, July 12, 2014, folks from all over Philadelphia arrived at the Soup Factory Studio in the Germantown neighborhood ready for a journey via collective imagination to envision our community in twenty years, infused with arts and culture.
The night was brimming with mystery, and as folks walked into the beautiful space filled with vintage decor, vivid colors, and a friendly welcoming crew, many commented: "I had no idea what was going to happen," said Susan Mangan, a local visual artist and community activist. "I just knew it sounded cool and was happening at midnight." The opening wall was turned into an interactive mural, and around the corner a video booth was set up where you could list words that came up when you thought of Germantown. A packet containing a nametag to list your midnight DJ name, and tools to create a midnight landscape were handed out. Midnight snacks and drinks provided by High Point Cafe and Weavers Way Co-op were laid out in a delicious spread and melodies of Mos Def and Jill Scott could be heard softly throughout the corners of the room. And the night quickly began.
Karen Smith summoned the activities with spectacular drumming, and DJ Midnight Mahogany (otherwise known as Agent Yolanda Wisher) continued the summoning and seduction with sultry midnight poetry. It was time to call on our imaginations and our collective consciousness. What could come out of a room full of time travel and conversation to a future where art and culture is everywhere? Agent Wisher led a meditation to take everyone into the same collective future space. Poet scribes were gathered to take notes and write poems of the event. Facilitators took their places and the room began to buzz with the real work of brainstorming.
Two in the morning felt like two in the afternoon. The energy was pulsating throughout the room. Clouds of thought were palpable as the imagined landscapes of our future world were in sight. Visions included: solar energy, flowers everywhere, a sustainable town environment, paying artists for their work, communal housing, free transportation, and brunch. Ideas began to overlap. Everyone began to see and feel the possibility of their future visions. As groups reported back, the crowd came up with more ways to activate our neighborhood. Local artists going into daycares and providing art programs. Sustainable ways of keeping this momentum going. It all seemed viable. As the night/morning winded down, and neighbors began drifting out, connections were made in the hallways. "You live across the street from me!" Mark Palacio (otherwise known as Agent Wisher's husband) smiled as he began loading out chairs. The morning sun was about to rise, and in the grey pockets of light, there was a sense of belonging and creativity in that Germantown dawn.