Before she launched the first solar flare into the universe about her role as a USDAC Founding Cultural Agent and the soon to be D.C. Imagining, Cultural Agent Jess Solomon was in her laboratory being consumed, amazed and affirmed by Poet/Activist/Black Feminist/Architect/AncestorJune Jordan and her friendship with Futurist Architect Buckminister “Bucky” Fuller. Their 1965 collaboration, the “Harlem Skyrise Project” was environmental and social justice at its core. Specifically, her writing about getting to that deliberate moment of love/action was a salve to her oscillating feelings about the place she calls home.

“…the agony of that moment propelled me into a reaching far and away to R. Buckminster Fuller, to whom I proposed a collaborative architectural redesign of Harlem, as my initial, deliberated movement away from the hateful, the divisive.

My first meeting with Bucky lasted several hours, just the two of us, alone. And when we separated, agreed on the collaboration for Esquire magazine, I felt safe in my love again. We would think and work together to design a three-dimensional, an enviable, exemplary life situation for Harlem residents who, otherwise, had to outmaneuver New York City's Tactical Police Force, rats, a destructive and compulsory system of education, and so forth, or die.

 [Collage illustrating the implications and roots of Jordan’s ‘architextural’ principles via Race and Architecture] 

[Collage illustrating the implications and roots of Jordan’s ‘architextural’ principles via Race and Architecture] 

This was a way, a scale, of looking at things that escaped the sundering paralysis of conflict by concentrating on the point, the purpose of the fight: What kind of schools and what kind of streets and what kind of parks and what kind of privacy and what kind of beauty and what kind of music and what kind of options would make love a reasonable, easy response?

Forward from that evening in Fuller's room, at the St. Regis Hotel, my sometime optimism born of necessity hardened into a faithful confidence carried by dreams: detailed explorations of the alternatives to whatever stultifies and debases our lives.

My life seems to be an increasing revelation of the intimate face of universal struggle.You begin with your family and the kids on the block, and next you open your eyes to what you call your people and that leads you into land reform into Black English into Angola leads you back to your own bed where you lie by yourself, wondering if you deserve to be peaceful, or trusted or desired or left to the freedom of your own unfaltering heart. And the scale shrinks to the size of a skull: your own interior cage.

 And then if you're lucky, and I have been lucky, everything comes back to you. And then you know why one of the freedom fighters in the sixties, a young Black woman interviewed shortly after she was beaten up for riding near the front of an interstate bus—you know why she said, "We are all so very happy."

 It's because it's on. All of us and me by myself: we're on.”

 


 

Jess thought about the D.C. Imagining with her psychic energy connected to those who were living, working and creating in Washington, D.C.—the socio-political belly of the United States. She didn't let this constrict her vision. She saw it as full of potential. 

So she began imagining what her Imagining would look like, what form it would take, how it could reach its inky tentacles into all facets of the community—arts, activists, educational, social, business sectors, the bus driver on her way to work, her Mom—and somehow leave an imprint. 

As the nature of the USDAC is inherently about transparency and collectivism, Jess took a similar approach, making much of the planning accessible to citizen artists via social media and word of mouth. 

Bright visions of change
Fully realized by those
Who’ve made DC home
— Citizen Artist Tavia Benjamin, during a D.C. Imagining planning session.

During just one of these planning meetings, Jess boldly posed, "What are some issues impacting people in D.C.?" 

The responses she received were incredibly varied, but very real. "Gentrification." "White Supremacy." "Poor Education." "Displacement." "Food Desserts."  

She knew that these words, loaded with emotion and the deep historical roots, had to be embedded into the work she took on at the Imagining.

 


 

Saturday, July 12, 1-4pm. 

14481687088_521015c363_z.jpg

In the spirit of June and Buck, who knew the power of space and place, the Impact Hub was the perfect location, both physically and politically. Sandwiched between two major metro stops, it's an accessible co-working space for organizations and companies committed to social justice.

Setting the mood, resident DJ Les Talusan curated an #ImagineDC set that featured local jams. 

This is a city full of earnest people who come with a hope and a vision of something they want to do.
— Overheard at #ImagineDC

Photographing the mood, an "Imagining Your Self-ie" booth featuring young photographers from Critical Exposure captured the faces of those who attended.

The agenda was deceptively short for how much ground Jess planned to cover. She wanted the one hundred participants to jump into a state of mind to imagine D.C. twenty years from now; to discuss their visions for the city with a small group, and then create a shared vision together; and finally, to share their ideas with the larger group, and to plan action to see those visions come to fruition. 

We embraced uncertainty. I acknowledged at the outset that we’re not going to solve anything today, that we may have more questions at the end and that that was OK.
— Cultural Agent Jess Solomon
ImagineDC_2014.jpg

What emerged was powerful. The most was the acknowledgement that we must get creative about how we are going to save ourselves from ourselves. 

There was an incredible interest in what's next.