Friday, Dec. 7–Sunday, Dec. 16, pay what you choose
Various venues, Durham
Monét Noelle Marshall is a playwright, director, actor, curator, consultant, and activist. At her core, she is a creator who uses art as a tool to connect people. This desire for cultivating “radical relationships,” as she says, is evident in her latest work, Buy My Art and Call It Holy, which concludes the Buy It Call It trilogy she began in January.
The first two parts, Buy My Soul and Call It Art and Buy My Body and Call It a Ticket, were interactive explorations of the values and worth of Black art and Black lives. Now Marshall closes the trilogy by encouraging us to reimagine what art can be, locating holiness and creativity in everyday interactions of human connection. I had the pleasure of speaking with Marshall to learn more about the participatory ten-day experience, which has its opening reception at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, December 7 at 310 East Main Street, the former location of Old Havana Sandwich Shop. Through the gift of her words, art, and hands, strengthened by the ancestors that stand with her, Marshall is fully aware of the power that comes from within to shape and change the world around her. And it is her hope to help others find that special power within themselves.
INDY: What was the overall vision with the Buy It Call It trilogy?
MONÉT NOELLE MARSHALL: [This] is like the three parts of a debut album. The first part is, “I see you. I see how this whole art institution, capitalism, the misuse, misrepresentation, and the co-optation of Black bodies is happening. I’m going to play because this is what I want to do. But I see you.”
The second part explores the question, “Who am I?” If I’m going to put myself out there in this way and make the art that I want to make, there are some things that I want folks to know. And I don’t want you to hear it secondhand. I want you to hear it from me, because there is no shame in my story, and there is no shame in your story, either. We all know consumption is happening, so let’s just be honest about it. That means looking in my face when you decide how much my body of work and my body is worth.
So now, this third piece is understanding that there is something inherently specific and special and artful and holy about your existence. Let’s find it, and let’s make it happen.
You write, “This is an honoring of the human spirit that connects us. It’s lifting up our grandmothers’ ways of being. A recognition that the works of their hands were art and holy offerings.” I love that you chose to complete the trilogy on the sentiment of the human spirit that connects all of us, recognizing how there is art and sacredness in everything that we do. Can you talk a little bit more about that?
For me, I’m thinking about queer Black womanness. When I originally started this project and wrote the grant that ended up funding the art through the North Carolina Art Council, I wrote more specifically about Black women. I wrote about how, in the Christian tradition, grace is something we are given, and we don’t deserve. I believe that the labor of Black women in this country is grace because we continue to give it, and this country continues to not deserve it. And yet, we give it anyway. So many of us give it and we don’t even recognize how holy that offering is. We don’t see ourselves as holy, and we don’t see ourselves as art. I feel like many of us are dying and struggling and stressed and hurting because we are not getting any messages that say, “No, you deserve rest and care and peace and joy and pleasure.”
How much can you share about what people can expect?
It’s ten days of programming. Every day there is something different. It’s across five locations in Durham. The guiding aesthetic question is, “What would church look like in a queer Black grandmom’s kitchen?” Which is another way of asking, “What would church look like in Monét’s future kitchen?”
The main space [at 310 East Main Street] will be open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 5:00 p.m., and I’ll be in there serving tea with bread that I’ll make that morning. There will be books, music, and places to sit. There will be no programming. Just come and chill. For me, that really is one of the ways I’m honoring my grandmothers, Zelma and Evelyn. I grew up with my grandmother Evelyn in the home, and she was just so present. Her presence was truly a gift to me. I would come home, just spill my whole day, and she would just listen. Now that I’m older and she is gone, I’m recognizing how much I miss having that and how much that made me feel seen.
On Saturday we are doing a Day of Celebration, which is an open movement space [at the Living Arts Collective] from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. It is family friendly. We’re going to have DJ VSPRTN play music. Just come move your body, however you want to. On Tuesday, we’ll have our Night of Mediation, which will be a guided meditation. Let’s be quiet and breathe. The next night is the Night of Visioning. Folks are invited to come and speak their dreams out loud. That’s how we manifest each other’s visions. What happens when we get together and have a dream cypher?
The next night is our Night of Mourning, because I really feel like we can’t get our visions if there are things that we can’t let go of [because we] are not honest about the fact that we are grieving them. Then, Friday night, December 14, will be our Night of Sensuality. That will be at The Fruit. It will be a space to consciously pay attention to each of our senses.
We will also have two Sunday services [at the W.G. Pearson Center], but the service is not religious. It’s just spiritual. It’s about our connection to one another. To close out the project, we’ll do a Night of Gratitude, which will be a community dinner. I grew up Christian, and we said grace and we thanked God. In the same way we’re thanking this Being for this meal, I couldn’t tell you who picked the food or whose hands cultivated the food. I want to bring our grace down to the earth, literally. The food curator, Gabrielle Eitienne, who is brilliant, knows the stories of the people [who cultivated the food]. All of the farmers are Black, and they are from North Carolina and South Carolina.
That’s the project. It’s a lot of happenings. They are all free and donation based. I want folks to enter in however they want to. There is no wrong way of engaging through this work. Each of these nights and days are like a different portal where folks access their own holiness and their own art. It’s also a celebration of being alive and having a body, with other people who are also alive and have bodies.
I’m grateful for you and the work that you’ve done and continue to do. It’s powerful and necessary. If folks wanted to reach out, what’s the best way for people to keep up to date?
The website is buyitcallit.com and there’s an Eventbrite page for each night of programming. There’s also a Facebook event with the schedule. Folks can also follow me on Instagram at @MadameMonarch.