Resistance Rooted in Heritage

Charlyn Griffith-Oro

Charlyn Griffith-Oro (they/honey) is an infinite media artist transmitting communications through English language, symbolism found in objects and unlikely map forms and body-based sciences like movement, birthing, and sex. They are a child of the Caribbean, born in London and raised by Harlem, Brooklyn, and Philadelphia. Charlyn interrogates wholeness through their research and subsequent socially engaged art. From food to sculpture, homesteading and fiction, they lean into their migrations as they make place-based works. Charlyn’s disruptive food technology, the @freebrunchprogram, has won numerous awards.

I allowed the research to bring in my family and our legacy of migration, right alongside the migration that was happening to and from Philadelphia and the Caribbean islands. [...] I'm really interested in how we make space for people like me to do the work of sort of uncovering histories for others. - Charlyn Griffith-Oro

q & A with Charlyn

How has archival research informed your activism?

Research inspired my activism. What has happened, to me, forms a pattern, a quilt in time that eventually connects with the present as moments flee and the future as new things come to pass. I think that is why I am an artist, a healer, and indeed an activist. The ability of a person to see or feel connections between time periods and to be inspired by that intersection moved to action. I have used research in all the parts of my work, in classrooms making art with students, with families whom I support through births and deaths, and in my food work- contextualizing food justice among new farmers and food workers that are participating in mutual aid.

What do you want other activists and organizers to know about preserving their stories and archival research?

You are not alone in any of your moments of finding, fighting, or resisting systemic forgetting. There are others that hear whispers from the past, there is a force of people for whom history comes to life quite easily — bringing ghosts and energies to contend and communicate with. For a story to be preserved in your mind alone, shared with whoever you deem ready, or for a story to become a book, sculpture or its own archived document is legitimate. Preserve the many ways that we share stories — tell at least one other soul so it may be witnessed and your words are marked on the air.

What was it like to do archival research during a pandemic?

My visits to the archive peppered a pretty digitally based experience. I didn’t mind it, I think that because of the pandemic the experience was actually much closer to how most people would have time to do research anyway. Thinking about how visits need to be scheduled and how using the internet to do a lot of preliminary searching can be helpful, and can save time getting lost in a physical library. Everyone should definitely have that experience too though. I hope that for anyone that is a seeker, to spiral into the depths of a place’s holdings on your subject matter. To have to squint as you come outside into the natural light. To have to rub your arms from a little chill of the building, but not wanting to move until you have touched and seen as many of the pieces that matched your search as possible.

Interested in more stories about heritage, or more original art? Check out the work below:

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