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Diamon Fisher Curates Juneteenth Celebration as Both a Party and a Skillshare

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Diamon Fisher’s projects consistently center her people. Born and raised in Baltimore, and with roots from here to New York and Puerto Rico, Fisher is a community caretaker, mama, visual artist, and curator. Last year she organized a Black Cinema Series at Whitelock Community Farm and a free soup and herbal medicine pop-up on Penn North, and her work has been included in the online showcases Digital Legacies and Digital Legacies 2.0, curated by Tiffany Auttriana Ward. 

Fisher’s events are infused with the love and care that she imparts with intense clarity, urgency, and intentionality. Her curatorial practice emphasizes the necessity of building community and sharing knowledge and resources—practices that are so critical to Black people of the African diaspora. 

Through her public projects, Fisher aims to foster true safe havens for people to come and celebrate, relax, party, learn, exhale, or just be—spaces where the unlimited aspects of Black identity and personhood can be expressed. For Fisher, it is essential to cultivate environments that reclaim joy and leisure for Black folks, as well as spaces that foster knowledge and exploration.

Fisher’s latest project promises to do just that. Her second annual Juneteenth celebration, taking place this upcoming Saturday at the Eubie Blake Cultural Center, features music, poetry, art, food trucks, a marketplace, workshops and skillshares on repotting plants by Diaspora Botanica, “psychedelics for collective liberation” by The Ancestor Project, a nail bar, a tattoo bar and more. There will be performances by KeiyaA, Abdu Ali, and Al Rogers, Jr. & DaLor Band, as well as DJ sets by Qué Pequeno, Bushido, and Ca$h Liss. Tickets to the all-day event are donation-based, and Fisher asks white participants to make a monetary donation that will go toward production and paying the performers (Venmo: DiamonAriel / CashApp: $Diamonfisher).

 

For Fisher, it is essential to cultivate environments that reclaim joy and leisure for Black folks, as well as spaces that foster knowledge and exploration.
Teri Henderson

Historically, Juneteenth is the celebration of when enslaved people in Texas learned of their delayed freedom. On June 19, 1865, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, and alerted the men and women who were never told they were legally free. Growing up in Texas, we celebrated with parades, barbecues, and parties. Back then, the celebration seemed more localized, and I’ve appreciated seeing more awareness and celebration of the holiday across the United States. 

The Western world is defrosting from the cryogenic sleep enforced by quarantine, and this summer seems to echo hope and possibility. For the first time in many months, many of us are buying tickets, seeing performances, dancing, and embracing the people we have not touched in too long. It’s a lot to navigate. As we emerge from our quarantine cocoons, settle into the anxiety of re-emergence, embrace the sun, question the announcement of “the new normal,” and resist the culture of grinding, we might seek out spaces that feel like home. For the past year, I’ve considered notions of home, place, positionality, and location. Texas is my home; Baltimore is also my home. This year I look forward to celebrating the hybridity of my roots and honoring the legacy of Juneteenth. 

On Zoom, Fisher and I talked about the magic and allure of Stevie Wonder, astrology, her history of organizing and curating, and why white people should donate reparations for Black people regardless of circumstance.

 

This Juneteenth celebration is on Saturday, June 19, 2021, from 1 to 10 p.m. at the Eubie Blake Cultural Center. Fisher has a fundraising goal of $5,000 to pay Black artists and purchase materials for the event. 

2020 Juneteenth Celebration at Druid Hill Park; photo by Jacqueline W

Teri Henderson: How do you describe your artistic or curatorial practice? What do you call yourself?

Diamon Fisher: I call myself a community caretaker. I used to go by community organizer, but I feel like that term in itself can be very limiting. I feel like I go beyond just organizing. I do a lot of hands-on work, care-taking, literally taking care of community. So I would describe my practice as community caretaker. I would describe my practice as a cultural worker. I would describe it as a mama, which is a practice in itself. 

I love it. Where are your roots? Where are you from? Where are your people from?

I’m from Baltimore, born and raised. My mother is originally from New York. She’s a Nuyorican. My father is also a Baltimore native, East Baltimore certified. My mother’s entire family is from New York and Puerto Rico. My grandfather was born and raised in PR and my grandmother’s also a Nuyorican. 

Roots everywhere! 

Yes, roots everywhere.

I’m from Texas, but I moved here six years ago. My roots, my family are deep in the south, but sometimes Baltimore feels like another Southern branch—it feels like home.

That is so dope. I’m trying to make my way to Texas.

You’d love it. The food is so good. You gotta go! The food is so good anywhere down there, everything is fried and spicy and good. And I miss it. I’m not a seafood person!

Me neither. I’m a Baltimore native that does not eat seafood. I do fish, but I don’t do crawfish. I love a good cream of crab, a crab dip, but in terms of just sitting there breaking the crabs, I’m like, I love the culture of it, I’ll sit here and have a beer with y’all. 

That’s me. I’ll literally be there drinking beer, watching everybody else eat crabs.

Yes, it’s the culture.

 

2020 Juneteenth Celebration at Druid Hill Park; photo by Jacqueline W

This is the second annual Juneteenth skillshare celebration that you’ve curated. How did the first one come to fruition? And then how does this year’s version vary from that one? 

The first one was actually last year. And the idea kind of came into fruition when I was in New York at the time, visiting family. I pulled this event together in like a week. I literally don’t know how I did it. I woke up one day and was just like, “We need to do a Juneteenth celebration.” Although I knew that there were other things that were in the works in the city, in terms of other Juneteenth celebrations, I was just like, “What does this city need? What do Black people need?” And I was like, “a skillshare.” We need to be teaching each other things, like how to do basic things that are beneficial. 

[Last year,] we had someone doing a crochet class, we had someone doing a waist bead making class. We had this woman that was teaching folks how to make fishing rods. We had a build-a-terrarium workshop. It was really, really dope. I feel like Black folk could always benefit from skillshares. We had an herbalism workshop, and we’ll be doing that again this year. 

I just was like, “What do we need?” Yes, we need turn-up events celebrating Emancipation Day, but also we need something informative for the community. So that’s kinda how it came into fruition. And I was just like, okay, I have a week to make this work. I didn’t expect as many donations as I received. In that one week, I had a goal of, I think 1,500 to 1,800 dollars, and I made $3,000 in reparations in that week. So I was really blessed and it inspired me to continue to do the Juneteenth skillshare celebrations.

That’s really beautiful. Was that event in person or virtual?

That one was at Druid Hill Park, which was also really special because Druid Hill was a plantation at one point. So the ancestral energy from that space is just very, very powerful. So I was like, hell yeah.

Can you tell me about the format of the event? Who are some of the people performing? There’s a little bit of a turn-up and joyous celebration, like you said, but there is also this important element of skillsharing. If someone buys a ticket what can they expect?

The format of the event is a marketplace, skillshare workshops, we have food trucks. . . . I’m really excited. I’m so blessed. I booked Shareef’s Food Truck. Shareef is a staple in Baltimore, legendary. We have an acupuncture station, we have a nail bar, we have a tattoo station, we have a reiki station. And then performances, of course, DJs. 

The performers are KeiyaA, which I’m really excited about. Her work is incredible and she created one of the Blackest albums, in my opinion, of 2020. One of my good friends, Abdu Ali, is performing. Another one of my good friends, Al Rogers and Da Lor Band. We also have another person who is doing more performance art. His name is Kolpeace. His work is phenomenal. I’m so grateful. He hit me up and was like, “could I perform?” And I was like, absolutely. Also Briana Ali, she is a tap dancer. When folks purchase tickets that is what they can expect. 

Flier for tattoo artist @kennedytats for Juneteenth Celebration at Eubie Blake Center

Photo of Diamon Fisher at The Fray by Jacqueline W

It’s like a mini-festival. You’re putting all of this work and intentionality into it, and it’s going to be something that people can come and be there all day, which is really beautiful especially after a year of not being able to be around each other. It’s gonna be incredible. 

You know what I’m saying? And then we’ll be popping out on Emancipation Day! I’m so excited for all of the looks. I’m gonna be going crazy. Like, oh my God, everybody is so beautiful! 

I would say that it is festival-level, which is why I’m overwhelmed, but it’s a good overwhelmed. I feel like I get a high from this type of overwhelming feeling—especially with curatorial projects. With that being said, I know in the future I need to figure out some sort of system around volunteers and being able to have people on a payroll type of situation.

Yeah, because it’s just going to get bigger!

Exactly! Last year Bramble Bakery donated a bunch of baked goods to the Juneteenth event. This year, I asked if they could do the same, but also do a big Juneteenth cake just to thank and celebrate the performers and the volunteers. I’m really excited about that because I’m such a treat person.

Who are your biggest artistic inspirations? It could be an artist, a muse, who makes you want to do the work that you do?

In terms of my artistic inspirations, I will honestly say, I love Stevie Wonder. I love his Taurus, Venusian, very sensual ways. Stevie Wonder for sure. Stevie Wonder. He’s just a no-brainer.

That’s a great answer. It’s a big question, but Stevie Wonder’s everything. 

He is one of my biggest no-brainer type of inspirations. Musically, of course, him. I used to study music. In terms of style-wise, Prince. Prince also embodies Venusian ways about him. It was recently his birthday. It’s so funny, he is always resurfacing on the internet at some point. He has a Venus in Taurus and so do I, so I was like, that makes so much sense aesthetically. He is an artistic inspiration for sure. I would say, artistically, definitely him more than Stevie Wonder, style-and-sensuality-wise. 

My Venus is in Libra and I am a Taurus Rising. What is your sun sign? 

I’m an Aries on the Pisces cusp and I am a Leo rising, Taurus moon, Taurus Venus. So you’re a Taurus rising! 

Yes, so I got it—when you said treats, I said yes! My sun sign is Libra. 

So you’re ruled by Venus, you’re Venusian all the way. Aries and Libras are hand in hand; it’s funny because my son is a Taurus, Libra rising.

He’s going to be around art all the time.

He’s already a little artist. I’m so honored. 

I worked with Amira Green, and she always posts the paintings that he makes, and I’m always like, “Okay! Look at this baby painting!” He’s very good! 

That’s another one of my artistic inspirations, my friend Amira. She just dropped the Adidas project, and I was so honored to be a part of that. Her work is phenomenal. I’m always inspired by her artistically. And she’s a Leo so, you know, we just connect.

It’s always nice to work with her. She’s wonderful. That brings me to the next question: Who are some of your favorite artists and creators in Baltimore?

Definitely Amira, of course. Theresa Chromati; she isn’t living here right now, but she’s from here. Devin N. Morris also. Black Assets, she does a lot of organizing and curatorial work in the spoken-word scene, she is phenomenal. She’s running shit with that whole community, she’s definitely a beautiful person, she just has a way of having the audience interact. She’ll actually be helping me host the Juneteenth celebration. I would have to say Brandon Woody.

Is he performing too? 

Yes, he is. Brandon for sure, Al Rogers, Alanah Nicole, Sharayna Christmas—that’s like my big sister. I’m always inspired by the work that she does with the youth, just as a fellow mom.

Necessary Tomorrows, right?

Exactly, Necessary Tomorrows and Muse 360. So phenomenal. That’s a few folks that I can think of off the top of my head. Oh, and ChildishxTheo on Instagram, he does videography and he has like this early 2000s steeze.

 

It's important for me to build this type of event simply because I feel like our people, as in Black people, deserve and need a balance of turn-ups and then also teaching each other these skills—assets that we can carry on throughout a lifetime—that we could pass on through generations.
Diamon Fisher

This event is one of the first skillshares that I’ve seen, personally. Why was it important, instead of just doing a celebration, to include this critical element of bringing people together to do the skillshare? 

It’s important for me to build this type of event simply because I feel like our people, as in Black people, deserve and need a balance of turn-ups and then also teaching each other these skills—assets that we can carry on throughout a lifetime—that we could pass on through generations.

It’s really just important for that balance. I think that’s something that we really have to push within our culture, the knowledge and the information is just as important as the turn-ups.

Skill shares, why not? I love to learn new skills, new crafts, you know what I’m saying? You never know what you may need in the future. Even with the whole fishing rod thing that we did last year, I’m for folks to learn how to make fishing rods [out of] copper wire, where you could just be at a lake, on site, and be like, “Oh, I know how to make a fishing rod.” That’s such a cool skill to have. And I think it’s so important that we all teach each other these different skill sets.

Thank you. I know that you’ve previously curated events at Eubie Blake. What was the most recent one that you curated?

Sharayna Christmas did an opening reception for we make do // wit wat we got which was an ode to Black women. I curated the closing event with her. The closing event was a marketplace, we didn’t have performance this time, but we had a femme DJ, we had food, we had clothes that folk were selling, aromatherapy, essentials. Then there was an exhibition that was happening in the space. It featured my work, Sharayna’s work, and a few other really incredible artists that I love. That was the event that I recently just did. I believe that was the end of April, if I’m not mistaken.

Time is just a blur.

A blur. And I also forget how many events I do a year. 

Besides this project, do you have any other projects that you’ve been exceptionally proud of? And what else are you working on? 

The Fray Baltimore.

I remember hearing about that project. 

I started The Fray Baltimore when I was 21. That’s something that I’m proud of. One of my biggest projects that I’m the most proud of; I’m getting teary-eyed thinking about it.

It was one of the first, I don’t want to say the first, because there could have been things in history in Baltimore like that. It was one of the first creative haven and safe spaces for Black artists in Baltimore. I was really proud of that space, it was beautiful inside. There was a library room, there was a music room, there was an accessible kitchen where we would have chefs come and do little popups and stuff like that in the space. There was a common space that had easels built into the walls.

That’s where I had my first Juneteenth celebration. I was super proud of The Fray Baltimore. That would probably be one of my biggest projects because of the fact that I had the honor to create a safe haven and a space specifically for Black artists in Baltimore. Some people wanted to come some days and just shoot the shit, even if it wasn’t an actual creative event, people came. It was literally like a safe space for us. And I’m really proud that people trust me enough to be in these spaces. 

 

2020 Juneteenth Celebration at Druid Hill Park; photo by Jacqueline W

How long was The Fray open? 

The Fray was only open for like four months. I’m actually in the process of renovating a new space. My dad has owned a barbershop my whole life. I grew up a barbershop baby and he has a building in the city, right near Coppin. He’s had that space since I was about six and the upstairs portion is this beautiful, spacious, common space with a kitchen and everything. So I’m in the process of,  me and my family turning half of the family business into my creative space, or the community’s creative space. I’m super excited for that, to have another brick-and-mortar space for people, like an incubator.

Hell yeah. So that’s what’s coming next. I appreciate your push to ask white audiences specifically to donate reparations for the event, and also happy to share the call to action with our audience. Why did you decide to make this a critical element of the celebration? 

I love this question. One of the many reasons why I made that a critical element in the Juneteenth celebrations was simply because we literally deserve it. 

I feel like, with reparations, a lot of white folk get this notion, or this theory [that] Black folk only deserve reparations when we need it for rent relief or emergency relief type of situations and programs. And I’m just like, no, Black people deserve reparations, simply just to celebrate. I think they should not only [donate] for rent relief and financial crisis, but I think y’all should also be funding our celebrations.

We deserve to be in spaces happy, unapologetically. Just navigating through space, without the limitations of financial resources, we should never be lacking in financial resources as long as there’s white people on this earth, because we really deserve everything based on what we’ve endured, what we continue to endure, on a day-to-day basis.

It’s the performativity for me that I don’t appreciate when it comes to things like, “Okay, yeah, I’m going to fund these specific projects or these specific people.” I saw this post the other day that was like “support Black people who aren’t popular.” And I was like, “Hell yeah, that too. That part.” There’s a lot of white folk that have favorite Black folk, tokenized Black folk. And I’m just like, no, let’s also support other Black people who aren’t as favorable or popular, you know what I’m saying? I think it’s important for them to just throw your coin in every black money pot.

To sum that question up, we simply deserve to have y’all fund anything that we’re involved in and that includes celebrations. Absolutely. 

 

Header image: Portrait of Diamon Fisher by Amira Green. Fliers by Amira Green (@thugm0m).

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