Last Thursday, CommUNITY Arts had a long film day in the basement of Clayton's First Congressional Church. Our board members (including our smallest board member, Kai), Dancing Fox Picture's film crew, and live artist M Gray Art gathered together to serve and use our artistic talents to show what a normal Thursday looks like for PotBangerz.
PotBangerz is a St. Louis based 501c3 family of community leaders who fight injustice by uplifting the community, meeting nutritional needs, helping our unhoused families navigate their way to permanent housing, and advocating for them when they need it the most.
Cathy Daniels or "Mama Cat" founded this project while feeding protesters in the wake of Michael Brown's shooting in 2014. Pre-COVID, you could easily recognize her by her warm, ear-to-ear smile. These days, you can't miss the powerful sound of her laughter as she cooks.
In hindsight, I was surprised by how quickly the 7 hours flew by because of how enjoyable the experience was. As an amateur cook, I enjoyed learning the proper techniques of chopping vegetables and some random vegan baking alternatives. Can you believe you can use the liquid from canned Garbanzo beans as an egg substitute for baking? I didn't. I might have to add an edit down below once I try it out in my home kitchen.
The most enjoyable part of the day was meeting the people that Mama Cat brought together. Everyone in the kitchen volunteered their time to chop veggies, pack meal bags, assist with serving, and do the heavy lifting and cleaning. Each person offering whatever amount of time they could to make and prepare food for over 200 people. The kitchen only had a handful of people working at a time (masked and constantly washing hands), but the team effort made an awesome product. Each unhoused person received a container of BBQ chicken soup and rice (plus the option of a vegan BBQ soup), fresh fruit, utensils, chips, and a sweet treat like cookies. At the end of the night, everything was packed into volunteers' cars and delivered to the streets. As a bonus, each volunteer received the steaming soup before ending the night. I opted for the vegan option to try it out -- amazing.
Last Thursday's project was just a section of CommUNITY Arts' current film project. This film is a transformation of 2020's fall concert, Faces of Trauma, which was cancelled due to COVID-19 precautions. The as yet untitled film features artists communicating the traumas within our community through an artistic lens, and the traumatized homeless families are one of our commissioned projects. M Gray Art and AshleyLiane Dance Company were tasked with creating original works shedding light on Mama Cat's work.
When Kai and I left the kitchen that night, I had the question in my head: where does art belong? In a museum? In an upscale restaurant? In a theater? Despite the terrible things COVID-19 brought to 2020, I would not have been forced to take our concert off of a stage and into a church's basement kitchen. Is that good? Better? We are still waiting on editing from this project, and AshelyLiane Dance Company's filming is on the horizon, but I do know the artists involved would not have had an experience like this. I hope we can accurately portray the feelings and energy created through the film.
I do plan on joining Mama Cat and volunteering my time for PotBangerz in the future. If you would ever like to join me, email me at commUNITYartsSTL@gmail.com or visit https://www.potbangerz.org/what-you-can-do to find out how you can assist our community.