Social Justice Artists Find a Home in Bioneers
Together, artists and cultural architects Alixa Garcia and Naima Penniman make up the creative duo Climbing PoeTree, whose award-winning multimedia theater, dual-voice spoken word, visual art and community organizing are dedicated to challenging injustice, bringing diverse peoples together, rebuilding communities, and winning the struggle for universal liberation.
True independents, Garcia and Penniman have organized more than 30 national and international tours, crossing the U.S. in a vegetable oil-powered bus and taking their messages of hope and human expression around the world, from South Africa and Cuba to the U.K. and Mexico. They create curricula and facilitate workshops designed to tap into people’s lived experiences and self-expression, raise consciousness and create real possibilities for re-inventing the world. And for the past several years, they’ve been speakers, performers and presenters at the annual National Bioneers Conference.
Considering their shared goals of re-inventing the world in ways that honor nature and people, it makes sense that the universe connected Bioneers and Climbing PoeTree. As workshop leaders in 2014, Penniman and Garcia first experienced the Bioneers community, which they describe as a space that “pulses with vital connections between people and ideas, and illuminates pathways toward the unpromised livable future.” In their keynote address at the close of the 2016 National Bioneers Conference, Garcia and Penniman shared their art—and the conviction that creativity is the antidote to destruction—with an awed Bioneers crowd.
Tapping into the energy and connections of the Bioneers community has helped deepen the already-expansive root system that feeds Climbing PoeTree’s art and work. Through Bioneers, “we have been able to make new and invaluable connections to people, as well as deepen our understanding of the world around us,” write Penniman and Garcia. “It has been incredible to share the stage with solutionaries like Danny Glover, Paul Hawken and Naomi Klein, who later came to speak to us…and made us present to a mutual admiration and shared responsibility that mirrors the majority of our connections at Bioneers. We also had the incredible opportunity to meet and deeply connect with Eve Ensler, and through that relationship have become connected to One Billion Rising, as well as other significant social movements. We’ve garnered incredible support from the rippling effects of presenting at Bioneers throughout the years in myriad ways. There is a profound rootedness that one feels when walking through three days of exploration, innovation and elucidated discovery, for Bioneers is that place where the wielding of solutions and the conjuring of magic collide.”
Those rippling effects of the Bioneers community are what have earned cofounders Nina Simons and Kenny Ausubel the honor of being the recipients of the 2017 Goi Peace Award, “an international award presented annually to honor individuals and organizations in various fields that have made outstanding contributions toward the realization of a peaceful and harmonious world.” For more than three decades, the couple has led Bioneers, now well-known for its propensity to provide platforms from which some of the world’s most inspirational minds and change agents are able to speak and connect. “Nina and Kenny’s tireless and heart-driven commitment to bringing renewed vision, intelligence and imagination to our most pressing planetary crisis has created waves of meaningful change that ripple out in all directions,” Penniman and Garcia write. “We have witnessed them fully embrace their sacred assignment with humility and conviction, as they strive to call more and more voices to the table—voices that carry the wisdom and experience necessary for deepening the conversations that implicate us all.”
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