THE WORK (2014-2015)

Following are highlights of both the work of The Iruke Project and the work of Butterfly Williams (aka Anthony Julius Williams, MFA and PhD candidate) as an independent artist from 2014 and 2015:


The Iruke Project collaborated with prisoner re-entry expert Isaac Taggart, mindfulness trainer Odell Johnson, and singer-songwriter Jerdaile Green to create a ritual that offered support to people newly released from prison while bringing awareness about their needs to home communities. Performed around a libation table, the ritual included an African ancestor prayer; a contemplative meditation; an introduction to re-entry issues; audience testimony from the perspectives of a formerly incarcerated person, a family member, a victim of domestic violence, and a concerned citizen; and an original guitar song about prison life. Anthony began the ritual with four female voices drawn from a recent re-entry conference, and explained why he performed in gold-face in an all-white prisoner's jumpsuit: "All our lives have value no matter what lies in our past; and we all can tell stories whose wisdom is vast." Collaborators from "Blood Is Mere Decoration," The Iruke Project's previous production about mass incarceration, also contributed to the ritual: Rebecca Schultz's charcoal drawings, entitled "Survival," formed a dramatic background for the event, while WinstonTaneous' electronic remix of "The River of Light," the song that closed the previous show, opened the ritual with sonic hope, faith and healing. "Ritual 4 Re-Entry" was presented on October 3, 2015 at Pacific Felt Factory as part of "Arts & Abolishing Prisons," an event produced by 14 Black Poppies for the Mission Art & Performance Project. (Click here.)


The Iruke Project partnered with the San Francisco AIDS Foundation to design and teach an arts-based curriculum that empowered Black gay men impacted by the HIV epidemic to write and tell their stories of shame, stigma, and resilience. The experience proved to be transformative for the participants, who not only discovered and developed their literary and performance talents, but uncovered personal strengths that supported emotional healing. Writers William Dean, Raephel Rodgers and Stanley Allison gave a literary reading of their profoundly moving work on June 27th at the Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco during LGBT Pride Weekend. (Click here.)


Anthony and Monisha Rios co-curated a day of presentations, workshops, art, film, theater and song at the intersection of chaos theory, creativity and social change at Saybrook University on January 25, 2015. Professors Ruth Richards and Joel Federman presented on everyday creativity and social activism as they relate to chaos theory. Eight doctoral and master's students in psychology contributed films, poetry, a sonic meditation, a drumming circle, group improvisation, a guided visualization, paintings, stained glass and an autobiographical speech about student activism. Federman constructed a #SaybrookLennonKingWall to reclaim the common space of the hallways of the Westin Hotel for free speech -- and a vigorous debate erupted over #BlackLivesMatter that literally put "the writing on the wall." (Click here.)


"My Heroes Have Always Killed Colonizers" is an annual event, hosted by San Francisco's Center for Political Education at the Eric Quesada Center for Politics and Culture, that invites community activists of color to celebrate resistance to colonialism in all its forms, including racism and gentrification. On October 13, 2014, Anthony facilitated "The Ghost of Michael Brown," a group improvisation in which the audience created a drama about the police brutality incident in Ferguson, Missouri. Audience members chose to play the roles of Fred Hampton, white people, gentrification, the police and a gun -- and Anthony played the Ghost of Michael Brown, who sang "All my life I just wanted people to see the good in me." (Click here.)


Anthony created and played The Human Discoball for OutLook Theater Project's "#WhereDoYouBelong" at the Red Poppy House on August 2, 2014. Each cast member selected a symbol for belonging, and Anthony chose the discoball for its power to bring together diverse people in a rhythmic celebration of life. Anthony collaborated with musician Frida Ibarra on the Discoball Invocation that opened the show, the catchy synthpop song "I AM A DISCOBALL" that closed it, and a dance party that got the audience shakin' they booties. Anthony's costume featured a hand-made discoball helmet and a sparkly bangly flapper's dress that jiggled in the most fascinating way as she sha-shayed shan-tayed into the night! (Click here.)


In the summer of 2014, Anthony collaborated with the Bayview Association for Youth and a group of graduate students from Stanford University to mentor a dozen young men of color in community activism and life skills. Anthony facilitated storytelling projects, including "Tree of Strengths," an expressive arts exercise that created a celebration of the assets in their community, and "Deep Democracy," a group role-playing exercise that generated a thoughtful debate on whether bullies should be suspended from school and whether it is appropriate to fight back against them. (Click here and click here.)


On April 5, 2014, Anthony co-curated a storytelling circle on police brutality with writing teacher and community organizer Adriana Camarena as part of Nina Park and Jason Wyman's "Taking a Stand [SF]," a day of activist workshops and cultural events on community/police relations. The event was inspired by the police killing of Alex Nieto, a young Latino who practiced Buddhism and was studying criminal justice at the local community college. Anthony worked closely with community residents to shape their stories about the first Black cop in Chicago and a young woman's experiences with domestic violence. Audience members also told their stories about their brushes with the police and their hopes for establishing mutual respect. (Click here.)


The organizers of "Generations 2014: Black LGBT History Experiences" invited Anthony to recreate James Baldwin, the legendary Black gay writer, for their Black Pride Month event at the African-American Art and Culture Complex on February 21, 2014. For the capacity crowd, Anthony reperformed monologues that the literary giant himself delivered about gentrification and the Black youth crisis in San Francisco in "Take This Hammer," the 1964 PBS documentary which took Baldwin on a tour of Hunter's Point and the Fillmore. (Click here.)


At the Bayview Opera House on February 5, 2014, The Iruke Project was the only artist to present new work at the Center for Political Education's 50th Anniversary screening of "Take This Hammer," the WQED documentary about James Baldwin's visit to San Francisco in 1963. To honor this important piece of film history, Anthony collaborated with Maketa Smith-Groves, Star Amerasu and Dennis Jones to create "Total Action," a spoken word symphony about the conditions of our lives. This orchestra of socially conscious voices can be heard in part during the Full Circle interview in the radio section of this website. (Click here and click here.)


This no-holds-barred satire of the performance art scene in San Francisco boldly confronted issues of race, sexuality and ageism as part of OutLook Theater Project's "The Ages," an intergenerational evening of theater presented on January 7, 2014, for The News, the monthly queer performance night at SomArts. Anthony's comedic monologue -- delivered in a blonde wig, a red clown nose, a smart Ann Taylor black frock, and an ever-so-tasteful gold bangle -- playfully turned the tables on body fluid fetishists, messianic artists, anti-porn feminists, casting couches, religious obsessions, and every artist's favorite: unfulfilled expectations. (Click here.)