top of page

Spring & Summer 2023 Updates

Updated: Aug 30, 2023

Slowly dipping my toes back into the waters of live performance.

In early May, I was invited to participate in Petra Kupper's Crip/Mad Archive Dances on Roosevelt Island. I was introduced to Petra through my wife Desiree, who was Petra's former graduate advisee at Goddard College. Petra Kuppers is a disability culture activist, writer, wheelchair dancer, and a community performance artist. She teaches at the University of Michigan as the Anita Gonzalez Collegiate Professor of Performance Studies and Disability Culture, she is the Artistic Director of The Olimpias, an international disability culture collective, a 2021 Dance Research Fellow at the New York Public Library's dance division, and a current Guggenheim Fellow, among many other things. Being part of her performance was interesting because it was eye-opening both historically and artistically. The idea of being disabled and dancing was inspiring in ways that I am still discovering. Through this experience with other amazing dancers which included Petra Kuppers, her wife Stephanie Heit, Kimberly McDaniel, Marina Heron Tsaplina, moira williams, Amy Ackerman, and my wife Desiree, I learned that Roosevelt Island's design now focuses on accessiblity since the pandemic. For folks who don't know:

"Two centuries ago the city of New York bought the 147-acre island from Robert Blackwell, the descendant of British colonists who had earlier acquired it from the Dutch, who had still earlier purchased it from the Lenape. Almost immediately the city found harsh uses for its new property, and by the middle of the 19th century, Blackwell’s Island, as it was called then, was home to the Penitentiary, the Lunatic Asylum, the Workhouse, the Almshouse, and a cluster of hospitals...Located 300 yards off the shores of Manhattan, Blackwell’s was close yet distant; as the authors of New York 1960 write, “it became a convenient yet out-of-view depot for the city’s poor, infirm, and insane.” Its inaccessibility was indeed the attraction. For many decades Blackwell’s could be accessed only by a boat that made two daily trips from a wharf at East 26th Street, and even today, the island in the midst of the metropolis feels oddly isolated, with transportation options limited to that one subway line, or to a small bridge from Astoria, or to an aerial tram constructed in the mid 1970s, and originally intended as temporary."

-from the article "Active Exclusion" by Elizabeth Duffey on

Photo by Kymberly McDaniel

Also in May, I had the pleasure of performing as a featured guest with the Harriet Tubman Band, honoring the cultural legacy of my dear friend and brother Greg Tate, for The Kitchen's Spring 2023 Gala.

From the beginning, even prior to arriving, The Kitchen staff and the event space Gustavinos, were all incredible in their consideration of my need for accessibility. They truly raised the bar for how artists with disabilities should be reasoned with and cared for. Desiree created a visual tribute to Greg Tate, designed as an accompaniment for our performance, which complimented our musical performance perfectly. Here's a link to the video for anyone who's interested:

Coming Forth By Day: Interdimensioning Reflections on Greg Tate by Desiree Mwalimu-Banks, 2023

Designed without* sound as an accompaniment. Here's a link to the song "Black Sun Banjo", one of the Harriet Tubman original tracks that we performed at the Gala. Listen as an accompaniment to the video for max effect.

Me performing with the Harriet Tubman Band! L-R: Brandon Ross on banjo, myself on vocals, JT Lewis on drums, Melvin Gibbs on bass

Brandon Ross of the Harriet Tubman Band & Myself

Me on the mic!

Me with my lovely wife, Desiree in the courtyard at the Kitchen Gala

In June, I celebrated my return to Burnt Sugar for Lincoln Center's Summer for the City: To a Garden Luxuriously Verdant (Enameled with Countless Flowerings): A Juneteenth Celebration by Carl Hancock Rux. This was my first performance with my beloved Burnt Sugar Arkestra Chamber family in 3 years.

Photo by Ginny Suss

I turned 70 on July 4th, this year, in the company of my wonderful wife and great friends at the Spicy Moon's new location on the Bowery. They were amazing, and the food was phenomenal as usual. All that joy was followed by the sad passing of my last blood sibling on July 10th, my big sister Leonora Banks. This is a heartbreaking loss, that happened just a few weeks shy of her 80th birthday. Traveled to Texas to remember her both for a funeral and a celebration, and all in the spirit of putting the joy of who she was and what she meant to all her family, first.

A tremendous gift from the great Milton Washington (the muscle dude in the gray shirt behind me). Milton is an award-winning photographer who's publishing a seminal body of work this year entitled Stepping Out: The Unapologetic Style of African-Americans Over 50. Pre-order your copy now!

Me and my sister Lee in Valley Stream, Long Island, NY.

To learn more about me and my disability journey with FSHD, please check out the article: "Falling Into FSHD and Disability In The Black Community", brilliantly written by wife, Desiree, for PBS/ As a result of this article Brian Tate, our dear brother, and the lovely Jasmine Wilson interviewed my wife, and me too, for their new podcast series. Stay tuned for the links soon.

Last but not least, outstanding disability accessibility roll call (in addition to The Kitchen, Gustavinos & Spicy Moon from above):

Why: I went to see the Yayoi Kusama Show on their opening night with my wife, and they went the extra 5 miles to make sure our experience was as comfortable and easy as possible. Even before we got there, their communication was timely, sensitive, and accommodating. We called them in advance and they did everything in their power to make sure we were informed and as comfortable as possible. Being in a wheelchair, they allowed us to see the exhibition a few minutes in advance of the large crowds that were wrapped around the block. We had a great time and are so grateful for that moment.

45 views0 comments


bottom of page