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Former Boston AIR Erin Genia leads cultural emergency kit giveaway

Former Boston Artist-in-Residence Erin Genia officially ended her residency in partnership with the Office of Emergency Management several months ago, but her work has continued.

Much of Erin Genia's residency projects revolved around the notion of “cultural emergencies”, and how the City can better identify and respond to such emergencies when they arise in Boston. She has incorporated her knowledge and experiences as a Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota and multidisciplinary artist into her projects. She has led events including a panel series on Confronting Colonial Myths in Boston’s Public Space, and coordinated the Boston Art Commission’s special meeting on Indigenous Public Art and Cultural Spaces in Boston. She also created a cultural emergency response vest out of beads, merging her Native traditions and her work with the Office of Emergency Management.

As she approached the end of her residency this past spring, she launched a Cultural Emergency Kit Giveaway. Based on the Dakota practice of giveaways, these Cultural Emergency Kits consisted of health, wellness, art and critical items for dealing with cultural emergencies made by Native American producers. Some of the items in the kits included: 

  • An Immune Booster Spray by Rachel Beth Sayet Healing Products (Mohican tribal member),
  • Native plants/wild flowers pollinator seed packs and instructions,
  • Wild rice harvested by Red Lake Nation in Minnesota,
  • Organic tea bags,
  • Bach Rescue Remedy Pastilles,
  • Mini handmade journals or ceramic emergency whistles handmade by Erin,
  • Tanka bars (Native American-owned business),
  • a Cultural Emergency Response Manual by Erin,
  • and a hemp belt bag/fanny pack with parfleche design by Erin.

Clay whistles handmade by Erin Genia
Clay whistles handmade by Erin Genia

Erin asked individuals to nominate someone who has made a difference during this time of cultural emergency to receive a kit. Individuals could be teachers, first responders, caregivers, or anyone else that has made an impact in their community over the past year.

“It's been truly amazing to connect with the incredible people who have been nominated to receive a kit. I am inspired by their deep commitment to the well being of people in their neighborhoods, and their selflessness in doing the work that needs to get done to address disparities in their communities.” - Erin Genia

Cultural Emergency kits
Photo of cultural emergency kit by recipient Nicole Flynt.

Erin is continuing to move forward with her work that she started through her collaboration with the City. She recently collaborated with Boston University on Caution: Cultural Emergency, a public art installation and programming series that connected many of the issues she explored during her residency. This project also received a grant through the City of Boston’s Transformative Public Art Program.

Keep reading to learn about some of the kit recipients, why they were nominated, and what it meant to receive a kit this year.

Boston Public Schools Employees

As part of Erin’s cultural emergency kit giveaway, 10 members of the Boston Public Schools' Division of Equity, Strategy, and Opportunity Gaps were recognized as first responders. The recipients include:

  • Ceronne Daly
  • Charles Grandson
  • DJ Rock
  • Errin Douglas
  • Francesska Jean-Pierre
  • Grace Jung
  • Harold Miller
  • Quinnelle Gomez
  • Regine Philippeaux
  • Velecia Saunders

BPS kit recipients
Photo of Boston Public Schools kit recipients. Left to right: Charles Grandson, Chief Equity and Strategy Officer; Francesska Jean-Pierre, Equity Manager, Office of Equity; Grace Jung, Director of Training and Accommodations, Office of Equity; Quinnelle Gomez, Director of Compliance and Title IX Coordinator, Office of Equity; and Errin Douglass, Special Assistant to the Division of Equity, Strategy & Opportunity Gaps.

This group was nominated for their countless hours of work to support students and staff during the pandemic, particularly LGBTQ+ students, students of color, and staff with disabilities. As members of the BPS Office of Equity, Office of Opportunity Gaps, Office of Recruitment, Cultivation, and Diversity, and Office of Strategy and Innovation, these district leaders were called upon to support students, families, and staff in myriad ways, particularly during remote learning. This included partnering with district offices to apply a racial equity lens to pandemic response decision-making, conducting extensive affinity group meetings following the murder of George Floyd, offering ongoing remote support groups for LGBTQ+ students, and responding to hundreds of accommodation requests from employees with disabilities and pregnant employees who were particularly vulnerable should they contract COVID-19.

Quinnelle Gomez, Director of Compliance and Title IX Coordinator in the Office of Equity, was moved by receiving this recognition.

“Being named as a cultural responder was such an honor, because it acknowledges that the work we do everyday is very challenging and makes a real difference,” Ms. Gomez said. “I am truly appreciative of the thoughtfulness, time, effort and energy that went into envisioning this project, and creating the Cultural Emergency Kit.” - Quinnelle Gomez

Alison Croney Moses

Alison Croney Moses is Associate Director of The Eliot School in Jamaica Plain. When asked why nominating Alison, her nominator said: 

“Alison is amazing individual, balancing her family, her craft, her vocation as an arts administrator, while giving her all to everything she does. During this time, she's poured herself into ensuring that she's doing all she can to provide continuity to students, program staff, her family. She's my hero.”

Alison Croney Moses photo
Photo of Alison Croney Moses, courtesy of Jesika Theos.

Alison dealt with the stress of the pandemic by being very productive, and using her work as a way to process everything that was going on. 

“It’s important to me to build structures that uplift people, to make space for transformation, and think about how to create access for people and also support the folks who are doing this work. In an artistic practice, and as teachers working with students, we must to push ourselves to think about who we are, to change perceptions and reach racial justice and racial equity.” - Alison Croney Moses

Helen Wong

Helen Wong is the Administrative/Site Coordinator of the BCYF Quincy in Chinatown. She was nominated for consistently going above and beyond to assist community members, including making sure non-English speakers have the resources they need. Helen’s nominator said the following:

“During the COVID crisis, Helen has continued to do this work, including working with her team to deliver food to people who could not leave their homes due to COVID. She offers her assistance with translation, so folks can get the info they need about resources. But the other reason I want to acknowledge Helen at this time, is that as an Asian-American herself, Helen has repeatedly been subjected to hurtful anti-Asian comments from people in Boston. Despite these incidents, or perhaps even further inspired by them, Helen continues to show up for the people who need her.”

Helen Wong
Photo of cultural emergency kit recipient Helen Wong.

Colette Bresilla

Colette Bresilla is a practicing visual and textile artist who was nominated for being “amazingly generous and supportive of her sister/fellow/colleague artists and friends”, especially during the pandemic.

Colette Bresilla
Silk scarf made by Colette Brésilla.

“From the start of the pandemic up until now, I have been relentlessly busy keeping my parents from exposing themselves to the virus. I contributed and gave whatever I could to the much-needed communities, assisted friends with cooked foods/sharing groceries, and shared photos of my art and crafts in the hope of keeping their spirits alive. Receiving this nomination is a booster to continue helping others, especially in this time of numerous types of turmoil.” - Colette Bresilla

Chanel Thervil

Chanel Thervil is a local artist and curator who was nominated for continually giving back to her community. Throughout the pandemic, she contributed to several projects that spread love and positivity throughout the city, including her Quarantine Self-Care Series, which received a grant as part of the City’s Transformative Public Art Program.

Chanel Thervil
Cultural emergency kit recipient Chanel Thervil.

When asked why she believes it’s important to identify and address cultural emergencies in the city, Chanel responded:

“It's a more holistic way to acknowledge the spheres of impact that systems of oppression have on how we think, see, and live in the city. Cultural emergencies speak to how multi-layered the cause and effect are, which can empower us to be more creative and deep about how we tackle these issues.”

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