For the people by the people: May 14 ‘Art and Plant Extravaganza’ a creative space for all

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“The committee that has created it is composed of BIPOC community members, people with disabilities and the queer community. I can strongly say that it’s one of the only festivals of its kind where it’s actually created for the people, by the people with the idea of inclusion at the forefront…” — Yasamin Safarzadeh


Yasamin Safarzadeh, artist, activist, educator and creator of the mural that adorns the back of Dancing Lion Chocolate on Elm Street. File Photo/Carol Robidoux

MANCHESTER, NH – Activist, artist, and educator Yasamin Safarzadeh is the co-organizer of the inaugural Art and Plant Extravaganza, happening May 14 at Brown and Mitchell Park, an event uniting various wings of the city to center and amplify a more diverse perspective.

Safarzadeh is “digging in with both hands” promoting the event as a platform to address the concerns and needs of the community. 

“We just can’t wait for local organizations or governments to get their shi*t together to handle it,”  Safarzadeh explains, “the difference is we’re not administrators, we’re not talking heads, we’re all actually people doing the physical work.”

 In her pivotal position, Safarzadeh is utilizing free transportation provided by the city to help encourage patrons, in and around Manchester, to attend the festivities. “I’m on the ground, so… what are the issues? It’s transportation,” Safarzadeh says.

 Anticipate an art extravaganza without barriers welcoming to all walks of life. 

 “You know, whatever you’re into, it’s probably gonna be there. Meet people and build your network. Pretty exciting stuff, honestly,” says Safarzadeh. The festival will offer sources of critical wellness information to some of the most vulnerable sectors of the community.

 “It’s all of this face-to-face information, health information for queer youth, especially with the African communities, that has been an issue,” Safarzadeh  says.” And we know that there is a correlation between higher suicide rates, higher rates of unhoused individuals, drug addiction amongst queer youth, just because the trauma there is insane, so providing those safe spaces with access to information is awesome.” 

 A list of community partners such as Thrive Outdoors, MCC, The Boys and Girls Club, Manchester City Book Mobile , and Manchester Moves will be participating. The day’s events will include – but are not limited to – multiple activities, a free bbq, free swag, live performances and items for purchase where youth will be given “Center City Bucks,” monetary tokens made of wood, that young attendees use as money. “We are going to give that to our youth and young adults so they have autonomy in spending,” says Safarzadeh.

 I had the opportunity to interview Safarzadeh about the upcoming festival.

Yasamin Safarzadeh

CC: Let’s discuss the May 14th event.

YS: The committee that has created it is composed of BIPOC peeps, people with disabilities and queer community members and it’s been created for the same community. I can strongly say that it’s one of the only festivals of its kind where it’s actually created for the people by the people, and we’ve done a really good job of removing barriers. One of the things that I am in charge of, and I’m very proud of, is that we have identified young leaders and mothers and fathers who are all about this event and will be compensated for their time and efforts, which is a really beautiful thing.

 We are also creating money. People have donated money, to back money tokens, so that when these youth and young adults come to this festival, can exercise autonomy while benefiting the creative economy. We created these cool dollars called $MUMS.


There will be a stage where people can come and perform if they want to. We partnered with the Boys and Girls Club and are building a pop-up gallery wall for students and established artists to put up their work. There are holistic and yoga vendors. They are doing their own fairy wonderland situation. Tamara Morris is amazing, and she has coordinated the arts and crafts vending tables. We’ve reached out to healthcare providers and are bringing that closer to the people that they are supposed to access. Voter Registration information, a vaccine van, and a mobile book van is going to be there. There is a cart that gives out free food and Manchester Moves will be present as well! Kids can just get a bunch of cool sports equipment to use for the day. Thrive Outdoors is going to be there. My homegirl Richella Simard, who’s amazing, is coordinating the whole youth and queer section. It’s all of this face-to-face information, health information for queer youth, especially with the African communities, that has been an issue. And we know that there is a correlation between higher suicide rates, higher rates of unhoused individuals, and drug addiction amongst queer youth. Because the trauma there is insane, providing those safe spaces with access to information is awesome. And we are all on the ground, so that again, is the difference.

This event is unique because it celebrates our histories and lived experiences. It’s for us. Our committee provides space for leadership in each and every single participant. Each person has their own dream or idea of how they want the festival to unfold and there’s enough space to accomplish those dreams. Whatever you’re into, it’s probably gonna be there. Meet people and build your network. Pretty exciting stuff, honestly.

CC: How did your involvement with the event come about? 

YS: I work with Manchester Grows, which is a subsidiary of Manchester Little League North. We are all over town, but nobody knows us. There are community gardens, nobody knows who runs those. There is food that is cooked and given out for free in the parks like Sheehan-Basquil Park but also Livingston Park. Who cooks that food? Who is bringing that food in at a lower cost? That’s us. Nobody knows that we are just all over the place creating pathways to accessibility for health literacy and kinesthetic learning. There is free baseball, free soccer, youth job placement, and a myriad of opportunities for growth which are all possible through the work of a handful of dedicated individuals and volunteers.  

Manchester Grows is also connected to parks and recreation and Fresh Start Farms’ ORIS, the refugee farms. We are germinating 40,000 seedlings for them. So there is all this stuff and we are quiet because we don’t like the politics. We don’t want to waste our energy on the BS.  As I mentioned, we are on the ground, we are seeing the needs and the needs aren’t being serviced fast enough. There is no infrastructure to create long lasting professional development for New Americans or even our QBIPOC youth in this city. So the logical response is direct action. We just can’t wait for local organizations or governments to get their sh*t together to take it, to handle it. That’s just how we act, it’s mutual aid we just get it taken care of. 

I was approached for this event specifically to coordinate a plant sale. Manchester has a plant sale every year, it’s normally the same exclusive group of people who coordinate the entity. It’s not intentionally exclusive, but that is the nature of the culture in this region. I was asked to coordinate the plant sale this year and so, The Art and Plant Extravaganza was born. The insight and dedication exhibited by organizations like the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation and SNHU highlight the importance of growth with organizations like ours. The friendships we have fostered with the communities we serve keeps us growing and inspired and adds fodder to the flame! 

CC: Is this something you would like to replicate again next year if possible? 

YS: Absolutely. 

CC: Is there anyone you want to thank or mention in regards to their participation?

YS: Richella Simard from Manchester West High. The Nature Conservancy has been amazing. UNH their master gardeners have been great. Manchester Little League North, My Turn, MCC is going to be there. The Juneteenth committee has been incredibly supportive, which I’m also on so they are just all in donating volunteers and time. There is a multicultural festival up in Concord and those guys are giving us resources and bodies. MARF (Mutual Aid Relief Fund). Those guys are super cool and they also operate on an incredibly low budget. The Boys and Girls Club. There are so many. That’s what we’re about. We’ve done events that are really centering and amplifying BIPOC voices and it’s astounding how people just come together, and are just like, this is awesome. Let’s do it.  

CC: Is there a centralized location/website/person to contact where people can go and see how they can personally contribute to the community?

YS: You can hit me up directly phat-riot on Instagram or yasaminsafarzadeh@gmail.com there are a lot of opportunities in and around town

EVENT DETAILS:

  • Brown and Mitchell Park, 229 W. Mitchell St., Manchester
  • Saturday, May 14, 2022 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.


 

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Constance Cherise

Constance Cherise is a freelance writer and contributor for Turner Classic MoviesSee her work here.