Help me FUnd
I'm honored and excited to accept an opportunity to study and do research with scholars at 2 universities, 3 organizations, and the National Health Service (NHS) psychiatrist in the United Kingdom and artists in Europe and Asia!
» Go directly to the crowd funder here! «
MY 'HEROES JOURNEY'
The timeline: I know it sounds wild - but I have until July 4th to deliver the following to the UK visa office: bank statements that match full tuition for the Master's program, 9 months of estimated living costs, the NHS surcharge, and visa application fees - totaling $46k - to be sure I'll have sufficient time to process my visa without additional risks, fees, or delays. Anything above the target amount will help me purchase books, bus rides, accessibility tools/software, medication, etc.
The achievements: I've worked globally with artists, scholars, practitioners, teachers, universities, & learners as young as 5 [Donate to Fund High-Fives] and as old as can write or move! Most recently, presenting on poetry & trauma management at an NHS Conference for Psychiatrists. This change in how much time I'll be in the UK compared to Chicago and elsewhere will require a student visa!
To answer the looming question: Yes, I know about loans.
Let's time travel together! 15 years ago, amid mass layoffs/replacement of employees, preferring contractors to cut costs - I finished my Bachelor's in the 2008's recession, so I was a *contractor* Teaching Artist, a *contractor* Education Director 2x, a *contractor* Poet, *contract-ish* Research Assistant & Intervention Facilitator, etc. [Donate to Fund Self-Made 'Benefits']
I will not receive loan forgiveness in my qualified sectors because contractor time doesn't count. These loans are a looming debt compounded by family responsibilities and the COVID-19 lockdown. I lost a year's worth of lucrative classroom and performance gigs, didn't qualify for unemployment, sustained a shoulder injury, and got Covid - I'm still healing from both. [AND YET, "Still I Rise!" ]
The value: Raising $46k will help me get an accelerated 1yr Master's at a fraction of the cost of a similar 2-3 year US degree. This program allows me to start the research immediately, which will feed into my doctorate! My Ph.D. proposal is already approved (pending completion of the Master's with high marks - I'm confident!). So, I'll have my doctorate in under 3 years! [Donate to Fund The Hustle]
What will I do (with that visa) in these 3 years? Well, the same thing I've done every night - social and cultural work - but with graphs and stuff! [Donate if You Love Graphs!] Art, education, community advocacy, policy, scholarship, and public/community health practices are all woven into the same tapestry of my concerns and contributions to society and culture.
What in-the-what is Practice-Based Research? I'm so glad you asked! Put simply, it's research done while actively engaged in your creative or community practice. For me that continuing my work as an artist-educator is central to the function and success of my research and impact. For this research I will collaborate with other Social Practice Artists and Cultural Workers on tangible projects as a means of learning their narratives and needs while actively being in community with them. I will have several modes of output: the written PhD thesis, audio and video documentation and tools, as well as downloadable resources for Social Practice Artists, Cultural Workers, Educators, Artist-Activists, and Community Organizers to server their individual and community safety and wellness!
Examples of Social Practice & Cultural Work
Mutual Aid: Early in lockdown, my first worry was students who usually get all meals at school; I remembered what it felt like to be a food and housing-insecure child. Soon I was co-leading an "Artist-Made Mutual Aid" project. We activated artists to creatively make, collect, and distribute anything community members expressed a need for. Whether handmade masks, kids' art kits, hot meals, rides, re-homing pets, fundraising for health-impacted folks, or relief funds, we did our best to meet requests. [Artists, We Get the Job Done!]
Community Organizing: A few years prior, Chicago won the bid to be one of 5 rotating cities to host the world's largest poetry festival annually. The local directors stepped down on short notice, and the career poet in me knew 600 eager poets from across the world would arrive in my city in less than a year - expecting 100 events in 6 days. So the career organizer in me agreed to pick up the torch. Being an artist in America is a gamble with your wellness until you "make it." Add 6 days of high-stress competitions on low-to-no food for many participants - and you can be sure several poets get sick or are otherwise vulnerable every year in pursuit of one career-making win. [Donate if You Love Poetry]
Community Wellness: The public-health worker in me decided I could set precedence; I launched the largest Mental Health and Wellness initiative for any festival of its size. The festival's first year of 100% wheelchair accessibility! The first year of a cross-discipline roster of crisis responders and conflict resolution experts! The first year we provided 6 days of food! We had a sober and recovery space, and among many other things, daily HIV testing was absolutely A FIRST (art festival babies happen! So why not ask my public health family to come through?)! [All of this without touching the slim budget for production!] leveraging every local relationship to pull in well over $30k of sponsored resources and professional services.
Community Impact: The feedback directly from participants, practitioners, community members, and artist-advocates alike was overwhelming for both initiatives.
Sustainability and Equity: During the pandemic, folks had time during job furloughs/layoffs to do all we could for the community. As we've returned to 'normalcy,' there's a continued need for mutual aid but a steep drop-off of capacity. [Donate to Fund Capacity-Building Efforts] We're encouraged to do this work as pure service, reflecting how devalued everyday home and care workers are (primarily women). Who aids the aids?
The Truth: Similarly, as many arts organizers know, often, our labor is compensated based on a percentage of profit after the event is over - which presumes the owning organization is financially solvent, and that contracts will be lawfully honored. [Donate to Develop Tool Kits for Organizers to Better Protect Themselves]
Systems: Despite 29 legacy years for the poetry festival, I spent the last month learning what other host city Directors already knew; it was an invisible, inequitable, and unsustainable role. The 'owning' organization was built upon an old model, established by the founders, which relied on leveraging equity assets to produce the event on loans; this couldn't be sustained when elected and contracted leadership began to be populated by mixed classes, races, etc. And just like individuals living on a shoe-string budget - one untimely and unfortunate emergency catalyzed a detrimental financial hole. The organization couldn't cover the agreed upon budget and chose to shut it's doors in the face of breaching the contract with the Chicago Director [I still paid all the contractors and vendors out of pocket]
The Decision: With great pain the Oakland Director and I shared the announcement of retiring the festival until funding can be managed appropriately and equitably. The festival was sustained for years primarily upon the unpaid labor of women like me, who would figure out too late that they'd been misused. It's clear that the organization didn't intend this recurring harm, but couldn't break the cycle. [Donate to Support Training Leadership on Equitable Models]
Plans for Change: Genuine care, joy, and community building occurred in both projects. If we'd had the resources and collaborators to assess and evaluate our successes, look at gaps, outline solutions, and codify teachable strategies for shaping equitable and safety/wellness centered versions of these initiatives. [Donate to Designing Standards for Healthy and Sustainable Creative and Cultural Social Projects!]
I can use my research to create and codify best practices and cross-discipline guidelines for evaluating and designing healthy and sustainable creative community projects and education programs to make it easier for social and cultural workers in the future.
This Moment: Any further delays in my education hinder my access to resources and mentorship to lead new scholarship. I have unique multi-discipline experience to pair with my research, which I aim to translate into resources and development for teachers, parents, artists, community organizers, and public health and mental health practitioners who intend to work in a trauma-informed or healing-centered way.
Will you help me propel my education and get that visa?!
DONATE TO THE CROWD FUNDER generously organized by my friend Joanne Moliski: click here
Connect & Learn more about the work I'm doing at http://direct.me/themojdeh or email me through the Contact Page.
PS. Lastly, I'd be short of the full truth if I didn't admit that I also feel really honored to represent Chicago and my org Surviving the Mic, as Co-Executive Director and Research & Innovation Officer. The collaborations already secured in the UK will help establish StM's Trauma-Informed Academic Working Group and a London chapter that will serve countless survivors of violence for years to come.
If you need a tax deduction go to https://giftofcollege.com/Profile/themojdeh/29014/
Tax Deductible Donations for Graduate Research & Visa Fundraiser - (via 529) States that offer tax incentives for contributing to 529 education-only savings plans are IL, AZ, AR, KS, ME, MN, MO, MT, OH, & PA