Kat Cheairs

Deep exhale in…
Deep exhale out…
Deep exhale in…
Deep exhale out…

Observe the rising and falling of your chest
Simply notice.
No force needed.
A particular kind of breathing is not required.
At this moment, what emotions are arising?
Peace, joy, anger, anxiety, frustration, fatigue, mourning
A combination of some, all or, others yet unnamed.
Can you be with it, whatever it is?
Can you hold it with gentleness and compassion as you would a newborn?
Breathe into whatever is arising without judgment.
Here is not the place for transmutation just yet.
You can’t transform what you can’t feel or be with.
Deep exhale in…
Deep exhale out…
Deep exhale in…
Deep exhale out…
Be here for as long as needed.
It could be ten seconds, two minutes, ten minutes or an hour.
Maybe it’s a few times throughout the day at various intervals.
It doesn’t have to be daily. It’s there for you whenever you need it. 
Deep exhale in… Deep exhale out… That’s how I’ve been moving more and more these days. One foot in front of the other. Waking each day anew and open to whatever might arise. It’s been like this for a while now. Since losing my brother unexpectedly on July 4, 2021, time has moved differently. If some forms of trauma and loss can take one out of the body, my brother’s passing brought me fully back into the interior caverns of my existence. It’s been the most difficult time of my life but has also contained gifts of profound clarity, spiritual growth and greater authenticity around my purpose and vision. Who would have thought I’d live long enough to see my brother become an ancestor and spirit guide? As sparks of clairvoyance can appear to us, never did I see this coming and yet what a beautiful arc for a story so tragic. 

I’ve had to show up differently for myself and others. Even this has contained losses, reframes, regeneration and double downs. What feels good and what doesn’t is more clear. Shouldering burdens not mine started to feel appropriately heavy. The soft places to fall were more apparent and hard edges were to be avoided. It’s been a process that has unfolded over time and will likely continue to do so. 
In February, I made a really big decision to take a leap of faith and leave my full time job. Little did I know I’d be part of the great resignation wave that has caused millions of people to reimagine and rethink work either by getting a different job or striking out on their own as entrepreneurs. The ongoing toll of glass ceilings/glass cliffs and slippery slopes had taken their toll on my psychological well being on top of the sheer exhaustion of long term grief coursing through my body. In the subsequent days of thinking about what might come next, a desire to continue my work as a social practitioner in media and art education never wavered.  
Most of my community is familiar with my film, art and activism work and less so with my background as a teaching artist, educator and program designer in film and media arts. Over a decade of my life has been devoted to cultivating a practice of inclusive strategies so that all learners across age, gender, ethnicity, neurodivergence, socioeconomic backgrounds and those living in carceral detention can have access to art, creativity and storytelling. While I love working on my own projects and will continue to do so, I consider my social practitioner work as perhaps more important. That’s not too hard to fathom when I think about how many members of the Black Arts Movement such as artist and sculptor, Augusta Savage, had a teaching studio in Harlem for children and adults to learn art. Apprenticeship and sharing one’s knowledge with others is an important practice in African American communities and key ingredients for survival and thriving. 
Those ideas led me to resurrect an outline of something scribbled in my journal from 2020 about a center for the arts that would emphasize inclusive arts, media and humanities programming delivered by a diverse array of artists and practitioners. It was called Makeda from the Ethiopian name of the Queen of Sheba. I could begin online and see where things go from there. I learned a lot about fostering what I call “digital intimacy” using platforms like zoom to create community and connection through art making online during these last several months of the COVID-19 pandemic. While not the same as an in-person experience, there are other kinds of knowledge and awareness that emerges from being together online that have its own merits and value. Plus, adult learners and people with physical and psychiatric disabilities have been learning online for quite some time. The Makeda School for Art, Media and Humanities was born. 
I started an online fundraiser through the PayPal Generosity Network, going on between now and Friday, March 25th, to raise startup funds. The official announcement can be read here. Thank you to all who’ve donated so far! The total amount raised to date is $3,400.00!!
I should clarify what I mean by school is not to be confused with a fixed physical space that is handing out grades or conferring degrees. What I mean by school is in the tradition of the freedom school and progressive education model as an opportunity to nurture community engagement through the shared practice of learning around a particular set of ideas. In this case, those ideas emerge from thinking about arts and humanities for the people. No special requirements are needed to enter Makeda. On the surface, this may not seem radical but for those who have been to a university and even more so, an art school, know that these systems often thrive and are built on hierarchies of knowledge. These spaces tend to also frame what is considered legitimate and illegitimate forms of making. The relationship between pupil and student can also be fraught with power dynamics that remove agency and voice from a co-learning experience. While it’s true that a teacher will have more knowledge than a student, the awareness of that creates a space in which the teacher becomes even more concerned with ensuring the democratization of that knowledge and is also learning from and empowering the student. This type of exchange is more of a dialectical/horizontal approach rather than a hierarchical/vertical one. Because most people are used to the latter rather than the former, it can at first be challenging to create the space for the dialectical/horizontal approach to get going. The rewards however outweigh the initial discomfort that comes with this way of working and being together. 
Classes, workshops, seminars, courses and special events by Makeda School will utilize these strategies as well as work collaboratively with artists and practitioners to facilitate a wide range of programming in the field of media, art and humanities. I will also teach film courses and other related programs. Makeda School will feature a sliding scale fee structure to ensure greater financial accessibility while also building a sustainable foundation for the continuation of the work and pay facilitators equitable wages for their time and labor. The work of artists and practitioners who teach is often greatly devalued and Makeda seeks to shift that framework to one that centers mutual care and support. 
It’s necessary in these times of still great uncertainty to build archipelagos of spacemaking and connectivity that cultivate enrichment of the soul. Joy, pleasure and a commitment to lifelong learning are at the heart of this work. 
The Makeda School for Art, Media and Humanities website is scheduled for launch on May 1, 2022 and I’ve been steadily moving towards that goal. I look forward to sharing more about Makeda School soon! 
Take care of yourselves and each other.
Peace and blessings, 
Kat Cheairs
“As a classroom community, our capacity to generate excitement is deeply affected by our interest in one another, in hearing one another’s voices, in recognizing one another’s presence.”
― bell hooks, Teaching To Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom
What I’m listening to… 
Amel Larrieux, Zap Mama, Natalie Merchant, In Rainbows by Radiohead (my entire soundtrack of 2021)  plus my Spotify Discover weekly which has been lovely and quite nourishing. 
What I’m reading… 
Dub: Finding Ceremony by Alexis Pauline Gumbs
The Poetics of Difference: Queer Feminist Forms in the African Diaspora by Mecca Jamilah Sullivan
Sylvia Wynter: On Being Human As Praxis Edited by Katherine McKittrick 
What I’m watching…
Nightflyers, Cobra Kai Season 4, Abbott Elementary
Grief Gathering Group for QTPOC/BIPOC identified folks on Sunday, April 10th at 2pm EST. Zoom link will be provided. Complete the short form here if interested in attending. 
Favorite gif…
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