An intimate interlude between Jeri Hilt and Natalie Sablon
What work are you currently doing that’s feeding your artistic soul? Who are your people/where are you from? How does your ancestry (people, place, spirit) impact your work?
Natalie: “I’m doing healing work as an herbalist, community work, and dance classes…there’s lots of movement, and being around the city. I’m always on the train, and networking with different types of people.”
Sablon says her people were many things: entrepreneurs, athletes, and educators. She comes from a family that is passionate about education, and is an English teacher’s daughter. An instructor for nurses, Sablon teaches both within and without hospital-based health care systems. Her lineage reflects Ghana, Mali, Ireland and the Congo.
Jeri: ‘ I am carrying the torch that so many before me have.’
Being from a rural area, where her familial legacy is that of the Preacher, Teacher, and Bus Driver, has aided in her strong community focus. In addition to those rural ties, she is firmly rooted in the Lower Ninth ward by family and friends.
As a New Orleans based activist she is buoyed up by her native lineage and her ancestors who walked Congo Square, singing, selling, and planning their way to freedom and to ancestors who rose up to fight their white oppressors in The German Coast Uprising of 1811.
What social issue is burning hottest for you right now?
Natalie: “Women’s work and the forms of oppression relevant to women.”
Her work includes both Leadership and Reach Back. Natalie’s thrust is intergenerational work. She shares the most space with teenage girls and young women to provide hands on leadership and role modeling.
Jeri: “New Orleans has a history of activism and we are continuing that work.”
Her kin’s passion for service courses through her veins and is the cornerstone of her work within the community. When asked about what is currently feeding her artistic soul she spoke of, building partnerships and doing documentary work. Radical self care and radical health restoration, from the ground level.
She is working to build and strengthen the community through liberating platforms. She introduced the film about the Black Panther Revolutionary Vanguard. She also advocates for artists, activists, and Indigenous healers that are moving in radical ways to increase the quality of life. Her intention is to build networks and invest in natural ways of strengthening long established networks.
How do you want to change the world and how will you know when you’ve accomplished this?
Natalie: “You are a healer, and you have the ability to heal yourself. I want people to see limitless possibilities, and for this to spread.”
Sablon wants to impact people so that they recognize their own genius. A big part of her work is helping people recognize this, and advocate for themselves.
What is your vision of a truly democratic process that centers art and culture?
Natalie: “A culture and political process that has a strong respect for artists, and encourages citizens to be critical. Art is the foundation and bedrock of justice.”
What are barriers to your work? What kind of support would help you to remove these barriers?
Jeri: As a member of communities that are oppressed the biggest barrier is the management of trauma.”
Giving light to the personal narrative of how systemic oppression traumatizes the individual helps create an opening to discuss public health concerns that exist due to racial disparities. As an educator she is concerned with the violent imprinting on the psyche of children, moreover she is weary of the role the NOLA PD plays in the oppression of her community. She feels they are there to contain the black community. The silver lining associated with the management of trauma is learning about acts of radical self care-which is the ability to create balance and healing through expanded self care mechanisms.
Jeri’s self care kit is a tool belt of transformative art, creative meditative mantras, intentional breathing and of course holding healing space for her community. Where poet and activist Sonia Sanchez held a discussion to breathe and be seditious, Jeri’s art reflects the power of breathing through the hard moments, and the seditious displaying the brilliance of her beloved community.
More about Jeri and Natalie:
Jeri Hilt is a filmmaker, artistic photographer, writer, radical gardener and Co-Editor of Mixed Company, a compilation of narratives of Black Women living in New Orleans. She is also a former lecturer of African Studies and International Development issues at Tennessee State and Dillard Universities. She has also worked with research, development, and teaching projects in South Sudan, Kenya, Burundi, and the United Kingdom, and the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans. She is a Louisiana native with ties to New Orleans, Central Louisiana (Avoyelles Parish) and Shreveport, Louisiana. She does youth outreach in the Gorilla garden in the Lower Ninth Ward, where she teaches kids about food justice issues and creates space for elders, while creating visibility as black gardeners helps nourish her spirit.
Natalie Sablon is passionate about teaching, dancing, creation, expression, and growing within value-creating communities. She is a collective member of Harriet’s Apothecary, a wildly passionate healing collective based in Brooklyn, NY. The collective is comprised of 20+ healers from Reiki to haircuts. It is comprised of Black Cis women, Queer and Trans healers, artist, and healthcare professionals. The collective comes together at the start of the season to host a healing village that is committed to providing accessible healing spaces to Black and Poc folks.