Category Archives: Harrisburg

Full STEAM Ahead Summer Day Camp

“The best camera is the camera that’s with you.”

Recently, I saw this post in The NY Times about “What Makes a New York City Kid?” In it was a video compilation of kids in different parts of the city who “agreed to document their daily lives” on their smartphones and while I was watching it, it struck me… How sweetly honest and accurate the footage was because they had been given the power to control their own narratives.

I will say this now and forever:

Giving young people agency is important. 

Similarly, here in Harrisburg, Jump Street puts creative tools in the hands of young people in the city through programs like Full STEAM Ahead Summer Day Camp. With the help of local artists in residence, teachers and administrators, student mentors, and volunteers, young students are introduced to a diverse plume of the arts and are able to choose mediums to express themselves.

During the camp this summer, I was asked to teach photography. For a week, we talked about color and composition, history and tools, and made images with Fuji Instax. My heart grew each time I witnessed their joy with the Polaroid-like prints rolling out the tops of the cameras like magic. They made portraits, documented other classes and spaces, and self-published their work by creating zines. The students were tremendously sweet and hilarious, tough and opinionated, super sharp and very determined… but most importantly, through all of the classes, they left with the power to create their own stories.

THANK YOU to Jump Street for having me, the student mentors and my intern, Morgan, for helping me, and the students for obliging me. I hope we can do it all again in 2017!

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Full STEAM Ahead Summer Day Camp from Dani Fresh on Vimeo.

 

 

Any Excuse Will Serve A Tyrant: The Mayor of Harrisburg & The Censorship of PennLive

A close friend of mine once said, “Who ever told us it was easy to be good?” 

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On Monday evening, PennLive’s Barbara Miller released an article titled, “Harrisburg mayor cuts off PennLive reporters.

Whelp, PennLive, you have my attention.

It begins, “Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse has ordered that his spokeswoman no longer talk with PennLive regarding city issues following two stories that looked at the mayor’s private business and real estate holdings.

PennLive also will no longer be invited to weekly city briefings, the spokeswoman said.

When asked what prompted the decision, city spokeswoman Joyce Davis issued this statement from Papenfuse: “The Mayor’s official statement is that he believes PennLive traffics in hate speech and cynicism. He has instructed me not to respond to inquiries from PennLive reporters.”

While I agree that PennLive’s comment section is a cesspool of bigotry and hate, believe many of their articles leave much to be desired as someone who loves this city with all her heart, and that, as an ad-based, corporate media, PennLive has incredulous shortcomings; the answers to addressing those issues do not exist in the Mayor of Harrisburg reducing transparency in his administration or “cutting off” PennLive.

Larry Binda put it best in an article he recently wrote for TheBurg in response to the mayor’s ban, “…like it or not, PennLive remains this area’s predominant source of news. Despite multiple rounds of layoffs in recent years, PennLive is still unmatched in terms of editorial budget and staff resources. No other media can compete. Not the TV news, not volunteer watchdogs and not TheBurg, which, for all of our progress, has a microscopic budget and staff compared to PennLive. You can argue with how PennLive deploys its resources, but it does dedicate a reporter to Harrisburg, the last jurisdiction it deems important enough to do so.”

Very plainly stated, censorship is not the answer.

But then again, I think he already knows that. Eric Papenfuse owns a bookstore. 

The larger issue, as I see it, is that Papenfuse acted out against PennLive after they released two very relevant articles ultimately questioning his character, his business, his real estate holdings, and whether or not his actions as mayor have been a conflict of interest as a business owner.

If you haven’t read the articles, you can read them here:
Overtime violations at Midtown Scholar warehouse illustrate national problem,” by Paul Barker
and
Harrisburg mayor owns 8 properties near bar he aims to close,” by Eric Veronikis

In these instances, PennLive did a damn good job exercising freedom of the press, freedom of information, access, advocating for their readers and for the public. Demanding transparency and morality from public officials is one of the most valuable things that the press can accomplish. It is those checks and balances that we so desperately need.

Moving Forward

I know this isn’t a revolutionary resolution, but I strongly believe that one of the best things we can do to better ourselves and to serve others is to admit when we’re wrong–from admitting that you’re the jerk who ate the last of the ice cream to universities admitting that sexual assaults occurred on their campuses to elected officials keeping themselves in check and every thing in between.

Instead of wanting to flip the closest table in a fit of outrage, maybe, hopefully, the better answer to is ask our mayor to do better… ask him to admit that he dropped the ball. We need him to do a better job right now representing Harrisburg.

To The Mayor:

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Please, admit when you are wrong. I beg you to not be that thing you so vehemently despised during and after Reed’s tenure: a city official abusing power and circumventing transparency.

(Photos by Dani Fresh//Courtesy of Roxbury News)

Bare Bones Theatre Ensemble: The Graduate

THE GRADUATE will be presented at FEDLIVE (2nd level of Federal Taphouse, 234 N. 2nd Street, Harrisburg, Pa 17101) by Bare Bones Theatre Ensemble at 7pm (doors at 6pm) on Sunday, April 17, 24, & May 1. Tickets are $15 and will be available at The Federal Taphouse and at the door. ALL SEATING GENERAL ADMISSION. So get there early!

So, here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson, ya damn floozie…

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COLORMAKE & THE GIVING KEYS

There are so many people in Harrisburg who inspire with their love, sacrifice, and intention. I witness all the beautiful things they do and as a result, I feel drawn to them and driven to work harder, create well, and love more. The Giving Keys collaboration with Koji is an opportunity to recognize a few of those people and I am so excited and honored to make images to celebrate them. This place has so much heart. And I love to give a little relief and recognition to tireless efforts. It’s important to lift each other up. The following is text by Jen Merrill inciting our little Harrisburg chapter of the Giving Keys story… We encourage you to do the same: buy the keys with purpose, open your heart and allow others to inspire you, pass the message on.

Love,
Fresh

COLORMAKE & THE GIVING KEYS
http://colormake.tumblr.com/post/121304277454/colormake-x-the-giving-keys
Text by Jen Merrill 

Most of us have a ring full of keys that jingle along as we carry on through our days, but do we think about the power that simple ring of keys might hold?

One might unlock the door to your home, offering a safe refuge from the world outside. One might unlock the door to your place of work, where you hopefully feel inspired by what you do as you toil away and, at the very least, earn a livable wage to help feed, house and clothe yourself and your family. One might be for your car – or bike lock! – allowing you to get here, there, and just about everywhere with ease.

And with these keys comes a sense of vulnerability, as they act as a map of our lifestyle, a way to access the parts of our lives that mean most to us.

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The Giving Keys is an organization that understands the power of these tiny pieces of shaped metal.  On the surface, they make jewelry, but their purpose is so much more than that. The Giving Keys employs individuals looking to transition out of homelessness to create jewelry out of repurposed keys, each engraved with a unique message like “hope,” “strength,” or “courage.” When the wearer of the keys meets someone else in need of the message, they’re encouraged to pay it forward and pass the key on to its next owner, spreading its message out into the world.

The Giving Keys recently approached Koji about creating his own key, and after much thought, he decided to use the word “Peacemaker,” which shares its name with a track on his recent split with La Dispute, Never Come Undone. The song was written for his friend and fellow activist, Nate Henn, who was killed by an al-Shabaab suicide bombing in Kampala, Uganda during the 2010 final World Cup match. Nate, as part of the organization Invisible Children, raised money and advocated for children forced into warfare.

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“I think it’s important to show the link between art and activism as forms of expression that give people agency. Our mission with Colormake is to get people to engage with ideas, their sense of self, and sense of community,” says Koji.

Colormake is giving keys to three very deserving Harrisburg individuals: Ashlee Dugan, Loretta Barbee-Dare, and Stephen Michael Haas. These leaders are much like keys themselves, unlocking the goodness, the potential, the beauty of their communities and allowing us into the places that we need most. We admire how they use their voices, passion and leadership to continually uplift those around them.

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Ashlee Dugan and Loretta Barbee-Dare have had a rich history together of activism and community work in the Harrisburg, Pa. area, ranging from their time with Food Not Bombs, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), and Pennsylvanians Against the Death Penalty. In the current moment, Ashlee works as the interim market manager at the Broad Street Market and is the co-founder of The Greenhouse, a Harrisburg-based community organization that recovers healthy food that would have otherwise been wasted and preserves it in healthy and creative ways before distributing it to the community. Loretta has worked hard to receive her real estate license and continues to work to get members of the community into homes they can love and afford. Both of these women work tirelessly to give new opportunity and resources to those that need it most.

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Stephen Michael Haas is a multi media artist based in Harrisburg, Pa., known for his colorful, multi-dimensional work that’s filled with honest, positive messages that encourage self-discovery and display the creative process in its sincerest form. When looking at a piece of Stephen’s work, one feels immersed in the artist’s brain as his off-kilter characters and sentiments jump off the page – or wall, or screen, or installation – and into the viewer’s heart. Stephen recently created a zine entitled “You Can Try, But You Can Also Not Try,” and he’s worked alongside Wayne White. His dedication to his craft is admirable to all as he inspires those around him to do what they love, take risks, and not be afraid to grow and evolve their work in the public eye.

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We’re so pleased to honor these individuals by offering them each a Giving Key and encouraging them to pay it forward when the right time comes, helping to unlock their own power as well as the power of the communities they know and love.

Jason Forest Abrams

He has healing hands and a heart of gold. And yes, I usually call him by his full name.

Sometimes I don’t know how my body doesn’t just crumble under the pressure of my unrelenting (and mostly blind) ambition to document everything. Thank you, Jason, for taking care of me when I had a horrible tendency to neglect myself. Thanks for encouraging me to pay more attention to my body. And thanks for taking care of ALL the people that you do. You’re so good to us…

Much love,

Fresh

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Bare Bones Theatre Ensemble: DOG SEES GOD

DOG SEES GOD: CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE BLOCKHEAD, by Burt V. Royal, is the tale of the beloved PEANUTS characters as utterly screwed up teenagers, will be presented at McGrath’s Pub (202 Locust St. Harrisburg, PA) by Bare Bones Theatre Ensemble at 6:30 on Sunday April 19th, 26th & May 3rd. $15 Tickets will be sold at the door each night beginning at 5:30. 

Maybe it’s because I’m getting soft in my old age, but I cried during the dress rehearsal. This show is really good. I think you should go see it. It is my wish for you. And who doesn’t love a good palindrome and theatre in a bar? HA! Hope to see you there, darlings!

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Future City

Bright kids, bright future.

Future City is a national contest that challenges middle school students to create just that, a future simulated city. Young participants learn about zoning, urban farming, local government, water and sewer treatment, sustainability, business, and more. They use Sim City to execute their plan and then they build a model, write an essay, and do a presentation. This is the group of Future City students from Camp Curtin and they’re rad kids. Hopefully this project inspires them to carry the torch… to help make their own future Harrisburg a little better.

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KOJI: Feed the hungry, change the system

I’m really digging the idea of asking the people I photograph write the blog to go along with their images… I’m photographing them because I value their voice. And more than that, positive people who work together can serve as a conduit for change. I am hopeful.

“Hunger is an issue that effects people on both a global and local scale. Addressing hunger in the United States is not just about turkeys at Christmas and Thanksgiving, but rather, a consistent effort to meet the needs of the hungry in our communities and also change the system that created this inequity. It was so awesome to partner with artists, promoters, and show-goers on these food drives during my 2014 holiday shows. 

In Harrisburg, we were able to donate 199 lbs. of food to the Central PA Food Bank. Most of the first shows I put on in the central PA area included food drives and it felt very good to get people engaged with this issue once more. I’m looking forward to continuing this work on hunger in 2015.” (KOJI)

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Perserverance & Passion: Harrisburg Hip-Hop and R&B

Maybe a year or two ago, I was coaxed into going to karaoke. A few songs in, the DJ broke up the requests and announced Nova… A young, handsome dude in a bow tie. What an incredible voice, what an awesome presence. This dude is from Harrisburg? HELL YEAH! Harrisburg rules.

When Harrisburg Magazine asked me to photograph the Harrisburg hip-hop and R&B artists, I wasn’t surprised that Nova was one of them. We’re so lucky to have talented people like him, E.P.O.C., Alonda Rich, Saint, and Young Swerve hailing from our city. They were just the best people to photograph… they were excited and engaged. It made my process so easy and a ton of fucking fun.

I’m really trying to not be too hard on myself for not getting around to blogs until much later than I’d like… being busy is a blessing. I’m very lucky. But the thing that was truly weighing on me is that I didn’t get to thank them. So:

THANK YOU to all the artists. You guys are literally the best. Keep doing what you’re doing. You’re an inspiration and an asset to Harrisburg. I appreciate you so much.

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Black Lives Matter

One of the hundreds of articles that resonated with me over the last few months was written by a woman named Brittany Cooper, titled, “I am utterly undone: My struggle with black rage and fear after Ferguson.” She begins by saying, “If I have to begin by convincing you that Black Lives Matter, we have all already lost, haven’t we? So let’s not begin there. Let’s begin at the end. At the end there is only Michael Brown Jr.’s dead body, no justice, and weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Be still, my heart. Black America is speaking right now, and we should be listening…

So, this is Georgi.

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And this is what she has to say:

On Saturday I attended a Die-in for Mike Brown and other victims of police brutality. I was pleased that people of all ages, races and walks of life were willing to brave the cold in support of change. Though police brutality is an issue that has historically plagued the black community at higher rates than other ethnic groups, it is not a black issue. It is an American issue. We shout that Black Lives Matter not because any other life is less important, but because it is not something that is often said. The message that we are sent when we see images of black bodies laying dead and exposed is that black lives are expendable. We are here to correct that narrative. We, as Americans, must stand against the idea that any of us should be allowed to be treated this way. We must have the courage to have open, difficult discussions about our collective history. We must actively work to stretch ourselves beyond our comfort zones. We must learn to love, forgive and trust again. The conversations will be messy at first, sometimes we will disagree but if we cannot find the courage to begin the dialogue, nothing will ever change. The Harrisburg police department did an excellent job of offering us support as we peacefully protested and made our voices heard, and we would like to invite them to join the dialogue. Together we can build a brighter future, for Harrisburg and beyond. (Georgianna Hicks)

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