John Chambers Transcript

Elizabeth: Welcome to Creativists In Dialogue, a podcast embracing the Creative Life. I’m Elizabeth Bruce.

Michael: And I’m Michael Oliver.

Elizabeth: Our guest today is good friend and deeply creative colleague John Chambers. John, who is originally from Massachusetts, is a Howard University graduate with an illustrious history as a global communications professional working on numerous crisis issues who left that field to found the extraordinary organization BloomBars, an award-winning community arts nonprofit that is a creative incubator, a home, and sanctuary to people of all ages and stripes in Washington, DC. John is an incredible father, a passionate vegan, creative writer, visionary entrepreneur, and beloved advocate for the healing power of arts and community. Welcome, John

John: Thank you. [00:01:00] Thank you. Although that felt like an obituary. I should just stop right here. Thank you.

Elizabeth: John is very much with us.

Michael: Alright, so we like to start off our interviews with a couple of questions. The first one is this: In what aspects of your life do you see creativity as having the greatest impact?

John: What aspects of my life at present—

Michael: Throughout your,

John: Throughout my life?

Michael: Yeah.

John: Yeah, I think just thinking about problems differently. I think the end result of creativity is creation, and I think about art as the way that creativity tries to achieve its fullest potential.

Michael: So whenever you run into a problem, that’s when you—

John: I think of creativity means so many things to so many people. I think there’s creativity in everything. There’s creativity in everyone. There’s creativity in science, there’s creativity in every field that we study. People express it differently. [00:02:00] We just call it different things. I think, there’s inspiration, there’s muse, there’s the idea that our ancestors are present, which I think of, about, about a lot. Some of these things actually, I think our ego tells us that they came from us, but they actually came from some ancestor whispering something in our ears that we just need to be in the right, a right space to receive.

Michael: So it sounds like your whole life is just infused with creativity.

John: I think that’s—

Michael: Which you try to—

John: Yeah, I think that started very early on, just having parents who were very different from each other, trying to carve out a place for themselves that is in the service of people, of humanity, and not necessarily putting money first and I think that crossed over to their parenting and how they wanted to raise their children and with a level of freedom and independence that allowed us to figure it out on our own, you know. But they’re very different from the [00:03:00] children that they raised, I can say that for sure. I don’t know. We’re, all of us are creatives.

Michael: Oh, maybe we’ll get into that.

John: Okay.

Michael: That difference.

John: Alright, sure.

Elizabeth: We, you’ve been speaking actually about, what we often ask our guests about, which is the different perspectives about creativity and how to extend and expand the definition of creativity to include, as you mentioned, a wide variety of human activities. Do you personally have a particular definition of creativity or was there a particular definition of creativity in your home growing up, in the community in which you were growing and becoming a young person?

John: Always. Always, I think from, from birth, I think it was just, I was seeped in different cultures. I was seeped in art from Africa, art from Europe, my mother and father coming from very different backgrounds, there was all this art everywhere in our [00:04:00] house. And it was, half of it was, my father spent two semesters in Ghana, and he had brought back nothing but art.

Elizabeth: Wow.

John: Stools and benches and—

Elizabeth: Textiles?

John: Textiles, yes! The whole thing. Offering many, much of it to my mother’s family—

Elizabeth: Sure.

John: —as an offering to try to get into good graces. But yeah, we had, from the classic, Matisse and Rodin, posters—that, of course, didn’t have the real ones—to my mother’s.

Elizabeth: Oh, no Rodin sculptures in the living room?

John: No, no Rodin sculptures in our space. But we had these, seriously, we had these very ornate portraits of my grandmother’s side of the family, with the gold leaf and the, painted by some portrait maker and chipping a little bit here and there, but sitting in my parents’ library. So it’s very interesting contrast. And yeah, they were always driving us, I think to, yeah, just do things creatively. Whether it was forcing me to play the piano and clarinet as a child or [00:05:00] just drawing and putting things in front of us that were challenges.

Michael: Following up on that, we like to go back into those early childhood experiences of creativity that are formative. Maybe if you could share one of those memorable experiences? Either as a participant or as a witness of where you felt empowered creatively.

John: Yeah. There’s both happiness and sadness with the first memory that comes to mind. And it’s when I, we had this play, and I was in the seventh and eighth grade chorus. And it was a solo, it was the All-American Express, so all the old timey songs and I was cast as the hobo. Go figure.

Elizabeth: Go figure.

John: Yes, but, hey, the hobo had two solos. So, I was torn, I’m like, “Yo, I’m the only Black kid in this school. Why do I have to be the hobo?” That’s the story of my, of the town, of my childhood. But, but seriously I really felt this confidence in my voice and—this was before it changed—and, I didn’t [00:06:00] sing as much, but I really just, that being in front of an audience and being able to create and feel a resonance coming back, I think was the first memory of me feeling, “Yes, I want—”

Elizabeth: That, that leads absolutely into one of the other things we wanted to ask you about. Because you have written, and you speak eloquently about growing up in a biracial family in an overwhelmingly white community in Western Massachusetts. And you’ve just referenced some of that. How has this demographic landscape informed your own creativity and your own creative momentum?

John: That’s an interesting question. I think, as I mentioned before, there’s a lot, there’s a lot of, trauma in that, in those times, and some of it just comes, comes back at different times. But in general, there’s a want for normalcy, a drive for normalcy. And I think during a large portion of my childhood, I found creativity in athletics and being, creative as an athlete, even though the rewards were much more, as a [00:07:00] community, as a society, in terms of acceptance. So I think I leaned into that and leaned less into the artistic side for a long time. But I always continued to see myself as a storyteller. And I wrote, as a child, I wrote journals. And, same with my sisters and I really, I gotta give it to my big sister was like, she was my lighthouse. I could never shine brighter than her, but I could try to, walk in her footsteps, whether they’re conscious or unconscious. I think I did that for a while, moving into communications and journalism and trying to tell stories that, that move people, that impact people that, that build community at the same time.

Michael: And definitely it sounds like your family was immersed in various forms of creativity. You talked about the piano, you talked about your father bringing back this art from Ghana, and then you found creativity in sports. How did your family view the creative person? Was there, was it an organizing principle or was it more of a, [00:08:00] something that is for the privileged?

John: No, I thought, I think my parents gave us all a sense that creativity was for everyone, and it was accessible. And it was to be revered and great artists were to be revered, great writers were to be revered as this, the fullest expression of a thought, an art, an art form. Again, from the, from the visual artist to the poetry my mother loved and continues to write to this day, she’s just, she loves sharing her poetry, and she writes a lot and I think that’s a big influence. But I think, creativity in the service of change, of positive change, of societal change has always been ingrained as how I think about creativity. That it’s purposeful. Not every, every creative thought or anything has to be in the service of others, but that just happens to be what makes me find purpose here on this earth.

I think the pandemic made me look inward in a lot of ways. And the loss [00:09:00] that, that I’ve experienced, my family’s experienced, also has caused a lot of inward thoughts. And creativity is a big part of that. And I think when you go back in time and you’re able to express, like you said, through essay or through memoir and break through that, that third wall of your curation, the curation of yourself as a creator.

And then I think you gain access to another form of creativity once you’re able to really tell your story and understand who you are more and how you tell your story. And I think that’s part of the growth and that’s part of—coming to the understanding that it’s limitless and that there’s no height that we’ve, can achieve that says that we’ve reached our fullest creative potential. Because we don’t know that, and we don’t know that unless we try.

And that’s why I think this, and my whole purpose in life is to help people see that and help people express that. More in the form of movement for change. But certainly, just as individuals, how do we reach our fullest potential by just thinking differently about each other? About the ways we can get things out of each [00:10:00] other.

Elizabeth: As a writer, and I loved what you said about writing and how you can name your experience, you can claim your experience, you can restructure your experience and there’s power and agency that comes from that. And you’ve also written movingly about the summers that you spent with your father’s family in Chester, Pennsylvania, which is outside of Philadelphia. So this side of your family, which is African American, settled in Chester as a part of the Great Migration of Black folks out of the American South. You’ve written about how accepted and at home you felt there in contrast to the otherness you felt in your majority-white hometown in western Massachusetts. So, can you talk about how this differential between acceptance and alienation shaped you and your creativity?

John: I think it, it created sort of an inert personality that was able to [00:11:00] shapeshift in a way in different environments, just naturally being able to connect with people on a human level, rather than, this is, we’re of the same status or so forth. But to really understand, try to understand the nature of people through more than just their words, but their actions and just the feeling that you get spending time around people that, you know, it’s not time wasted. And I think that’s, yeah, that’s important.

Elizabeth: Sure. Among the things you talked about shape shifting, and you’ve also written about code switching in your writing from this small western Massachusetts town to a more urban speak in Chester, Pennsylvania. So, can you talk about code switching as a, a birthplace of creativity, of creative voice and range?

John: Yeah. It, it definitely is a, there is a creative process there. But again, I think it doesn’t happen consciously. It’s just a process—you’re, partially a product of your environment and partially the need for normalcy, the need to [00:12:00] fit in amongst the group. But to, to also, again, recognize your different and how you’re accepted differently and on what terms. ‘Cause it’s not always on your own terms, sometimes you have to meet someone somewhere just for the sake of you are holding space together.

And I think when I was in Chester, I just felt a sense that I had never felt before. Because I had always felt, and it’s funny, I told you I just had a visit from some cousins I haven’t seen in a setting outside of a funeral or a wedding or some big event in several years. And they thought I had it bad because I wasn’t accepted in either world. And they asked me how I adapted, how, what was that like. And I told them what you already know through, through my essay, is that I actually felt much more at home there. And I felt safe. I felt, despite it being the murder capital of the world or the United States at least at the time, per capita. But I think part of that was just the history of my family that they had there. There was a real strength in the, my father’s side of the family [00:13:00] and the acceptance of my mother. They accepted her immediately. My, her niece, my mother, my cousin, she remembers my mother as just this, her embrace.

Elizabeth: Wow.

John: That was it. The, her, the first thing. And she never changed. She never wavered and she was just so wonderfully accepted in my house. And, to hear my cousin and I—you frown at people that say, “I’m colorblind” or, “I don’t see color.” And it’s, ah, it exists! But here I’m hearing my family say, “We never saw color with your mother.” And I understand that. But at the same time, I recognize she’s always been the most wonderful ally without saying she’s an ally, it’s just who she is.

Elizabeth: Sure. She’s just—

John: I think that’s how she was raised. She came from privilege, and she renounced that to give her life to service. I think a part of that was in response to her, her privileged upbringing.

Elizabeth: Speaking of color, you’ve also written about aesthetics. You’ve written about the differential in your skin tone in [00:14:00] Chester versus western Mass and the high status or low status and all of the complexities of that. So is there an awareness of aesthetics that informed your creativity or the creativity of others based on this very personal understanding of other people’s standards?

John: I think so. I think less so as I’ve gotten older and have my own sort of aesthetic and idea. I think it’s true they say when you get older, you, you start to change less. That imprint is there. And that the imprint developed for a while. And, yes, I think for a while it was very popular to examine and explore the popular aesthetic and have that be your initial experience. But I think I’ve, I’ve been fascinated by every aesthetic in life, in people, as well as in, the creativity and the art that I’ve decided to have myself around me.

Elizabeth: Sure.

John: And I think, it’s reflected in what BloomBars is, going back to this creation, this [00:15:00] idea and the creativity that, that it’s brought with it, I think is a part of that, is a part of that story, is a part of the story that I’m continuing to tell. That’s my life, that I’m just living. It’s a story that we don’t necessarily write, we live, right? But we also can write it and write it in different ways.

Elizabeth: Sure.

John: And try to write it in a way that moves people to understand their own experience differently in addition to our individual experience.

Michael: You also write about how the, I think it was the boardwalk was connected to a prison. And that there’s, it’s, there’s a certain irony there. How do you see sort of contradiction and irony and the absurdity of the casino boardwalk leading to a prison or connected to a prison, how does that sort of manifest itself in your own creativity, your writing, or how do you use that?

John: Yeah, I think, we say contradiction nicely because we know there’s really no contradiction and there’s little coincidence in a lot of these, in a lot of these areas. And it’s normally a funeral that I go to [00:16:00] in Chester with one of my dad’s family members that are near all the chemical plants that shall not be named where my cousins and family have died from rare cancers. It’s not a coincidence. It’s not a coincidence that you go through a prison arch, that you feel like you’re going into the prison, but it’s actually the road to the casino. So yes, there’s irony in everything, but it’s really not irony. And I think when you’re able to communicate sometimes in a way that uses the irony, not necessarily with the sledgehammer that says, there, there is systemic racism in every facet of our lives. It drives our system, it drives money, it drives our global imprint on the world. It’s causing chaos. It’s wrought havoc. What are we gonna do? I think it’s a way to make people think about those challenges differently rather than with a sense of—what’s the word I’m looking for—just, exhaustion.

Elizabeth: Exhaustion.

John: It’s pure exhaustion and unwillingness to [00:17:00] actually, make some major life changes. The adaptation that’s gonna be needed in the future for our children. So I think the irony when I go back to Chester and I see the devastation, the, it’s still alive in many ways and I still have family there, but, the house that my aunt and uncle grew in is a burned down shell now. There’s one house there, my, my cousin’s there. And I, and it’s wonderful to read about, Chester doing well in athletics and all these wonderful people have come out of Chester. But it still just seems really sad to me to go through the space and realize that we, there, there’s communities even in worse condition in this country that we’re not addressing.

And I think how has that manifested in my own creativity? I think, initially I was very angry. I think when I was, towards the end of my experience in the small western Massachusetts town, I was very militant. I had come back from Chester, Pennsylvania with a Black Bart Simpson shirt, it’s a Black thing, you can’t understand [00:18:00], Egyptians were Black and I’m like I’ve read, I’m, I’ve, I’m knowledgeable, I’m into—and people looked at me like I was crazy. I was still in sports, so I was like accepted. I, it was never, but it was like John’s on some Chuck D or something. I dunno what he’s listening to. But I was angry. I was an angry Black man for a while. And I was still questioning and look searching for identity. I think that’s part of the journey of coming from two very different cultures.

Michael: And is that connected to—cause I think you’ve written about sort of your experience in New Hope, Pennsylvania. I guess in your, what your senior year, was it?

John: Yeah. High school.

Michael: And you talked about the, I think, or I have a quote here, “how fast a person can change in a nurturing environment.” So can you talk about that sort of sea change personally? Because obviously with the sort of the deep-rooted racism of the structures of our society, it’s going to at some level require personal change from a lot of people to ultimately affect that.

John: Oh, man, absolutely.

Michael: So maybe if you could just [00:19:00] talk about that nurtured environment affecting change within individual souls.

John: Yeah, I think that’s a great question and it really makes me reflect back to that, that time that really pushed me to look, to go somewhere far away from where I was and the environment that was just not seen a future for me. From a guidance counselor who was encouraging me to go to technical school and that I wouldn’t amount to—it was like everybody, always, nobody was rooting for us. And we felt that. Even in sports, it, it manifested in every, in, in my father’s employment, in, all areas we were, felt like we were—when my sister got out, I was like, yay! And she, all four years, she made it through and was like, great.

And, and I got out my last year and spent that year in New Hope, Pennsylvania at this boarding school that was really nurturing in a way that I hadn’t been, ever received as a student. I really looked up to my teachers. They embraced the [00:20:00] way I thought. They asked me questions, they cared about on my opinions. They helped us think critically. My favorite teacher, I hated math, but my math teacher was my favorite teacher because he really, he had us read The New York Times every day, analyze a couple news stories, break down the math and see who’s like, how it was written to influence what policy or really break down the numbers in a, a study that just came out. And just look at everything with a critical eye and try to tell that story. That was a math, a typical math class. And it really just made me think completely out of the box.

Here’s this school, old Quaker school, not much around it, town about six miles away and I just flourished. I really dove into the opportunities as they presented themselves from, the art classes, I really learned to love to doodle and draw. I love sculpture. I still have some sculptures that I made in sculpture class. My grandmother grew up with a, a ceramic wheel and a [00:21:00] kiln that, that we used to use as children. Yeah, she was a big influence creatively. She’d always give me like a lot, electronic sets or things just to take apart ‘cause she knew I like to take things apart and try to put ’em back together again. But it was at, in New Hope where I really kind flourished as a creative. I was in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, I was an orderly, it was great. I was my first theater production from the All American Express. Yeah. So it was great. It was great. It really set a course. I wish I had stuck more with it in college instead of, college was just complete culture shock, so I was all over the place.

Michael: Sure. Yeah, so in high school, clearly it sounds like you were doing the sculpture, you were doing the theater, you’re doing the writing, you’re doing the sports.

John: Yes, yeah.

Michael: But you’ve continued to do the writing and has the, what role would you say that sort of writing sort of these personal essays or creative writing, these stories, what role does that play in nurturing of your own sort of self or I identity?

John: They’re great reference points. [00:22:00] If you take the time to go back and read what you’ve written, they’re different. You’d write them differently. It’s not that you want to change them, but just that’s where you were and that’s not where you are. So, they’re good reminders and reference points. And if you do it consistently enough, you think about it as an outlet, as a way to heal from traumatic experiences. You think of it as a record sometimes in, in all respects, a record of my life. Something that will possibly have some meaning to someone down the line where it’s a part of a legacy. I’d like to believe I have, I’m leaving some kind of legacy. So there’s always, I think as we get older, we think more about the legacy that we’re leaving and the passage of that legacy—

Michael: Is there, is there healing just in articulating the experience? And, ‘cause in articulating, in a sense, you’re recreating or you created, at least for me, I have, my memories are so fragmented, but if I try to articulate them, I don’t know where the fiction [00:23:00] begins and the non-fiction ends or whatever.

John: Yeah. It, it’s different. They come out differently. Obviously with fiction you have full freedom. Sometimes I, sometimes you don’t. When you’re really in a character, you feel like you, you don’t have a choice when you’re writing fiction, I think. I’ve gotten to a place where, when I’m writing fiction to disassociate my, from myself to be in the character or characters in a scene. And it unfolds on its own and I’m just the bystander writing it, it feels that honest.

But I think with memoir and writing about current events or even fiction writing in the presence or in the future, there, there’s definitely a sense of healing but I think it goes beyond healing. It’s almost—men are, our egos are so big, we never ask for directions, right? That’s the, “I can find my way there,” right? And I think the same is true with writing. If we’re not writing our experiences, we’re sort of losing the map of our lives, how we got where we are. And the more [00:24:00] that we are able to draw that map and draw what we remember I think the freer we become to think about the future, our future, and our children’s futures. In imagining a world and in imagining stories that you want to tell, that, that your daughter’s gonna read to your grandchildren, that your grandchildren are gonna read, and they’re gonna find real meaning in that, and they’re gonna find understanding of the person you are.

And I think part of that comes from just a, I think you said as a writer, we think differently, and we experience the world differently. We remember and record in different places in our brain that allow us access to that. That in, in transcribing that into words. So the roadmap for your life is, is necessary to create the roadmap that you wanna see or that you want to leave. That, that’s just the bottom line. So I write to, to map. Fiction or non-fiction, it has some sort of meaning, right? A lot [00:25:00] of it has to do with all the emotions that are tied to creativity. Whether it’s anger, whether it’s forgiveness, we’re able to process things that were traumatic in a way that allows us to let go and maybe heal relationships or understand challenges where we might have blamed somebody else and understood that I played a role in that. And, that’s the maturity, I think, that writing allows you to grow, yeah.

Elizabeth: A literal roadmap of your life led you here to Washington, DC.

John: Sure.

Elizabeth: To Howard University, you’re a graduate of Howard. And I’m wondering if you could tell us more. You’ve spoken about the intellectual and cultural invigoration you experienced at Howard, so can you tell us more about those years and how they shaped you creatively?

John: Sure. I wanted to go to a, a school that was not in the northeast where I grew up, not in the south, but below the Mason Dixon line. And [00:26:00] Washington seemed like the that, that sort of space. And I had done rural life.

Elizabeth: You’d done rural life, yeah.

John: I was, I wanted to be in, I wanted to be in a city. So I stayed with a friend who was on the basketball team with me, his sister was at Howard, and it was homecoming. And it was just, it was in the nineties, and it was like the cultural mecca. It was just like, wow. I skipped interviews, I was just like, I was, I wanna go to Howard University, which is really, it was the mecca, especially in the nineties for culture, but also the professors were just held in such high esteem. They still are. And not to say, they’ve gone through, through their own challenges, but it was a, it was definitely an era that I think you were able to explore your, who you were, your own identity. You could create your own identity. You really had a better context of history when it’s told by who you saw as your own people. My own people telling me these things and hearing, it is, it’s just when the normal is you’re only around Black folks or people of color, there’s a different energy where you just, you’re able to [00:27:00] think creatively.

And that continued to flourish. I got an internship my sophomore, after my sophomore year that turned into a full-time job. So I was managing doing a full-time job in communications, my major, with the academic side, it just pushed me out there to even think beyond academically how seeing myself as a storyteller, as a communicator, as a professional communicator that can really change, create something that can change people’s behavior in a way that could save their life. I just dove headfirst into it and it’s really everything that I’ve worked on professionally before BloomBars that has led to this was something with some sort of purpose. I couldn’t sell shampoo or wait tables, and I just, my mom and my dad were just ringing in the back of my ear, all they, they’ve achieved in their youth, that, that it was really upon, it was, the passage was upon me. As much as pop culture was shaping that era and hip hop and all these new things were being, [00:28:00] emerging from urban America and across the world and spreading, I felt a part of that, but I also felt like I could create sort of my own space in that. I, I started to think bigger. I started to think, more globally.

Elizabeth: Tell us more about that, because as you, you’ve talked about your work in communications was quote “cause-oriented.” That you even worked with the Clinton administration a little bit after graduation and with one of the communications firms of your mentors. So can you, can you talk a little bit about the creative process in this field of cause-oriented communications? What is that, on a practical level, what is that creative process like?

John: It’s generally fairly methodical, which I try to buck at every—it sometimes it really worked, and it worked on a very large scale, but I think the creative aspects of that, that weren’t necessarily valued as much as the [00:29:00] process, I think drove a lot of that, a lot of that change. Cause-oriented meaning, there’s some sort of, you’re advocating for some sort of change through a campaign or an initiative. Whether it’s raising awareness about judicial elections in our country and how that process happens, we’re electing people who 70% of the people who are donating to their campaign are the lawyers before them. Or foster care, where 20,000 youth are aging out of the foster care system and not having any support, they’re just taught, or, beyond age 18, we’re just setting ourself up for failures as a society. So it’s really looking at these challenges, first nationally and then globally, whether it’s, a simple malaria net will, can save a life. It’s, one of the leading causes of death among children in many countries in Africa. So being able to tell compelling stories in a [00:30:00] way that can engage people.

In the business, it’s very process oriented. Research, evaluation, action, more evaluation, tweaking things along the way. So you’re really studying how people, the psychology of what people think about. What’s, what are the barriers? Why aren’t people wearing their seatbelt? So if we’re telling people they’re wearing their—for the last, 50 years and then you know, up to the late 1960s—that, the crash dummies, you’re gonna die if you don’t wear your seatbelt people. It didn’t move people. So, you test. What moves people? Getting a ticket? Oh, yeah. They, that they care more—getting points on your license? Yes. They care more about that. So that informed the message and also informed the strategy.

Michael: So did most of your cause campaigns deal with not just education, ‘cause clearly you can educate people about X, Y, or Z, but it’s ultimately you are trying to get them to act in a certain way.

John: There’s [00:31:00] a call to action, I think is what you’re getting at in, in every campaign. Yes. You’re asking people to do something, whether it’s a behavior change, just buckling up their seatbelt.

Michael: So you’re researching what the trigger is gonna be to actually get them to act.

John: What those triggers, what those stories are, what the messages, how to communicate those messages, and how to reach them, where to reach them on what channels to reach them. That’s thinking really macro. And then you have integrated in that is all these other tactics that may need to reach other audiences, may need to reach Congress, may need to reach NGOs, may need to reach children. You, you have to be—and what are your—and then thinking that about that in concentric circles. Who do you wanna target first? Who do you want to, how to shape that entire campaign so that societally you’re left with something that’s lasting or needs to be continued because they’re always generations that—

Michael: And were you involved at the strategic level developing the campaign?

John: Yes, yes

Michael: So you had your [00:32:00] graphic artist or your video artist under, working—

John: So when I—

Michael: —trying to fulfill whatever the strategy was.

John: Absolutely. I think the best example of that was working at a communications firm here in, that was based here in Washington that was full service. That, that had a creative team, that would have a creative brief, that had a video, full video production, that had design services, that had account people at various levels to either manage accounts the day-to-day. It was full service. My role generally was at the either manage account management or, at the higher levels, the higher that I got in the organization. But I think I, I never lost the thought of myself as a creative person. I, I don’t know that I endeared myself to the creative team because often I came with my own idea for the campaign. I was like, we need a creative, you, actually can you, can it be something like this? But they were genius in their own right. And they were very successful.

But I think it comes down to [00:33:00] when you—macro is really different than micro. And when you’re in your own community and seeing it, and I think the firm had lost—I don’t know if they, I don’t know if they ever had sight of the micro because they were just touching the macro issues—and they wanted, I, I couldn’t take on clients for less than $25,000 a month retainer. And there’s not too many causes that can afford a $25,000 a month retainer, right? It’s like, alright, the Ford Foundation, the Gates Foundation, and that, that comes with its own challenges as well. So I think that was one of the reasons that sort of led this to, to become.

But I also saw amongst those campaigns, over the years that the way that arts, the way that I think my parents thought about the arts as a very integral part of the movements that they were a part of, how they saw artists like Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield and Nina Simone. And these are the artists that I grew up listening to and were so a part of the movements, they weren’t [00:34:00] afterthoughts, they were drivers. They sat at the tables. And I just didn’t see that when I reached this level and thought that they were, they should be at the table. So that became a focus of thinking about how to help and develop and nurture artists in a way where they don’t see their success as mutually exclusive to attaching themselves to a cause or a campaign. And in the same right, helping organizations understand that they need to bring in artists and creatives on the front end of these change movements. So that they can become a part of that.

Elizabeth: So this is, in some ways you’re talking about macro plus macro equals micro, that you’ve got artists who are macro artists who are mega artists, and then you have issues that are mega issues, and yet the inclusion of the artist is a conduit that is so personal to the individual or to the community that you get [00:35:00] a kind of resonance that would not perhaps be there without the inclusion of that very personally understood art.

John: Yeah. I think what you’re speaking to is, rings, has rung through this space and I think has rung, rung through me, which is that of amplification. And really being able to amplify those voices and part of that, my creativity, my creative processes a curator of that and being able to eye those people those who can amplify, who if you help nurture and get to that next level and really be a voice of change.

And instead of, going through, going through all this research and expense to help create these movements that don’t have artists on the front end, I think you’re doing yourself a disservice. ‘Cause it’s not lasting change. ‘Cause I think we were, anytime you turn, you listen to any of these artists who are part of these movements, it’s timeless. There’s a feeling both of [00:36:00] inspiration for the moment, but also of guilt. That, why how did we, what did we miss? Why isn’t this part of today? I would love to see just, what happened in, in Tennessee, I’m sorry to date the, date the program, you can edit that out. But, I would, I would’ve loved to see a hundred songs and, graffiti, our artists just converge, to support that, because that, that, that was the front lines. That’s where SNCC was founded. And if it can happen there, it can really, it’s happening everywhere.

So I think, speaking to creativity, it’s hard not to speak to creativity without speaking that creativity in a specific direction, not miss those moments.

Elizabeth: You’ve also worked on the front lines of these issues as a community activist. And there is just relentless, labor-intensive daily work that you know about intimately. So, what I’m hearing you say is that the creativity that is accompanying that work [00:37:00] brings a kind of momentum that keeps the work moving forward.

I wanna talk a little bit about you, John, as a seminal figure of change. Some people liken you to Barack Obama. I don’t know if they do that to your face. And there’s a bit of an age difference there and obviously there’s many differences, but how do you respond to that? How do you respond to people who see you personally as a charismatic person who embodies all of these complex combinations of creativity and issues and organizational smarts and community smarts and institutional smarts and, many skills that you inhabit or that inhabit you. Is that something that just speaks to you personally?

John: We were talking about this before the mics were turned on. And I try to suppress ego as much [00:38:00] as possible and I think the vanity and narcissism that drives much of our culture today. So I just, I may hear that and just with a smile. Cause you never know how genuine people are. And I really don’t have much interest in just games, the game of politics and not doing something that, that may turn out to be not as meaningful or impactful that I see this work being.

I think it’s flattering and part of that, I think, is just the less ego, the humility. And being comfortable behind the scenes. I’m flattered that people see that and maybe—that is definitely not my goal, ‘cause I try to stay behind the scenes as much as possible. But I think I am still finding my voice and ways to express that and ways to process my experiences, the experience of life as an individual more now, but also as an organization, thinking about things definitely differently than when we first opened our doors.

And that’s part of it. That’s part of the growth. That’s part of blooming. Is planting [00:39:00] seeds. Not every seed is gonna germinate. Some will lay dormant, some come at the right time. But I hope that stays consistent. I want that to be a consistent part of how I’m seen.

Obviously when you come in here, you wanna be positive and it’s, there’s a role, you step into a role. So I think a lot of people see that version of me and not necessarily the creative process or just the day to day. Which obviously can be challenging, which is humbling, which is cleaning bathrooms and—

Elizabeth: The joys of being a producer.

John: It’s everything. And people don’t understand that. And even thinking about whether that’s as a consultant or some of the, going back to some of the macro things and still being involved in that in some ways and thinking about that I think that’s, that’s a much, a much bigger part of how I see BloomBars and the passage of the knowledge that, of this space. I think is very important. So that it continues on.

Michael: Let’s stick with BloomBars for a while ‘cause it [00:40:00] really is a powerful sort of entity. Let’s call it an entity. Because it’s a physical space, there is a institutional quality to it, and I can always perceive you struggling with that contradiction between, “Oh, here’s the owner of BloomBars.” “I’m not the—it’s the community.” And so in some sense you’re trying to redefine the community arts center, that it really is the property of the community and the energy is from that community.

But so I was thinking about why don’t we start off this conversation by you just talking about the genesis of this wonderful entity called BloomBars. And you could not only talk about the name, but ultimately what ultimately led you to decide to make this community art center, this community creative space that would attract people from all around the area to exhibit their work there, to have Elizabeth’s BloomU, to have her [00:41:00] Theatrical Journey Project there, to have our Performatry project [MM1] there and many other projects. Just a little bit of the genesis and how that idea came to you and—

John: Sure. Just picking up, I think, around the time when I officially left, was around the 2008 election. And, and I was thinking about this challenge and this opportunity to bring the arts together with social change and social justice was boiling to the top. And started doing that with some friends—Shane W. Evans who’s an artist and illustrator, children’s book author, and Jason Jasper, who’s out in Oakland, and she’s a singer—and thinking this together, thinking through this together in our respective places where we grew up and doing some pilot events there and thinking that this could grow nationally.

And I think life, life happened. Shane opened what’s called Dream Studio in Kansas City, and I helped him knock down walls and helped build that space up, which is very much an inspiration for BloomBars and a genesis of BloomBars. [00:42:00]

And then coming around to this space where I live right around the corner and have for many years, over 20 years. And seeing the space vacant and thinking about this after the opportunity to have a space that can do these things. And have that wide mission, but also a foundation that could really be something different, that is not that trendy bar that you don’t hear about two years later. But just have longevity. That happened, I think the universe, it, it didn’t, it was a struggle getting this space and I wasn’t sure what was gonna happen until the end for a number of reasons. But the key landed in my hands. And here we are almost 15 years later.

But I think the idea, the foundation that, that we had early on, that this was gonna be a nurturing space, that this was gonna be a sanctuary space. That this space was not gonna have barriers for entry for anyone of any age. I think understanding what it [00:43:00] meant to get to that was also important. And saying no alcohol, not that we have anything against that, but that changes an environment and the accessibility. A lot of people. In creating, that audience, that what’s happening from the stage, what can happen and who can be the recipient of that nurturing. That, the establishment, I think, of those principles early on is what helped us with our longevity. And also just owning the building, getting—

Michael: As well as the decision—

John: —getting the building. And we all, we haven’t always had the same model, but it has always been, we’ve never turned anywhere away at the front door. I think that’s important. And we’ve had all levels, from professionals to award-winning artists to people who are just doing this for the first time. And that can all happen on one night. That can all happen at one open mic. Magic can happen, I think, when we’re in these spaces communally.

And I think not having that over the last three years [00:44:00] has pent up a lot of that creativity and it’s really ready to burst. People are looking for outlets and I think that’s why our poetry and open mics are right now our most popular events.

Elizabeth: That’s great!

John: People really have, want to have that voice.

One of the, one of—and I think, again, part of that is having unique programs that look at things differently. Like our, our Poetry in the Morning, which we had for several years, that was something really different. And it was started by a young man in his community who was, hung out with a rough crowd and was a leader, but came up to me and asked me, “Hey, do you like poetry?” I was like, “Yeah, I do!” And then seeing this kid the next day at the coffee shop talking to the owners about providing coffee for the poetry in the morning.

Elizabeth: Wow.

John: Which grew. And we did Skypes with other countries to read poetry and express and what an invigorating thing to do on a Monday morning, at 7:30 AM.

Elizabeth: At 7:30 AM? That’s…wow. Wow.

John: Or Sunrise Cinema, which we had for several years, which founded this group called DC [00:45:00] Insomniacs, which, the idea was to both have a place for people who couldn’t sleep to gather and, feel like they’re in community, but also there’s a number of people we know who shouldn’t be driving home at night and they need a place to just, you know. So we had Sunrise Cinema where they could just come and watch movies until the sun came up. So thinking about those little, those opportunities for programs to gather community through the arts I think has been a also a very important part of our longevity.

Michael: And the decision to make it family…centric, I guess is the right word, I think, how did that decision come about?

John: Yeah, that was easy. That was when my daughter came into the world. BloomBars was five years along at the time. It was still open to everyone, but children were not primary, it was not just—some stuff for them, but it wasn’t like I had that understanding of what the need could be. I, I wasn’t in it. But when my daughter came, I was in it. And I was able to see what was available. Where do we go find arts for [00:46:00] infants and children? What’s available? And I just saw that there was a great need for, for something a little different that, that thought about their social emotional development differently, the way that they solve conflicts and understood the concept of peace and sharing and just some of the fundamentals that I think that I was raised with.

Elizabeth: Talk a little bit more about some of the, Bloom U, which is for the University of Blooming for children, just describe some of the offerings, like Harambee and I came and did the Journey Project for a little hot minute, but just tell our listeners a little bit about what the kind of cascade of child-oriented offerings are.

John: Sure. As I said, it continued to grow with my daughter to the point where it was more than half of what we were doing, mostly in the mornings but also afternoons. To serve kids as they grew older or as my daughter grew older, being honest. But as everybody, as the kids in the program got older. It was the first generation, second generation. [00:47:00] But as we developed programs for kids with, it’s Baba Ras D. that’s really younger kids, but also he has programs for older kids as well. But just that, that, that cultural competency. The, the connection, the sort of letting kids not experience—‘cause we’re, we’re such an adultist town, we’re adult, we’re a city of adults. And that’s all kids get to see, but to have adults actually come into a place where they get to lose that adultism and be children again and be intentional about how they’re connecting with their children. Be forced. Have their cell phones taken away from them. Have them say, your kid looks at your face every day, you can turn around and look at Baba Ras D. so your child can see him. It’s those little things.

You’re talking about the range of programs—dance programs. This is mostly pre-pandemic. We’re still coming back. We have a program on Sundays with Achille Ango, it’s called Nous Bloomons—

Elizabeth: Oh, yes, I saw the poster for that.

John: It’s a French language music program. We’ve got Samba for kids on Tuesdays at several times. [00:48:00] We’re bringing back the kids open mic in a couple weeks. So, it’s been a gradual, sort of, coming back from the pandemic. We’re not at full, like, the seven days a week we were before.

Elizabeth: You have, you have artists from all over the world who come here. And that’s one of the remarkable things about BloomBars, is you come into this space, and you are a global citizen. And I want you to talk about that creative vibe, that kind of philosophy of the universality, that one experiences is just being in this space.

John: That’s a great question, Elizabeth, and I’m glad you asked it. Because I, we have signs around here, you’ll see one behind there, there’s a, it’s a small stage global audience. And I think that’s been our ethos. Not to be confined by a space. Goes back to an earlier question you said about—there’s a sign on our stage that we’re a community, not a venue. That word “v” has always grated on me. We’re a community, it’s not me, it’s us, it’s our. [00:49:00] To be able to use language that communicates our intention. The we, the we bloom, the communal language. That shift from the beginning, I think. As well as just the rituals. I think ritual plays an important part of developing a culture. And we have ritual and intention. And intentional relationships I think drive opportunities and allow for opportunities to grow. So the people who need to know, because there are people who have experienced that, who have told them, this is different, this is a different experience. You’re gonna have a moment of gratitude before you. Hold hands before you enter the stage, you’re gonna feel something different. You’re not gonna hear glasses clinking. You’re gonna connect with people. After, you’re gonna be—in our early days—forced to hug.

We can’t do that now, but, you gotta know you’re gonna meet somebody new. You’re gonna have a different experience.

And I think that sort of difference—not to say that there aren’t others who are doing that, and we’ve supported and tried collaborations across the [00:50:00] spectrum and support that. There can’t be enough of the kinds of things that we’re doing, organizations and people like yourselves that are doing that work. But being intentional about letting artists experience art through collaboration differently. And part of that is actually being intentional about whether it’s traveling to South Africa and finding the biggest star who really moved you to come here and see what we’re doing a and then create a little highway back and forth and collaboration happen. Or being a host when the State Department brings all of these community organizers to do these tours of bus boys and give those talks about what you’re doing and maintain those connections and see them grow.

Other people have started BloomBars things in other countries, and other, in this country, there’s several I think that have been inspired. Zenbarn in Vermont is the most recent one that comes to mind. A good friend, Noah Fishman, who was my neighbor here in Columbia Heights started that when he moved him and his wife to Vermont, which is a very BloomBars [00:51:00] inspired arts community. Venue, if you will. Larger but really amazing core and opportunities for artists to gain a unique audience.

I think really big. Sometimes bigger than I can—farther than my grasp. I struggle with that, but I always am thinking, what’s the bigger, biggest picture? What’s the biggest impact this can have? Who are the people who have a really strong story to tell? How can I help them in service of that? Its reach is really limitless.

Michael: You’ve mentioned that the pandemic was such a setback, obviously because of just restrictions, but it seems to me also just because of a, a whole sort of online philosophy that has really just blossomed where—‘cause it’s very difficult to have community online. When I think of community, at least maybe I’m too old school, but it’s very visceral. It’s very, it is the hug, right? And you can’t do the [00:52:00] hug anymore. It is eating, breaking bread together. It is, not to turn pessimistic, but coming back from this, struggling against this screen culture and the pandemic hangover that people have, is that, have you found that it’s difficult or have you found ways to counteract that?

John: I, it’s still a learning process. I think the online community that’s the, those that have been created, some of them are, have been wonderful, some of ’em not so much. All of which attaches us more to our screens, which I think we need to move away from, and I think that’s what we’re seeing. There’s something that just cannot—it’s great I think in building and starting relationships and starting collaborations, but I think tonally, vibrationally, the frequency is different when we’re together. And we know it’s scientifically, how we listen to the drum, how we play instruments, how we, communication, the body language, the pheromones. You lose so much of what it means to understand somebody [00:53:00] and connect with somebody.

Michael: Sure. Just eye contact. Cause on online you can’t really have eye contact.

John: You can’t, you’re not, you’re looking, you—

Michael: You can’t. I’ve tried to teach online. It’s so hard.

John: It’s hard.

Michael: To have eye contact.

John: You have to imagine yourself that as something you are not. And seeing in a way that we, I think, we’re just not used to, even though I think this younger generation, they’re new species. They’re seeing the world differently. And I think, we’re up against, that’s, something that we’re up against and I think we’re maybe overcompensating a little bit now. Or feel a need to overcompensate, to preserve a sense of how community is created, how relationships are created and nurtured and particularly around the arts.

Elizabeth: Speaking of the body, I want to switch gears slightly and talk about you as a passionate champion for health and wellness. That’s one of the things that I think of when I think of you, wellness in all manner of dimensions from the [00:54:00] physiological to the emotional and the societal and the spiritual and historical and ecological and beyond. And part of that is your passionate veganism. I don’t know how long you’ve been a vegan but—and I want to clarify for our listeners and help me out if I get it wrong—veganism is the avoidance of all animal products, including dairy and eggs, and even gelatin, which is different from vegetarianism, which is the, simply just not eating meat or poultry or fish. So, can you talk about how your veganism resonates with your commitment to health and wellness and to just a sort of global wellness?

John: Yeah, I think veganism, first of all, people can divide, define it in many ways, but I think personally, first it’s just a stand against hypocrisy in general.

So that means I’m a vegan for all the reasons that what it means to be a vegan—spiritually, I think the environment, my own [00:55:00] health and wellness, my want to connect with all living beings in the world. And I think that’s hindered when you’re eating them. And it’s just, it’s a different world that we live in and I don’t think we, we can, we have the luxury of depleting our oceans and contorting our agriculture and land to meet our meet needs when they can be met other ways that are more sustainable.

I think that’s part of, the adaptations that we’re all going through. I think we’ve, many of us have come to the understanding that, as we know it, the world is going to change, part of that due to climate. And I think that’s a big driver for me. But I think it’s, we’ve got, we’re up against so much, this seems like a low hanging fruit. I don’t know why. It just has been simple for me. It’s been a journey. The reasons have changed over time. I haven’t been a consistent vegan since college. But I think, I had an early childhood experience with a mountain high pile of turkey heads around Thanksgiving that initially traumatized me. And then it [00:56:00] was trying to be the best athlete I can be and understanding that I actually really, it really did help. And then seeing some of the other effects and just, learning, learning and obviously having a child impacts that. I read Eating Animals before my daughter came into the world and that really impacted me and made me thought about my relationship with food, what I’m ingesting. So that’s been the strongest driver for me.

But yeah, I think, using this as a platform, using BloomBars subtly as a platform to promote that. Whether it’s, if you’re gonna cater something here, have some vegan options to putting a sign on the alley that says Vegan Street to just promoting programs that, that offer other opportunities. Whether it’s film screenings, art exhibits, or trainings, CPR, and things that can save the simple things that I think we can, we should, we need to know to be able to help ourselves and to help others.

Michael: Going back to this notion [00:57:00] of community building and this question comes out of this interview you did in this magazine called Conversation, which you talked about these moment-to-moment exchanges with people that can either be filled with skepticism or trust or compassion or apathy. And it reminded me of, Rollo May’s The Courage to Create. He talks about creativity as being an intimate encounter with people, with forests, with food, with whatever. Could you maybe just talk a little bit more about this notion of a, of a moment-to-moment exchange with a person that based on trust and compassion and how that plays with creativity? How do you see that?

John: Wow.

Michael: And it ultimately would lead to community building, I guess, right?

John: Yeah. Yeah. Again, I think when it’s about holding space first, right? And holding the space that has that intention. It all sounds very esoteric and what are you talking about? What are you really, what do you really [00:58:00] mean when you talk about human connection and what can happen in that moment? And a lot of that is, is the guidance that’s needed. I think it doesn’t have to be spelled out, but really modeled. And I think it’s the first thing that happens in here and how that first experience and, you see the little things, how this was built sustainably and creatively and in a way that, that honored what came before it, but the possibilities that lie ahead. Being able to tune out of the noise of our lives, the things that swirl around us and be present is an element.

Michael: Ultimately poetry, you’ve spoken about poetry, poetry is a, an intimate reveal at some level, right?

John: Yeah, absolutely.

Michael: And you’ve gotta trust that what you intimately reveal is not going to cause people to shut down, that ultimately, they will embrace or at least engage with what you’re revealing. Right? The process of creating a space where intimate [00:59:00] reveal is possible at BloomBars has that been a, a journey?

John: It’s…sometimes. More recently, no. It’s hard to put to words. I think about our bimonthly writing group where people share really vulnerable poems, things, other prose that they may not share in other situations where they didn’t feel safe. But I think because there’s an equality in the expression of vulnerability that ties the trust. I think if everybody’s really at that level that it can grow exponentially from, from that point.

It doesn’t happen for every program, but it happens in different ways, that community. It can just be the regular contact that parents, have bringing their children to something and they develop a friendship that lasts today. Some of my longest friendships, or the parents that I met when my daughter was doing the kids programs. We’re still in touch. It’s, we really experienced something together and we’ve supported and they’ve [01:00:00] supported me as a person along the way. And I think as much as we talk about community, it does come down to the individual being able to let something go. Letting, when they walk in, or along the way seeing that because other people are letting go of something that might prevent them from connecting with somebody else or being open to the possibility, that it just happens organically. And, it’s like fertile soil, fertile ground. You create the fertile ground. These things can happen.

And part of that is being in the background, understanding where not to center certain voices or just to be able to create that sanctuary space where anybody can feel that ownership, I think, is part of it. And it, not everybody understands it right away. Some people still think of it as a “Thanks for letting me use the venue.” And it’s not really needed to be said and it makes me think I—

Elizabeth: “That’s is not what I meant at all.”

John: There needs to be some more work done, understand this relationship. Because it is, [01:01:00] it does benefit everyone if there is that understanding. Whether it’s just paying the bills to building community. If everybody feels like that, whatever they’re bringing or leading, to hold space around, if they have that understanding then the other things just happen. The opportunities happen naturally and organically. I hope that answers your question.

Elizabeth: So, John you’ve talked earlier, you’ve talked about your daughter, and you’ve talked about being a dad, and I think of you as one of the most amazing, dedicated dads I know. Your awesome daughter, whom I understand is now 12, I met her when she was much younger and she was your “deputy director” and is truly a remarkable young lady in her own right now. Can you talk about whether creativity is common ground, has been common ground between you and your daughter?

John: Yeah, it was magic. It helped me think like a child. I think she taught me as much as I taught her and to watch her be able to have access to all [01:02:00] the creatives that were in the space. Having children in the space creates its own energy and vibration that resonates, that continues. Like, all I have to say is all the kids things that are happening, it’s, okay, trash men who leave glass out next to the bar, “Okay, there’s kids that are coming out.” “Oh, yes, okay, let me sweep that up.” People understand that this isn’t just for us as adults, it’s for younger people.

And I think, being able to see her growth, even if it doesn’t have an imprint, I hope it has an imprint, but she’s been able to, to have the freedom to grow, whether it’s co-hosting the open mic or feeling, having the title, before the pandemic, she knew everything I did, she watched me so she could do it. She could work the door and greet people. She, she had the emotional intelligence even at an early age, two, three years old to see an uncomfortable mother out in the audience who may not have experienced something like this. It’s a lot of sensory things are happening and then they can’t just be present with their child and she’ll go out and sit with, she would go out and sit with them.

Elizabeth: Wow. [01:03:00]

John: And wow, who’s this little child who’s like teaching me how to play the drum or—

Elizabeth: Guardian angel.

John: Yeah. Just having this creativity but using also the communication skills to hold space. Whether it’s the person who maybe grew up as a boy, may not identify like that anymore. And when she was two, that person walked in with sequins, dress and tiara and, she had to process it for a minute and came out with, “You look amazing!” When it started with, “you can’t wear that dress,” and it was “because I want to, because you look so fabulous!” It’s okay. We’re on the bus. I, there’s a thousand of these stories and somebody not engaging. We learned a lot, taking a bus and engaging with people, strangers, and she would try to engage people in conversation, everybody’s feeling it. And, she’d go through her things and she’d end up singing Bob Marley. If they didn’t smile by that time, it was wrap. And it was like, she knew she had done everything, right? Yeah. Yeah, she’s pretty amazing. [01:04:00] She’s a big part of, she occupies a very large space in my mind and my inspiration for my creativity. The drive to create legacy and things that can be passed on to her, not necessarily in, in a nepotism kind of way, but more something she can carry with her and something she can always come back to.

Elizabeth: We like to end our interviews by asking our guests what practical advice they would give to our listeners on how to nurture their own creative lives. You’ve talked a lot about ways of being, and ways of seeing the world, but what habits or actions or beliefs or tasks, granular activities, would you recommend our listeners engage in to nurture their own creativity?

John: It’s easy to find a million answers to that question online. And people do every day when they’re doom scrolling. Sometimes that inspires creativity. It may not be the most healthy [01:05:00] expression. I think getting outside, letting, letting, being in nature, being in connection with the earth is my first—we’re in concrete jungles, we’re stuck in our houses, we’re not breathing the freshest air. We need to go out and listen to the birds, smell the flowers, let our senses experience all those things that, that, that inspire our creativity and train us to be decent human beings who are connected to the earth first. That foundation, if we don’t already have that.

And then I think it’s just finding moments, carving out moments to be creative, to think about things, whether it’s the thing they don’t want to think about or the just to understand that something can come out of nowhere. Like my writing really just comes out of nowhere. I feel like I wanna write, a story comes, something comes to me, a verse comes to me. I read something and it’s, we’re talking and all of a sudden, my mind—and my apologies, that sometimes my mind works like that—is to just be present, to be able to find [01:06:00] those like sparks, oh, wow. That’s a t-shirt, what you just said. You know what I mean? They’re everywhere. And they’re at, in our workplace. They’re what make us an amazing society that I think has limitless potential if we, again, carve out the spaces. You were asking me about my veganism and how I define it earlier. And I consider myself a honey vegan because I do eat honey, although it’s a grave contradiction for me because I really see bees as like the answer to everything. And also, the canaries and also everything else, but how they are a hive and how they communicate with each other, how they float on frequency, how they protect each other. That’s the, that’s where we need to be going. So yeah, think more like a bee, honor the bees.

Elizabeth: Oh, John, this has been so wonderful! The last thing we wanna give you a chance to do is tell our listeners how to find BloomBars on the internet.

John: Sure. People can visit us, check our, check the calendar or check our Instagram account is the, probably the [01:07:00] most active.

Elizabeth: What’s your handle for your—

John: It’s youbloomwebloom or if they just put it in BloomBars youbloomwebloom comes up.

Elizabeth: This is your motto.

John: “You bloom, we bloom.” Yeah, our mission and our motto.

We have a Facebook group for people who, we have events posted there. We also have a page for, as like a, a fan page. We’re also as @BloomBars on Twitter. YouTube, it’s BloomTV or BloomBars, you can find a lot of old videos, we’re starting to post some new ones. And yeah, we’re not, yeah, I’m still not quite sure about TikTok, so you can’t find us there. But yeah, there’s lots of ways to find us.

And we need help. Other volunteers and I think that’s what’s really driven our growth and, and people come in dedicated time, whether they’re in between jobs or—

Elizabeth: And remind our listeners, you’re—

Michael: So you’re rebuilding your volunteer—

John: We’re rebuilding volunteers, we have lots of administrative needs, legal support, other kinds of things that people have expertise who could, if they could lend that would be helpful and get help, helping get—

Elizabeth: So people can volunteer, just all manner of volunteering.

Michael: [01:08:00] And they can go to the website and—

John: They can go to the website, and we get inquiries all the time and we’re, have patience. We get a lot of them. So we try to answer everyone timely. Some slip through the cracks. But if you have ideas, films you wanna screen, artists who want to play or perform, learn more about our open mics, kids programs, things like that. Just encourage people to reach out. They can get me at [email protected] or just DM us on any of our social media, Facebook and Instagram.

Elizabeth: Give us your street address again.

John: We’re 3222 11th Street. So we’re in—

Elizabeth: Northwest.

John: Northwest. In Washington, DC. Columbia Heights neighborhood in between Kenyan and Lamont Street.

Elizabeth: Not a very short walk from the green line, Columbia Heights Metro Station.

John:, Green line we’re three, two and a half blocks, three blocks to the Columbia Heights Metro Station.

Michael: Nestled in between a couple of restaurants.

John: Yes. We’ve got lots of eating options. Yep, we’ve got the famous Wonderland Ballroom. We’ve got new restaurant buddies, El Chucho. We’ve got [01:09:00] our little deli on the corner Odd Provisions. There’s Red Rocks. Lots of eating options. And hopefully we have something going on and we’d love for you to just come to, come out to an event or just come say hello.

Elizabeth: Sounds great. Thank you so much. We are thrilled to have had this lovely time to talk with you. We’re thrilled to be part of the Bloom community.

John: Thank you. Yes. And I’m glad you consider yourself as such.

Elizabeth: Absolutely. Thank you, thank you.

Tremendous thanks to all our listeners. To those of you who are free subscribers, please consider becoming paid subscribers so that Creativists in Dialogue can continue bringing you insightful conversations about creativity from Washington, DC and beyond. Thanks.

Special shout out to Creativists in Dialogue’s production team: Audio engineer Elliot Lanes, social media manager Erin Dumas of Dumas83, and transcription editor Morgan Musselman. Thank you all.

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