Amber Cullen is the Artistic Director of VIBE Collective, a network of artists in the intersection of art, culture, and education, who are seeking to create spaces of community transformation and healing. Rock Your Mocs takes place Saturday, Nov. 10, 1 to 5 p.m., at Summit Artspace, 140 E. Market St., and features drumming, dancing and arts and crafts for sale from Native artisans.
I first met Marian Renee “Pumpkin” Concha-Saastamoinen at a powwow organized by the Native American Student Association at Kent State University last fall. She had a table full of books and resources about Native culture, as well as handmade jewelry for sale. I came closer and saw that she was working with clay, doing a pottery demonstration.
Turns out that Pumpkin is a potter, taught by the generation before her, who was taught by the generation before them. She invited me closer, and I pulled up a chair. We ended up talking for a while about the Southwest, her home, my time there, and Northeast Ohio. It was clear that we were connected not only in story, but in a knowing of the importance of art and culture, and our hopes for the city.
A few months later, as I was organizing “Until Name Becomes Prayer,” I knew that I wanted Pumpkin on the project’s creative core team. Her passion was endless, and she had a keen awareness of the limitations of Northeast Ohio in relation to our indigenous community, positioning her as an incredible thought leader in our area. She agreed to be a part of the project, and stepped on VIBE Collective’s Creative Core Team. “Until Name Becomes Prayer” yielded an impressive crowd of 215 people, and set the stage for all the work to come.
Pumpkin and I have been in relationship since that time, collaborating further in the work of VIBE Collective, a network of Northeast Ohio arts in the intersection of art, culture and education, who are seeking to create spaces for community transformation and healing. We were even on a podcast together! Needless to say, when Pumpkin came up to me a few months back and said “Rock Your Mocs is a big, national thing in the Native community, and I want to do Rock Your Mocs in Akron,” we (VIBE) without hesitation said “Yes.”
Rock Your Mocs was founded in 2011 by a 21 year old Native (Laguna Pueblo) woman who simply wanted a day for the Native community to wear their moccasins. Moccasins are important in Native culture(s), and remind the Native community of their roots. The day also stands as a reminder to the entire nation that Native Americans are still here. “We as indigenous people wear our moccasins standing together worldwide, while recognizing our Tribal individuality!” Our Rock Your Mocs will take place on Nov. 10, 1 to 5 p.m. at Summit Artspace (140 E. Market St). It has been a labor of love between Pumpkin and myself, both of us taking a collaborative role and working together to make the space.
From Pumpkin: “November has been a time to celebrate Natives of this country for years. As Natives, we will be bringing our love of our existence, our love of our country and our love of our heritage. Song, dance and our art are part of that sharing. Traditional drum, Thunder Nation Singers will be providing the music Young and old will be dancing in their regalia but all are welcomed to participate. Local Native American beaders and a local Pueblo potter will be demonstrating and selling their works of art. Educational material about Native Heritage will be available for that curious person. No question on Natives is a dumb question; we strive to present Natives as living and existing in this modern world. Please come with a good heart…an open heart and always with respect. We ask with respect…Please do not appropriate.”
We invite you to join us on Nov. 10, and take an active role in supporting our local Native community. Come bear witness to culture, story and community. Support local Native artists. Meet local Native culture bearers. Learn the world as bigger than yourself. After all, you’re being invited too.
Rock Your Mocs is presented by VIBE Collective, supported by NAIVC Native American Indians Veteran Center, LENAC Lake Erie Native American Center, and funded by East Ohio Conference Multicultural Vitality and the Center for Inner Peace.
For info, visit www.facebook.com/events/250172325698172/.