The story behind the Carnival de Resistance
For two weeks in September, a troupe of 30 people from around the world created an eco-village, conducted shows and engaged deeply with the Redeemer community. It was the Carnival de Resistance, a faith-based traveling arts carnival that combines theatrical performances, village demonstrations, and educational outreach.
Within 24 hours of the carnival troupe arriving at Redeemer, the grounds of the church were transformed. At the center of the backyard was a large, red-and-white-striped circus tent where over a 100 people would gather for weekend performances. Surrounding it were the smaller tents that made up the midway––before each performance, people of all ages would have the opportunity to participate in activities and art projects that allowed them to engage with radical theology, systems of oppression and ecological justice. The area by the bread oven was turned into eco-kitchen which included rocket stoves, a foot-powered sink, and a home-made washing machine. Near the garden and in the courtyard, smaller tents became crewmember’s home.
It wasn’t long before neighborhood children began to frequent the grounds. The crew engaged with the community and church through both informal interactions and more formal nightly programming. Church services were even held under the big-top tent. The carnival’s creative ways of combining faith, art and activism seemed to mesh well with Redeemer’s own commitment to these topics. And, yet, Redeemer had never done anything like it before. Over a year of careful planning had gone into making this experience be as beneficial as possible for the church and surrounding community.
Central to this planning were Redeemer community members and staff, Helen Collins and Katherine Parent. Both Collins and Parent had known about the carnival for at least a year and, when they learned that the carnival was looking for an urban, private church in Minneapolis to host them––specifically a church where community members were engaged in struggles for justice––Collins and Parent immediately thought of Redeemer. However, before seriously considering it, they knew that they would want to ask the people of Redeemer first. After an initial conversation with Pastor Kelly, they presented it to the church board for approval.
As conversations progressed with Pastor Kelly, the board, and other community members, people had questions. Some of the questions were practical, like where would the troupe sleep and would Redeemer need to feed them? Other questions were more conceptual: What would it look like for a mainly white group of outsiders to enter a space where predominantly people of color resided? How could they best honor the powerful and important stories of this existing community? How could they be guests rather than outsiders?
In order to best address these questions, the carnival formed an accountability committee which included black, native and local community members. The purpose of this accountability committee was to look into these questions and propose adjustments big and small to the work of the planning committee.
One adjustment made was with regard to the opening acts of the carnival shows which typically featured local artists from the resident community. The accountability committee felt that it was important to prioritize native and black artists and that these artists be paid for their time through a local crowdsourcing campaign. Even though most of the people in the carnival were volunteering their time and artistic skills, the committee felt that it was important to disrupt the historical pattern of asking people of color to share their art and culture for free.
Other conversations looked into experiences with profiling and police brutality in the Harrison neighborhood. The accountability committee named a need for community relationship building. As opposed to standard security, people connected to the community hosted the carnival and helped address the safety risks inherent in having a large group of people reside outside.
As a way of centering local leadership, someone from Redeemer introduced and welcomed the carnival crew into their space before each performance. Local people of native descent who were connected with the carnival acted as hosts, opening the space spiritually and naming it as native land.
Prior to the crew’s arrival, neighbors received letters about the carnival which included details about what the eco-village and weekend performances would entail. Parent describes the community as being really “open to the weirdness of the carnival” and incredibly generous––community members would show up with gifts, blessings, prayers, and songs.
Parent, Collins and Pastor Kelly are very interested in continuing to hear impressions about the carnival from the church community and neighborhood. Do not hesitate to share them in person or through email. If you have an impression you’d like to be published on our website, feel free to email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.