PURPOSE Productions supports artists and organizers in the mothering of PURPOSE-full work that seeks to unify and develop our world community.
Founded by A. Nia Austin-Edwards, PURPOSE Productions works with individuals and institutions to collaboratively bring visions to fruition through marketing, management, support for families, and more. Named after the Swahili translation of the name Nia, PURPOSE Productions grounds itself in the principles of Kwanzaa, an African American holiday celebrating the fruits of ancestral, communal, and individual labor.
Since 2013, we’ve supported dance artists such as Adia Tamar Whitaker and Marjani Forte-Saunders, theater artists such as Ella Turenne and Latonia Phipps, organizations such as 651 ARTS and STooPS, and initiatives such as Paloma McGregor’s Dancing While Black and Camille A. Brown’s The Gathering, among others. Our work is rooted in an Africanist aesthetic and value system, and our community represents diverse cultures, genres, and experiences.
We believe in strategy over everything.
We are guided by Black Feminisms.
We value humility.
We invest in intersectional cultural consciousness.
We listen deeply and remain responsive.
PURPOSE Productions was named in the Kwanzaa of 2012 following a seed planted at the self-produced evening of performance …first…. During that Feburary production, Nia reflected: “Performing is my medicine, but producing is my passion. In fact, the producing is the easy part!” Months later after a sister-talk with Marjani Forte-Saunders, Nia decided to embody her lifestyle into an institution that could support artists she loved and believed in.
Within six months of this naming, it became clear that this work was life-work. Nia left her full-time position as Marketing & Communications Manager at BAX/Brooklyn Arts Exchange with no savings and a lot of clarity. Timothy Veit Jones joined her as partner in life and work which increased the institution’s capacity and helped keep Nia sane. This partnership thrived through the fall of 2014 when it became clear that more hands were needed to sustain this structure. That November, we put out the call for support staff to work on a project-basis and the team grew to seven people in the months that followed.
In the winter of 2016, growing pains ensued again. Feeling overwhelmed by managing communication between the team and our sojourners (read: clients), Nia took some time to vision a staff structure that would support the company’s rapid growth. These Liberation Levels, as they became known, defined a pathway for team members to enter, develop, and exit the PURPOSE Productions team after which they could create their own enterprises rooted in the practices they learned working with us. Our team is a throughway, a rite of passage that invites folk to move from survival to thriving supported by strategy and purpose.
We are making space for thriving and liberated lifestyles. By amplifying the stories that are so often left to the margins, we are challenging the definition of art and artists. We are making sure that in this digital of instant access, you also have instant understanding of the multitudes of Blackness and Black art that is being created, improvised, and developed. By handling the administrative tasks and watching the babies, we create time and space for the making, the improvising, the developing. And by understanding our role as engagement and not service, we are shattering the hierarchies that continue to leave artists, particularly artists of marginalized communities, reaching for crumbs under the table.
The second principle of Kwanzaa is Kujichagulia (self-determination) and its practice is centered around naming yourself and defining your identity. By doing this naming and defining among community, your folk can then hold you accountable for the name you claimed. Self -determination has been especially important for PURPOSE because of who we are and who we support. We are committed to using language with minimal triggers which means sometimes we gotta make shit up. We gotta find or create or share/align ourselves with the words that embody our values and our vision even if they don’t fit common narratives, especially common narratives around business. After all, we are an anti-capitalist institution, so the ways most folks do business ain’t always the way that we choose. These words are just a few that we’ve been able to define clearly as we continue our self-determination. This list will continue to grow and shift because we know our journey has only begun.
Sojourners – creatives, organizers, and institutions who choose to invite PURPOSE Productions on the journey of developing their project, work, programs, etc
Liberation Levels – the framework PURPOSE Productions uses to define our team roles. These roles are not hierarchical and an individual may be living multiple roles at once. This framework was established to clarify how each team member interacts with sojourners and to name the expected lifestyle integration of PURPOSE’s values and practices.
Supporter – a PURPOSE Productions team member with limited capacity and/or developing skills. They understand and appreciate the PURPOSE value system, but cannot commit to project support consistently.
Worker – a PURPOSE Productions team member who is in the process of integrating PURPOSE value system into their lifestyle, finding the ways in which their own values align, connect, and intersect. Their skillset often varies, but they generally support projects from a more behind-the-scenes position working in collaboration with Organizers and Leaders to activate a sojourner’s vision.
Organizer – a PURPOSE Productions team member who is deeply invested in integrating the PURPOSE lifestyle. They hold, organize, and strategize spaces that are rooted in PURPOSE’s values, which includes managing sojourner collaborations and guiding any fellow team members who are supporting a project. In both life and work, they continue to discover and rediscover the integration of languages and practices that mash-up PURPOSE and personal ways of being through relationships, facilitation, conversation, education, visioning, and strategic action.
Leading Organizer – an Organizer who also commits to supporting the development and thriving of PURPOSE Productions by fulfilling needs and roles that are beyond the capacity of Leaders
Leader – an Organizer whose primary responsibility is leading and managing PURPOSE Productions. This includes constantly dreaming, defining, and evaluating the value system, language, and practices and communicating shifts as needed. Leaders often do not have a direct relationship with every sojourner collaboration, but maintain an awareness and understanding of all the work that PURPOSE is doing.
Liberator – a current or former PURPOSE team member who carries PURPOSE’s values, language, and practices into work with other institutions, and shares these practices with explicit credit to the lineage of PURPOSE. They actively practice deep listening, vulnerable honesty, an anti-oppressive cultural consciousness, and accountability that is not rooted in guilt. They intentionally work in alignment with their value system, which may be rooted in Black feminism or womanism, and are always willing to shift in response to learnings.
Marketing – storytelling and documentation
Branding– PURPOSE Productions does not use the language of branding because of its historic relationship to slavery, ownership of property, and capitalism. Additionally, “the b word,” as we call it, is rarely clear or specific in its articulation. Therefore, we use language such as visual identity, mission, values, logo, core messaging, etc to articulate related concepts.
Resources – any asset that has been deemed collectively valuable. i.e. money, space, food, healing practice, child care, administrative skills, etc. Time is only a resource when it is activated by one of these assets.