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Meet Marjani & Everett Saunders

Today we’d like to introduce you to Marjani and Everett Saunders .

Marjani is a Choreographer/Performer/Educator/Community Organizer, born and raised in Pasadena, CA, though having lived in NYC for over 13yrs. Everett Saunders is a Composer/Sound Designer & Engineer/Educator/Community Organizer from Philadelphia, PA, and also lived in NYC for 7 yrs.

We met in Bedstuy Brooklyn (10 yrs ago) while Marjani was dancing for the Urban Bush Women Dance Company, having recently returned to the touring company from a devastating knee surgery. Everett was working at Apple.

Several years later Marjani grew more interested in growing her career as a choreographer. Though Everett’s career grew in IT his passion for making music and digital production was steadfast. It wasn’t until Marjani ‘s mentor, a close friend, and later collaborator (choreographer Nia Love) encouraged it, that Marjani and Everett collaborated on their first work- EGO.

8 years, 6 Projects, 3 Apartments, 1 Wedding, and 1 son later we decided to move to Pasadena, CA. With a relentless focus on maintaining bi-coastal residence (with family and deep roots in Philly and NYC), we acquired the loan on my mother’s first home (becoming new homeowners) and assumed leadership of the Alkebulan Cultural Center of Northwest Pasadena. This space became the opportunity to both contribute to and add to the cultural wealth and might of our community.

To carve out a special place for our son to grow and have his inherent excellence reflected and affirmed. To have a platform and home for our work as artists and generative beings. To hold a space for the artists both within and beyond our network.

As working artists, educators, and directors of the Alkebu-lan Cultural Center… and as parents, our schedules are quite full but deeply rewarding!

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Hardly. While we almost always arrive at a consensus, the journey is almost always bumpy. We often disagree not on the arrival point but the BEST way to get there.

It can be grueling. Fortunately, we don’t have to rely solely on ourselves to hold the vision of our family and our village. Both our families, and our village are invested in our collective health and prosperity. Even if it’s as simple as babysitting to give us a date nite, helping out mail out Thank You Cards or advice on potty training and forgiveness- our family and friends are an indelible part of our success.

Because both of our careers are so intertwined we also often struggle with Work/Life balance. At date nite, it’s a real struggle to have a conversation that isn’t problem-solving the hiccups of Alkebu-lan or our creative projects. I suppose we have much to learn in that arena.

Please tell us about Alkebulan Cultural Center.
Both Everett and I are known for our work as artists. I, Marjani, am a choreographer and dancer. My work and collaborations fall under the name Marjani Forte & Works. Everett is a composer and sound designer, working as himself Everett Saunders and through his Digital Media Company Flux Innovations. While we work together, we’ve both sustained hearty collaborations with other artists in our respective fields, including my partnership with Nia Love (as LOVE|FORTE) and Everett’s frequent collaboration on film and theatre composition with violinist Juliette Jones.

With support from a SURDNA Foundation Thriving Cultures Grant, I curated a three-month exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary African Diaspora Art in Brooklyn, NY titled being Here… in Memory, weaving the work of 4 distinct multi-media artists including a sound installation by Everett Saunders. All of the works were in conversation with my choreographic trilogy being Here… and LOVE|FORTÉ’s Memory Withholdings. The duration of this exhibit came right off the heels of the birth of our son. I am quite proud of what we’re able to pull off as new parents in these new roles as an installation artist and curator.

Our recent work Memoirs of a… Unicorn includes contributions from an extraordinary team of designers including Mac Arthur Genius Mimi Lien, media designer Meena Murugesan, lighting designer Tuce Yasak, and my Father, master carpenter and contractor Rick Forté. Unicorn, and continues to find new iterative developments across the nation with “next stage” support from the Maggie Allesee National Choreographic Center at FSU in Tallahassee, FL.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
Marjani: I would’ve majored in African American and Social Studies, alongside my Dance Major. As a younger student in college (having entered at only 15yrs) I was too practical about my college studies- assuming that a “Business” major would give me a helpful backup plan to my dance career. I wasn’t honest about the fact that for me, there truly was no backup plan… that anything and everything I wanted to do would come through dance, and therefore culture.

Everett: In terms of ACC, I would’ve built a team before walking in the door as Directors, and spent the first year merging that team with the people already working in the center. In my career, I would’ve started interning sooner. One of my first internships was with WAX Poetics well after school

Contact Info:

  • Website: www.alkebulanpasadena.com
  • Phone: 6267949570
  • Email: info@alkebulanpasadena.com/marjaniforte@gmail.com/evsaunders7@gmail.com

Image Credit:
Nehemoyia Young, Andreas Branch, Maria Baranova

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Ka-Ron B. Lehman

    August 6, 2018 at 20:31

    Wow! My heart is full from listening to the two of you. I remember you coming to Los Angeles High School for the Arts and talking to our lovely baby dance artists, and future stars. Marjoni is one of my LACHSA dancing daughters… “What a lovely rainbow in my cloud..”

    Thanks you for the amazing articulate conversation between the two of you.

    Ka-Ron Brown Lehman

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