Details

Biography
Topics
Art & Politics
Education
Hip Hop
Immigration
Performance
Poetry/Spoken Word
Programs for High School Students
Racism/Racial Justice
Storytelling
U.S. History
White Privilege

Ariel Luckey is a nationally acclaimed poet, actor, and playwright whose community and performance work dances in the crossroads of education, art, and activism.

Born and raised in Oakland, California, Ariel was named a “Visionary” by the Utne Reader for the innovation and quality of his first solo show, Free Land: A Hip Hop Journey from the Streets of Oakland to The Wild Wild West, which explores the personal, political and spiritual cost of white privilege gained by the brutal mistreatment of Native Americans and the theft of their land. Free Land has toured across the country at over 50 theaters and universities.

In 2010, SpeakOut released a DVD of Free Land and published the accompanying Free Land Curriculum Guide, an arts-based model for social justice pedagogy written by Ariel.

Ariel has been a featured artist at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity, the Nuyorican Poets Café and Café Cantante in Havana, Cuba.  In 2009, Ariel was the Artist-in-Residence at June Jordan’s Poetry for the People at U.C. Berkeley and released a book of poetry and lyrics, Searching for White Folk Soul, currently in its third printing.

The Gerbode and Hewlett Foundations recently awarded Ariel a 2012 Playwright Commission to create and produce Amnesia, his new interdisciplinary play that reveals America’s forgotten immigrant roots and investigates the role of race at the border. Layering theater, poetry and a live score of klezmer and Mexican folk music remixes, Amnesia asks what happens when we forget who we are and where we come from, when public policy is based on historical amnesia.

Ariel sees his creative work in the world as an extension of his most precious and important work as father to his two sons.

Testimonials

"Ariel Luckey is one of those rare souls who can combine a passionate commitment to social justice with first-rate artistic sensibilities, creating in the process an experience for his audiences that is beyond merely moving: it is transformative. He also provides a shining example for those of us who are white and male, by challenging us all to be better allies in the fight for equity and true freedom."  

— Tim Wise, anti-racism author & activist  

"Free Land is a compelling and inspiring contribution to social justice and for dialog and reconciliation.”  

— Winona LaDuke, Anishinaabe author & environmental activist  

“Our students were blown away by the power and punch of Free Land… an intimate and honest, yet expansive and powerful performance piece… Free Land gives us a critical history lesson, an on-target hip hop performance, a story of growing up in white America, and the real truth behind the high price paid for Free Land.”
— Steve Chabon, Dean of Student Life, Drew High School, San Francisco

"Ariel brings a desperately needed understanding of inclusion and integration that radiates from the platform of diversity and history. My students were completely moved." 

— John Agnelli, Director Student Development and Campus Activities, PACE University, NY

“Free Land is insightful, personal, relevant, timely, educational and emotionally moving… I recommend it with the highest praise to any academic institution that wants to further the education of its students in an accessible and touching manner.”
— Professor Dana Lawton, Director of Dance, St. Mary's College, Moraga, CA

"Ariel Luckey models awareness, action, respect and joy in the work toward recognition, reconciliation, social justice and wholeness." 

— Peggy McIntosh, author of “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”

"Ariel ignites Amnesia with riveting stories of immigration and memory, drawing connections that span generations and crisscross borders. A gripping, exciting play not to be missed…” 

— Jeff Chang, Author of Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, Director of Institute for Diversity in the Arts, Stanford University

"Just letting you know how truly amazing and inspiring Ariel was! Our students and faculty were simply spellbound!"

— Yehudis Benhamou, Scheck Hillel Community School, North Miami Beach FL

“Ariel Luckey's performance at our school was one of the most powerful and important assemblies we have ever had...a call to arms for all of us to work for social justice.”

— Mal Singer, Community Service Learning Director, University High School, San Francisco

“Free Land does an extraordinary job communicating one of the most critical issues of the past to today’s audience. The history of land is important in understanding where we are today and the direction we are going as a global community. Free Land effectively articulates the truth… and is as phenomenal as it is thought provoking.”

— Rufus M. Spear, Former Chairman of the Cultural Commission, Northern Cheyenne Tribe

“Ariel Luckey's performance of "Free Land" is mesmerizing and brilliant, crystalizing United States history as has never before achieved.” 

— Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, PhD, Professor, Historian, Author

Speeches

 PERFORMANCES AND KEYNOTES 

Amnesia: A New Play about Race and Immigration
Layering theater, dance, spoken word and an original score inspired by Hip Hop, Klezmer and Mexican folk music, Amnesia tells the story of a young man who retraces his family’s migration from a small village in Eastern Europe through New York’s Lower East Side to Phoenix, Arizona, only to find that the violence his family fled cannot be so easily forgotten. The full production of Amnesia features a five-piece band playing violin, cello, accordion, trumpet, mandolin and percussion.


Amnesia Keynote: Immigration, Assimilation and White Privilege
How can a “country of immigrants” become anti-immigration? How does assimilation, racism and white privilege affect the national immigration debate? This dynamic keynote provides critical historical context, compelling personal stories and current information about the immigration crisis in the United States. Ariel Luckey presents a multi-media presentation that features infographics, videos, maps and live performance excerpts of his new play Amnesia. Luckey invites audiences to reflect on their own families’ migration stories, the current status of immigrants in their community and the complexities and impacts of national immigration policy and enforcement. This accessible, entertaining and thought provoking presentation asks what happens when we forget who we are and where we came from, when public policy is based on historical amnesia.


Free Land: A Hip Hop Journey From the Streets of Oakland to the Wild Wild West
Free Land is an unforgettable journey into the heart of American history. During an interview with his grandfather a young white man learns that their beloved family ranch was actually a Homestead, a free land grant from the government. Haunted by the past, he’s compelled to dig deeper into the history of the land, only to come face to face with the legacy of theft and genocide in the Wild Wild West.  Weaving poetry, dance, theater and hip hop music in a compelling performance, Free Land challenges us to take an unflinching look at the truth buried in the land beneath our feet.


Free Land Keynote: Race and Land in America
This provocative keynote starts with an excerpt of Free Land and then reveals the historical and political context in which Free Land occurs. In an articulate and accessible multi-media presentation, Ariel Luckey provides background information on the Homestead Act, post-Slavery Reconstruction programs and the Indian Wars, illustrating how racially discriminatory federal land policies in the 1860s directly established the patterns of land ownership present today. In addition, Luckey offers historical information about the specific location of the keynote address, be it a school campus, conference venue, or community center, challenging audience members to engage with the history of the very land on which they stand. Drawing on lessons from the past, Luckey raises critical questions for our present and future, calling on each of us to grapple with who we are, who we stand with, and what we stand for. This keynote masterfully synthesizes personal experience, family story and historical context to highlight the connections between race, class and land in America.


ID Check and the Ecology of Community Keynote
Mixing performance poetry, interactive exercises and live hip hop music in a multimedia presentation, Ariel Luckey invites his audiences to reflect on the dynamics of power and privilege in their personal lives and communities. Featuring his powerful poem ID Check, Luckey shares stories of heartbreaking injustice and inspiring alliance building that provide opportunities for critical dialogue and cultural capacity building.


The Art of Justice Keynote
In this creative keynote Ariel Luckey focuses on four successful arts-based models of social justice education: June Jordan’s Poetry for the People at U.C. Berkeley, the East Bay Institute for Urban Arts, Camp Winnarainbow and Destiny Arts Center. Learn how the East Bay Institute for Urban Arts performed original hip hop songs at rallies and community meetings in an environmental justice campaign to shut down a waste incinerator in East Oakland, and how Destiny Arts Center teaches violence prevention through martial arts, theater and dance. Sharing stories from Luckey’s personal experience working with each program, he highlights insights and best practices that can be applied to many artistic and educational contexts. Woven within the stories, Luckey performs and shares samples of the artwork produced by each of these extraordinary organizations.

All performances and keynotes can be modified to meet your specific needs.


 WORKSHOPS 

Amnesia: Immigration, Assimilation and White Privilege
Sweeping past the polarized rhetoric and hateful ideology prevalent in the national immigration debate, workshop participants will be invited to join an informed, nuanced dialogue about the complexities and impacts of immigration policies and enforcement. Through live performance excerpts of Ariel Luckey’s play Amnesia, small and large group discussions, interactive mapping exercises and a multimedia presentation, this dynamic workshop will provide critical historical context, compelling personal stories and up-to-date information about the ongoing immigration crisis in the United States. Participants will reflect on their own families’ migration stories, the current status of immigrants in their community and leadership opportunities for alliance-building and advocacy.


Free Land: Race and Place in America
Do you live on stolen Native American land? Did your ancestors Homestead? Do you know the history of the land you live on? Through live performance excerpts from Ariel Luckey’s play Free Land, small and large group discussions, interactive mapping exercises and a multimedia presentation, we will explore our family histories and cultural narratives about who we are, where we live and how we got here. Tracking our families’ footprints across the land and the history of U.S. colonialism and westward expansion, we will examine how they impact where we stand and who we stand with today. We will draw on the lessons and inspiration of our family stories to guide and inform our community activism and to build strategic alliances for social and environmental justice.


Poetry for People Power: The Pen, The Mic and The Movement
This powerful writing and performance workshop offers participants a unique opportunity to develop their voice through interactive writing exercises, group feedback and practice performances. Based on June Jordan’s celebrated Poetry for the People model, this workshop helps participants learn how to craft their poetry into articulate declarations of artistic and community empowerment.


Acting Out Change: Theatre of the Oppressed for Collective Liberation
Based on Brazilian educator and actor Augusto Boal’s Theater of the Oppressed world-renowned techniques, this workshop gets participants on their feet, moving around and engaging in dialogue about critical community issues. Starting with a series of games and activities, participants will gain skills in physical expression, reflection and group communication while developing a new theatrical vocabulary. Utilizing Image Theatre, Forum Theatre and Rainbow of Desire techniques, this workshop can build towards creating an ensemble performance piece that invites its audience to step on stage and participate in the acting/action for collective change.


ToxiCity and New World Water: Art and Organizing for Environmental Justice
Do you live in Toxic City? Are you drinking New World Water? From global warming to Katrina, water privatization to poverty, complex social and ecological currents boil within the world’s water issues. Through interactive games, music, discussions and activities, we will navigate the terrain of race, class, gender, water and health to take action and build alliances for social and environmental justice.

All workshops can be modified to meet your specific needs. Workshops can range from:

  • 50 minutes to 2.5 hours
  • Small to large groups
  • Junior High to University levels
Media