democracy, art, equality and illumination The Nantucket Project in HUBweek 2017

While the assemblage of most domes and containers was still in progress, HUBweek 2017 kicked off on City Hall Plaza with the Nantucket Project on Wednesday night.

Workers are setting up containers, venues for exhibitions and activities during HUBweek 2017, on City Hall Plaza in Boston on Oct. 11, 2017.
Half-constructed containers stood on City Hall Plaza in Boston on Oct. 11, 2017.

Two domes—the lounge and the Green Dome—were open for the Nantucket Project. The lounge opened at around 6 p.m., and was soon packed with attendees of various ages and dress codes. The din of conversations overpowered music. Pizzas were gone before they could be brought to the table; the line for drinks looked exhausting.

The lounge served as a socializing space for attendees before the speakers' session began in the other dome.
Under bluish light, people gathered for pizzas, drinks and chats in the lounge.
As 7 p.m. drew near, the space between the lounge and the Green Dome bustled with conversing attendees.

Captain Thomas Farrell from the Boston Fire Department told the reporter that about 400 people registered for the event.

Not long after 7 p.m., the Green Dome opened. A center stage had been set up at one end of the dome beneath three connecting screens.

Inside the Green Dome, the audience are ready for the speakers.

"Across the country there are millions of techniques that are used to suppress the opportunities for people to participate in voting," said Lawrence Lessig, the outspoken Harvard law professor who gave the first speech that night.

Lawrence Lessig speaks about "reclaiming democracy" during the Nantucket Project in Boston on Oct. 11, 2017.

Lessig pointed out what he saw as the problem in the electoral college. "The votes of citizens are not equal," said Lessig. One voter in California, which has 40 million people and 55 electoral votes, counts only about a quarter of a voter in Wyoming, which has 3 electoral votes but only about half a million people, according to Lessig.

"This life [of politicians] as fundraisers creates a dependency on the funders, and these funders are a tiny, tiny fracture of the citizens," said Lessig about election funding coming from private sectors. Those who funded the election, according to Lessig, were much more powerful than most Americans. Because of the imbalance in power, "our citizens are unequal."

When speaking about identity politics, Lessig defined democracy as "the technology for working through difference" and "the technology for living with difference."

Towards the end of his speech, Lessig called for participation: “We need you to volunteer to go to war… a war for democracy as soldiers’ war. Not as republicans, [and] not as democrats, [but] as citizens first, as soldiers first.”

A blank canvas was set up before Shantell Martin went onto the stage.

"Why would you choose to be an artist when the system is set up not to value you, not to support you—a system that doesn’t give artists the tools or the keys to succeed?" questioned Shantell Martin, a British artist.

She talked about her path to being an artist, how she found inspiration in Japan after finishing school in England, and how she started drawing to music in clubs.

Drawing, according to Martin, was the way to discover and know oneself. “Right now I have no time to plan, I have no time to hesitate, I have no time to be insecure; I only have time to be myself,” said Martin.

She then started drawing on the canvas.

Shantell Martin draws as she gives her speech during the Nantucket Project in Boston on Oct. 11, 2017.

"We need to find ways to actually describe who we are at the core," said Martin on why people needed artists.

Shantell Martin talks about the value of art during during the Nantucket Project in Boston on Oct. 11, 2017.

“I imagine the future that no one else can imagine for me. I was extremely lucky that I found my gift in the form of a pen,” said Martin.

Neil Phillips, the co-founder and CEO of the Visible Men academy, spoke after the screening of a short film on African Americans' arduous journey to racial equality.

Here is what he said about racism in America:

"Regarding the end of racism in America, you are late. You are late because you didn’t know you were supposed to be here."

"You thought that racism would somehow magically just go away, maybe because of silly terms like post-racial, or maybe because your children start to listen to hip-hop music."

"I’m afraid of what my people would think of me when I say that we have to stop blaming our problems on other people, and just simply be better than we’ve been."

"We didn’t want to come, but now we are here...We’ll come next year, and say we can’t believe how far we’ve come."

Neil Phillips talks about racism and the Visible Men movement in the Nantucket Project in Boston, Oct. 11, 2017.

On his own mission, he said:

"I, a visible man, will gather all the brilliant visible men across our country."

"My job is to galvanize black men, visible men, to take control over our destinies. Full and complete control…that is my crusade."

"To mobilize, I don’t need your push…I do need you to care. I need you to root my success. But most of all, I need your love."

The short film, The Illumination, told stories about blindness.

Gordon Gund, a businessman from Cleveland and owner of Cleveland Cavaliers, was 30 when he went blind from a hereditary disease. After initial depression, he came to terms with blindness and, with the support of his wife Lulie Gund, started fighting back.

Yannick Duwé was eight years old when he enrolled in the clinical trial to cure blindness with genes. He is now 17 and able to see.

The therapy that cured Yannick Duwé was discovered by researchers funded by the Foundation Fighting Blindness, established by Gordon and Lulie Gund along with other families a year after Gordon went blind.

Gordon and Julie Gund speak about gene therapy and their experiences in the Nantucket Project in Boston on Oct. 11, 2017.

Gordon and Lulie Gund showed up on stage after the screening of The Illumination. Gordon told us that the therapy we saw in the film was waiting for FDA approval.

If the therapy was approved, said Gordon, "it will be the first ever gene therapy for inherited diseases in the United States."

Audiences applauded many times while Gordon and Lulie Gund were on stage.

A panel of FDA advisers endorsed the therapy on Thursday.

Wednesday's event at the HUBweek was one of the Nantucket Project's road shows. The host of the event told the audience that the Project was "about what matters the most." They would like to bring about conversations, which they see as becoming rarer in this digital age.

Their next road show will be in San Francisco on Oct. 16, 2017.


Yukun Zhang

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