Where Conflict Treads, (Re)Solutions Die

After many months of waging a concerted whisper campaign against Mattapan Cultural Arts Development (MCAD) and its subsidiary, the Mattapan Arts Council, Allentza Michel was apparently challenged to communicate her concerns to us.  Avoiding opportunities to meet with us directly, on March 13th she sent an email (re-published in full below) which simply presumes facts not in evidence and asserts conclusions that cannot be supported by the actual record.

Since Allentza has chosen to air her differences only through closed groups, online chats and private meetings (albeit with public officials), I am opting to address her through an open letter, precisely because there is no way for me to know how far she has cast her whispers.

First, I take exception to the frame Allentza has constructed around the narrative she’s spinning:  there is no ongoing “conflict” between us requiring some resolution; and there has never been a “partnership” between Mattapan Cultural Arts Development and Mattapan Open Streets/Open Studios (MOS2) that she now claims MCAD’s made a “decision to end.”  (Moreover, this is not the first time she’s gotten this twisted.)

Due to the synergy between Allentza’s purported project for Mattapan and our own, we have attempted to collaborate with her from time to time—none of which, worked to our benefit in the end.

While it is true that Allentza “invested many years, time, energy,” etc. towards launching an Open Studios in Mattapan, it’s also true that she joined a Mattapan Open Studios initiative already underway late in the summer of last year.

Marjorie Saintil-Belizaire–then out-going Boston A.I.R. assigned to the Mattahunt Community Center, had already decided to make a Mattapan Open Studios the capstone of her tenure there.  She’d been attending Boston Open Studios Coalition meetings, had reserved the October dates, and had rented the group site even before approaching us to seek support from the Mattapan Arts Council.

Our only ask of Marjorie at the time was that she alert Allentza, as a professional courtesy.  Given Allentza’s commitment to doing Mattapan Open Studios in the spring, we didn’t see it then (or now) as a conflict; and we were surprised, in fact, when Allentza expressed an interest in joining in our effort.

At no point then, did Allentza Michel claim to have a service mark or a brand interest in the name, “Mattapan Open Studios.”  No where in any of the MOS2 documents she’s forwarded to us over the years, has she ever indicated she has (or was seeking) a proprietary interest in the name, or even discussed some limited permission for us to use the name.  Only now—after the fact, does she raise objections, as if we wronged her somehow.  Echos of which only rebound to us now vis-a-vis whisper and innuendo.

Only now does Allentza assert, “When we were collaborating, I was open to sharing the use of the brand in connection with our collaboration…” (see full message–dated 113 Oct. 2018–below).   And we were supposed to know this, how?

Here and now—with the benefit of hindsight, perhaps everything she did to sabotage the collaboration along the way was tied to the one thing she didn’t want to say—i.e., that she objected our use of the name, “Mattapan Open Studios.”   Here and now, perhaps her resistance to incorporating a page on her website is explained.  In the end, we established an independent site for the Mattapan Open Studios group site to get the job done: we needed a way to promote the group site, register artists and vendors, collect fees, etc.; all of which we were initially prepared to run through MOS2.

And now that Allentza has spent months re-casting MCAD (and the Mattapan Arts Council, by extension) as a villain, she claims to have “respected” MCAD’s wish “to be totally absolved of any connection to [her] work.”   Still, the words, “in partnership with Mattapan Cultural Arts Development…” have yet to be removed from the MOS2 website to date.   Curious, no?

In June, 2016, I put the following request to Allentza, which I will reiterate when I reply directly to the message that prompted this post: “if you are (as you put it) ‘always having to defend MCAD,’ I am formally demanding that you cease & desist from doing so.  If you must say something to those who denigrate us, please encourage them to share their questions, comments, outrage, etc. with us–the people who can actually do something to address their concern(s).  It’s unfortunate that none of the efforts we have made, on your behalf, didn’t even earn us the (professional) courtesy of a face-to-face meeting on such an occasion.  This alone speaks volumes.” (Khan to Michel, 25 June 2016 via email.)

Here and now, perhaps that request fell on deaf ears as well.  It is clear that there’s only one party to this now open dispute who has been “defaming and disparaging” the other.  Facts really are stubborn things.

In any event, what follows was the first communication (unfiltered and unedited) we received from Allentza Michel since Mattapan Open Studios wrapped last October:

I am writing you in the hopes that we can reach a resolution to our conflict. For nearly the past four years I had been involved and a huge supporter to Mattapan Cultural Arts Development. I have said before that I do and continue to support your efforts, and stood by you to bring more arts and cultural engagement to Mattapan.

Having said that, as you know, I have invested many years, time, energy and personal resources towards launching and running the “Mattapan Open Studios.”  The name of the event (and the event itself) and the service mark is tied very closely to my mission, my efforts and many years of planning, which I first told you about in 2015. When we were collaborating, I was open to sharing the use of the brand in connection with our collaboration to bring more awareness to the Mattapan community.  Indeed, I am very much interested in supporting the overall goal of increasing the visibility of the vibrant community – a goal that I believe you all share, as well.

I have respected MCAD’s decision to end the partnership and wishes to be totally absolved of any connection to my work. At this point, it appears that we may be at an impasse on collaboration toward this goal.  I am hopeful that we can support each other’s initiatives in the future, and perhaps, at a later time collaborate together.  Until then, I respectfully make two requests:

(i) that you not use the service marked name “Mattapan Open Studios” as the name of any events that you sponsor and;

(ii) that you please refrain from defaming me or disparaging me or my work in the future.

This way we can both establish ourselves and our missions independently without interference from the other (with the hope of someday collaborating again) and co-exist peacefully to advance the Mattapan art community positively.

This has been an extremely difficult and hurtful experience for me and I would like to resolve any perceived differences amicably which I think will benefit all parties and the community as a whole.  I hope that in time we can all engage pleasantly with one another and possible work together in the future. Thank you for your understanding in this matter.”

Sincerely, Allentza Michel (dated 13 Mar 2018)

Enough said.

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