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The Rainin Foundation Announces Its 2024 Fellows, Receiving $100,000 Each

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Ayodele Nzinga stands in front of a photo of herself, a part of the project Story Windows, at PianoFight theater in Oakland on July 19, 2021.
Ayodele Nzinga stands in front of a photo of herself, a part of the project Story Windows, at PianoFight theater in Oakland on July 19, 2021. ((Beth LaBerge/KQED))

The Kenneth Rainin Foundation announced its 2024 class of fellows on Wednesday, giving unrestricted grants of $100,000 each to three individual artists and one trio of creatives.

The list includes filmmaker Adrian L. Burrell, dancer Antoine Hunter, a.k.a. Purple Fire Crow, poet and thespian Ayodele ‘WordSlanger’ Nzinga, and the trio of Mike Arcega, Paolo Asuncion, and Rachel Lastimosa of the TNT Traysikel mobile art exhibition.

TNT Traysikel, a roaming sculpture that represents the Filipino-American community, parked in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.
TNT Traysikel, a roaming sculpture that represents the Filipino-American community, seen parked in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. (Mark Baugh-Sasaki)

When asked what it feels like to receive the award, Oakland Poet Laureate Ayodele Nzinga says: “Liberated… It affords me a tiny bit of security here in the Bay.”

A playwright and owner of the BAM House theatre, Nzinga has produced shows in Oakland for more than two decades. She founded the theatre company the Lower Bottom Playaz in 1999, and in 2021 was awarded the title of Oakland’s first Poet Laureate.

“I spent most of the time as Poet Laureate hoping that I could stay in Oakland for the term of laureatecy,” says Nzinga, adding that the ability to “root” both personally and professionally is her biggest takeaway from the grant.

Adrian L. Burrell. (Dondre Stutley )

Adrian L. Burrell echoes Nzinga’s plan to invest the funds into personal and professional development.


Burrell is a filmmaker, photographer and proud third-generation Oakland representative. He makes multimedia works comprised of his personal sojourns, family video archives and elements of Afrocentric spirituality. His work has received national acclaim; earlier this year, he was the recipient of TheGrio’s Emerging Filmmaker Fellowship.

But the Rainin Fellowship has special meaning to him. “It feels good to be supported by the soil,” Burrell says. As an independent artist, with no official gallery representation, he knows such recognition is rare.

“It’s been cool to be in a position where I can make my work and it touches people,” says Burrell, who will be at the Oakland Museum of California on May 4 for a Q&A about his book, Sugarcane & Lighting, and a screening of his short film, The Saints Step in Kongo Time. Burrell says support from local institutions is important: “That allows me to grow my practice, and continue to try to grow toward being a practicing sustainable artist.”

Antoine Hunter (Purple Fire Crow) poses for a photo while wearing a golden-brown cloth draped over his upper body.
Award-winning dancer Antoine ‘Purple Fire Crow’ Hunter. (Mark Kitoaka)

Sustainability, for self and community, are on the mind of dancer Antoine Hunter as he receives the fellowship. Hunter, also known as Purple Fire Crow, says when he learned about the award, he was hit with a mixture of emotion — joy and gratitude, as well as the “stress to stay the best human being I can be to support my community.” He was reminded, he says, of how there’s more work to do, as his goal is to open more doors for people to come after him.

An award winning-dancer and choreographer from Oakland, Hunter is Deaf and creates work for people living with disabilities. “This award is a milestone blessing that adds on the layer to the story of my career with the Urban Jazz Dance Company (UJDC),” Hunter writes in an email. He adds that the fellowship is a way of recognizing the challenges faced by members of the Deaf and Disabled communities who are working to overcome ableism, and that it will deepen the impact of his work in the Bay Area arts community — “particularly in advocating for Deaf (and) Disabled folks of many kinds of artists, and promoting inclusivity in dance.”

The TNT Traysikel trio and their three-wheeled vehicle.
The TNT Traysikel trio and their three-wheeled vehicle. (Alvin Dizon)

Mike Arcega of TNT Traysikel says the fellowship feels like validation for the group’s work. They created a vehicle that speaks to the culture of the Philippines and connects Filipino community members here in the Bay, and it’s paying off.

TNT Traysikel’s Rachel Lastimosa says the stipulation-free grant “signals that artists know what they’re doing, and that they know how to get the job done.” She adds that “the job” isn’t always about producing. “There’s more parts to being an artist that are very human — like housing, healthcare, childcare for example — that contribute to the work we do,” says Lastimosa. “It’s validating to get this sense of self-determination.” 

Paolo Asuncion, the third member of TNT Traysikel, says the group plans on taking their vehicle on the road, connecting with Filipino communities in Stockton, Morro Bay and as far as Bayou St. Malo in Louisiana.

“The plan is to ride TNT across the states,” Asuncion says, “to collect stories from all of these people and to spread the joy outward from San Francisco Bay.”

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