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CityArtist Natasha Marin’s “Red Lineage”

Natasha Marin dropped many gems of wisdom throughout our Sunday brunch meeting, including, “In Seattle, you never know who you’re talking to until they tell you.” It’s true – I’ve noticed that people have projects they’re working on, intricate personal backstories, and love squashing any preconceived notions one may have of them.

1961359_10203164832823982_987742790_nI already knew that Marin had received a CityArtist 2014 grant from the Office of Arts & Culture for her  Red Lineage project. Some of the things I got to learn were all about the background of the Red Lineage, a recurring Midnight Tea ceremony, and how passionate Marin is for all the projects she’s a part of, including, of course, the Red Lineage project.

Red Lineage is a poetry framework that is accessible, yet challenging; simple, but telling.  It creates different ways to describe oneself, by exploring our relationships to family through metaphor. Describing oneself can be monotonous (My name is . . . my job is . . . ) but using the Red Lineage provides a new lens to think of why you are the way you are, or where you came from in a figurative sense. Red Lineages have been created in different languages, Marin explained. Her 9-year-old daughter, Roman O’Brien, translated her own Red Lineage into Mandarin and memorized it. Oh, that’s another thing about the Red Lineage, it’s an all-ages activity that can succeed when created by young or old, people who have a rich history of genealogy, people who know nothing about their ancestors, even those who cannot read or write can create and perform their Red Lineage orally. Bloodlines often can’t trace back forever, so the Red Lineage gives us the opportunity to create our own. Here is an example of a Red Lineage, by (Marin’s daughter) Roman O’Brien:

My name is Empire Red.

My mother’s name is Luminous Red.

My father’s name is Ambidextrous Red.

He has two names—I call him Mammoth Red to his face, and Juvenile Red behind his back.

I come from people known for being in charge, who do not like to be told what to do.

Remember me.

Watch a compliation of other people’s Red Lineages:

Want to make your own Red Lineage? Come to the Red Lineage Community Workshop on April 26, at the Northwest African American Museum. Register at for a workshop with local writing stars, Anastacia Tolbert and Harold Taw. The workshop will run from 2 – 5 p.m. on Saturday and will include performances, multimedia art, and photography.Red Lineage Wksp Flyer










This is the first Red Lineage workshop that is FREE and open to the entire community but this interactive poem has been shared and presented locally and internationally as part of Miko Kuro’s Midnight Tea, a collaborative art ritual that explores the idea of Genuine Encounter. Find out more about Natasha Marin on her website:

The CityArtist program supports the development and presentation of work by independent Seattle-based artists. The Office of Arts & Culture will post/share stories about the CityArtist’s works in-progress based on interviews and site visits by staff members Annie Holden and Irene Gómez. Learn more about the CityArtist grant here, and read more CityArtist stories here.