Category: Arts / Style

African American Heritage Commission of South Carolina Launches New ‘Green Book,’ Names State’s Top Black History Sites

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The African-American History Monument on grounds of Statehouse in Columbia, SC (photo via postandcourier.com)

by Adam Parker via postandcourier.com

Many — perhaps most — African Americans can trace family roots back to Charleston. About 40 percent of enslaved Africans brought to North America arrived on ships that docked in Charleston Harbor.

Slaves then were sold to plantation owners throughout the Antebellum South. During the “Great Migration,” about 6 million blacks moved from the South to the Northeast, Midwest and West between 1916 and 1970, chastened by the ghosts of their oppressed ancestors and motivated by the prospect of a better life.

On the cusp of the Civil War, the U.S. was home to 4 million slaves, 400,000 of whom lived in South Carolina. Their labor created enormous wealth for white rice and cotton planters, and it built whole cities, including Charleston.

Now, 50 years since the death of Martin Luther King Jr., the South Carolina African American Heritage Commission has named 10 top black history sites to visit in the state, including several associated with King and the civil rights movement. The commission also has compiled a much larger list of about 300 sites for its new online travel guide, Green Book of South Carolina (www.GreenBookofSC.com).

Dawn Dawson-House, an ex officio board member who works for the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, said the initiative is meant to raise awareness of black history and to assist the commission’s efforts to identify, preserve, mark and protect the state’s many sites connected to black history and heritage.

Black history sites abundant in Charleston

“In the past 24 years, more than 200 markers have been added to the official state markers program,” Dawson-House said. “When the commission started, there were only about 35 markers dedicated to black history.”

She said historical sites can be found throughout the state, and many local people know about the ones near them.

“No matter where you are in South Carolina, there is an important African-American heritage element or place to visit,” Dawson-House said. “But the entire story is not told collectively. It’s told in bits and pieces in everybody’s community. At the commission we’ve decided we have to pull together an entire portrait of this history.”

Michael Allen, a founding board member of the commission, said the Green Book — “a manifestation of out 24-year journey” meant to assist anyone interested in black history — is a reference to the Jim Crow-era guide that African Americans used when traveling through the South. The old guide provided information about black-owned businesses (gas stations, hotels, restaurants, hospitals) that were safe for black travelers during the period of legal segregation.

“When you went traveling some place, you cooked your food, packed your food, the food was in your car,” Allen said. “You planned visits according to where relatives lived, or drove straight to where you needed to be.”

The modern iteration of the Green Book, instead, is meant for everybody, Allen said. “We think this is a great opportunity to connect the community, the history, the legacy and the African American experience of South Carolinians and the traveling public,” he said. Continue reading “African American Heritage Commission of South Carolina Launches New ‘Green Book,’ Names State’s Top Black History Sites”

GBN Celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2018 With Closer Look at Memorial in D.C.

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by Lori Lakin Hutcherson, GBN Editor-in-Chief

In April of 2017, I had the good fortune to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture as part of a business trip. Once in Washington D.C. and at the National Mall, I was thrilled to learn that the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was only a ten-minute walk away, so after my work was done, I headed over. Photos don’t do it justice, but it is an awesome space, and one I’d encourage every American to visit it if ever in our nation’s capital.  It’s the quotes that strike you first – the aesthetic beauty of the words coming out of the granite, then the meaning, then the context of each one of them. Like the MLK we know publicly, it is equal parts solemn, potent, righteous and wise.

I’ve since read that the grounds of the Memorial, which opened to to the public on August 22, 2011, cover four acres and includes the Stone of Hope, a granite statue of Dr. King carved by sculptor Lei Yixin. The inspiration for the memorial design is a line from King’s “I Have A Dream” speech: “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”  In a word, it is formidable. MLK stands as a beacon of strength, hope and possibility, despite seemingly insurmountable challenges and inequity and injustice. Reflecting upon the man, his journey and his words is of course doable from anywhere in any space, but there is something incredibly special about being to do it where he is honored in the same area as other lauded architects of this country such as Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.

There are fourteen quotes around the memorial – above are photos of the ones that I was able to get clear photos of before it started getting dark on my day. Enjoy and Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!

Philadelphia Museum of Art Acquires Quilts, Sculptures, and Other Works by African American Artists from the South

Thornton Dial’s “The Old Water” (2004), one of the new acquisitions, (Estate of Thornton Dial/Artists Rights Society [ARS], New York.)  (STEPHEN PITKIN /PITKIN STUDIO/ART RESOURCE (AR), NEW YORK.

The museum also acquired a number of works from Dial’s friends and relatives, and 15 quilts made by several generations of women from Gee’s Bend, a rural Alabama community near Selma. The quilts and assemblages were part of the 1,200-work collection of the Atlanta-based Souls Grown Deep Foundation, an organization devoted to documenting, preserving, and promoting the work of self-taught African American artists from the Deep South.“I think it’s a spectacular addition to the collection and another piece to add to our growing holdings of work by self-taught artists,” Timothy Rub, head of the museum, said Wednesday.

“No Light on the Crosses” (1994). Lonnie Holley, American, born 1950. Wood, metal fencing, headlight, ceramic lamp, electrical cords, ice cream scooper, metal drain cover, wire, drill bit, rope, and drum head. (© Lonnie Holley/Artists Rights Society [ARS], New York. Philadelphia Museum of Art, museum purchase, and gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation from the William S. Arnett Collection, 2017. (RON LEE/THE SILVER FACTORY.)
Rub said the acquisition, a partial gift from Souls Grown Deep and partial purchase, “fills in … an important piece of the story of American art, broadly understood.”

Maxwell L. Anderson, president of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, said the acquisition fit with the organization’s overall strategy for gaining wider appreciation for the work of the artists. He noted that now “important works by African American artists who represent a distinctive voice in contemporary art are represented in [the Art Museum’s] permanent collection.”

“Partnering with the PMA and a growing number of other museums will ensure that the work and history of these artists is accessible to a broad audience,” said Anderson.

Ann Percy, the museum’s curator of drawings, said the museum considered the works to be representative of a “huge part of American art.” “But we didn’t have any,” she said, referring to pieces by self-taught or outsider African American artists from the Deep South. “We think it’s an important aspect of American art that we didn’t have represented in the collection.”

Thornton Dial, who died two years ago, was first inspired as a teenager by the “yard art” displayed on lawns throughout the area. He began constructing sculptural assemblages out of whatever he could find, strongly motivated to express his ideas and feelings about history, slavery, racism, politics, war, spiritual matters, economic dislocation, and homelessness.

The three Dial assemblages acquired by the museum – The Last Day of Martin Luther King (1992), High and Wide (Carrying the Rats to the Man) (2002), and The Old Water (2004) – combine found materials such as steel, tin, wood, carpet, barbed wire, upholstery, driftwood, goat hides, metal pans, broken glass, a stuffed-animal backpack, mop cords, and a broom.

Dial’s assemblages, and the two assemblages each by Lonnie Holley and Ronald Lockett, plus one piece by Hawkins Bolden and another by sculptor Bessie Harvey, provide ample evidence of the “profound subjects” at the heart of the work by these artists.

Housetop Quilt: Fractured Medallion Variation, c. 1955. Delia Bennett, American, 1892 1976. Cotton, 79 inches × 79 inches. (© Estate of Delia Bennett/Artists Rights Society [ARS], New York. Philadelphia Museum of Art, museum purchase, and gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation from the William S. Arnett Collection, 2017). (STEPHEN PITKIN/PITKIN STUDIO/ART RESOURCE (AR), NEW YORK.

The celebrated quilt makers of Gee’s Bend have been practicing the art since the 19th century. They have became known in the 21st century as the result of two major traveling exhibitions: “The Quilts of Gee’s Bend,” in 2002, and “Gee’s Bend, the Architecture of the Quilt,” which visitors to the art museum enthused over in 2008.

Work by Mary Lee Bendolph and her daughter Louisiana P. Bendolph is contained within the acquisition. Quilt makers now represented in the collection are Delia Bennett, Nellie May Abrams, Annie E. Pettway, Henrietta Pettway, Loretta Pettway, Martha Jane Pettway, Sue Willie Seltzer, Andrea P. Williams, Irene Williams, Magdalene Wilson (1898-2001), and Nettie Young. The 15 quilts were made between 1930 and 2005. Rub said the works will be on display in the near future.

Source: http://www.philly.com/philly/entertainment/arts/philadelphia-museum-of-art-acquires-quilts-sculptures-and-other-outsider-works-by-african-american-artists-from-the-south-20180110.html

Jordan Peele’s ‘Get Out’ Wins Two Critics’ Choice Awards; Sterling K. Brown and RuPaul win in TV Categories

Daniel Kaluyaa, Lil Rel Howery and Jordan Peele at 2018 Critics Choice Awards (photo: Getty Images)

by Cortney Wills via thegrio.com

The 23rd Annual Critics’ Choice Awards went down in Los Angeles on Thursday evening. Jay Pharaoh presented the first award of the night for Best Comedy to The Big Sick after opening the show with a freestyle rapping skit alongside host, Olivia Munn.

Jordan Peele’s hit horror film, Get Out won the award for Best Screenplay. The film also won Best Sci-Fi or Horror Movie.

TheGrio caught up with one of the film’s stars on the red carpet and he had a lot to say about the provocative project.

Lil Rey Howery, admitted he was pleasantly surprised by the world’s reaction to Peele’s groundbreaking film, Get Out.

“It’s surreal. When I read the script I looked at Jordan and said, ‘Are they really gonna let you do this, brother? I’m in!’ It’s really dope. I’m really proud of Jordan for taking his time. It took him eight years to write it. He’s the only one who could execute what was in his brain,” he said before revealing that his character, Officer Rod Williams, was written just for him.

“So many experiences in the movie felt like experiences I have had before. It’s just genius. He wrote the character in my voice and I knew it. It sounded just like me.”

Aside from Peele being honored for Get Out, there were only a few people of color who came out on top.

Sterling K. Brown took home the award for Best Actor in a Drama Series for his role in This Is Us. 

During his acceptance speech, he joked about the crowd not being able to tell that he was blushing before revealing one of the reasons he’s so grateful to work on the hit NBC series.

“I speak on behalf of my show that’s not the darkest, or the sexiest, but we have a lot of heart,” he said. “And in some dark times right now, it’s nice to be a part of something that reminds us that we’re all in this thing called life together.”

RuPaul won Best Reality Show Host for RuPaul’s Drag Race, rounding out the short list of African American winners for the night.

Source: https://thegrio.com/2018/01/12/jordan-peeles-get-out-wins-best-original-screenplay-at-critics-choice-awards/

 

FASHION: Entrepreneur Ayanna Smith Creates #AskMe Tees to Encourage Thoughtful Conversation

#AskMe Tees Creator Ayanna Smith (Photo courtesy Ayanna Smith)

#AskMe Tees are the brainchild of Washington D.C. entrepreneur Ayanna Smith. Ayanna has created a timely remix of the slogan tee – and we love it! These T-shirts encourage people, friends and strangers alike, to talk to each other by offering intriguing questions as conversation starters.

It’s a clever concept. #AskMe Tees promote listening and discussion in an age where it has become increasingly common for people to dismiss each other or make unfounded assumptions. The #AskMe Tees (and other #AskMe accessories) are emblazoned with light-hearted questions such as #AskMe who made the potato salad and #AskMe about my superpowers to other more provocative and socially-conscious questions like #AskMe Why Black Lives Matter, #AskMe why I voted for him, and #AskMe about autism… don’t assume. Whichever #AskMe Tee you choose, remember to be ready for a conversation!

You can find the entire collection here: https://askmetees.com To find out more about the #AskMe Tee mission: https://askmetees.com/pages/about

Ayanna Smith is also the founder of The Escape Lounge in Washington DC https://escapeloungedc.com and Ridlz (an escape game app launching next month. http://www.ridlz.com)

by Lesa Lakin, GBN Lifestyle Editor | follow me @whaatzgood

R.I.P. Don Hogan Charles, 79, Lauded Photographer of Civil Rights Era

The photographer Don Hogan Charles in New York in the late 1960s. Among his better-known photographs was one taken in 1964 of Malcolm X holding a rifle as he peered out the window of his Queens home. (Photo Credit: The New York Times)

by  via nytimes.com

Don Hogan Charles, who was the first black photographer to be hired by The New York Times, and who drew acclaim for his evocative shots of the civil rights movement and everyday life in New York, died on Dec. 15 in East Harlem. He was 79.

His niece Cherylann O’Garro, who announced the death, said his family did not yet know the cause.

In more than four decades at The Times, Mr. Charles photographed a wide range of subjects, from local hangouts to celebrities to fashion to the United Nations. But he may be best remembered for the work that earned him early acclaim: his photographs of key moments and figures of the civil rights era.

In 1964, he took a now-famous photograph, for Ebony magazine, of Malcolm X holding a rifle as he peered out of the window of his Queens home. In 1968, for The Times, he photographed Coretta Scott King, her gaze fixed in the distance, at the funeral of her husband, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Mr. Charles resisted being racially pigeonholed but also considered it a duty to cover the movement, said Chester Higgins, who joined The Times in 1975 as one of its few other black photographers.

“He felt that his responsibility was to get the story right, that the white reporters and white photographers were very limited,” Mr. Higgins, who retired in 2015, said in a telephone interview.

Even in New York, historically black neighborhoods like Harlem, where Mr. Charles lived, were often covered with little nuance, said James Estrin, a longtime staff photographer for The Times and an editor of the photojournalism blog Lens. But Mr. Charles, through his photography, provided readers a fuller portrait of life throughout those parts of the city, Mr. Estrin said.

“Few people on staff had the slightest idea what a large amount of New York was like,” he added. “He brought this reservoir of knowledge and experience of New York City.”

Malcolm X (Credit: Don Hogan Charles)

Exacting and deeply private, Mr. Charles came off as standoffish to some. But to others, especially many women, he was a supportive mentor.

“He’s going to give you the bear attitude, but if you look past that he was something else,” said Michelle Agins, who met Mr. Charles while she was a freelance photographer in Chicago and he was working in The Times’s bureau there.

The two reconnected when she joined The Times as a staff photographer in 1989.

“When you’re a new kid at The New York Times and you needed a big brother, he was all of that,” she said. “He was definitely the guy to have on your team. He wouldn’t let other people bully you.”

Mr. Charles took Ms. Agins under his wing, and she was not alone. “I’ve had many women photographers tell me that he stood up for them,” Mr. Estrin said.

That may be because Mr. Charles knew the hardships that came with belonging to a group that was underrepresented in the workplace.

At one Thanksgiving dinner decades ago, Ms. O’Garro said, he tearfully described the pain he felt on arriving at a New York City store for an assignment, only to be asked to come in through a back entrance. She added that while covering the civil rights movement in the South, he would often check the tailpipe of his vehicle for explosives.

Despite those obstacles, Mr. Charles went on to have a long career at The Times, covering subjects including celebrities like John Lennon and Muhammad Ali and New York institutions like the United Nations. In 1996, four of his photographs were included in an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art on a century of photography from The Times.

Daniel James Charles (he later went by Donald or Don) was born in New York City on Sept. 9, 1938. His parents, James Charles and the former Elizabeth Ann Hogan, were immigrants from the Caribbean, Ms. O’Garro said.

After graduating from George Washington High School in Manhattan, he enrolled at the City College of New York as an engineering student before dropping out to pursue photography, although at the time it was just a hobby. He worked as a freelance photographer before joining The Times in 1964. He retired in 2007.

Mr. Charles never married and had no children. No immediate family members survive, though he was close with his three nieces and one nephew.

To read full, original article, go to: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/25/obituaries/don-hogan-charles-dead.html?_r=0

Memphis Removes Two Confederate Statues Ahead of 50th Anniversary of MLK Assassination

(photo: WREG.com)

via thegrio.com

On Wednesday night, the city of Memphis got rid of two Confederate statues, including a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. The first of the statues to be removed was of Confederate Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, a slave trader and a founder and “Grand Wizard” of the Ku Klux Klan, followed by the statue of Davis.

As police surrounded the scene with lights flashing, a jubilant crowd sang farewell to the statues: “Na na na na, na na na na, hey, hey, goodbye.”

Memphis is fast approaching the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. With that somber anniversary hanging over their heads, Memphis politicians suddenly lit a fire under their desire to get rid of the reminders of the Confederacy.

But the problem was the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act of 2016. That act prevented the removal of statues on public property without two-thirds of the board of the commission expressing their approval.

But facing the prospect of thousands of people coming to the city to celebrate MLK and finding Confederate statues there, the city worked around that law.

The kicker was the fact that statues “on public property” were affected by the law. On Wednesday, then, the city council let the mayor sell the parks to Memphis Greenspace Inc., a private nonprofit set up by Shelby County Commissioner Van Turner and others. Hours later, the statues, now on private property, were removed.

To read more, go to: https://thegrio.com/2017/12/21/memphis-removes-confederate-statues/