Category: Events

Chicago Cultural Center Features Exhibition on African American Designers that Explore Art, Commerce and Politics of Race

A selection of materials from Charles Dawson: an advertisement for Slick Black, O Sing a New Song, plus Together for Victory by an unknown designer. (Composite: James Prinz Photography, Chicago)

by  via theguardian.com

The first known African American female cartoonist was Jackie Ormes, who not only penned cartoon strips throughout the 1940s and 1950s, but designed a black doll called the Patty-Jo doll, which was released in 1947.

The Patty-Jo doll by Jackie Ormes. (Photograph: Courtesy of Nancy Goldstein)

Patty-Jo, a precursor to Barbie, which came in 1959, was based on a cartoon strip character of the same name, had an extensive wardrobe with preppy shoes, winter coats and ball gowns – and had the brains to go with it.

In a cartoon strip from 1948, Patty-Jo asks a white woman: “How’s about getting our rich Uncle Sam to put good public schools all over so we can be trained fit for any college?”

The doll is on view in a new exhibition in Chicago, African American Designers in Chicago: Art, Commerce and the Politics of Race, at the Chicago Cultural Center. Featuring more than 50 design works, it highlights prominent black figures who worked between 1900 and 1980 in graphic design, editorial and product design, billboard ads, and created the first black-founded ad agency.

The seeds of the exhibit were planted in the 1990s, when University of Illinois professor Victor Margolin started to explore a gap in the history of American design.

“Margolin was one of the first scholars who asked why there has been a lack of scholarship on African American designers,” said the exhibition curator Daniel Schulman. “He went into the field and interviewed 25 designers who were active from 1930s to 1980s, many of which are in the exhibit.”

With a focus exclusively on Chicago designers, it highlights artists who shaped the look of black publications like the Chicago Defender and the Johnson publishing house, founded in 1942 by African American business mogul John H. Johnson, which founded Jet and Ebony magazines alongside the now-defunct Black World, Ebony Man and Black Stars.

“Our thesis is that Chicago is a special center for design for African Americans because it was one of the major sites in the north they came to from the rural south in mid-20th century,” said Schulman. “It has a large, vibrant and politically powerful design community.”

Among the works in the exhibit is an original Patty-Jo doll designed and produced by Ormes, who was a cartoonist for the Pittsburgh Courier, though she lived in Chicago. The doll, in a yellow dress, was highly coveted by African American girls, though it was so expensive, parents had to pay in instalments.

“The doll was noteworthy for its quality. Its facial features were hand-painted and designed from life-like materials,” said Schulman. “It was a role model for any child.”

It ties into the cartoons Ormes built around the Patty-Jo character. “She was a beautiful fictional character who was known for making witty, astute remarks about the world around African American middle-class people in the 1940s and 1950s,” said Schulman. “The doll was in production for 10 years, it had an extraordinary presence and power, and today, they’re collectibles holding an importance place in American doll-making.”

Among the other designers in the exhibit, there are advertisements by Charles C. Dawson, who designed the graphics promoting Slick Black, black hair color tins from the 1930. Dawson was also part of the New Negro art movement, which surfaced around the same time as the Harlem Renaissance black arts movement in New York.

In 1971, the first African American-owned advertising agency was co-founded by Emmett McBain and Thomas J. Burrell. Burrell McBain Advertising boasted clients such as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola.

“It was enormously important,” said Schulman. “It was one of first black-owned firms to land major national accounts like cigarette manufacturers and campaigns for companies that included African Americans in mainstream roles on TV and in magazines, which brought their image to a broader public. It was a new and powerful conception of black commercial, political and social power.”

A 1963 issue of Ebony, with Frederick Douglass on the cover. (Photograph: James Prinz Photography)

“Instead of having contemporary life portrayed with celebrities or ordinary people, this cover looks back on 100 years of the emancipation proclamation,” said Schulman. “It shows Ebony engaged with civil rights.”

Also on view is a comic called “Home Folks” by Jay Jackson, a cartoonist for the Chicago Defender who won several awards for his cartoons made during the second world war. A panel on view called Debt and Taxes shows one character complaining: “What do they mean ‘income tax’? It should be ‘outgo’ tax!”

“It’s a masterpiece,” said Schulman. “It shows young, middle-class African Americans in a wonderful mid-century modern interior talking about how expensive things are, the dream of prosperity that was commonplace as a selling technique in the 1950s, this mass consumer market and postwar prosperity. In popular media, you don’t always see African Americans taking part of a stream of plenty in the 1950s.”

But ambition aside, it was tough for African Americans to break into the advertising industry, not to mention navigating the office culture once they were there. “It’s really about working in a field with so few African Americans designers in it,” said Schulman. “There are images that show how frustrating it could be in such a tiny minority in this field – there is one image of Eugene Winslow in his office with commentary that shows he was unhappy being a supervisor of an all-white staff who did not appreciate having a black supervisor.”

Though this showcase of pre-digital design ends in the year 1980, it still is a triumph, especially considering many ephemeral pieces of graphic design from the past were lost.

“It’s not an encyclopedia, it’s an introduction,” said Schulman. “What we’re trying to demonstrate here is the lasting influence and effectiveness of the visual arts and design throughout the 20th century in Chicago.”

African American Designers in Chicago: Art, Commerce and the Politics of Raceis on display at the Chicago Cultural Center until March 3, 2019.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/nov/08/black-design-chicago-art-commerce-politics-race?CMP=share_btn_link

Dol Miles, Self-taught Pastry Chef in Alabama, Ranked Best in Nation by James Beard Foundation

Dolester Miles brushes egg wash onto an apple crostata in the kitchen of Bottega. (Rob Culpepper/For The Washington Post)

It’s just before 2 p.m., the end of a workday that began at 5:30 a.m. for Dolester Miles, a self-taught pastry chef who, in May, was named the best in the nation by the James Beard Foundation. Wearing a spotless white bib apron over an equally spotless chef coat, with sleeves neatly rolled above her elbows, she stands in the compact kitchen of Bottega restaurant, deftly smoothing a thin layer of whipped cream frosting on a towering, three-layer coconut pecan cake.

She flicks her offset spatula all the way around where the top and sides meet, employing rote precision born of three decades of experience to create a crisp, perfect edge. After she coats the cake with toasted coconut, it’s ready to be picked up by a patron waiting to pay $80 for it, plus tax. Anyone who has eaten that cake, which yields 14 slices, knows two things: that it’s worth every penny, and that the last crumb of it will be snatched up and savored like the last word of a great novel.

Miles, who goes by Dol, oversees a staff of four and the baking production of the four restaurants owned by chef Frank Stitt and his wife, Pardis, including their fine-dining flagship, Highlands Bar & Grill.

In addition to the coconut pecan cake, Miles’s fruit cobblers with flaky biscuit tops, her lemon tarts with swirls of caramelized meringue and her silken panna cottas are legendary in Birmingham. She handles with alacrity the array of Southern, Italian and French favorites found on the menus of the Stitts’ restaurants. A prep list 44 items long on the Thursday before Labor Day revealed the breadth of her work. Production included: chocolate pots de crème; citrus shortbreads; hamburger buns; pizza dough; buttermilk tarts; batches of ice creams, sauces, fig jam and frangipane (an almond-based tart filling); polenta cakes; and crème caramels.

Pear and Almond Tart (Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post/Food Styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post)

Miles was one of 20 semifinalists in the Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Pastry Chef category for five years running, and among its five finalists for the past three years. The awards gala at Chicago’s Lyric Opera House was a celebratory one for the Stitts, too. After being nominated for 10 consecutive years as the nation’s Outstanding Restaurant, Highlands won. The first time Miles was a finalist, she couldn’t believe it.

“I never really understood how the Beard thing goes, how you get nominated and all of that and, you know, from being down South, from Alabama! Most of them be from New York, California, Chicago — all those big places,” she said. “But to be nominated from all the way down here? That was amazing.” (Miles’s fellow 2018 finalists were from New Orleans, Minneapolis, Chicago and Los Angeles.)

Continue reading “Dol Miles, Self-taught Pastry Chef in Alabama, Ranked Best in Nation by James Beard Foundation”

Simone Biles Wins Record 4th All-Around Title at World Championships

Simone Biles competes in the Women’s All-Round Final during day eight of the 2018 FIG Artistic Gymnastics Championships at Aspire Dome on November 1, 2018 in Doha, Qatar. (photo via cnn.com)

by Jill Martin via cnn.com

Simone Biles has won the all-around title at the world championships for the fourth time, the most ever in women’s artistic gymnastics.

Biles, 21, uncharacteristically struggled in the competition Thursday in Doha, Qatar, just days after tweeting she’d put off having a kidney stone removed until after the competition.

But despite a fall on the vault, a fall on the balance beam and stepping out of bounds during her floor exercise routine, Biles still won by 1.693 points — the largest margin of victory of her four titles.

Fellow American Morgan Hurd took bronze, while Mai Murakami of Japan won silver.

In addition to the all-around, Biles, who returned to the sport this summer, led the US this week to team gold. She still can add to her medal haul in the individual vault, uneven bars, beam and floor events.

Source: https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/01/sport/simone-biles-wins-fourth-all-around-title-world-championships-gymnastics/index.html

Betye Saar, 92, Artist Who Helped Spark Black Women’s Movement Has “Betye Saar: Keepin’ It Clean” Exhibit Opening in NY on November 2

Betye Saar – “Supreme Quality” (Photograph: Kris Walters/Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles, CA)

by Nadja Sayej via theguardian.com

In 1972, a black cultural center in Berkeley, California, put out a call for artists to help create an exhibit themed around black heroes. One African American contemporary artist, Betye Saar, answered. She created an artwork from a “mammy” doll and armed it with a rifle.

Betye Saar (photo via dailybruin.com)

According to Angela Davis, a Black Panther activist, the piece by Saar, titled “The Liberation of Aunt Jemima,” sparked the black women’s movement. Now, the artist’s legacy is going on view in New York with “Betye Saar: Keepin’ It Clean,” an exhibit opening on November 2nd at the New York Historical Society, featuring 24 artworks made between 1997 and 2017 from her continuing series incorporating washboards. The exhibit runs until May 27, 2019.

“Saar says that it’s about keeping everything clean, keeping politics clean, keeping your life clean, your actions clean,” said Wendy Ikemoto, the society’s associate curator of American art. “She wants America to clean up its act and a lot of her art has to do with this idea that we haven’t cleaned up our act.”

Saar, 92, was born in Los Angeles and turned to making political art after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. “After his assassination in 1968, her work became explicitly political,” said Ikemoto. “That’s when she started collecting these racist, Jim Crow figurines and incorporated them in her assemblages.”

Betye Saar – “Dark Times” (Photograph: Robert Wedemeyer/Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles)

Saar was part of the black arts movement, the cultural – often literary – arm of the black power movement of the 1960s and 1970s; she was also among so-called second wave feminists. But she still found herself at a crossroads. “The black arts movement was male-dominated and the feminist movement was white-dominated,” Ikemoto said. “Being at the intersection of both movements, she became one of the most prominent black female artists for presenting strong, recognized women who are fighting off the legacy of slavery. I think it did open doors for other artists to follow.”

This traveling exhibit, from the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles, shows Saar’s consistent message through her washboard series. “Many of her works tackle the broad issue of revisioning derogatory stereotypes to agents of change, historical change and power,” said Ikemoto. “Many artworks feature descendants of Aunt Jemima and mammy figures armed to face the racist histories of our nation.”

The exhibit includes “Extreme Times Call for Extreme Heroines,” a washboard piece Saar made in 2017 that features a mammy doll holding a pair of guns. The washboards are used in lieu of canvases and are loaded with symbolism.

“The washboard becomes her frame for the art, it’s the star,” said Ikemoto. “It’s the structure of black labor and she is moving it from a space of invisibility to highlight it. She is also using this humble object of hard labor to subvert notions of fine art.”

Each washboard is like a puzzle to be decoded, filled with small details that reference American history. There are Black Panther fists, references to police brutality and phrases from the Harlem renaissance poet Langston Hughes.

There are also references to Memphis, the city where King was assassinated, and to the Congolese slaves who were killed under the Congo Free State. Some washboards include phrases such as “national racism”.

“It’s as if Saar is suggesting how racism is so entrenched in our nation that it has become a national brand,” said Ikemoto. “She takes something that is a sign of oppression and violence, something pejorative and derogatory, and transforms it into something revolutionary.”

Not all of the artworks are on washboards, however. One piece from 1997, “We Was Mostly ’Bout Survival,” is on an ironing board, emblazoned with an image of a British slave ship.

“I think this exhibition is essential right now,” said Ikemoto. “I hope it encourages dialogue about history and our nation today, the racial relations and problems we still need to confront in the 21st century.”

More: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/oct/30/betye-saar-art-exhibit-racism-new-york-historical-society

Columbia University’s Wallach Art Gallery Debuts “Posing Modernity,” an Exhibition on The Evolution of Black Women Models in Art

Frédéric Bazille – Young Woman with Peonies, 1870. (Photograph: National Gallery of Art/Image courtesy National Gallery of Art)

by  via theguardian.com

In 1863, the French artist Édouard Manet painted Olympia, a reclining nude prostitute, shedding a scandalous light on Parisian brothel culture. But while much of the attention has been on the white model in the painting, Victorine Meurent, the black model beside her, Laure, has been largely overlooked by art historians.

Curator Denise Murrell (photo via 92y.org)

“People have told me, ‘It’s not that I didn’t see the black maid in the painting, I just didn’t know what to say about her’,” said the curator Denise Murrell. “I always felt she is presented in a more stronger light than maids usually are, and I wondered what could be said about her, even though art history said very little.”

This one painting then sparked the exhibition which Murrell has curated, Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today, opening at Columbia University’s Wallach Art Gallery in New York on October 24th.

From photography to painting and sculpture, as well as film and print correspondence, this exhibit traces how the black figure has been key to the development of modern art over the past 150 years. Many of the artists here bring to light much of what art history has ignored.

“I’m looking for angles that are more relevant than just the standard narrative of the art world,” said Murrell. “I’m giving a number of different narratives that can be discussed around the black figure; there is a wider variety of black models, especially the black female figure, in broader, social roles.”

Henri Matisse, Dame à la robe blanche (Woman in white),1946. (Photograph: Courtesy of Des Moines Art Center)

Among the artists in the exhibit, there are works by Henri Matisse, including “Dame à la robe blanche (Woman in white),” from 1946, showing a black model in a white dress. The painting was made after the artist’s visit to Harlem in the 1930s, where he met local artists as part of the Harlem Renaissance, a black arts movement which celebrated African American culture.

Laura Wheeler Waring, one member of the group, was a painter who made portraits of African American civil rights figures, like author W.E.B. Du Bois and singer Marian Anderson.

“It shows the historical weight and significance of what Harlem artists were doing at the time,” said Murrell. “African American slavery or enslaved individuals were stereotyped and caricatured, and one thing Harlem Renaissance artists wanted to do was give dignity to black female figures, or to black figures, period.”

The other Harlem Renaissance painters in the exhibit include William H. Johnson, who captured the everyday lives of African Americans, whether it was groups of friends in urban settings to rural families, all of which tell “the critical story of modern portrayals of black figures”, said Murrell.

There are also works by Charles Alston, who was known locally for painting murals in Harlem hospitals, but was also recognized as a painter for his portraits of musicians, groups of cotton workers and family portraits. Alston is widely recognized for his bust of Martin Luther King Jr., which today sits in the White House. “He shows African Americans as the urban middle class,” said Murrell. “All aspects of life, high and low, are captured in his paintings.”

The more recent artworks in the exhibit, made over the past 50 years, are different from those, say, 100 years ago. “It’s more empowered because we now have a presence, artists of color,” she said. “You have black portraits by black artists, which broadens the range of artistic styles and strategies.”

Mickalene Thomas – Din, une très belle négresse, 2012. (Photograph: shootArt Mobile/Courtesy of the artist)

There are paintings by female artists such as Mickalene Thomas, who recently captured Cardi B for the cover of W Magazine’s art issue. In “Din, une très belle négresse,” from 2012, is a portrait of a black woman painted colorfully in retro garb.

“She takes 19th-century black women portrayals, but shows them in expressive ways, with rhinestones, afro wigs and a 1970s look,” said Murrell. “They’re women portrayed as sensual but in control of their sensuality, in a manner that shows a black woman who wants to be herself.

“And it’s not just black women, but women period, as sensual but in control of their sensuality and not just for the gaze of the presumed viewer, the white male,” adds Murrell, “You see that perspective unfolding to a more diverse group of artists and subjects of art.”

The exhibit features works by black female artists like Faith Ringgold, known for her quilts portraying black figures like Aunt Jemima, alongside Ellen Gallagher, who has cut up old advertisements of black women to offer her own perspective.

“You can see the evolution as the black figure comes closer to subjectivity, or agency, portrayed by women artists,” said Murrell, “or by showing black women in a way that’s closer to their own modes of self-representation.”

Though the black female figure in art has changed over the past 150 years, there is still progress to be made ahead. “There’s still an underrepresentation of black women artists, and black artists, in the contemporary art world,” said Murrell.

The exhibit is complete in one way, but incomplete in another. “I hope it gives a sense of history to the kind of art we look at today,” said Murrell. “There was a black presence in modern art, we see that in this show and I hope we start seeing more of it.”

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/oct/22/matisse-to-modernity-the-evolution-of-black-female-models-in-art

The National Museum of African American History and Culture Launches Inaugural Smithsonian African American Film Festival Oct. 24-27

Producer Quincy Jones, the subject of Netflix’s new documentary “Quincy,” will attend a screening of the film the festival. (Photo: Chris Pizzello/AP/Invision)

by Mikaela Lefrak via wamu.org

More than 80 movies by and about African Americans will be screened in D.C. next week as part of the inaugural Smithsonian’s African American Film Festival.

The four-day festival, which runs from Oct. 24 – 27, includes films ranging from Hollywood hits to experimental shorts. The event is organized by the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The festival’s goal is to introduce the breadth and depth of African American film to a wider audience, according to Kinshasha Holman Conwill, the museum’s deputy director.

“There’s something for the cinephile who knows film like that back of her or his hand, and there’s something for the person who’s just learning about African American film,” she said. “From the most popular to the most provocative, it is all here.”

Most of the screenings will take place in the museum’s Oprah Winfrey Theater, though the Freer|Sackler and National Gallery of Art will also host some screenings.

The festival kicks off on Wednesday night with Widows, a new film starring Viola Davis that doesn’t hit theaters until mid-November. The director, Steve McQueen, became the first black filmmaker to win an Academy Award for Best Picture for his 2013 film 12 Years A Slave. If you’re interested in attending the Widows screening, you’re unfortunately out of luck – it’s already sold out.

The festival will also give audiences the chance to see films from the museum’s extensive collection. These range from Garden, a five-minute experimental short from 2017, to Black Panthersa 1968 documentary about the Black Panther Party and its members’ fight to free their imprisoned co-founder Huey P. Newton.

And while the 2017 Marvel superhero movie Black Panther isn’t part of the lineup, attendees of the festival’s “Night at the Museum” celebration on Oct. 25 will be able to see the costume worn by actor Chadwick Boseman in the blockbuster film on display for the first time. The museum acquired the costume and other objects from the film earlier this year.

Netflix will stream its new documentary Quincy on Friday, Oct. 26. The film tells the story of the iconic music producer and singer Quincy Jones; it was co-produced by his daughter, the actress Rashida Jones. The titular Jones will speak on a panel following the screening.

If you’d rather talk than watch, you can attend one of the festival’s free Exchanges forums at the Freer|Sackler. Discussion topics include stop-motion animation and the museum’s home movie digitization project, Great Migration. Under that program, visitors can bring in home videos made on obsolete media (we’re talking eight-millimeter film and cassettes) and get them digitized and preserved.

“What it allows us to do,” said Rhea Combs, the museum’s film and photographer curator, “is tell the American story through the African American lens. Literally.”

The festival also builds upon work started by the D.C. Black Film Festival to highlight lesser-known black filmmakers and actors for the Washington audience. “We don’t ever want to be the all-consuming Smithsonian that comes into a community and takes over,” Conwill said of its role in the broader film festival ecosystem. The D.C. Black Film Festival celebrated its second event this year.

The African American Film Festival’s closing day features an awards ceremony for the juried film competition. Fifteen finalist films are competing in six different categories: Best Documentary Short, Best Narrative Short, Best Documentary Feature, Best Narrative Feature, Best Experimental & Animation, and the Audience Award.

The festival closes Saturday night with a screening of a film adaptation of James Baldwin’s 1974 novel, If Beale Street Could Talk.

You can buy tickets for specific films or events here, and see the full slate of screenings here. The festival is scheduled to recur every other year at the museum.

Source: https://wamu.org/story/18/10/18/expect-inaugural-african-american-film-festival/

Beyonce and Jay Z Help Raise Over $6 Million for Cancer Research at City Of Hope Charity Event

by Zoe Johnson via vibe.com

Apart from giving away more than $1 million dollars in scholarship funds to students across America, The Carters have been working overtime to raise more than $6 million dollars for the City Of Hope charity, Forbes reports.

The organization, which specializes in cancer treatment and research, held a gala earlier this week in Santa Monica, California. The power couple was in attendance to help raise money for the non-profit organization.

JAY-Z and Beyonce partnered with Warner/Chappell Publishing CEO and Chairman Jon Platt to combine their efforts to bring forth a well-rounded event with top-notch industry players. According to Forbes,  Dr. Dre, Tiffany Haddish, Usher, Quincy Jones, Wiz Khalifa, Timbaland, Kelly Rowland, and Rita Ora showed up in support of the event.

With more than 1,200 members of the entertainment industry present, Beyonce performed “Halo” and “Ave Maria” for the crowd.

The combined billionaires have greatly given back to their communities over their decades-long careers and constantly prove why they are considered the king and queen of hip-hop and evidently philanthropy.

If you would like to donate to City of Hope’s cancer research and treatment fund or find out more about the organization, click here.

Source: https://www.vibe.com/2018/10/beyonce-jay-z-city-of-hope-charity/

Colin Kaepernick, Dave Chappelle and Bryan Stevenson Are Among Those Honored With Harvard’s 2018 W.E.B. DuBois Medal

The Hutchins Center for African and African American Research honors eight distinguished people with the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal. Honorees include Colin Kaepernick, Dave Chappelle, Kenneth I. Chenault, Shirley Ann Jackson, Pamela J. Joyner, Florence C. Ladd, Bryan Stevenson, and Kehinde Wiley. (Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer)

by Jill Radsken via news.harvard.edu

With powerful, poignant speeches from presenters and honorees alike, this year’s W.E.B. Du Bois Medal awards felt more like a gospel church service-cum-rock concert than an academic award ceremony.

Athlete and social activist Colin Kaepernick set the tone before an exhilarated crowd that included some 150 local high school students, declaring that people in positions of privilege and power have a “responsibility” to speak up for the powerless.

“People live with this every single day and we expect them to thrive in situations where they’re just trying to survive,” said the NFL free agent who famously took a knee during pregame national anthems to protest racial injustice in America. “If we don’t, we become complicit. It is our duty to fight for them.”

Bryan Stevenson
Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, dedicated his award to the “people who did so much more with so much less.” (Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer)

Kaepernick was one of the eight laureates who received medals at Sanders Theatre on Thursday night. Others were comedian Dave Chappelle; writer and social critic Florence C. Ladd; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute President Shirley Ann Jackson; renowned artist Kehinde Wiley; General Catalyst chairman and CEO Kenneth I. Chenault; philanthropist and Avid Partners founder Pamela J. Joyner; and human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson.

The awards are bestowed by the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research for contributions to African and African-American history and culture. Ladd, the former director of the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe, donned her medal, then pumped her fist in the air and told the cheering crowd: “A takeaway must be protest, protest, protest.”

Chappelle and Joyner
Pamela J. Joyner and Dave Chappelle enjoy hearing parts of Chappelle’s famous skit “The Racial Draft” being recited by incoming Dean of Social Science Lawrence D. Bobo. (Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer)

Stevenson, M.P.P. ’85, J.D. ’85, L.L.D. ’15, who founded the Equal Justice Initiative, dedicated his award to “people who did so much more with so much less” and asked the audience to think of hope as “your superpower.” To the students, he made a more pointed request: “You’ve got to be willing to do uncomfortable things. You’ve got to be willing to do inconvenient things. Don’t ever think that your grades are a measure of your capacity.” Stevenson himself won a historic Supreme Court ruling that declared that mandatory sentences of life without parole for children 17 or younger are unconstitutional.

Moments of humor punctuated the call to resistance, particularly when presenter and incoming Dean of Social Science Lawrence D. Bobo recited parts of Chappelle’s famous skit “The Racial Draft.“ He called the comedian a “teller of uncomfortable truths.”

Chappelle, for his part, praised his parents, especially his mother, a professor of African-American studies. “She raised me well. I am not an uninformed person,” he said.

Chappelle said he was humbled to be on stage with his fellow honorees: “You all make me want to be better,” he said. He promised another comedy special and ended his speech with a quote from favorite writer James Baldwin’s book “The Fire Next Time.”

“God gave Noah the rainbow sign. No more water. The fire next time.”

Hutchins Center director Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher Jr. University Professor, reflected on the critical nature of the honorees’ work in the fight for racial and social justice.

“When we recall the dramatic progress we’ve made in this country’s struggle for civil rights, it’s tempting to remember only our long arc of progress. But we find ourselves in a new nadir in our country’s race relations,” he said, quoting Du Bois, the first African-American to earn a Ph.D. at Harvard.

“Agitation is a necessary evil to tell of the ills of the suffering. Without it, many a nation has been lulled to false security and preened itself with virtues it did not possess.”

To watch the full ceremony, click below:

Minnesota Finally Gets an African-American Museum Thanks to Co-Founders Tina Burnside and Coventry Cowens

Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery co-founders Tina Burnside, left, and Coventry Cowens. Above, the museum’s fourth-floor interior and some of its exhibits. (photo by Leila Navidi via startribune.com)

by Alicia Eler via startribune.com

A reproduction of a 19th-century purple dress with white lace collar is positioned on a stand, as if waiting for its owner to slide it on. A copy of the Green Book, an historic guide that helped steer travelers toward black-welcoming businesses, is gently perched under a glass case. Large panels explaining the history of African-Americans in Minnesota stand in front of floor-to-ceiling windows.

This isn’t a scene from the Minnesota History Center or even the Minneapolis Institute of Art. It is the new Minnesota African American Heritage Museum & Gallery in north Minneapolis.

Co-founded by civil rights attorney Tina Burnside and writer/education administrator Coventry Cowens, the museum addresses a long-standing gap in the Twin Cities. “Minnesota is one of the few states that does not have a museum dedicated to the African-American people in the state,” said Burnside.

For 30 years there have been repeated attempts to remedy that. Why has it taken so long? “I couldn’t tell you why,” she said. “Perhaps it’s a question for the people of Minnesota.”

The museum is entirely volunteer-run. At its soft opening Sept. 8, more than 200 people packed into the spacious fourth-floor gallery it shares with Copeland Art and Training Center in the new Thor Construction headquarters at Penn and Plymouth avenues N.

Like a mini-history center, it is similar to places like the Hennepin History Museum or the Somali Museum of Minnesota. Parking and admission are free.

The inaugural exhibition, “Unbreakable: Celebrating the Resilience of African Americans in Minnesota,” which runs through December, focuses on early settlers in the 1800s, black female heroes, the Great Migration from the South, and war veterans who fought abroad yet faced racism at home. Exhibitions will rotate every three to four months. The next one, opening in January, will focus on the civil rights movement in Minnesota before the 1960s, with a focus on the development of the NAACP in the Twin Cities and Duluth in the early 1900s.

While Chicago was a major destination on the Great Migration north, some continued on to Minnesota. A 2017 census report put the black share of Minnesota’s population at 6.5 percent, about half as much as Illinois. Continue reading “Minnesota Finally Gets an African-American Museum Thanks to Co-Founders Tina Burnside and Coventry Cowens”

Aretha Franklin Exhibit to Open at Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit

An exhibit dedicated to the life and legacy of Aretha Franklin will open this week at a Detroit museum. (photo via freep.com)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to rollingstone.com, an exhibit dedicated to the life and legacy of musical legend Aretha Franklin will open this week at Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

The estate-approved “Think: A Tribute to the Queen of Soul” arrives this Tuesday and will exhibit at the Wright Museum until January 21st, 2019. “This is an opportunity for people to come back and engage, reminisce and reflect,” Wright museum board member Kelly Major Green told the Detroit Free Press. “It’s the beginning of a much longer expression of who Aretha is.”

The exhibit will feature wardrobe, shoes, video displays and photos from Franklin’s decades-long career, including a copy of the first-ever recording Franklin released, a 1956 vinyl of “Never Grow Old” by “Aretha Franklin, Daughter of Rev. C.L. Franklin.”

The Charles H. Wright Museum previously hosted Franklin’s public viewing following the Queen of Soul’s death from pancreatic cancer at the age of 76. The “red, lace-trimmed ruffled suit and crimson satin pumps” that Franklin wore at the public viewing will display in the “Think” exhibit.

Over the exhibit’s four-month tenure at the museum, curators will rotate items in and out of display to “reflect the same ever-changing dynamics that marked the singer’s own life,” the Detroit Free Press writes.

The Franklin estate is also planning a long-term exhibit dedicated to the Queen of Soul housed at an undetermined location in 2020.

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