Tag: National Museum of African American History And Culture

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/

Oprah Winfrey to be Honored by The National Museum of African American History and Culture With Exclusive Exhibit Opening Friday

Oprah Winfrey at the National Museum of African American History and Culture (photo via cbsnews.com)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

Come Friday, we can all watch the seeds of the future, stand-alone Oprah Winfrey Museum be sown.

Opening June 8 and running through June 2019, the “Watching Oprah: The Oprah Winfrey Show and American Culture” exclusive exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture will, according to The Washington Post, feature video clips, interview segments, movie costumes, and personal photographs and journals to explore what has influenced Winfrey and how her work has shaped America.

“What’s interesting is the same way America thought about Walter Cronkite — you could trust Walter Cronkite and his opinion — they trust Oprah,” said museum director Lonnie G. Bunch III. “An African American woman becomes the person America turns to.”

Winfrey donated $12 million to the $540 million museum as it was being built, making her its largest individual benefactor (its theater is named in her honor). But her role as benefactor did not influence the exhibition, Bunch said. “We made sure there was a bright line, that this was done by the museum and museum scholars,” he said. “The fundraising was not through Oprah’s people.”

Curators Rhea L. Combs and Kathleen Kendrick worked with Winfrey and her staff on arranging loans for the exhibition and on fact-checking and background information. “In terms of content and narrative and the way the story is told, it’s the museum’s product,” Kendrick said. “The way we approached it was the way we approach all of our exhibitions.”

The exhibit balances Winfrey’s humble personal story with her achievements. “We’re providing a context for understanding not only who she is, but how she became a global figure, and how she is connected to broader stories and themes,” Kendrick said.

The first section of the show, which is in the Special Exhibitions gallery, explores Winfrey’s childhood and early career and how the cultural shifts of the 1950s and 1960s informed her worldview.

“Civil rights, the women’s movement, the media and television landscape, she’s at this distinct intersection of all of these dynamic moments,” Combs said. “She becomes someone at the forefront of dealing with ideas, of discussing hot-button topics like racism and sexual orientation.”

The middle section looks at the 25-year run of the “Oprah Winfrey Show,” the highest-rated talk show in U.S. television history. Using artifacts from Winfrey’s Harpo Studios in Chicago, where the show was filmed, this section focuses on its evolution, its variety of subject matter and guests, and its reach into social issues such as racism and equality.

“She used television as a social medium, convening conversations and creating these interactive experiences with people,” Kendrick said. “She’s offering lessons for living, social guidance in a way.”

The third section looks at Winfrey’s role as cultural influencer and tastemaker in the movies she has made (“The Color Purple,” “Beloved,” “The Butler”) the books she promoted in her television book club and her philanthropic work.

The timing of the high-profile exhibition was planned to coincide with the last quarter of the African American Museum’s second year, when officials expected a drop in attendance. Instead crowds are regularly at capacity and timed passes to enter are still required. Since opening Sept. 24, 2016, the museum has welcomed 3.8 million visitors, making it one of the most popular Washington D.C. attractions.

“I really thought after the first year it’d be business as usual, so at the end of the second year I’d do something to give it visibility,” Bunch said. “I didn’t anticipate we’d have the same crush of crowds.”

Bunch said he hopes the exhibition will encourage visitors to think about what Winfrey has represented over the years.

“There are so many issues, about women, power, media, body image,” he said. “This should be a popular show because of the impact of this person, but it is also a show that allows us to think about what it means that a woman who doesn’t fit the TV look could build a media empire and become an entrepreneur.”

Henrietta Lacks, “The Mother of Modern Science,” to be Honored with Painting by Kadir Nelson in National Portrait Gallery

Collection of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift from Kadir Nelson and the JKBN Group LLC. (image via nmaahc.si.edu)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to the Smithsonian Institute, next Tuesday, its National Portrait Gallery will recognize and honor the life of Henrietta Lacks with the installation of a 2017 portrait by Kadir Nelson on the museum’s presentation wall on the first floor. The portrait was jointly acquired by the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture as a gift from Nelson and the JKBN Group LLC, and will be shared by the two museums. The painting will be on display at the Portrait Gallery through Nov. 4.

Lacks, a mother of five, lost her life to cervical cancer at age 31. During her treatment, doctors took cells from her body and discovered they lived long lives and reproduced indefinitely in test tubes. These “immortal” HeLa cells have since contributed to over 10,000 medical patents, aiding research and benefiting patients with polio, AIDS, Parkinson’s disease and other conditions.

Considering the history of medical testing on African Americans without their permission, the fate of Lacks raised questions about ethics, privacy and racism. Rebecca Skloot’s 2010 best-selling book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, addressed those issues and later prompted Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions to adapt her story into a theatrical movie that first aired on HBO in 2017.

“It is fitting that Henrietta Lacks be honored at two Smithsonian museums, as each approaches American history from unique and complementary perspectives,” said Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery. “Lacks’ story presents moral and philosophical questions around issues of consent, racial inequalities, the role of women, medical research and privacy laws, providing rich platforms for historical understanding and public dialogue.”

“The National Museum of African American History and Culture has always felt that the story of Henrietta Lacks is a significant and important moment that deserved greater recognition,” said Lonnie Bunch, director of the museum.

Commissioned by HBO, Nelson used visual elements to convey Lacks’ legacy. The wallpaper features the “Flower of Life,” a symbol of immortality; the flowers on her dress recall images of cell structures; and two missing buttons allude to the cells taken from her body without permission.

Walk-Up Wednesdays: No Timed Passes Needed for National Museum of African American History and Culture on Wednesdays in May

The National Museum of African American History and Culture will relax its admission policy for five Wednesdays in May. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

via washingtonpost.com

The National Museum of African American History and Culture will continue its Walk-Up Wednesdays program and allow visitors without passes on the five Wednesdays in May.

Thousands more visitors gained entry to the popular Smithsonian museum on four Wednesdays last month, pushing officials to extend the program into May. April’s Walk-Up Wednesday crowds were larger than its Saturday crowds, typically the museum’s busiest day, according to Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas.

“Clearly it was successful,” St. Thomas said. “It allowed more visitors to enjoy the museum.”

There were 9,500 visitors on April 4, the middle of the busy Easter week, and about 8,900 the second Wednesday, April 11, St. Thomas said. The last two Wednesdays attracted 8,000 and 7,800 visitors, respectively. Those numbers exceeded visitor tallies on all four Saturdays in April, which averaged 6,825.

Visitor numbers also eclipsed Tuesday totals last month, which ranged from 4,500 and 7,000, St. Thomas said.

Since its opening Sept. 24, 2016, the newest Smithsonian museum has welcomed more than 3.5 million visitors. It has used timed passes to control crowd size and reduce lines. St. Thomas said officials were not yet considering eliminating all passes.

The museum has distributed thousands of free passes on the first Wednesday of each month — on May 2 it will distribute passes for August — but many are not used. About 3,000 visitors on each Wednesday in April had advance passes and were given priority entry, according to St. Thomas. No visitors were turned away.

In addition to advance passes, the museum distributes same-day passes online daily at 6:30 a.m. Walk-up admission is available after 1 p.m. weekdays, if capacity allows.

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2018/05/01/no-passes-needed-for-african-american-museum-on-wednesdays-in-may/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.532ebf68f753

American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault to Join Facebook, 1st African-American to Sit on FB’s Board of Directors

NEW YORK, NY: Kenneth I. Chenault speaks onstage at The New York Times 2017 DealBook Conference at Jazz at Lincoln Center on November 9, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Cohen/Getty Images for The New York Times)

by , via usatoday.com

SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook has named one of the nation’s most prominent black corporate leaders, American ExpressKenneth Chenault, to its board of directors.

The appointment, which gives the social media giant the guidance of a highly regarded finance executive and the first black director on its all-white board, was the culmination of years of recruitment efforts, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said. “I’ve been trying to recruit Ken for years. He has unique expertise in areas I believe Facebook needs to learn and improve — customer service, direct commerce, and building a trusted brand,”  Zuckerberg said in a statement. “Ken also has a strong sense of social mission and the perspective that comes from running an important public company for decades.”

Chenault announced in October that he would retire as chairman and CEO of American Express on Feb. 1, capping a 16-year run.

Chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg told the Congressional Black Caucus in October that the social media giant was in talks to bring aboard its first black board member but she did not disclose the person’s identity.

The striking lack of people of color in the executive suite and on the boards of Silicon Valley companies won’t come as a culture shock to Chenault, one of the longest-serving black CEOs of a major U.S. corporation and a veteran of an industry dominated by white men in its top management ranks. The appointment to the Facebook board, effective Feb. 5, comes after years of lobbying by civil rights leader Jesse Jackson to add people of color to the company’s directors.

Diversity remains a top challenge for Facebook and other Silicon Valley companies that are mostly staffed by white and Asian men. Top universities turn out black and Hispanic computer science and computer engineering graduates at twice the rate that leading technology companies hire them, USA TODAY research showed.

Minorities are also sharply underrepresented in non-technical jobs such as sales and administration, with African Americans faring noticeably worse than Hispanics, according to USA TODAY analysis of the employment records of Facebook, Google and Yahoo in 2014.

Women now make up 35% of Facebook’s global workforce, up from 33%, and hold 19% of technical roles, up from 17%, the Menlo Park, Calif. company said last year.

In the U.S., Facebook has brought aboard more people of color. Three percent of Facebook workers are African American, up from 2%, and 5% of them are Hispanic, up from 4%.

But Facebook fell short where the lack of diversity is most acute, in the proportion of African-American and Hispanic workers in technical roles, which has stayed flat at 1% and 3% respectively since 2014. The percentage of African Americans and Hispanics in senior leadership positions at Facebook has also remained largely unchanged.

Chenault was the second black Fortune 500 CEO to announce plans to step down in 2017, along with Xerox Corp.’s Ursula Burns. Less than 5% of the 200 largest U.S. companies are led by African Americans, according to a 2016 report from recruitment firm Spencer Stuart.

A graduate of Harvard Law School, Chenault, 66, has been with American Express since 1981. He serves on the boards of IBM, Procter & Gamble and non-profit groups including the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health. He’s also a philanthropist who took a lead role in raising money for the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

When Chenault announced he was stepping down from American Express, Warren Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is the largest AmEx shareholder, said in a statement that he was the “gold standard for corporate leadership and the benchmark that I measure others against.”

To read full article, go to: https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2018/01/18/facebook-names-american-express-ceo-kenneth-chenault-first-african-american-all-white-board/1043015001/

NFL QB and Activist Colin Kaepernick to have Memorabilia Featured at National Museum of African American History and Culture

Colin Kaepernick (photo via Getty Images)

by thegrio.com

The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) is already looking to include Colin Kaepernick in it halls. Director Lonnie Bunch reached out to sociologist Harry Edwards as the museum was being developed, and Edwards was part of the game-changers exhibit featuring famous black sports stars and their impact on the world. To that end, Edwards recently donated a collection of Kaepernick’s memorabilia to the museum, suggesting that they should put up an exhibit featuring Kaepernick sooner than later.

“I said, ‘Don’t wait 50 years to try to get some memorabilia and so forth on Kaepernick,’ ” Edwards told USA TODAY Sports. “ ‘Let me give you a game jersey, some shoes, a picture … And it should be put right there alongside Muhammad Ali. He’s this generation’s Ali.’ ”

Kaepernick was rocketed to nationwide attention when he decided to take a knee during he national anthem in protest of the state of race relations in the United States, a decision that prompted a wave of similar protests across the country.

To read more, go to: Colin Kaepernick memorabilia to be featured at the Smithsonian | theGrio

‘Loving’ Star Ruth Negga Lands Vogue Cover, Talks Being ‘Irish-Ethiopian’

Ruth Negga of "Loving" on January 2017 cover of Vogue (photo via vogue.com)
Ruth Negga of “Loving” on January 2017 cover of Vogue (photo via vogue.com)

article by Danielle James via blackamericaweb.com

Ruth Negga is the January 2017 cover model for Vogue Magazine. The Irish-Ethiopian actress is starring in Loving, a film directed by Jeff Nichols, about an interracial couple who desire to be married in 1958 Virginia. Loving is the first full-length film to be screened at the new National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Ruth delved to Vogue about growing up with interracial parents and losing her father at a young age. Ruth and her mother went to Ireland and was waiting for her father, but he died in Ethiopia in a car crash. She found out via a letter. “This was 1988. There wasn’t any grief counseling for kids.” Ruth admits to going to therapy in her early 30’s to deal with the loss of her father.

Ruth identifies as Irish-Ethiopian, adding, “I become very territorial about my identity because it’s been hijacked by so many people, with their own projections.” Deep and a struggle, many racially ambiguous women must address. Ruth explains, “I’m always very careful to say I’m Irish-Ethiopian because I feel Ethiopian and I look Ethiopian and I am Ethiopian. But there are 81 languages in Ethiopia, and I don’t know any of them.

To read more, go to: http://blackamericaweb.com/2016/12/09/loving-star-ruth-negga-covers-vogue-talks-being-irish-ethiopian/

Quiet Billionaire Robert Smith Makes Some Noise with $20 Million Gift to National African American Museum

In 2013, when the founders of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture were seeking donors, people directed them to one man: Robert F. Smith.

“We kept wondering, ‘Who is this Robert Smith?’ ” said Adrienne Brooks, director of development for the museum. Meeting Smith became a priority, said Lonnie G. Bunch III, the museum’s founding director. “We wanted to meet him. And soon,” Bunch said, laughing.

Soon many more people will know Robert Smith by name as the museum celebrates its grand opening this weekend. The private-equity financier was the museum’s second-biggest private donor, with a $20 million gift. Oprah Winfrey was No. 1, with $21 million.

Smith has built a fortune that’s made him one of the nation’s richest men — worth $2.5 billion, according to Forbes — but until now he has kept his work and philanthropy relatively quiet.

Even the website of his company, Vista Equity Partners, does not have a picture of him. Better, he had thought, that investors and executives know him first by his abilities. If they saw only the caramel skin of an African American, he might lose out on opportunities.

As Vista’s chairman and chief executive, he is in the business of buying, growing and selling off software companies. Vista’s portfolio has 35 companies with $26 billion in assets under management. He is the majority shareholder of Vista’s management company.

Beyond Wall Street and Silicon Valley, Smith long enjoyed moving in relative obscurity. That changed last fall when Forbes magazine put him on its cover, with an article for which he declined to be interviewed.

Now in an exclusive interview with The Washington Post, he’s ready to talk about his life’s work and the powerful social force that has pulled him out of the shadows: the racial tension escalating across the nation. Smith said he grew fearful that the very fabric of the country that allowed his parents to earn doctorate degrees and him to build a successful business is vulnerable.

Watching TV news, he saw the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., after the 2014 fatal shooting of an unarmed black youth, Michael Brown, by police. Last year he watched the turmoil following Freddie Gray’s funeral in Baltimore. Across the land, he feared, a sense of opportunity is giving way to rising hopelessness and despair.

“The vision I was sold as a kid is unraveling. I see the little tears in the fabric of society every day. This cannot be,” Smith said in the interview.

His philanthropic efforts go back years. Through the Fund II Foundation, of which he is the founding president, he has supported nonprofit groups that focus on African American culture, human rights, music education and the environment.

It was time to emerge, he thought, and do more. “We have to do something,” he said. “We have to do something for our community.”

To read full article, go to: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/who-is-this-robert-smith-a-quiet-billionaire-makes-some-noise-with-20-million-gift-to-the-african-american-museum/2016/09/23/547da3a8-6fd0-11e6-8365-b19e428a975e_story.html

Donations to National Museum of African American History and Culture to be Matched by Giving Day Sponsor Hyundai on 9/13 #GiveNMAAHC

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson, GBN Editor-in-Chief
by Lori Lakin Hutcherson, GBN Editor-in-Chief

In anticipation of its opening on September 24, the National Museum of African American History and Culture has launched a one-day giving campaign today, September 13th, to celebrate this momentous milestone for our nation and the African American community and to help ensure our future for all who follow.

We at GBN donated and signed up to aid this Giving Day effort, and will be posting and tweeting intermittently to help raise awareness and donations for NMAAHC.  If you’d also like to go beyond donating, you too can sign up to become a Giving Day Champion in celebration of a museum that tells a more complete story of America.

Simply click the link above to join and reach out to your network of friends and share the story of this amazing Museum. NMAAHC provides all the tools you need to spread the word about the Museum and this giving opportunity.

Thank you and let’s continue to share this amazing story of the African American experience with our nation and the world for generations to come.

To donate now, click here: https://givenmaahc.org/?utm_source=nmaahc.linkfast.com_donate_button&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=giveNMAAHC_2016_SF

FEATURE: How the Decades-Long Fight for a National African-American Museum Was Won

The museum, foreground, was designed by David Adjaye and sits on the National Mall near the Washington Monument, right. (MATT ROTH FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES)
The museum, foreground, was designed by David Adjaye and sits on the National Mall near the Washington Monument, right. (MATT ROTH FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES)

article by Graham Bowley via nytimes.com

Eleven years ago, Lonnie G. Bunch III was a museum director with no museum.  No land. No building. Not even a collection.

He had been appointed to lead the nascent National Museum of African American History and Culture. The concept had survived a bruising, racially charged congressional battle that stretched back decades and finally ended in 2003 when President George W. Bush authorized a national museum dedicated to the African-American experience.

Now all Mr. Bunch and a team of colleagues had to do was find an unprecedented number of private donors willing to finance a public museum. They had to secure hundreds of millions of additional dollars from a Congress, Republican controlled, that had long fought the project.

And they had to counter efforts to locate the museum not at the center of Washington’s cultural landscape on the National Mall, but several blocks offstage.  “I knew it was going to be hard, but not how hard it was going to be,” Mr. Bunch, 63, said in an interview last month.

Visitors to the $540 million building, designed to resemble a three-tiered crown, will encounter the sweeping history of black America from the Middle Passage of slavery to the achievements and complexities of modern black life.

But also compelling is the story of how the museum itself came to be through a combination of negotiation, diplomacy, persistence and cunning political instincts.  The strategy included an approach that framed the museum as an institution for all Americans, one that depicted the black experience, as Mr. Bunch often puts it, as “the quintessential American story” of measured progress and remarkable achievement after an ugly period of painful oppression.

The tactics included the appointment of Republicans like Laura Bush and Colin L. Powell to the museum’s board to broaden bipartisan support beyond Democratic constituencies, and there were critical efforts to shape the thinking of essential political leaders.

After Congress authorized the new museum, the Smithsonian's Board of Regents considered four possible locations before choosing a site on the National Mall near the Washington Monument. (Source: Smithsonian Institution. By Anjali Singhvi, The New York Times)
After Congress authorized the new museum, the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents considered four possible locations before choosing a site on the National Mall near the Washington Monument. (Source: Smithsonian Institution. By Anjali Singhvi, The New York Times)

Long before its building was complete, for example, the museum staged exhibitions off-site, some on the fraught topics it would confront, such as Thomas Jefferson’s deep involvement with slavery. A Virginia delegation of congressional members was brought through for an early tour of the Jefferson exhibition, which featured a statue of him in front of a semicircular wall marked with 612 names of people he had owned.  “I remember being very impacted,” said Eric Cantor, then the House Republican leader, who was part of the delegation.

Mr. Bunch said that he hoped the Jefferson exhibition pre-empted criticism by establishing the museum’s bold but balanced approach to difficult material. “Some people were like, ‘How dare you equate Jefferson with slavery,’” he recalled. “But it means that people are going to say, ‘Of course, that is what they have to do.’”

And the museum began an exceptional effort to raise money from black donors, not only celebrities, like Michael Jordan ($5 million) and Oprah Winfrey ($12 million), but also churches, sororities and fraternities, which, Mr. Bunch said, had never been asked for big donations before. Continue reading “FEATURE: How the Decades-Long Fight for a National African-American Museum Was Won”