(l tor: Farai Chideya, Renee Cox, Malcolm Gillian, Tamar-Kali, J. Holtham)
You’ll probably recall that we mentioned a festival that we’re launching in October. Things are coming along nicely. In fact, the official kickoff event is a week away. There are two goals of this event:
- Give you all a taste of what you can expect in October
- Kickstart the fundraising drive
So, I’ll be on hand to talk more in-depth about the concept behind the Festival, share the vision and talk about its near-term and long-term goals.
I’m also thrilled to be able to give you a taste of the type of discussion that you’ll hear and experience in October. Really, I have to give credit to Farai Chideya, who came up with the panel topic and graciously took time out of her schedule to prep and lead this discussion.
Tuesday, July 12
80 Hanson Place
Brooklyn, NY 11217
SUGGESTED $10 DONATION
CREATING A REVOLUTIONARY AESTHETIC
What is more powerful than an aesthetic moment where art or music meet politics? Think of Jimi Hendrix’s rendition of the national anthem, one which echoed the distortion and confusion around American identity; or the raised Black Power fist (from the Olympics to Elizabeth Catlett’s sculpture); or the gender/race analysis within the visual art or music of some of our forward-thinking artists.
Words are tricksters. “Revolutionary” here is meant more in the sense of a turn of history’s wheel, and a new understanding of our circumstances, than as an overthrow. Life — art, politics, fashion — is often cyclical, and we go through both radical and conservative phases as a society. Aesthetics are an engine that turn that wheel, and combine the visual, the political, and the social. We speak to three thought-leaders about what the next revolutionary aesthetic will be; who is creating it; and how blackness shapes and relates to it.
One of the most controversial African-American artists working today, Renee Cox has used her own body, both nude and clothed, to celebrate black womanhood and criticize a society she often views as racist and sexist.
From the very beginning, her work showed a deep concern for social issues and employed disturbing religious imagery. In It Shall Be Named (1994), a black man’s distorted body made up of eleven separate photographs hangs from a cross, as much resembling a lynched man as the crucified Christ.
The photograph that created the most controversy when it was shown in a black photography exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City in 2001 was Yo Mama’s Last Supper. It was a remake of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper with a nude Cox sitting in for Jesus Christ, surrounded by all black disciples, except for Judas who was white. Many Roman Catholics were outraged at the photograph and New York Mayor Rudolph Guiliani called for the forming of a commission to set “decency standards” to keep such works from being shown in any New York museum that received public funds.
Renee Cox continues to push the envelop in her work, questioning society and the roles it gives to blacks and women with her elaborate scenarios and imaginative visuals that offend some and exhilarate others.
Brooklyn native and resident hardcore-soul queen, Tamar-kali, wields her pen and guitar with equal ferocity. Her hard-rocking brand of outsider art leaps from every track on her 2005 solo EP, Geechee Goddess Hardcore Warrior Soul, enchanting you with its melody, while delivering a swift kick to the gut with
its incisive emotional core. Her first full-length release, 2010’s Black Bottom, packed an even harder punch as audiences were invited to gaze deeper into the recesses of this urban warrior’s mind. Her tales of revolution and love may seem contradictory, but the two worlds are inextricably linked by this artist who grasps for the truth in both ideals.
The uninitiated may have discovered Tamar-kali when she appeared in James Spooner’s award-winning Afro-Punk documentary, with clips of her incendiary performances putting the world on notice to her unsung talent.
Others saw her dynamic energy support artists like Fishbone and OutKast on the group’s acclaimed sophomore album, ATLiens. A whole new audience will feel her full force when she joins emcees Jean Grae and Invincible on the appropriately named hip-hop-meets-rock Born In Flames Tour this fall.
SVP Branded Entertainment, Relevent
Malcolm is currently at Relevent, a New York-based full service experiential marketing, special events, production and promotions company that builds brands with consumers through experiential lifestyle, entertainment and relationship marketing programs. It’s client roster includes Victoria’s Secret PINK, Heineken, Audi, Microsoft, Diesel, Diageo and W Hotels, among others.
Prior to Relevent, he was vice president of Momentum Worldwide’s Music, Entertainment & Branded Content group, where he worked with a wide range of clients such as Anheuser-Busch, Kraft, American Express, Verizon Wireless, Microsoft, Marriott, Smucker’s and the U.S. Army to develop music and entertainment based initiatives.
Malcolm received his JD and MBA from the University of Maryland in 2000. Prior to graduate school, Malcolm played professional indoor soccer for two years.
Farai Chideya (moderator)
Farai Chideya has combined media, technology, and diversity during her 20-year career as an award-winning author and journalist. Via the Pop and Politics brand, Chideya is currently producing multimedia political specials via broadcast radio, web-video and social media with partners including WNYC and American Public Media. The team behind “Pop and Politics with Farai Chideya” is road-tripping through America to interview people about economic anxiety and national identity crises concerning religion, immigration, and race. This project is a new twist on a continuing passion to combine online and traditional media. Chideya originally launched PopandPolitics.com as a blog in 1995.
Chideya is currently a “Leader in Residence” at the Colin Powell School for Policy Studies, where she is focusing on media training the next generation of public policy leaders. She speaks frequently to business, college, civic, and youth audiences, and also provides media training services to other journalists and business and civic leaders. She was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, and graduated from Harvard University Magna Cume Laude in 1990.
J. Holtham, Co-Artistic Director
The New Black Fest
J.’s plays include: DUNROAMIN, JANUARY 2ND, CREATIVE WRITING, LOVERS TO BED, 11TH HOUR, RACE MUSIC, HOUSEHOLD NAME, SPLENDID, and DAYLIGHT SAVINGS (WHAT HAPPENS NOW). His work has been seen and developed at the Ensemble Studio Theatre (POSTERITY, Thicker Than Water 2001), BE Company, Williamstown Theatre Festival, the Magic Theatre (SF), Clubbed Thumb, the Vital Theatre, New Dramatists, Broken Watch Theater Company, the 24Seven Lab and others. His play, MANIFESTO, was commissioned by Time Warner and Second Stage Theatre. Several of Jason’s plays are published by Playscripts, Inc. He is a member of E.S.T. and an alumnus of Youngblood. Jason holds an M.F.A. from The Actors Studio Drama School/New School. He was the Program Director of the EST/Sloan Project, Literary Director of Youngblood, Readings and Workshops Coordinator for New York Stage and Film and TCG Next Generations Fellow at New Dramatists. He has worked as a teaching artist for TDF, Vital Theatre, and MCC. Jason blogs about theater, diversity, culture and other issues under the name 99 Seats. He is a proud product of the New York and New Jersey public education systems.