Noble Sissle

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Noble Sissle was an American jazz lyricist, composer, singer, playwright and band leader. Above is Sissle’s 1928 version of Westward Bound.

Sissle was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on July 10, 1889. his parents were very religious but loved music. He joined the 369th Regimental Band led by the great James Reese Europe. During this time, he also met Eubie Blake who he collaborated with for years after the death of Europe.

Noble Sissle was one of African-American music’s unsung tradition-builders. As half of the duo that composed Shuffle Along, he helped to bring African-American creativity to a new level on the Broadway stage. As a bandleader, Sissle nurtured the careers of vocalist Lena Horne and other important musicians, and he participated fundamentally in the popularization of African-American jazz and pop in Europe. Sissle went on to compose memorable jazz tunes like I’m Just Wild About Harry and Shuffle Along. His song Viper Mad was in Woody Allen’s film Sweet and Lowdown.

Photojournalist Bill Hudson

This week Flavorwire listed the ten most essential Civil Rights photographers. As we looked at the photos, We wanted to focus on Bill Hudson, an Associated Press photographer at that time. His images reminds us of the Arab Spring that shocked the world in 2011. Freedom doesn’t come without struggle. As we begin this new year, it is our hope that we can move from protest to real action that would lead to real hope.

The Story Behind the Photo:
On July 15, 1963, photographer Bill Hudson snapped this photograph as members of the Birmingham Fire Department turned their hoses full force on civil rights demonstrators. It wasn’t the first time that Hudson and other photographers and cameramen of the era captured such striking images that stirred the nation’s moral consciousness and inspired national and international support for the black struggle for equal rights. In an interview years later, Hudson said that his only priorities were “making pictures and staying alive” and not getting hit by one of those high-pressure water hoses or bit by a dog.

In the spring of 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Coalition led a strategic campaign in Birmingham, Alabama that was aimed at ending the city’s segregation policies and practices. Through sit-ins, kneel-ins, boycotts, marches, and mass meetings, demonstrators also hoped to pressure business leader s to open retail jobs and employment to people of all races. By intentionally provoking arrest through non-violent direct action, King believed that if they could “crack Birmingham” then they could “crack the South” and dismantle Jim Crow.

Birmingham’s Police Commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor, a staunch segregationist, promised bloodshed if demonstrators continued to defy the law. When the city’s jails became crowded with thousands of demonstrators and there weren’t enough squad cars to make arrests, Conner, whose authority extended to the fire department, ordered hoses to be turned on demonstrators.

To Connor’s surprise, and to the dismay of the Kennedy administration and some black civil rights leaders, King and local leaders of the SCLC, in a controversial move, recruited children as young as eight years old to participate in demonstrations. They were taught how to protect their heads, huddle together on the ground when hit with water jet, and how to be arrested. Hudson and other cameramen captured images of young demonstrators clutching poles, being sprayed against store windows, and women being lifted over the tops of cars. They took shots of young boys’ shirts being ripped off and their bodies being rolled down the streets water pressure set at a level that was strong enough to peel bark off trees and separate brick from mortar.

In the backgrounds of these images, onlookers can sometimes be seen taunting police officers and firefighters, and tossing broken concrete, rocks and bottles in a futile effort to stop the abuse by authorities. And other times, as in the case of the photo captured above, blacks can be seen behind the strong white mist with their hands on their hips, shoulders dropped, and hands by their side, helpless and perhaps contemplating the irony that the very people who were supposed to protect the public had become villains.

Westward Bound interview with our artist Patrick Singh

The West Harlem Art Fund is so pleased to be working with Patrick Singh again. This Skyped interview was done while the artist was in the South of France with his gallerist. His bio is below in English and French.

Born to an Indian father and a French mother, Patrick was predestined to multicultural encounters. He spent his childhood traveling between the South of France and London, England. He is a holder of a State Diploma in Managing Leisure and Cultural Activities – French “Diplome d’Etat Relatif aux Fonctions d’Animation”.

Since 1997, Singh’s career has been punctuated by international exhibitions – collective and individual – along with artistic residencies throughout Europe, South America and Asia. Singh’s work is exhibited in multiple collections, including the Anne Cros Gallery located in the South of France. His visions come to life under his brush without his using models.

Né à un père indien et à une mère française, Patrick a été prédestiné aux rencontres multiculturelles. Il a passé son enfance voyageant entre le Sud de la France et Londres, Angleterre. Il est un détenteur d’un Diplôme d’État dans le Loisir se Débrouillant et les Activités Culturelles – le français “Diplome d’Etat Relatif aux Fonctions d’Animation”.

Depuis 1997, la carrière de Singh a été ponctuée par les expositions internationales – collectif et individuel – avec les résidences artistiques partout dans l’Europe, l’Amérique du Sud et l’Asie. Le travail de Singh est exposé dans les collections multiples, en incluant la Galerie d’Anne Cros trouvée au Sud de la France. Ses visions reprennent conscience sous sa brosse avec de ses modèles d’utilisation.

The Real History of Kwanzaa

Many believe that Maulana Karenga, professor of Africana Studies, scholar/activist and author is the creator of Kwanzaa. Mr. Karenga was able to codify the holiday with African references and influences but the spirit of the holiday originated with Julius Kambarage Nyerere. Though he was a suspicious of capitalism, his aim politically and culturally was to improve his country and all of Africa.

Julius Kambarage Nyerere (13 April 1922 – 14 October 1999) was a Tanzanian politician who served as the first President of Tanzania and previously Tanganyika, from the country’s founding in 1961 until his retirement in 1985.

Born in Tanganyika to Nyerere Burito (1860–1942), Chief of the Zanaki, Nyerere was known by the Swahili name Mwalimu or ‘teacher’, his profession prior to politics. He was also referred to as Baba wa Taifa (Father of the Nation). Nyerere received his higher education at Makerere University in Kampala and the University of Edinburgh. After he returned to Tanganyika, he worked as a teacher. In 1954, he helped form the Tanganyika African National Union.

In 1961, Nyerere was elected Tanganyika’s first Prime
Minister, and following independence, in 1962, the country’s first President. In 1964, Tanganyika became politically united with Zanzibar and was renamed to Tanzania. In 1965, a one-party election returned Nyerere to power. Two years later, he issued the Arusha Declaration, which outlined his socialist vision of ujamaa that came to dominate his policies.

Nyerere retired in 1985, while remaining the chairman of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi. He died of leukemia in London in 1999. In 2009, Nyerere was named “World Hero of Social Justice” by the president of the United Nations General Assembly.

Cultural Influence

Nyerere continued to influence the people of Tanzania in the years following his presidency. His broader ideas of socialism live on in the rap and hip hop artists of Tanzania. Nyerere believed socialism was an attitude of mind that barred discrimination and entailed equality of all human beings. Therefore, ujamaa can be said to have created the social environment for the development of hip hop culture. Like in other countries, hip hop emerged in post-colonial Tanzania when divisions among the population were prominent, whether by class, ethnicity or gender. Rappers’ broadcast messages of freedom, unity, and family, topics that are all reminiscent of the spirit Nyerere put forth in ujamaa. In addition, Nyerere supported the presence of foreign cultures in Tanzania saying, “a nation which refuses to learn from foreign cultures is nothing but a nation of idiots and lunatics…[but] to learn from other cultures does not mean we should abandon our own.” Under his leadership, the Ministry of National Culture and Youth was created in order to allow Tanzanian popular culture, in this case hip hop, to develop and flower. As a result of Nyerere’s presence in Tanzania, the genre of hip hop was welcomed from overseas in Tanzania and melded with the spirit of ujamaa.

To learn more about the Arusha Declaration, go to the Wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arusha_Declaration

Video Commentaries on artist Patrick Singh — Part Two

More Skyped interviews that were created by Savona Bailey-McClain, Executive Director & Chief Curator of the West Harlem Art Fund, Inc. and National Park Service, Manhattan Sites. The commentaries were recorded while the participants were in Miami, Florida and Oakland, California. Again, the participants gave very thoughtful views of the artist’s work and its relationship to the African Burial Ground or African artistic expressions.

Hank Willis Thomas (American, born 1976) is a photo conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to identity, history and popular culture. Thomas’s process often involves editing existing photographs and presenting them in a new format. His work often examines the commoditization of Black identity in advertising and popular culture and urges the viewer to think critically about representations in media and beyond. Willis Thomas received his BFA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and his MFA in photography, along with an MA in visual criticism, from California College of the Arts (CCA) in San Francisco. His work is in numerous public collections including The Whitney Museum of American Art, Brooklyn Museum, The High Museum of Art in Atlanta and the Museum of Fine Art in Houston. His collaborative projects have been installed publicly in California, and featured at the Sundance Film Festival. Thomas is currently a fellow at the W.E.B. DuBois Institute at Harvard University; and he is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery in New York City.

Chris Johnson (American, born 1948) is a photographic and video artist, writer, curator and arts administrator. Johnson studied photography with Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham and Wynn Bullock; and his artwork has been exhibited at the Oakland Museum of California and at the Mills College Museum. In 1994 he co-produced a large performance work in Oakland titled “The Roof is on Fire” bringing together inner-city high school students and adults. In 1996 he produced an innovative one-hour video piece titled “Question Bridge” that investigates class divisions within the black community. In 1999 Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown appointed Johnson to be Chair of the Oakland Cultural Affairs Commission to advise on all matters affecting cultural development in Oakland. Johnson is currently a tenured Full Professor of Photography at the California College of the Arts.

Video Commentaries on artist Patrick Singh — Part One

These Skyped interviews were created by Savona Bailey-McClain, Executive Director & Chief Curator of the West Harlem Art Fund, Inc. and National Park Service, Manhattan Sites. The commentaries were recorded while the participants were in Berlin, Atlanta and Harlem. All of the participants gave very thoughtful views of the artist’s work and its relationship to the African Burial Ground or African artistic expressions.

Kamal Sinclair (American, born 1976) is a professional artist, teaching artist, and producer of live and transmedia art. Kamal obtained her BFA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and graduated with honors from Georgia State University’s Robinson College of Business MBA program. Her professional career began as a cast member of STOMP where she performed in the national and international tours, as well as on the Emmy Awards, MTV’s Beach House, Good Morning America, The Today Show, BET, and PBS’s Reading Rainbow. Sinclair was the founding artistic director of Universal Arts and creative director for many festivals and awards shows. She taught business courses to artists through the Savannah School of Art and Design (SCAD) and Fractured U: Continuing Education for the DIY Artist. Sinclair is also a periodic contributor to the acclaimed theatre publication, Black Masks.

Birta Guðjónsdóttir (Born 1977) is an artist and curator. She obtained her MFA degree of Fine Arts from the Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam and a BFA-degree from The Icelandic Academy of the Arts. In 2009-´11 she was a director of The Living Art Museum in Reykjavik. In 2008-´09 she was an artistic director and chief curator at exhibition space 101 Projects, Reykjavik. In 2005-´08 she had the position of chief curator of SAFN Art Collection, Reykjavik. In 2008 she worked as curator´s assistant at MuHKA; Museum of Contemporary Art in Antwerp. In 2007-08 she took part in the Nordic Baltic Curatorial Platform project, initiated by FRAME; Finnish Fund for Art Exchange. In 2011 she participated in the Curatorial Intensive at ICI-New York and The Cornwall Workshop organized by Tate St. Ives Museum in S-England. She has curated shows in Melbourne, New York, St Petersburg, Copenhagen and most major art museums in Reykjavik, and been an editor of four exhibition catalogues. She has been on advisory boards of the Icelandic Art Center, The Icelandic Academy of the Arts and for various commissions and art prizes. She has produced her home-gallery Dwarf Gallery since 2002, is a founding board member of Sequences Art Festival, a member of IKT, International Association of Curators of Contemporary Art and a member of curator’s collective WAG. As an artist, she has participated in over 30 solo- and group exhibitions.

Dianne Smith (born 1965) is an abstract painter, sculptor, and installation artist. Her work has beenexhibited in solo and group exhibitions in New York City’s Soho and Chelsea artdistricts as well as, numerous galleries and institutions throughout the UnitedStates. She is an educator in the field of Aesthetic Education at LincolnCenter Institute, which is a part of New York City’s Lincoln Center For the Performing Arts. Since the invitation to join the Institute over five years ago she has taught k-12 in public schools throughout the Tri-State area. Her work as a teaching artist also extends to under graduate and graduate courses in various colleges and universities such as: Lehman College, Columbia University Teachers College, City College, and St. John’s University to name a few.Recently she was invited to join the team at The Center For arts Education in New York City. In 2007, Dianne was one of the artists featured in the Boondoggle Film Documentary Colored Frames. The film took a look back at fifty years in African-American Art, and also featured other artists such as Benny Andrews, Ed Clark and Danny Simmons.That same year the historical Abyssinian Baptist Church, which is New York’s oldest African American church commissioned Smith to create the artwork commemorating their 2008 Bicentennial. In addition, she co-produced an online radio show the New Palette, for ArtonAir.org (Art International Radio)dedicated to visual artists of color. In1995, she presented Poet Dr. Maya Angelou and Broadway Choreographer George Faison each with one of her paintings: Spirit of My Ancestors I and II. Her work is also in the private collections of Danny Simmons, Vivica A. Fox, Rev. and Mrs. Calvin O. Butts,III, Cicely Tyson, Arthur Mitchell and Terry McMillian. Dianne is a Bronx native of Belizean descent. She attended LaGuardia High School of Music and Art, the Otis Parsons School of Design and the Fashion Institute of Technology. Smith is currently pursuing her MFA at Transart Institute in Berlin. She currently lives and works in Harlem.

Howard University was there from the beginning

Howard University

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Shortly after the end of the Civil War, members of The First Congregational Society of Washington considered establishing a theological seminary for the education of African American clergymen. within a few weeks, the project expanded to include a provision for establishing a university. The new institution was named for General Oliver Otis Howard, a Civil War Hero, who was both a founder of the University and a Commissioner of the Freedmen Bureau.

It was only fitting that Howard University led the excavation project, analyzed the remains and documented the results.

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