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Presented in collaboration with MAPP International Productions
160 Schermerhorn Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Examining Sekou Sundiata’s work through the lens of his identity as a black male coming up in NYC during the civil rights era places him within a continuum of ideas of selfhood extending from W.E.B. DuBois’ ‘‘double consciousness” to the late 20th century concept of “post-black.” Seemingly, America has had many civil right advancements and some artists and scholars suggest we are in the “post black” era (coined by author Debra Dickenson and Studio Museum director and chief curator, Thelma Golden). “Post-black” implies that notions of “blackness” should be redefined to include all of its complexities or be rejected, and that artists, cultural figures and politicians have moved beyond defining themselves through the lens of race. This Long Table conversation (a form developed by artist Lois Weaver to encourage informal and democratic engagement with complex and serious ideas) asks participants to consider the evolution of notions of black identity and the impact these terms and definitions have on how “blackness” is realized in art and daily life. From Double Consciousness to Post-Black: A Long Table Conversation on Black Identity is being presented as a part of a New York City Wide Retrospective.
The creator and star of the internationally-acclaimed hip hop theater production Lyrics from Lockdown, Bryonn Bain is described by Mumia Abu-Jamal as one hell of “a poet, prison activist, spoken word artist, hip-hopper… freedom fighter, singer—human being.”
Bain serves on the board of the only organization monitoring prisons in his home state for over a century—the Correctional Association of New York. Wrongfully jailed during his second year at Harvard Law School, Bryonn successfully sued the NYPD, was interviewed by Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes, and wrote the cover story “Walking While Black: The Bill of Rights for Black Men”—which drew the largest response in the history of The Village Voice. His new book, The Ugly Side of Beautiful: Rethinking Race and Prisons in America, was published by Third World Press and is banned by the Department of Corrections in Texas. Following his performances as a teenager in New York prisons during the 1980s, the grassroots organization Bain founded in 1997 organized prison workshops and performances in 25 states, and spawned courses linking youth in facilities like Rikers Island and Boys Town Detention Center with students and faculty at New York University, The New School, Long Island University (Brooklyn Campus) and Columbia University. After teaching in the dramatic arts at Harvard, Bain recently joined the NYU faculty as a scholar/artist-in-residence to organize the NYU Prison Education Initiative.
As host of the award-winning BET talk show My Two Cents, Bain’s weekly interviews reached 28 million homes worldwide, and led to his regular appearances on MSNBC’s The Melissa Harris-Perry Show and WBAI’s prison radio program On the Count. Bryonn played the lead role in the off Broadway production King of the World (formerly Auction Block to Hip Hop), and a Nat Turner-inspired leader in the action thriller Pig Hunt, directed by Academy Award winner Jim Isaac, (The Fly, Return of the Jedi). Harry Belafonte, executive producer of Lyrics from Lockdown, insists that Bain “...carries the tradition of joining art and activism as an instrument for justice - at a time when the prison system has our communities in crisis.” You can find more information at www.BryonnBain.com.
Brooklyn-born, Ronald K. Brown founded the New York-based contemporary dance company Evidence, A Dance Company in 1985 at the age of 19. In addition to his work with Evidence, Brown has created work for the African American Dance Ensemble, Philadanco, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (Grace in 1999 and Serving Nia in 2001, IFE/My Heart in 2005), Ailey II, Cinque Folkloric Dance Theater, Jennifer Muller/The Works, and Jeune Ballet d’Afrique Noire. He has collaborated with composer/designer Wunmi Olaiya, the late writer Craig G. Harris, director Ernie McClintock’s Jazz Actors Theater, choreographers Patricia Hoffbauer and Rokiya Kone, and composers Robert Een, Oliver Lake, Bernadette Speech, David Simons, and Don Meissner. Brown has received numerous awards and fellowships including a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship in Choreography, a National Endowment for the Arts Choreographer’s Fellowship, a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in choreography, a New York Dance and Performance Award (Bessie), a Black Theater Alliance Award, the American Dance Festival Humphrey/Weidman/Limón Award, and fellowships from the Edward and Sally van Lier Fund. In addition, Brown was named Def Dance Jam Workshop Mentor of the Year (2000). In 2003, Ron received an AUDELCO (Black Theatre Award) for his choreography for Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats, originally produced by the McCarter Theater and presented off-Broadway in 2003. In 2006 Ron received the U.S.A. Artists Rose Fellowship award.
For more than 20 years, Michaela Angela Davis has explored the power of beauty, urban style, and women’s politics and black culture. Davis was the founding Fashion Editor of Vibe, Executive Fashion Beauty and Culture Editor of Essence and the last Editor in Chief of Honey. She has made numerous network and media appearances (CNN, BBC, MTV, VH1, BET FOX, MSNBC, Huff Post Live) providing commentary on topics of race, image, women’s issues, politics, beauty, fashion, hip-hop and pop-culture. She has spoken at Yale, New York University, Howard University, Spelman College, Middlebury College, University of Michigan, and Clark-Atlanta University, and was recently presented with the “Phenomenal Woman Award” by the New York Chapter of the NAACP and received the “Trailblazer Award” from the City of New York. Davis is also a published author. She wrote Beloved Baby in 1995 and most recently contributed to Black Cool, edited by Rebecca Walker. She has worked on the recent re-branding of BET Network and currently serves as a creative consultant and Editorial Director.
Her latest project, MAD FREE, remains dedicated to expanding the narrow narratives of women…especially women of color. Led by revolutionary women whose work and lives serve to liberate the often dismissed and distorted images of these women, Davis’ MAD FREE community conversations seek to transform the way media and society frame the roles and identity of women.
Bruce is a visionary, entrepreneur, speaker, author, panelist, executive producer, writer, poet, consultant and social activist. He was born and raised in New York City. He has written poetry/prose & articles for over 37 years. His work has been published in major magazines, anthologies, and literary publications. He has written testimonials from the likes of Essence Magazine, Emerge Magazine, Class Magazine, Harlem River Press etc…
Bruce has won multiple poetry & talent contests. He has won several awards such as a Peabody Award for Russell Simmons Presents, Def Poetry (HBO), a Miky Award for Russell Simmons Presents, Def Poetry Jam (HBO), an Upscale Showcase Award, a Trail Blazer Award, etc… for his outstanding vision, production, writing and performance.
Bruce is the Co-Founder of the critically acclaimed award winning Russell Simmons’s Def Poetry Jam. He’s also the Founder/Managing Editor of The Bandana Republic, an Anthology of Poetry & Prose by Gang Members & Their Affiliates. As an activist Bruce has been and currently is associated with major grassroots organizations that fosters and uplifts people in struggle.
Creativity is conjuring, is root work, is making a way out of no way, is the practice of radical expressiveness that enlivens, incites and insists on liberation, NOW! Ebony Noelle Golden works at the intersection of art, culture and public education with individuals, communities and organizations seeking to build creative strategy, cultural performance and liberatory learning experiences for progressive social change. Working nationally, Ebony is the Director of the cultural arts direct action group, Betty’s Daughter Arts Collaborative, LLC and the Artistic Director of The Body Ecology Performance Ensemble. She earned a B.A. in Literature and Creative Writing from Texas A & M University, a M.F.A. in Creative Writing-Poetry from American University, and a M.A. in Performance Studies from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. You can find more information at www.bettysdaughterarts.com.
Homeboy Sandman is a musician. His genre is hip-hop. An emcee that prides himself on musical growth and evolution, he has adopted as his motto and creative mission statement, “Boy Sand like you’ve never seen him before. As usual.”
Raised in Queens NY. Academic stints in New Hampshire, Philadelphia, London and Long Island. One semester short on two different graduate degrees. A couple of years of NYC Public School teaching thrown in there in between. 9th and 10th grades. Some bartending too, at the legendary Lennox Lounge in Harlem. That’s where Shaft used to drink.
December 2006 he decides to cut all that miscellaneous nonsense and follow his passion. His first album came the following year.
Before signing to Stones Throw he’d already been chosen as a coach on MTV’s MADE, featured in preeminent print hip-hop rags XXL and The Source, and perpetually championed on foremost online hubs. And since the signing, his accolades have extended beyond the realm of the hip hop specific. Rolling Stone has noted his “skill for wordplay that keeps you hooked.” NPR has highlighted his “artful, hysterical, disobedient hip-hop that you can dance to.” Pitchfork has straightforwardly dubbed him “one of the best pure lyricists around.”
He writes regularly for The Huffington Post, some for Gawker. While most of his writing is music, it appears he’ll write wherever a lot of people are looking. If he had an opportunity to give a speech at a huge rally he’d take that too, so more than anything else he just wants to spread the word. Maybe he just wants attention. Attention for being himself though.
Who was Sekou Sundiata (1948-2007)? Citizen Artist. People’s Poet. American Griot. Creator. Collaborator. Educator. Activist. New Yorker. Harlem native. Maker and performer of music, theatre, poetry, spoken word. Builder of community. Fighter for social justice. Mentor to artists, students, organizers. Beloved soul who left this earth before his work was done.
Blink Your Eyes: Sekou Sundiata Revisited celebrates Sekou Sundiata’s broad vision for bold, rigorous, multidisciplinary artistic expression that emerges from a love for one’s community, a passion for real democracy and social justice, and a vision for a better world. In venues across New York City from April to October 2013, we invite you to celebrate Sundiata’s legacy through live performances by the artists he inspired— in the places and communities that inspired him.
The retrospective is produced and curated by MAPP International Productions.
Jessica Lynne and DéLana R.A. Dameron reflect on ways they make a home, creatively, wherever they are.