Today (June 9) is the birthday of artist Meta Warrick Fuller (1877-1968). In 1921, Fuller sculpted Ethiopia Awakening (pictured), which is currently housed in the Art and Artifacts Division of the Schomburg Center.
Writing a biography is hard work. American historian, biographer, playwright, and gay rights activist Martin Duberman knows this and has written several biographies including James Russell Lowell (a National Book Award finalist), Charles Francis Adams, Sr. (Bancroft Prize winner), Paul Robeson, and Howard Zinn, among other works. This time Duberman focuses his lens on two activists of note, in Hold Tight Gently; Michael Callen, Essex Hemphill and The Battlefield of AIDS (New Press, 2014).
Tuesday, June 3, 2014, Duberman will be reading from his new work at the Schomburg Center, followed by a Q&A with the author and reception. Below Duberman talks the inspiration for the book, and his why he chose these two 1980s public figures to help tell a story about the devastating impact of AIDS particularly on the gay community.
Martin Duberman: The biographical approach to history has always been the form most congenial to me, and after deciding that I wanted to write about the AIDS epidemic, I initially thought I’d tell the story through the lives of some half dozen or so individuals. I wasn’t far into the research, though, when I realized that the lives of two men, Michael Callen, singer and activist, and Essex Hemphill, poet and cultural worker,
epitomized much of the AIDS narrative I was most interested in exploring—meaning, above all, the very different ways the epidemic impinged on the white gay and black gay communities. It helped that I’d known both men somewhat and had deeply admired both.
The two never met and had little in common. Callen was a white mid-westerner who came to New York City after college to pursue a singing career. Hemphill was an African American gay man who grew up in Washington, D.C. and knew early that he wanted to become a writer, and specifically a poet. Both were diagnosed as HIV-positive early in the epidemic. In the half dozen years before the foundation of ACT-UP in 1987, Mike was at the forefront of the self-empowerment movement (about which little has previously been written). Essex—who always considered race, not sexual orientation his “primary emergency”—mostly steered clear of the white-dominated activist movement and devoted his energy instead to playing a key role in the black gay male and lesbian cultural flowering of the 1980s, now widely referred to as the “second Harlem Renaissance.”
Their different paths and personalities exemplify the story of AIDS in the years preceding the discovery of protease inhibitors. Both men died of the disease, both at age 38.
Please RSVP for the event.
Photo Credit: Martin Duberman by Raymond Adams.
On Thursday May 22, 2014, the Schomburg Center’s In the Life Archive series, Ordinary People, will feature the program Outing Lorraine, an engaging panel discussion about imposing gay and lesbian labels on public figures who never publicly identified as such. This conversation centers on playwright, activist and intellectual, Lorraine Hansberry. Panelists include Joi Gresham, Director of the Lorraine Hansberry Literary Trust, Alexis de Veaux, writer, Steven G. Fullwood, curator, and moderatorShawn(ta) Smith, librarian and writer.
One panelist, Ms. Gresham, along with the moderator Shawn(ta) Smith, share their insights about their personal and professional connections to Hansberry’s work, and if the playwright’s sexuality matters, and if so, to whom and why.
I am connected to Lorraine through the blended family that she created in her life and that she left behind when she died. My father, Robert Nemiroff, before meeting and marrying my mother, formed a close partnership with Lorraine in a marriage that lasted ten years and a deep friendship and creative collaboration that is actually still evolving as we look at and learn to appreciate its scope. An only child, I grew up as part of that family — a direct beneficiary and guardian of her legacy. I was trained in the theater from a very early age—benefitting from a close affinity with Lorraine and drawn to her artistry. My primary career has been in dance. I would say that Lorraine has deeply influenced and informed my work and creativity. I would also say that growing up inside of Lorraine’s creative realm has profoundly affected multiple and all aspects of my identity as an individual and as an artist. Lorraine was dedicated to art as a weapon in the struggle for human liberation and greater human understanding. She saw this as her fundamental calling as an artist. Her personal identity was factored into this as was her commitment to human service and an unreserved opposition to narcissism and vanity. In this regard, she was vehement.
As we think about Lorraine’s sexuality and its importance I would say that to her, in general — someone’s status doesn’t matter — as much as how they construct their identity. It is part of a larger continuum of personal and social liberation. Lorraine was a person who carried multiple identities. Inside of any of those identities she steadily challenged the like-minded to bring a political examination to their engagement, to think about the broader human agency in their actions and encouraged all to focus on contributing to the larger movement of social transformation and civil rights.
Librarians are engaged in the information life-cycle, and I enjoy the work of disseminating information to students and researchers. As an archivist and scholar, however, I am challenged with the notion of “content creation.” In essence, we all have the power to re-interpret, create, and sometimes even, manipulate what others deem as information.
There has been an erasure in our encyclopedias and history books on the African American experience and the contributions that African Americans have made in US History. The erasure of peoples of LGBT experience from history stems from this same act. We – black people, black LGBT people, black librarians, archivists, women, activists, scholars, and queer – are finally in a place of power and access to not only (re)write our histories, (re)claim our rich narratives, but ultimately, to right the wrongs bestowed upon us for generations. It is time to fill in the blanks of these systemic erasures.
In respect to the conversation of “Outing Lorraine,” this concept of “outing” assumes the existence of shaming those who choose to bring to light a more complete and true Lorraine Hansberry. Being silent when information is clearly laid out before us is a worse crime than erasure. We know that Hansberry was married to a Communist. We know that Hansberry had an FBI file years before Raisin in the Sun was debuted. We also know that Hansberry was involved in lesbian feminist social networks. As responsible scholars and researchers, it is our duty to make connections to these, until recently, disparate points of Hansberry’s life. None of these facets are unrelated; Hansberry’s alliance and social networks with white lesbian feminists provides an added layer of complexity to any implied intentions for her work. Deepening the understanding of Hansberry’s life in mid-twentieth century McCarthy era, by using the analytical tools and access of African American and LGBT scholars and archivists today, the more lessons we as a global nation may receive from Hansberry’s work tomorrow.
Big news in e-books as it was announced today that Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning classic TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD will be released for the first time as an e-book on July 8, HarperCollins Publishers announced today. Of course for those of you who want to read the original, print edition you can check it out at most branches of The New York Public Library OR you can check out the dvd of the classic film as well! The announcement today was made in connection to it being the 88th Birthday of the book’s author Harper Lee. So the NYPL wishes Harper Lee a Happy Birthday as well!
May 6, 2014 to July 26, 2014
On the Road to Integration: Celebrating the 60th Anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education
Curated by members of the BNY Mellon Pre-Professional Development Program, this pop-up exhibit explores the moments preceding and proceeding the legendary Brown vs. Board of Education ruling. The exhibit will feature photographs, documents, and other ephemera from the Schomburg Center’s vast collection. There will also be several documentary screenings over the course of the exhibit’s run.
Thursday, May 1, 2014 | 6-8 pm
Conversations in Black Freedom Studies: The Biography of Global Black Power Politics: Stokely Carmichael and Walter Rodney.
The talk will be curated by professors Jeanne Theoharis (Brooklyn College/CUNY) and Komozi Woodard (Sarah Lawrence College), featuring Peniel Joseph (Tufts University), Michael West (SUNY Binghamton), and Gloria Richardson.
For more information and to RSVP, click here.
Books for the Conversations in Black Freedom Studies Series are available for purchase in the Schomburg Shop! Visit us and read up in advance!
Friday, May 2, 2014 | 6-9 pm.
Next week’s First Fridays is our HBCU Edition, hosted by the Florida A&M University New York Alumni Association, to garner the support of our Historically Black Colleges & Universities Alumni who reside here in the New York Metro area. Our DJ for the night is Mursi Layne, a Trinidad native and resident of Brooklyn.
For more information and to rsvp, click here.
Rest in peace to Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez. His writing magically captured the Caribbean lives of Colombians and touched many far and wide. Márquez was born in Aracataca, Colombia on March 6, 1927. He won the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature in 1982. Best known for One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera, Márquez will always be known for his dynamic use of Magical Realism.
Share your favorite Marquez novel or short story when you reblog.
Watch via livestream: Talks at the Schomburg: Motown + Fashion with designer Emilio Sosa (ESosa), writer and fashion expert Michaela Angela Davis, Essence Style Director Pamela Edwards Christiani, Co-host of Bravo’s “Fashion Queens” Bevy Smith, and Valisia Lekae, Grammy and Tony Award nominee for her role as Diana Ross in Motown The Musical.
This dynamic panel will discuss Motown’s impact and legacy in the world of fashion. Michael Dinwiddie, Associate Professor at the Gallatin School and current President of the Black Theatre Network, will moderate.
Join us Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 6:30pm for Visually Speaking: A Worldview from Guyana.
Many contemporary depictions of Guyana and its people—whether via the image or the written word—continue to center on the exotic, the colonial, and the touristic. Award-winning photographers Nikki Kahn and Keisha Scarville will share their artistic visions and portfolios and explore their ongoing work to tell Guyana’s stories and to counter historic and contemporary stereotypes about the former British colony and its wide-reaching Diaspora.
For more information and to RSVP, click here.
Paul Robeson, actor, singer, scholar, and activist, was born on this day, April 9, 1898. Pictured here, Robeson as Othello in the Savoy Theater London stage production.
Image Credit: NYPL Digital Gallery.
Before 5: Marjorie Eliot | Wednesday, April 23, 2014 | 2:00-3:30 PM
Enjoy an afternoon of jazz with Marjorie Eliot, the woman behind the legendary Harlem parlor concerts. The performance will be followed by a conversation with Eliot and a special guest.
To rsvp for this free event, click here.