Posted in A Professor's Thoughts...

The South really does have something to say folks…

The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse “is an immersive multimedia art exhibition that traces 100 years of African American cultural influence and artistic expression.” This statement really does sum up so eloquently what visitors will see and hear when visiting this exhibition at the VMFA.

So upon walking through the doors, I am greeted with smiles and hello’s by a few VMFA workers, I pick up a brochure and I immediately see a thing of beauty… SLAB, 2021 (1990 Cadillac Brougham d’Elegance with custom accessories) [see below]…before you even walk into the actual exhibition one has to take a drive-by (rather walk-by lol) this classic vehicle, which in many ways sets the tone.

(“SLAB, 2021”-By: Richard FIEND Jones [aka International Jones] at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) in Richmond, VA, Picture Courtesy of Grace D. Gipson)

This clean ride brings some joy into my heart and definitely made me smile. But what would come next stops me in my tracks. In the distance, I hear this faint but “chill up your spine” sound reminiscent of “Strange Fruit” sung by Billie Holiday. And as i get closer of course my ears do not deceive me at all, it’s this one lyric “Black bodies swingin’ in the southern breeze” on loop… One moment you hear and see Billie Holiday and then the next you hear and see Jill Scott, while simultaneously you see this video of a little Black girl on a swing enjoying the simple pleasures in life! I was like WOW, I’m just getting started and they GOT me!!

The Dirty South in so many ways is about identity, preservation, labor, expression, pain, joy, faith, tradition, and so much more. There were many moments when I would either get goosebumps or this tingle of my spine ( a couple of times I felt both) after hearing a jarring sonic sound, or gazing at an image that left me speechless. With each room I never knew what to expect, which made the exhibition like this exploratory adventure. But it was also like a Southern scavenger hunt, where I had this internal list of artists and themes that I knew I would have to find. Some of these artists/creatives that I would find included Bisa Butler, Romare Bearden, Kara Walker, Nick Cave, Clementine Hunter, Fahamu Pecou, Sun Ra, Deborah Roberts, among many others!!

(A collage of various works [Fahamu Pecou, Kara Walker, Renee Stout, Clementine Hunter and Bisa Butler] that are part of “The Dirty South…” exhibition at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) in Richmond, VA, Picture Courtesy of Grace D. Gipson)

The Southern Black experience and culture was truly present so much so that I definitely had a few out of body moments where my spirit momentarily left, eventually making its way back to my body. So often the south gets placed into a singular box, but this exhibition made it very clear that is definitely not the case. As I always say #RepresentationMatters and that message was loud and clearly (literally and figuratively)!! Your thinking of the South will definitely be transformed. Blackness is unapologetically centered, but is enhanced by a spiritual conjuring, the regional inclusions, the Black queer voice, the labor, the children, the sonic vibrations, and the persistence of Black folks from the past all the way to the future!! So many stories, so many voices, so many points of view, just so much to take in…this was a time where I welcomed the feeling of being overwhelmed….My cup runneth over!!

Another moment worth mentioning that really made a huge impact was the way in which children were represented. I appreciated that not only did I see the pain and trauma, but also the way in which many of the images of the children were so innocent, simple and carefree. Some of the photographs like the one below took me back to my childhood days of going to church with mama and grandma and dozing off into a brief slumber on their lap, or flipping through the hymnals and singing along with the choir….ohhhh the memories.

(Top-“Ali and Quentin in Church” [1988]; Bottom l-r- “Ali” and “Ali and Quentin on Avenue S” [1988] By: Marilyn Nance at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) in Richmond, VA, Picture Courtesy of Grace D. Gipson)

Nothing was off limits in The Dirty South, trust you will get it all and some!! Valerie Cassel Oliver, who serves as the exhibition curator creates a playing field that hits several home runs!! You will leave having many definitions of what the south represents. And without spoiling the last feature of the exhibition, I will say this just make sure you are prepared for every emotion to seep out of your body, just make sure to release and let it go…

Mississippi, Georgia (Atlanta), Alabama, Tennessee (Memphis), Texas (Houston), Louisiana (New Orleans), Florida (Miami) even parts of Africa and the galaxy have space in the The Dirty South exhibition. So if you have a chance, or you will be in the Richmond area it would be worth your while to stop by and check out this amazing aesthetic, cultural, and sonic experience!!

(“Strange Fruit” [1989] By: David Hammons at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, VA, Picture Courtesy of Grace D. Gipson)
(“DJ Screw in Heaven 2 [2016] By: El Franco Lee II at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Richmond, VA, Picture Courtesy of Grace D. Gipson)

The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse will be at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts through September 6th, 2021.

#VMFADirtySouth

~Dr. G “An Honorary Southerner”

Posted in On the Desk...

Celebrating #BlackMusicMonth!!

In honor of #BlackMusicMonth, Dr. Robinson and I wanted to make sure we brought you all another episode of Summertime Conversations on “Feeling Good”: Exploring the Lived Experience of Black Joy!! Our latest episode is a dialogue on Black Music Month as well as a ‘Sonic Curation of Happiness via Black Music’!!

Check it out below…

And if you wanna check out our “Black Joy & Happiness” Soundtrack that was discussed on this episode, check it out below!!

“It’s an artist duty to reflect the times in which we live.”

~Nina Simone

Posted in A Professor's Thoughts..., On the Desk...

Happy Juneteenth 2021!!

“Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.” ~Toni Morrison

Today marks the 156th year since the message of freedom was delivered to those enslaved in Texas, also known as Juneteenth (portmanteau of June and nineteenth)!! A celebration of emancipation, liberation, and Black Joy!!

And what is Juneteenth? Juneteenth refers to June 19th, 1865 the day when Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas to inform the 250,000 enslaved Black people that they were free. Keep in mind the Emancipation Proclamation (which ended slavery) had went into effect January 1st, 1863 (also the start of watch night services), so Texas would not get this memo for almost two and half years later. And people wonder why Black people cannot wait for change! Why we are persistent about consistent upward and forward movement! Why are Black people not quick to trust, because of past failures and screw ups like what happened in Galveston, TX. Nevertheless, the chains are breaking and the truth is being revealed.

In a way there has been this sudden awakening regarding the Juneteenth holiday. Much like how the message of freedom was delayed in its delivery to those enslaved in Texas, one could say there is a delayed recognition (on a larger scale) of the Juneteenth holiday. With all of the the national protests, police violence, and continuous murder of Black and Brown bodies of last year the U.S. would be reminded of past moments of resistance and endurance. This acknowledgement rebirth is what I like to think of as a memory survival. As Isabel Wilkerson writes in her amazing book, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, “The people from Texas took Juneteenth Day to Los Angeles, Oakland, Seattle, and other places they went.” And thank goodness the memory of Juneteenth will always be present, because we cannot afford to have any more delays, these are moments that we need right now and always!

So when did I learn about Juneteenth, I remember it being brought up during one of my summer classes as an Upward Bound student, and in passing from one of my aunts who lives in Texas. But I would really learn about Juneteenth while attending Clark Atlanta University (Atlanta, GA) and while out grocery shopping and a young man handed me a flyer for a Juneteenth celebration that was set to take place. Outside of the above-mentioned instances, I did not have any previous knowledge. Now I am not surprised by this, nor am I surprised that many other Black folks are only just now aware of what Juneteenth is and its significance. Even though I may not be from Texas, I take Juneteenth as my Independence Day/Emancipation Day, because clearly July 4th is not!!

Juneteenth is not only a day to celebrate, but also another day to inform the masses, continue speaking out on injustices, and always a day to remember! It’s also another excuse for me to celebrate my Blackness and create more ways to express Black joy and agency. This holiday is also an opportunity to instill values of self-improvement, racial uplift, and reclamation of the family unit. These values were personified through religious sermons and the singing of negro spirituals, reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, rodeos, and the preservation of slave food traditions and delicacies (ex. BBQ and soul food). Juneteenth is another holiday that allows Black folks to commune and fellowship and just be free with ourselves!! This freedom has been further expressed with the creation of various websites and the Juneteenth flag:

Created in 1997 by activist and founder of the National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation (NJCF) Ben Haith, the flag consists of a star, burst, arc, and the colors red, white, and blue. According to the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation (NJOF) the star is a nod to the Lone Star State (where Juneteenth was first celebrated in 1865), but also stands for the freedom of every Black American in all 50 states, the burst represents an outline surrounding the star meant to reflect a nova— or new star—this represents a new beginning for all, and the arc represents a new horizon, fresh opportunities and promising futures for Black Americans. The colors are also reminiscent of the United States flag, this was intentional to show that the enslaved African Americans and their descendants are also free Americans. Even in our symbols there is always a deep, layered meaning attached.

In 2021, Juneteenth has become more than just a holiday, but in many ways a movement!! Not only are school curriculums slowly changing, but we are also becoming more informed about the holiday through popular media. A few examples include:

  • High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America [Netflix]: Episode 4, ‘Freedom’
  • Atlanta (FX Network): Season 1, Episode 9, ‘Juneteenth’ [Television]
  • Black-ish (ABC): Season 4, Episode 1, ‘Juneteenth’ [Television]
  • Miss Juneteenth (2020) [Film]
  • Juneteenth Jamboree [Austin PBS]

And as of 2020, according to the Congressional Research Service all states, except Hawaii, North Dakota and South Dakota, recognize/celebrate Juneteenth in some sort of fashion. This personally became significant for me because upon moving to Virginia on last year Juneteenth became a permanent statewide holiday (following in the footsteps of Texas, New York, and Pennsylvania). The fact that Virginia made this a statewide holiday is truly significant considering the states past history and the fact that the state is known as being the capital of the Confederacy…Interesting how tides are beginning to change!!

In the end when I think about Juneteenth I am optimistic…I am hopeful…I am excited. Optimistic that one day it will become a national holiday, and that it will truly get the recognition that it deserves. Juneteenth is a holiday even worthy of being acknowledged internationally. Hopeful that the celebration of this holiday is not just for a moment or season, but for an infinity of lifetimes. Excited because with each passing day more and more people are learning about the importance and significance of Juneteenth!! Even if this is your first year, make sure it is not your last!!

And just in case you need a few references for later reading and viewing check out the following link!!

Happy Juneteenth!!

~Dr. G

Posted in Monthly Book Recommendations, Resources

Dr. G’s June 2021-Book Recommendations

Summer is right around the corner, and what better time than now to get your summer reading list in order! A few of these are on my list and purchased, patiently awaiting for the pages to be flipped! So go ahead, get your lawn chair, sunglasses, SPF, beach towel, drink of choice, or whatever you need to get into the mood!!

Check out this month’s recommendations!! Maybe you will pick one, two, three, or all of them!!

  • A Chorus Rises ~Bethany C. Morrow
  • Ace of Spades: How Do You Stop An Unknown Enemy? ~Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
  • When Life Gives You Mangoes ~Kereen Getten
  • Bamboozled by Jesus: How God Tricked Me into the Life of My Dreams ~Yvonne Orji
  • Punch Me Up To The Gods: A Memoir ~Brian Broome

Remember you can always go back and check out the previous month’s recommendations in the “Resource” section of the website!!

Till next month!!

~Dr. G

Posted in On the Desk...

On the Desk…

“Thank you Ms. Cicely Tyson!!”

With the recent passing of the legendary Cicely Tyson on January 28th, I remember the moment I got the news…my heart stopped and for several moments I lost all breath in my body. I did not want to believe that Earth had lost a legend, and the ancestors gained a new angel!

Television and film will never be the same without Ms. Tyson!! Her mark on Hollywood is unforgettable. She not only entertained but educated. Ms. Tyson’s resume is so vast and diverse, she could embody any role and nail it, all while achieving numerous accolades! I can vividly remember watching her in Sounder, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974), ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder, Roots (1977), Own Network’s Cherish the Day, Fried Green Tomatoes (1991), The Proud Family, Idlewild (2006), Netflix series House of Cards and so so so much more! With each role she left an indelible imprint.

Considering she never had a dull moment, it warmed my heart to know that she received her flowers while she was still alive. So often the awards, honorary moments, medals and come after an icon passes, but in the case of Ms. Tyson she got to see it, live it and enjoy it!!

Coming from humble beginnings, Ms. Tyson blazed a trail and did not stop until her last breath (almost literally). At 96 years young, to me, Ms. Tyson was immortal!! Her beauty, her voice, those striking eyes, her style…she was simply flawless!!

As we continue to celebrate Ms. Tyson’s life and legacy, I look forward to learning more about her in her own words as I read her 2021 memoir, “Just As I Am”.

So yes Ms. Tyson “you’ve done your best” and some….and for that I say Thank You!!

~Dr. G

Posted in Conversations with Beloved & Kindred

Conversations with Beloved & Kindred-Episode 2

As always you know I got you covered if you missed last night’s episode of “Conversations with Beloved and Kindred” check it out below:

Our second conversation discusses the Netflix film See You Yesterday!! This episode tackled everything from representation within the diaspora, high school science fairs, time travel, the importance of family, and so much more!!

Next month, we will continue our conversation and discussion of the Lovecraft Country series with Episode 3: “Holy Ghost” and Episode 4: “A History of Violence” !! And trust me you do not want to miss it!!

Posted in On The Radar

On The Radar

A Mess(Age) In A Bottle…Supporting a Fellow Sista!!

Soooo I’m in my local Target (one of many lol) getting my annual #BlackHistoryMonthGear at Target and what do I see as soon as I walk in… Mess In A Bottle !! I’ve been following this sista, Kalilah Wright, on her blog and Instagram since the beginning!! Just super excited about this brand and even more siked to see it in a store like Target. And I appreciate the fact that we are seeing more #BlackOwnedBusinesses in accessible places. I just think about my mom and some of her friends who may not necessarily shop online, but will be in a Target in a heartbeat!! Just having a place where you can drive or take the bus and grab a few items is truly ideal!

Plus, I am all about supporting fashion movements especially when there is a powerful message!

And I cannot forget that the inventory was perfectly placed, you will not miss it…Trust Me!!…Great store placement!!

And I cannot forget that the inventory was perfectly placed, you will not miss it…Trust Me!!…Great store placement!!

Look forward to spending more coins on #MessInABottle and following her success!!

~Dr. G

Posted in On The Radar

On The Radar

A Celebration of Black Joy and Black Life…”A Beautiful Resistance”!!

Illustration by Paula Champagne (paulachampagne.com)

As we usher in a new administration and a new year, for Black folks in particular, it is important that we celebrate the wins, begin to heal from past traumas, acknowledge and fight the injustices but also not let them define us. As someone who teaches and engages with what is going on in society and the world (historically and culturally), it is important that we magnify our truths and avoid being pushed to the margins. A Beautiful Resistance does just that in a way that allows Black people and other people of color to tell their stories via a popular social media vehicle…Instagram!

Launched in November 2020, A Beautiful Resistance is a digital episodic series sponsored by The Boston Globe and led by cultural columnist Jeneé Osterheldt. Described as a series that “amplifies the truths of Black folk and other people of color living as their fullest selves in a region, in a country, set up to keep them from doing just that. Their joy is a form of resistance.”

We are more than police brutality and suffering. We can acknowledge injustice without being defined that way. Blackness is not a burden. Here, we tell our stories and our struggles, too, through the lens of love. We amplify the truths of Black folk and other people of color living as their fullest selves in a region, in a country, set up to keep them from doing just that. Their joy is a form of resistance. 

Watching many of these episodes is actually very encouraging and therapeutic! To watch the various stories being told, achievements recognized, and gain exposure to numerous Black creatives is quite timely and much needed.

To take a brief look at some of folks who are highlighted check out the trailer below:

When it is all said and done how do you use joy as resistance?

~Dr. G