SEI Event Series

EFS: 4 Conversations about Race & Social Justice


1. Anti-Racism, Fatigue, and Love

Panelists: Chris Roberts, Ernst Bryant, Jane’a Johnson
Date & Time: 09/08 – 6:30pm
No Recording Available

2. Undoing and Redoing: How is society reflected in cultural institutions?

Panelists: Simone Leigh, Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, Laura Raicovich
Date & Time:  09/09 – 4:30pm
Zoom Recording

3. Cultural Appropriation and Imagery in the Racial Imaginary

Panelists: Matthew Shenoda, J. Joon Lee, Jane’a Johnson, Michael Demps, Spencer Evans
Date & Time: 09/10 – 6:30pm
Zoom Recording

4. Boo City in Concert

Panelists: Tai Awolaju and Moon Bain
Date & Time:  09/11 – 6pm
Zoom Recording


PANEL 1
Anti-Racism, Fatigue, and Love

A virtual gathering of three SEI Research Fellows, wherein through presentations and dialogue, they will talk about art, critique, visual literacy, witnessing, spectatorship, and more as an opportunity to be in conversation about the tripart relationality of anti-racism, love and fatigue.

Panelists: Chris Roberts, Ernst Bryant, Jane’a Johnson
Date & Time: 09/08 – 6:30pm
No Recording Available


In preparation for this panel (Due 09/08):

Read: The Memeification Of Breonna Taylor’s Death, Blay, Z., 2020.
https://www.huffpost.com/entry/memes-breonna-taylor-arrest-the-cops_n_5efcf975c5b6acab284a93aa

Read: Fifth Avenue, Uptown, James Baldwin, 1960.
https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/a3638/fifth-avenue-uptown/

Read: Vol.IV, 1920, No.2, of The New York Historical Society, Quarterly Bulletin
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/qop63045ohv1k12/AACdojFyWy7jQ_a7ocHhnEe1a?dl=0

Additional Material (Recommended, not required):

Read: Coates, T. and Frazier, L., 2020. The Life Breonna Taylor Lived, In The Words Of Her Mother. Vanity Fair. https://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2020/08/breonna-taylor

Review: The See In Black Project – A Photography Collective:
https://www.instagram.com/seeinblackproject/, https://seeinblack.com/

Listen: Teaching Hard History: Slavery and The Northern Economy, featuring Hasan Kwame Jeffries and Christy Clark Pujar
https://www.tolerance.org/podcasts/teaching-hard-history/american-slavery/slavery-and-the-northern-economy

Watch: Meditation Making of America, an installation by Kiyan William
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4S0XKRUXGaQ

Watch: The Candace Owens Show, featuring Marc Lamont Hill
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HjDUUU-Z-aI

Read: The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House, Audre Lorde, 1981.
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/qop63045ohv1k12/AACdojFyWy7jQ_a7ocHhnEe1a?dl=0


Jane’a Johnson earned a PhD in Modern Culture and Media from Brown University, an MA in Cinema and Media Studies from University of California, Los Angeles, and a BA in philosophy from Spelman College. She focuses on visual culture and violence, with special attention given to the way race is produced through archival and museum practices. Her dissertation, Lynching and the Archive: A History, studies lynching images alongside their patterns of circulation as well as the way that they have been presented in museum exhibitions, cataloged in archives, commemorated in memorials, and framed for scholarly study. Her current exhibition and manuscript project examines how contemporary Black photographers in the African Diaspora have responded to depictions of Black subjects in Dutch Golden Age painting. 

Jane’a has also worked as a cultural practitioner at Brown University’s John Hay Library, Providence Athenaeum Library, the Crocker Art Museum, the California State Library and Sacramento Public Library. 

Ernest A. Bryant III, L.P.I., is an artist and critic from the USA. He has a background in interdisciplinary studio art. He earned an MFA from Yale University, School of Art, where he focused on critical theory, new media, and printmaking; and earned a second MFA in Art Writing & Criticism from the New York School of Visual arts, where his focus was art and society’s relationship to nature, molestation, conservation, and homelessness. In his work he uses nature, video, image-making, history, positionality, theory and humor to examine the ontological conflicts that arise between different aesthetic and cultural values. Currently, Bryant has been developing a method of augmented drawing that he describes as “a form of drawing that uses line to explore value, labor and its displacement.”
Over the years he has taught mural painting, and studio art to teens. He worked for a non-profit Black art organization as an independent exhibition curator. Most recently he taught a class in prison, for Yale Prison Education Initiative, served as a resident critic and teaching fellow at the Yale Norfolk School of Art, and as a guest critic, in Graphic Design, at Pratt Institute.
He was in residency at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, did a self-designed residency in Santiago, Cuba, and was in residency at the Shangyuan Art Scene in Beijing, China, after which he taught in China for 4 years. He has received fellowships for his work from the Jerome Foundation, and the Bush Foundation, and published the book, “Surviving the next four to Eight Years in the United States of America 2017-2025, For Sufferers of a Recrudescent Ideological KRISIS” in 2017.


Christopher Roberts earned a PhD in Africology and African American Studies from Temple University and an MA in Ethnic Studies from San Francisco State University. He examines Black geographies of memory and forgetting, with an emphasis on port cities in the US that anchored the transatlantic and domestic slave trades. His current manuscript project proposes an alternative episteme through which we can unsettle the antiblackness and geographic imperialism inherent in the monumental landscape of the US via robust archival, field and digital humanities research that analyzes Confederate monuments and African burial grounds in the US American South. Prior to teaching at RISD, he taught at Brown University, where he was the Artemis AW and Martha Joukowsky Postdoctoral Fellow at The Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women. Before that, he taught at Rutgers University in Camden, NJ and Temple University in Philadelphia.

In addition to his career in academia, Roberts spent 10 years as a museum professional working in educational programming and tour design at The Betti Ono Gallery in Oakland, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture in Baltimore. While in Oakland, he worked as a poet mentor in Bay Area public schools for the organization Youth Speaks Inc. He has also worked as a spoken word artist, performing his poetry in cities across the US, and from 2007–11 he hosted an open-mic poetry event in his hometown of Baltimore, MD.


PANEL 2
Undoing and Redoing: How is society reflected in cultural institutions?

How is society reflected in cultural institutions? How do we remake these structures centering cultures of justice and equity? Artist Simone Leigh, writer Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, and art worker and writer Laura Raicovich will talk together about their experiences. They will discuss the current RISD Museum exhibition, Raiding the Icebox, which features the work of both Leigh and Rhodes-Pitts, as well as museums more generally, and the ways in which the imagination is essential to undoing and redoing culture.

Panelists: Simone Leigh, Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, Laura Raicovich
Date & Time:  09/09 – 4:30pm
Zoom Recording


In preparation for this panel (Due 09/09):

Read: Simone Leigh: For her own pleasure, by Sharifa Rhodes-Pitt. Guggenheim Museum, 2018 Hugo Boss Prize.
https://www.guggenheim.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/guggenheim-sharifa-rhodes-pitt-essay-simone-leigh-hugo-boss-prize-2018.pdf

Additional Material (not required):

Watch: Simone Leigh, Loophole of Retreat, Conference. Guggenheim Museum.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKlLbpg0m4E&list=PLWt9nvDxzGOoGoRgVjq91sbQudNBXEVkx&fbclid=IwAR27gkWsqb0l6-NzpL7aPz6IlP0UYbI8VzeYnVlMo5OEb-VdqhHa5P2uopw


Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts is the author of Harlem Is Nowhere: A Journey to the Mecca of Black America. The first volume of a planned trilogy on African-Americans and utopia (Harlem, Haiti and the Black Belt of the American south), it was a New York Times Notable Book of 2011, a National Book Critics Circle Finalist and cited by BOOKFORUM as the “Best New York Book” written in the twenty years since the magazine’s founding. In 2019 Harlem Is Nowhere appeared on Slate magazine’s list of the 50 best nonfiction books from the past 25 years. Her book for young readers “Jake Makes a World: Jacob Lawrence a Young Artist in Harlem” (commissioned by MoMA and illustrated by Christopher Myers) was named by Booklist among 2015’s top titles about art for children. Rhodes-Pitts organizes collaborative public projects through The Freedwomen’s Bureau and is an assistant professor of writing at Pratt Institute.

Simone Leigh’s practice incorporates sculpture, video, and installation; all are informed by her ongoing exploration of black female-identified subjectivity. Leigh works in a mode she describes as auto-ethnographic. Her objects often employ materials and forms traditionally associated with African art; her performance- influenced installations create spaces where historical precedent and self-determination comingle. Through her investigations of visual overlaps between cultures, time periods, and geographies, she confronts and examines ideas of the female body, race, beauty, and community. 

Leigh was born in 1967 in Chicago, IL. She is a recipient of the Foundation for Contemporary Art Grant (2018), Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize (2017), John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship (2016), and Anonymous Was a Woman Award (2016). Recent projects and exhibitions include: Simone Leigh (2020) at David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; Whitney Biennial (2019) at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Trigger: Gender as a Tool and as a Weapon (2017) at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; Psychic Friends Network (2016) at Tate Exchange, Tate Modern, London; The Waiting Room (2016) at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; The Free People’s Medical Clinic (2014) a project commissioned by Creative Time; inHarlem, a public installation presented by The Studio Museum in Harlem at Marcus Garvey Park, New York; and a solo exhibition at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Leigh’s work was featured in Loophole of Retreat, a major exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum, New York to commemorate her achievements as the winner of the Hugo Boss Prize 2018. Leigh is the first artist to be commissioned for the High Line Plinth, where she presents a new monumental sculpture that started in April 2019. 

Laura Raicovich is a New York-based writer, art worker, and curator. She currently is completing a book titled Cultural Revolution: Museums and Cultural Institutions in an Age of Protest (Verso 2021) and serves as Interim Director of New York City’s Leslie Lohman Museum of Art. In 2019 she was a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow at the Bellagio Center, and Hyperallergic awarded her the inaugural Emily H. Tremaine Journalism Fellowship for Curators. While Director of the Queens Museum from 2015 to 2018, Raicovich co-curated Mel Chin: All Over the Place (2018), a multi-borough survey of the artist’s work. Raicovich, who launched Creative Time’s Global Initiatives in 2012, was previously Deputy Director at Dia Art Foundation, and served at the Guggenheim and Public Art Fund in various capacities. She is the author and editor of several books, lectures internationally, and in 2019-20 co-curated a seminar series titled Freedom of Speech: A Curriculum for Studies into Darkness at the New School’s Vera List Center for Art and Politics, from which she is co-editing an anthology of writings on the subject (forthcoming 2021).


PANEL 3
Cultural Appropriation and Imagery in the Racial Imaginary

Join RISD’s Liberal Arts Professors J. Joon Lee, Jane’a Johnson and Experimental and Foundation Studies Professors Spencer Evans and Michael Demps for a discussion on contemporary issues concerning the ethics and aesthetics of cultural appropriation through racial imagery, censorship and the politics of representation. The discussion will serve as an introduction to cultural appropriation and help address the power imbalances in cultural exchange, bias, stereotypes and the potential harm for people of color. The panel will be moderated by Matthew Shenoda, Associate Provost of Social Equity and Inclusion at RISD.

Panelists: Matthew Shenoda, J. Joon Lee, Jane’a Johnson, Michael Demps, Spencer Evans
Date & Time: 09/10 – 6:30pm
Zoom Recording


In preparation for this panel (Due 09/10):

Watch: Ethnic Notions (access through Kanopy)
https://risd.kanopy.com/video/ethnic-notions-0

Read: Teju Cole, “Getting Others Right:
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/13/magazine/getting-others-right.html
Link to Poolaw’s Photographs

Read: Siddharta Mitter, “What Does It Mean to Be Black and Look at This?” A Scholar Reflects on the Dana Schutz Controversy”: https://hyperallergic.com/368012/what-does-it-mean-to-be-black-and-look-at-this-a-scholar-reflects-on-the-dana-schutz-controversy/

Additional Materials (not required):

Watch: Vimeo Recording of “A Conversation on Cultural Appropriation, Representation and Free Speech” (RISD 2018 Homi Bhabha, Kameelah Janan Rasheed, Fred Wilson moderated by Leora Maltz-Leca)
https://livestream.com/accounts/2814969/events/8156916/videos/174274603

Read: Nadra Kareem Nittle, “A Guide to Understanding and Avoiding Cultural Appropriation”
https://www.thoughtco.com/cultural-appropriation-and-why-iits-wrong-2834561

Read: Krista Tompson and Huey Copeland, “Afrotropes: A User’s Guide”
http://artjournal.collegeart.org/?p=9755


J. Joon Lee teaches classes on histories and theories of photography. She received her PhD in Art History from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Prior to her postgraduate studies in art history, Lee was trained in urban planning and worked on projects involving global consortiums.
Lee’s research centers on the discursive ways in which photography engages with the formation of political subjectivity. Her recent publication topics include photography and nation building, photo portraits and the rhetoric of family, the use of US camptown studio portraits in artworks, and photography and postcolonial memories in Hong Kong. Lee is currently working on a book-length project examining the ways that the medium of photography, and its subjects, have been politicized as transnational militarism shapes life in the two Koreas and beyond in East Asia. Her work has been published in such journals as History of Photography, Journal of Korean Studies, photographies, Photography & Culture and Trans-Asia Photography Review.

Jane’a Johnson earned a PhD in Modern Culture and Media from Brown University, an MA in Cinema and Media Studies from University of California, Los Angeles, and a BA in philosophy from Spelman College. She focuses on visual culture and violence, with special attention given to the way race is produced through archival and museum practices. Her dissertation, Lynching and the Archive: A History, studies lynching images alongside their patterns of circulation as well as the way that they have been presented in museum exhibitions, cataloged in archives, commemorated in memorials, and framed for scholarly study. Her current exhibition and manuscript project examines how contemporary Black photographers in the African Diaspora have responded to depictions of Black subjects in Dutch Golden Age painting. 

Jane’a has also worked as a cultural practitioner at Brown University’s John Hay Library, Providence Athenaeum Library, the Crocker Art Museum, the California State Library and Sacramento Public Library. 

Spencer Evans is a figurative draftsman, painter and sculptor who aims to tell detailed stories by using the imagery of specific moments. The intent of his work is to study and highlight the relationship between the inner and outer self in context with the environment that created it. He often uses a combination of representation, abstraction and various mark-making techniques to depict his visual interpretation of the feeling of tension that occurs during the transfer of internal emotion into outward behavior/expression.

Evans was born in Houston, TX and earned his BFA in Drawing and Painting from the University of Missouri and his MFA from the University of Texas at Arlington. He has taught drawing and painting and lectured in the US and on the continent of Africa. His ongoing research is rooted in finding cultural connections between the Black American community and the thousands of tribes inhabiting African nations. This research has resulted in projects conducted in Nigeria and Sudan, which led to a mural project at Sudan University of Fine and Applied Arts. Evans’ work has most recently been shown at the Dallas Museum of Art and the Houston Museum of African American Culture.

Matthew Shenoda, RISD’s Associate Provost of Social Equity and Inclusion at RISD, teaches in the fields of ethnic studies and creative writing. Before coming to RISD in 2018 he was the assistant provost for equity and diversity at CalArts and dean of academic diversity, equity and inclusion at Columbia College Chicago. Additionally, Shenoda teaches in the low-residency MFA Writing Program at Pacific University and is a founding editor of the African Poetry Book Fund.
Shenoda is a writer, professor and university administrator whose poems and essays have appeared in a variety of newspapers, journals, radio programs and anthologies. He has been twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize and his work has been supported by the California Arts Council and the Lannan Foundation, among others. His work has been published and received several recognitions and awards including the 2005 debut books of the year by Poets & Writers Magazine, 2006 American Book Award, and the 2015 Arab American Book Award among others. He is the editor of Duppy Conqueror: New & Selected Poems by Kwame Dawes and (with Dawes) the 2017 anthology Bearden’s Odyssey: Poets Respond to the Art of Romare Bearden (TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press).

Michael Jevon Demps is a multidisciplinary artist and musician. His work questions the body in relationship to power and oppressive social structures while creating conditions in space and time that critically engage with communities as audience and collaborators. Demps aims to compose works that invoke seeking and sharing experiences in service of envisioning and embodying complex strategies for navigating a constantly shifting social, political, intimate, and spiritual world. Since earning an MFA in sculpture from Yale University, he has been awarded several residencies including Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and The Fountainhead Residency (Miami, FL). Recent exhibitions include The Visual Arts Center of Richmond (Richmond,VA), Blackburn 20/20 (New York, NY), Charles Moffett (New York, NY) and The Studio Museum in Harlem (New York, NY).

PANEL 4
Boo City in Concert

Boo City in Concert!

Panelists: Tai Awolaju and Moon Bain
Date & Time:  09/11 – 6pm
Zoom Recording


Boo City is a Providence based band led by Tai Awolaju and Moon Bain, both accomplished singer/songwriters and producers who played in different projects nationally. Boo City’s music merges seamlessly country-blues, indie-rock, and reggae influences with retro-soul and folk elements. Boo City’s music is energetic, whimsical, fun, melodic, and edgy all at once. This talented group of musicians embodies a fresh sound in Providence RI and American music. 

More info:
https://www.boocityband.com/