In this interview with Anthony McKissic, we talk about ritual and recall in Black art and Black spaces. A resident of Baltimore, Maryland, McKissic was born and raised in Washington, DC. A part of his cultural upbringing is rooted in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and Chattanooga, Tennessee. He attended Morgan State University and the Maryland Institute College of Art. McKissic is currently pursuing a doctorate in English from Morgan State University while continuing to teach with Baltimore City Schools.
McKissic talks up Blues artists Jr. Kimbrough, R.L. Burnside, and Cotton Patch Soul Blues a form of Blues music with roots in Mississippi.
Included here are links to a couple of the Blues artists that McKissic is inspired by:
R.L. Burnside and family. R.L. Burnside on guitar, Burnside’s grandson on drums. Song title, “Boogie Instrumental”
[source: YouTube, Alan Lomax Collection]
“I Came to Praise His Name” by Leo Bud Welch [source: YouTube, Easy Eye Sound]
Background: In 2015, Bree Newsome Bass made national headlines when she scaled a 30-foot flag pole at the South Carolina statehouse and took down the Confederate flag. In an article entitled, “Charlottesville Reinforced That Self-Care Is an Essential Part of My Activism,” (SELF Magazine) Bass shares the importance of self-care stating, “I have a tendency to go, go, go until I burn out…self-care did not come naturally to me at first…since committing myself to social justice a few years ago, it’s something I’ve developed out of necessity.” VisitBlackHistory.com has invited participants to take part in an oral history project that will document the role of self-care in this day and time. We are specifically examining the individual impact of COVID-19, witnessing recent police brutality in the Black community, and the subsequent demonstrations that have followed.
42:43 Sophia V. Nelson: Absolutely. Well, my second to last question is, who is Dr. Redell Hearn?
42:52 DH: Whoo! [chuckle] Well, there’s two people in there. Let’s see, who is Dr. Redell? Dr. Redell Hearn is a museologist, with over 25 years’ experience in the museum field, from working in museums to teaching about museums, inside this country, all over this country, as well as abroad. That’s Dr. Redell Hearn, the thinker. Redell Hearn, the spiritual practitioner, is the creator of Soul-Sip, which is a class that blends the sacred and social elements of guided meditation and wine appreciation with the focus to help relax the mind, elevate the senses and savor the moment, and that’s really a metaphor for how Redell lives her life.
Preservation in action! Today this group kicked off a Preservation Plan for the Georgia B. Williams Nursing Home in Camilla, Georgia! Here, Beatrice Borders, a third generation African-American midwife, operated a nursing home from 1941 to 1971, delivering over 6,000 babies! Providing an essential service through segregation and the Jim Crow era, Beatrice provided a safe place for expectant mothers, and “birthed a city.” #thisplacematters#PreservingHope@thegeorgiatrust#preservationplanning@visitblackhistory#grassroots#kickoff
The Charles Sumner School Museum & Archives is the official museum and archives dedicated to preserving the history of Public Education in Washington, DC. In a town full of museums, it’s also one of the most unknown. I met with the museum’s executive director, Kimberly Springle, for a tour and in-depth conversation about the museum’s mission.
The museum is located inside the same building that housed the original Charles Sumner School, which was one of the first public elementary schools for African-American children and also possibly an architectural first since there were few school buildings of similar design. The school opened in 1872 and held the first commencement for African American public high school students in 1877, with Frederick Douglass as the keynote speaker. Having recently celebrated 30 years, the museum holds archives and memorabilia dating back to 1804 which includes DC Public School (DCPS) Board of Education’s meeting minutes. Visitors will find everything from DCPS class pictures, yearbooks, newspaper clippings, trophies, budget reports, and staff/student registrars roughly between 1850 and World War II years.
One of the most impressive facts I learned about the museum is how much of an anomaly it is, possibly being the most comprehensive U.S. collection of one school district’s history. However, it was also surprising to learn how few people knew of the museum, especially former DCPS students. Kimberly and I discussed ways to get the current DCPS system involved with the museum and how to spread the word to former students and their kin.
Something the Charles Sumner School Museum & Archives has that many primary and secondary schools don’t are art galleries. Currently on view is Rhonisha D. Franklin’sProfile Noire photography exhibit. The award-winning photographer spent a year capturing images of 100 African American women to highlight their beauty, power, and regality. At first glance, the use of soft lighting and black background will make you think these images are paintings, which adds further depth to Rhonisha’s take on portraiture. If you’ll be in DC between now and January 18, 2020, I highly recommend adding the Charles Sumner School Museum & Archives and the Profile Noire exhibit to your “must-see” list.
On Wednesday, January 8, 2020, the High Museum of Art hosted Conversation: ATL Streetwear, which was part of the educational programming accompanying the Museum’s temporary exhibition, Virgil Abloh: “Figures of Speech.” The event’s emcee, Kenny Burns, expressed that streetwear derives from people with limited traditional fashion-world resources, who have the desire to create. Burns was joined by Marina Skye, Kwassi Byll-Cataria, and Renaldo Nehemiah. Together the four discussed several sub-topics, including the evolution of how streetwear is worn, the creative and small business economy that is supported by streetwear consumers, and Atlanta’s past, present, and future influence on streetwear culture.
In Elena Romero’s book title Free Stylin: How Hip Hop Changed the Fashion Industry, former Vibe Magazine editor-in-chief, Emil Wilbekin, recalls Hip-Hop’s early influence on fashion stating, “When the stars started becoming stars and needing more outfits, and the music videos became more important, they gave people something to emulate and something to copy.” Panelist and Wish ATL creative director, Renaldo Nehemiah, credited Goodie Mob founding member, Big Gipp, as one of his earliest fashion influences. Kenny Burns saluted his hometown brethren, DC-gogo band E.U., for wearing bucket hats designed by DC-based urban wear brand, Univeral Madness, in the group’s chart-topping music video, “Doin’ the Butt.” That is when streetwear began to garner his attention.
When self-taught streetwear designers entered the marketplace, they were able to exercise a bit of creative control over things like fabric selection, patterns, and garment cut; still, the consumer decided on the desired clothing fit. Just before Hip-Hop gained mainstream popularity, slim fit ankle cut jeans, rugby shirts, and polos were some of the fashion trends of the time. And as Hip-Hop artists began to take on a larger than life persona, so did their clothing. Old press and advertisement photos of 90s streetwear brands like Cross Colours, Karl Kani, and Sean John demonstrates an era of clothing being produced for and worn in a baggier fit. Then something began to shift.
In 2008, rappers Jay-Z and T.I. released “Swagga Like Us,” in which Jay-Z exclaimed, “Can’t wear skinny jeans, cause my knots don’t fit.” Subtly, Jay-Z was acknowledging a shift in Hip-Hop fashion – streetwear consumers were beginning to seek slimmer fitting clothes. According to public record, Atlanta menswear boutique Moda 404, was established in 2008. Panelist, Kwassi Byll-Cataria, is one of the store’s co-founders. Burns said one of the reasons he began frequenting Moda 404 is because Byll-Cataria selected and retailed clothes designed to fit Black men. Adding, “his clothes made you look less boxy…you know us black men have got butts.”
An audience member inquired about the probability of successful streetwear enterprises having a positive impact on Atlanta’s workforce. The panelists responded with a description of the talent pool that is needed to produce a streetwear brand. Manufacturers, printers, and graphic designers are a few examples of the professional service persons involved in getting a clothing brand to market. This is an opportunity for various professionals to get a piece of the streetwear production pie. Another audience member, Adia of Flr-Pln, sought distribution advice for streetwear designers that currently do not have a brick and mortar. Panelist, art, and set director, Marina Skye attested to the contemporary significance of Pop-Up shops like Clark Atlanta University’s Market Thursday, which provides an opportunity for brands to connect with consumers.
Renaldo Nehemiah shared that whenever he is on travel, he makes it a point to wear Atlanta streetwear brands. He wants interested passersby to see what Atlanta’s streetwear culture has to offer. Nehemiah believes that Virgil Abloh is aware of all that Atlanta has to offer. He finds it no coincidence that Atlanta was selected as the 2nd city to host Virgil Abloh’s “Figures of Speech” exhibit. The first city to host the traveling exhibition was Chicago, which is not too far from Abloh’s birthplace Rockford, Illinois.
Kwassi Byll-Cataria suggests buying fashion is similar to purchasing art. Furthermore, Byll-Cataria feels consumers today are moved to buy based on the person behind the brand. Some may find the “Figures of Speech” exhibit design demonstrates Byll-Cataria’s theory. A selection of works on view provides a glimpse into Abloh’s various creative endeavors that preceded his appointment as Louis Vuitton’s menswear artistic director. After viewing the exhibit and examining the depth of Abloh’s creative work, see if you feel compelled to purchase a High Museum of Art x Virgil Abloh t-shirt for your collection.
A discussion on Abloh’s recent streetwear will “die” in 2020 comment, seemed to yield a disconcerted reaction from the room. Kenny Burns felt Abloh’s comment was irresponsible since there remains a talent pool that is committed to not only sustaining but evolving streetwear culture. Burns expressed his disappointment to a packed house that appeared to be the perfect mix of consumers, designers, and distributors. If Wednesday night’s attendance is any indication of the interest in Atlanta streetwear culture, then I do not foresee the market going anywhere anytime soon.
Screening & Discussion with Bob Kendrick, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum President, and Pedro Sierra, Former Negro Leagues Player
Little Falls, NJ –Friday, January 24 –In honor of 2020’s 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues, the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center is hosting a special screening of the The Other Boys of Summer, a 42-minute documentary featuring never-before-seen interviews with former Negro Leagues players. The screening will be followed by a discussion and Q&A with the film’s director, Lauren Meyer and Bob Kendrick, President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City. Joining them is special guest Pedro Sierra, former pitcher for the Indianapolis Clowns and the Detroit Stars, who is featured in the film. Refreshments will be served before the screening and are included in the ticket price. Further information and ticket purchase are available on the Museum’s website at https://yogiberramuseum.org/events/otherboys/.
The evening is part of the Museum’s year-long Negro Leagues centennial celebration, which kicked off with the opening in September of the current exhibition, DISCOVER GREATNESS: An Illustrated History of Negro Leagues Baseball. The traveling exhibit, on loan from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, showcases African American baseball from the 1800’s through the 1960’s. 90 photographs document the history of black players though the Independent Leagues, the formation of the Negro Leagues, Jackie Robinson’s breaking of the color barrier in the Major Leagues and the subsequent decline of the Negro Leagues as more players moved to the Majors. To enhance the visitor experience, the Museum commissioned an augmented reality app that leverages artificial intelligence to bring the vintage black and white images in the show to vivid life. Together the photographs illuminate the complex history and struggles of African Americans in our national pastime, bringing to the fore both historical and contemporary issues of racial equity and social justice. The exhibition will be open to the public from through June of 2020.
In coordination with DISCOVER GREATNESS and the Negro Leagues anniversary year, the Museum has developed engaging and experiential education programming for visiting middle and high school students connecting the historical lessons of the Negro Leagues to the current national conversation about race. Since the exhibition’s opening in late September 2019, over 1,000 students have already participated in the program. In February the Museum will mark Black History Month by launching an extensive new online curriculum that addresses the issue of race through the historical lens of baseball.
“Yogi famously treated all people with respect,” says Eve Schaenen, the Museum’s Executive Director. “We view The Other Boys of Summer screening and the opportunity for important conversation that the film and the DISCOVER GREATNESS exhibition create as part of our mission to uphold his legacy of respect for others.”
The Other Boys of Summer screening and discussion was made possible through the generous support of the Borman Family Foundation. The DISCOVER GREATNESS exhibition and its attendant education programming were made possible in part by the generous support of the following: Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, E.J. Grassmann Trust, The Hyde and Watson Foundation, The Montclair Foundation, The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum*, New Jersey Council for the Humanities**, The Provident Bank Foundation, The Albert Payson Terhune Foundation.
*The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, a not for profit organization devoted to the preservation of Negro Leagues baseball history, has organized this traveling exhibition.
**Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this exhibition do not necessarily represent those of the NEH or NJCH.
About The Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center:
The Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center is a nonprofit sports education organization on the campus of Montclair State (NJ) University. The Museum’s mission is to preserve and promote the values of perseverance, respect, sportsmanship and excellence through inclusive, culturally diverse, sports-based educational exhibits and programs.