‘Queen & Slim’ Soundtrack Features Megan Thee Stallion,…

Published 4:45 pm EDT, Thursday, October 10, 2019

The soundtrack to the highly anticipated film “Queen & Slim” will be released by Motown on Nov. 15, it was announced today. The 17-song collection features new tracks from Ms. Lauryn Hill, Megan Thee Stallion, Lil Baby, Vince Staples featuring 6lack X Mereba, Tiana Major 9 & EARTHGANG and Coast Contra featuring BJ The Chicago Kid and Syd. Classic songs by Roy Ayers, Bilal and Mike Jones can also be heard.

Starring Daniel Kaluuya, who was nominated for an Academy award for his role in Jordan Peele’s “Get Out,” and Jodie Turner-Smith (“The Neon Demon”), “Queen & Slim” is a modern re-telling of Bonnie & Clyde that confronts race relations and police brutality in America. Melina Matsoukas (“Master of None,” “Insecure”) makes her feature directorial debut with the film. Lena Waithe, the first black woman to win the Emmy award for outstanding writing for a comedy series, is credited as a writer alongside James Frey, of “A Million Little Pieces” fame. 

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“I wanted the soundtrack for Queen & Slim to showcase the historical evolution of Black music, from its roots in blues and soul, to modern bounce, hip hop and R&B – much like we used to see in film soundtracks in the 90s,” said Matsoukas. “We partnered with Motown because of their legacy within Black music. I am honored to have worked beside Ethiopia [Habtermariam, Motown president] and cannot wait for audiences to hear what each artist has created.”

Dev Hynes, best known by his stage name of Blood Orange, composed the score for “Queen & Slim.”

A video for the song “Collide” by Tiana Major 9 & EARTHGANG” was released today. Watch it below.

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Along with Habtemariam, Waithe and Matsoukas served as executive producers for the soundtrack. 

Habtemariam thanked Waithe and Matsoukas for creating the dynamic film and allowing Motown to be their partner. “We are honored and grateful to work alongside you all. This soundtrack serves as an additional piece of storytelling from an array of Black artists throughout time. A reminder that our talent and gifts are limitless and non-linear,” she said. 

“Queen & Slim” opens the American Film Institute fest on Nov. 14, and hits theaters on Nov. 27.

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Steven Reed and Why ‘Firsts’ Still Matter

Montgomery, Alabama, mayor-elect Steven Reed.

Montgomery, Alabama, mayor-elect Steven Reed. Photo: Courtesy of Steven Reed

The past decade has been a crash course in the limits of political “firsts.” Barack Obama, the first black president of the United States, cast himself as the personification of hope, a balm for a nation scarred by racism. He was convincing because he believed it himself: His faith in the fundamental goodwill of most white Americans and understanding that, for many black ones, he heralded a degree of power few thought they’d see wielded by one of their own, made his vision of a future marked by unprecedented national unity hard to resist. But short of realizing it, he was thwarted by a racist opposition and his own inclination to engage it in good faith. Perhaps worse, he was a president like most others where it counted the most: too invested in preserving his country’s global military might, rigidly enforced borders, and ballooning wealth to implement radical solutions to its ills.

By the 2016 presidential election, the merits of such a first — on its own terms — had become less evident. Bernie Sanders articulated this skepticism after Hillary Clinton’s loss. “It’s not good enough for someone to say, ‘I’m a woman! Vote for me!’” he said, weeks after the election. “What we need is a woman who has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil-fuel industry.” The term “identity politics” — devised originally by black feminists to describe how broader liberation derived naturally from uplifting the most oppressed — was recast as a pejorative, used to describe liberals who privileged the optics of diversity over the practice of justice, on the one hand, and on the other to decry a politics that didn’t indulge white people enough. Sanders was making a case for the former. But both spelled electoral ruin for Democrats if permitted to thrive, many argued.

First African-American fighter pilot now has statue at aviation museum

ROBINS AFB, Ga. – His father was born into slavery, but he would live to have a dogfight with German pilots in the skies over Europe.

Eugene Bullard, who became known as the Black Swallow of Death, was the first African-American pilot to fly in combat.

He now has a statue in his honor, unveiled Wednesday in Warner Robins, Georgia, at the Museum of Aviation next to Robins Air Force Base, and about 100 miles south of Atlanta.

His distant cousin, Harriett Bullard White, told CNN she wept with joy as she placed a wreath at the statue during a ceremony, attended by Air Force officers, nearly two dozen family members and several surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen.

“All my life I’d known how great he was. Of course, no one else knew who he is,” White said. “He’s an American hero and someone all Americans should know about.”

An African-American who became a French fighter pilot

Born in Columbus, Georgia, in 1895, Bullard ran away from home as an 11-year-old, wandering the South for years before stowing away on a freight ship destined for Scotland.

The next year, 1913, he settled in France. When World War I broke out, Bullard enlisted in the French Foreign Legion, serving first in the infantry.

But after being wounded in battle, Bullard made a $2,000 bet with a friend that he could become a military aviator despite his skin color, according to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

He won the bet, receiving his wings as a member of the Aéronautique Militaire in May 1917. That November, he claimed he shot down two German fighters, though accounts vary as to whether those aerial victories could be confirmed.

Black military pilots wouldn’t become common in America until the famed Tuskegee Airmen began training to fly in 1941. President Harry Truman formally desegregated the entire US armed forces with an executive order in 1948.

He was a pioneer

For decades, Bullard was a man apart.

After his World War I service, Bullard’s life had other brushes with history. He owned an American-style nightclub in Paris’ Montmarte district where he would have “rubbed elbows” with expat writers such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, the Smithsonian says.

White, his distant cousin, told CNN that the poet Langston Hughes worked as a dishwasher in Bullard’s nightclub, and that Bullard listed boxing legend Jack Johnson as a reference on his resume.

Ernest Hemingway even based a minor character on Bullard in the novel The Sun Also Rises, according to the University of Georgia Press.

Returning to America after World War II, Bullard was active in the civil rights movement. During one confrontation, a bus driver ordered him to sit in the back of the bus.

In 1959, the French government made him a knight of the Legion of Honor, the nation’s highest order and decoration.

Though in life Bullard was never allowed to join the US military as an aviator, he was posthumously commissioned as a second lieutenant in the US Air Force in 1994.

“To see the statue, I feel like I’ve conquered,” White said. “He was so deserving. It’s never too late to acknowledge his legacy.”

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled the name of Bullard’s cousin. The correct spelling is Harriett Bullard White.

Dynasty actress and fiery anti-racism campaigner

In the early 1970s she was poised to marry the British television personality David Frost, then in his early thirties and one of London’s most eligible bachelors, who had his own nightly show on American TV.

British television personality David Frost and actress-singer Diahann Carroll at New York's Plaza Hotel where their engagement was announced in 1972.

British television personality David Frost and actress-singer Diahann Carroll at New York’s Plaza Hotel where their engagement was announced in 1972.Credit:AP

But although the couple announced their engagement in November 1972, she dumped him following a slide in his ratings, and the decision by stations in the American south to cancel his programme.

By then Diahann Carroll had earned a reputation as a fiery anti-racism campaigner, only to be accused of selling out to the white establishment as a successful actress and glamorous middle-of-the-road cabaret singer.

Articulate, opinionated and cultured, she parried such charges by pointing out that she had been a black artist competing in a white world. “I’m acceptable,” she explained, noting that her skin tone was redolent of café-au-lait. “I’m a black woman with a white image. I don’t scare the audience.”

Her road to stardom was anything but trouble-free. As an ambitious black teenager she had wanted to conquer Hollywood, but realised that the only black parts on offer were either those of perfect mother figures or hookers. Producers would not cast her in grittier roles for fear of being thought racist. In the mid-1950s she addressed her anger at her predicament during four years of psychoanalysis and drug therapy, including controlled doses of LSD.

Diahann Carroll as the 19-year-old starry-eyed ingenue in House of Flowers, 1955.

Diahann Carroll as the 19-year-old starry-eyed ingenue in House of Flowers, 1955. Credit:London Express News And Feature Services

Diahann Carroll first came to notice in 1954 when, at the age of 19, she was cast as Myrt, a bit part in the film Carmen Jones, directed by Otto Preminger and starring Harry Belafonte, Dorothy Dandridge and Pearl Bailey.

Five years later she returned to the big screen to play a supporting role in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, also directed by Preminger, who used virtually the same black cast but added Sammy Davis Jr as the drug dealer Sportin’ Life and replacing Belafonte with Sidney Poitier, with whom Diahann Carroll became romantically linked.

Although she had appeared as a singer in several popular American television shows, her big television break came in 1968 when she played a young Vietnam War widow working as a nurse in Julia, the first American primetime series to be driven by a black woman in a non-stereotypical role, such as a servant. The role earned her four Emmy nominations and a Golden Globe award.

The programme was aired on ITV in 1969, and by the following year Diahann Carroll was dating Frost, who was combining five nights a week presenting an American television show with a Saturday night chat show on ITV. The couple spent Christmas 1971 with Frost’s widowed mother at her bungalow in Beccles, Suffolk.

Nudging 50 in 1984, she stormed into the American television soap saga Dynasty (1982-89) as Blake Carrington’s illegitimate and improbable half sister, Dominique Deveraux.

High-handed and tempestuous, the character was pitched into a “bitch-fight” with the show’s star Alexis, played by Joan Collins. Diahann Carroll remained with the show for three years, and make several appearances on its short-lived spin-off, The Colbys.

Dynasty's Diahann Carroll, John Forsythe, Linda Evans and Joan Collins cut a cake to commemorate 150 episodes in 1986.

Dynasty’s Diahann Carroll, John Forsythe, Linda Evans and Joan Collins cut a cake to commemorate 150 episodes in 1986.Credit:AP

The daughter of a conductor on the New York Subway, she was born Carol Diahann Johnson in the Bronx district of New York on July 17, 1935 and brought up in Harlem. Her parents encouraged her to take dance, singing and modelling classes, and by the time she was 15 she was undertaking modelling assignments for Ebony magazine. Graduating from the High School of Music and Art, she read Sociology at New York University.

She abandoned her studies when she was 18, after she won a television talent show, Chance of a Lifetime, and was booked to sing at two New York nightclubs. Her supporting role in Carmen Jones the same year led to her featuring in the Broadway musical, House of Flowers.

In 1959, when she played Clara in the film version of Porgy and Bess, her voice was judged to be too low-pitched and the character’s singing parts were dubbed by the opera singer Loulie Jean Norman.

With Sidney Poitier, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, she starred in the 1961 film Paris Blues. In 1962, she won a Tony award for best actress (a first for a black woman) for her role as the fashion model Barbara Woodruff in the Richard Rodgers musical No Strings.

At the same time Diahann Carroll had become active in the Civil Rights movement and was present when Martin Luther King Jr delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech during the 1963 march on Washington. In 1968 she joined Barbra Streisand and Paul Newman in an all-star concert in New York to raise funds for an anti-Vietnam War campaign, and later gave evidence to a Congressional hearing on racial discrimination.

Diahann Carroll was written out of Dynasty in 1987, after reports that she had made “racial” comments on the studio set. She continued to command star treatment, however, arranging with the Royal Garden Hotel in London later that year to have 22 quarts of milk delivered to her penthouse suite daily for her bath. Apparently she mixed it with hot water and took a long soak to keep her skin supple.

She was named alongside Elizabeth Taylor and Jackie Onassis in the list of the Top 10 Female Style Makers of 1984, while Harper’s Bazaar magazine ranked her among the world’s 10 most beautiful women. As well as her accolades for Julia and the Tony for her role in No Strings, she gained an Best Actress Oscar nomination for her portrayal of the title role in the love story Claudine (1974).

Diahann Carroll married four times, first to the record producer Monte Kay with whom she had a daughter. In 1973, having jilted David Frost, she married a Las Vegas boutique tycoon, Fred Glusman, only to file for divorce within a matter of weeks citing physical abuse.

Her third husband, Robert DeLeon, whom she married in 1975, was killed in a car crash two years later. Her fourth and final marriage, in 1987, to the singer Vic Damone, ended in divorce in 1996.

Telegraph, London

Diahann Carroll, born July 17 1935, died October 4 2019

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Montgomery, Alabama, elects 1st mayor who is African-American, unofficial results show

Steven ReedSteven Reed

Steven Reed

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Montgomery County Probate Judge Steven Reed won the mayoral run-off election, unofficial results show, and will become the first black mayor of Montgomery, Alabama, since the city was founded in 1819.

Local media called the election for Reed, who overwhelmingly defeated television station owner David Woods by more than 16,000 votes.

“Let the record show tonight, above all … what we can do when we come together in this city and we build around positivity, around opportunity, and all the things that tie us together versus those things that keep us apart,” Reed told supporters at a rally turned victory party.

Reed’s message was one of unity.

“Tonight isn’t the end. Tonight is the beginning,” he said. “Tonight sent a signal, not just to all of us here in Montgomery, all of us in Alabama. It sent a signal throughout this country about what kind of community we are right now, not what we were.”

The vote count, according to the Montgomery County Election Center, with 98% of precincts reporting, was:

• Reed: 32,918 votes; 67.3%

• Woods: 16,010 votes; 32.7%

In his concession speech, Woods said he would work to support Reed and to bring Montgomery together as a united city, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.

Reed and Woods received the most votes in August in the city’s 12-person primary, leading to Tuesday’s run-off. Reed got 42% of the vote, while Woods earned about 25%, CNN affiliate WSFA reported.

“We ran a very good race. We worked hard, met with a lot of people, and it just worked out that our opponent had more votes than we did,” Woods told WSFA.

Sixty percent of Montgomery’s roughly 200,000 residents are black or African-American, according to the US Census.

Longtime resident Diana Stokes Williams told CNN outside a polling station she had marched during the civil rights movement, been through segregation and was “very aware of the prejudice that has existed in her community.”

“Coming from Montgomery … where there’s been a lot, Alabama’s been full of a lot of prejudice, and to go from (former Alabama Gov.) George Wallace to Reed would be a major step.”

Williams said she voted in every election and it is important to have someone who looks like Reed represent the community.

She said as a man who is black, Reed has a greater perspective on life in Montgomery and can see both sides. She added that she hoped Reed would represent all races.

Alabama’s second-largest city and its capital, Montgomery was also the first capital of the Confederacy early in the Civil War, and many streets and schools still bear Confederate names.

Montgomery later became the site of Rosa Parks’ famed bus boycott in 1955 and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, as well as the destination of the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery protest marches that met with brutal police violence and led to the Voting Rights Act.

The nation’s first memorial to the more than 4,000 victims of lynchings, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, opened last year in Montgomery.

Candidate touts role as first black probate judge

Reed was elected in 2012 as a probate judge in Montgomery County, becoming the first African-American and youngest person to do so, his website says.

Woods is the owner and president of Woods Communications, which owns local television station WCOV, a CNN affiliate.

Todd Strange, Montgomery’s mayor since 2009, was not running for reelection.

32.379223 -86.307737

African American guest ousted from Oregon hotel sues for $10 million

An African American guest who was ousted from a DoubleTree hotel in Oregon after talking on his cellphone with his mother in the hotel lobby is seeking $10 million in damages.

Jermaine Massey alleges in the lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Multnomah County Circuit Court, that he was falsely arrested and racially discriminated against last year at the DoubleTree by Hilton Portland.

Massey, a Microsoft employee who lives in Kent, Washington, was staying at the hotel in Portland’s Lloyd District on Dec. 22, 2018. While on the phone with his mother in the hotel lobby at about 11 p.m., a security guard asked Massey if he was a guest, according to his attorneys.

“His mom was having some type of health situation,” said Portland attorney Jason Kafoury, who is representing Massey. “It was 2 a.m. her time in Baltimore.”

Jermaine Massey.Kafoury and McDougal

After Massey showed his hotel key card, the guard asked him for his room number, Kafoury said, which his client could not remember.

The guard threatened to call the police on Massey and told him that he was “loitering” and that he was “a risk to the safety and security of hotel guests,” the lawsuit alleges. The guard then contacted the manager on duty and called police, who removed Massey from the hotel, according to the lawsuit.

Massey was escorted up to his hotel room and forced to gather his things, Kafoury said. “They basically said, if you don’t leave, we’re going to arrest you for trespassing,” he said.

“We hope to find out what have they done to change anything in the last 10 months,” Kafoury said. “And we’re also going to use this case to set an example so that other hotels and the Hilton don’t treat anybody else like this.”

Massey captured a part of the interaction with the guard on cellphone video that was posted on social media and widely shared online.

“He’s calling the cops on me because I’m taking a phone call at the DoubleTree hotel,” Massey said in the video. “I have not moved, I have been sitting here the whole time and they’re calling the police on me because I’m taking a phone call in the lobby. Did you ask any of those people walking by what room they were staying in? No.”

Reports of the incident inspired the hashtag #CallingYourMomWhileBlack.

Days after the incident, DoubleTree by Hilton Portland apologized to Massey in a tweet and said they had “terminated the employment of the two men involved.”

“We sincerely apologize to Mr. Massey for his treatment this past weekend, and deeply regret the experience he endured. It was unacceptable and contrary to our values, beliefs and how we seek to treat all people who visit our hotel,” the tweet said.

DoubleTree Portland did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday.

Hilton said in a statement that it has “zero tolerance for racism and is committed to providing a welcoming environment for all guests.”

“Hilton accelerated scheduled training for all franchise properties globally and worked with the DoubleTree by Hilton Portland, Oregon, an independently owned and operated property, to ensure their employees have completed the diversity and unconscious bias training,” the statement said.

Massey’s lawsuit seeks $3 million for pain and suffering, including feelings of racial stigmatization. It also gives notice that Massey intends to sue for an additional $7 million in punitive damages.

The lawsuit names Hilton corporation, the DoubleTree where the incident occurred, as well as the security guard and manager as defendants.

5 Review First the New Yorker profiled Romare Bearden. Then the artist and activist decided to tell his own story, in pictures.


Romare Bearden (American, 1911–1988), “Profile/Part I, The Twenties, Mecklenberg County, School Bell Time,” 1978, collage on board. (Kingsborough Community College, The City University of New York. © Romare Bearden Foundation/VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo by Paul Takeuchi.)
Art critic

October 9 at 8:00 AM

Romare (pronounced “ROH-mery”) Bearden liked to wear a beret, had pale skin, and looked glabrous and jowly, like Nikita Khrushchev. Unlike Khrushchev, however, he was an artist — and African American.

Born in Charlotte in 1911, Bearden grew up mostly in Harlem. He was an only child, but he was hardly isolated. His mother was an activist, editor and board member; his parents’ home was a hub of Harlem’s black community. Fats Waller and Duke Ellington were regular presences in the young Bearden’s life. As an adult, his friends included James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Billie Holiday, Hannah Arendt, Jacob Lawrence and Toni Morrison.

Bearden belonged in their company: No black artist of the 20th century accomplished more. His rich, incident-filled and (mostly) lucky life is as absorbing to contemplate as his brilliant, manifold art. So it made sense that Bearden, in 1977, was the subject of a New Yorker profile by a master of the form, Calvin Tomkins.

Bearden appears to have liked the profile. But the relationship between words and pictures is perennially uneasy and writers, especially good writers, often spur artists’ competitive instincts. Having his life story narrated in a magazine prompted Bearden to try telling it himself in a series of collages and paintings that he called, with a nod to the New Yorker, “Profile.”

Bearden worked on the series between 1978 and 1981. He divided it into two parts. Both focused on episodes from his early years, which Tomkins’s elegant narrative had skated over. The first part concentrates on his childhood in the South and in Pittsburgh (where he went to live, intermittently, with his grandmother); the second focuses on Harlem in the 1930s. Both parts are on display at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta in a show called “Something Over Something Else.”

You could come away assuming that Bearden grew up in poverty both in the rural South and around the steel mills of Pittsburgh. In fact, although he witnessed these worlds during extended stays, the reality was more complicated. As Bearden’s friend Charles Alston said, “Romy was never a poor kid. He was straight out of the middle class, and the urban middle class at that.”


Romare Bearden (American, 1911–1988), “Profile/Part I, The Twenties, Mecklenberg County, Miss Bertha & Mr. Seth,” 1978, collage on board. (Collection of Susan Merker. © Romare Bearden Foundation/VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo by Paul Takeuchi.)

Romare Bearden (American, 1911–1988), “Profile/Part I, The Twenties, Mecklenberg County, Maudell Sleet’s Magic Garden,” 1978, collage on board. (Collection of Pearson C. Cummin III and Linda Forrest Cummin. © Romare Bearden Foundation/VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.)

The High show’s title is taken from Bearden’s words: “I really think the art of painting is the art of putting something over something else.” The statement, which Tomkins quotes in his profile, speaks to Bearden’s favored idiom of collage — the layering of one thing over another. And it points to his specific achievement: More than any artist I can think of, Bearden pulled collage away from its associations with modernist fragmentation and precious fussiness into something loose and capacious, yoked to storytelling, pulsing and rippling with all the layers of life.

But the phrase also carries a whiff of trickery and masquerade — “putting something over on someone.” Bearden was a sophisticated storyteller — he relished the idea of the “unreliable narrator” — so he surely intended both associations.

Seeing the show, reading Tomkins’s profile and poring over a new anthology, “The Romare Bearden Reader” — which includes a useful introduction by Robert O’Meally, and essays and reflections by Morrison, Ellison, August Wilson, Tomkins (the profile) and Bearden — renewed my love of this artist, who died of bone cancer complications in 1988.

The “Profile” collages have slyly suggestive captions. “The Daybreak Express” shows a bedroom with a nude woman stretched out on her stomach. Behind her is a window through which we see a train puffing steam. The inscription reads: “You could tell not only what train it was but also who the engineer was by the sound of the whistle.”

On its own, the image has an all-at-once clarity that makes verbal description feel labored. (I didn’t tell you, for instance, that the woman’s head rests in the crook of her elbow, nor that one eye looks out at the viewer, nor what kind of room it is, nor whether it is night or day outside; yet when you look at the picture, it takes just a second to register all of that.)

Still, words can do things that images can’t. The inscription, with its double entendre and pungent specificity (were the horn-tooting habits of the train engineers really so distinct?) has a poetic concision that goes beyond the scope of images.

Throughout the series, Bearden sets up echoes, not only visually (women, windows and trains are repeating motifs) but verbally. “The last time I saw Liza was down at the station when I left for Pittsburgh on the 5.13,” reads one inscription. Another says: “Sometimes at night I used to dream of being the one who was running the train.” And a third: “The trains in the stories she told always ran North.”


Romare Bearden (American, 1911–1988), “Profile/Part I, The Twenties, Mecklenberg County, Daybreak Express,” 1978, collage on board. (Courtesy of the McConnell Family Trust. © Romare Bearden Foundation/VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.)

Beyond this roiling interplay between visual and verbal imagery, I love Bearden’s “Profile” series (and his whole oeuvre) for the way it undermines the exhausted premises of 21st century identity politics.

To grasp how, it’s important to say first that Bearden could scarcely have been more engaged with black identity. Everything he made — most everything he did — had to do with telling the story of black life in the United States. He fought prejudice and promoted visibility for African Americans at every turn.

Bitter experience had taught him how cruel and arbitrary racial distinctions could be. An exceptionally talented pitcher, he had played on a professional “colored” team while studying in Boston. He was so good that, in 1932, he was invited to join the Philadelphia Athletics, a team that had won the World Series in 1929 and ’30 and the American League pennant in ’31. But accepting would have meant pretending he was white. (This was 15 years before Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier.) Bearden turned it down.

Like his mother, he was an activist. He had started out in art drawing political cartoons for the Afro-American newspaper. In 1963, he helped found a collective of black artists, the Spiral Group. He spent the 1960s organizing ambitious shows devoted to African American art. With Norman Lewis and Ernest Crichlow, he even started the Cinque Gallery, dedicated to black artists.

By then, he had “made it” as an artist; he wanted to help in every way he could. (“His phone never stops ringing,” Chris Shelton, the gallery’s first director, commented to Tomkins.)

Bearden once said that “an artist is an art lover who finds that in all the art that he sees, he sees something missing.” For him, what was missing was the experiences, dreams and projections of his people. Today’s prominent black artists, including Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas (whose collage aesthetic was heavily influenced by Bearden), Amy Sherald and Kehinde Wiley, are similarly motivated.

Correcting this became Bearden’s life’s work. He wanted, he said in 1964, to “establish a world through art in which the validity of my Negro experience could live and make its own logic.”

He succeeded magnificently, largely because he wasn’t interested in simplifying reality. He would have loathed the idea of depleting the imprint life left on him just to make it fit the requirements of a political worldview. It would have betrayed his understanding of identity itself.


Romare Bearden (American, 1911–1988), “Profile/Part II, The Thirties: Johnny Hudgins Comes On,” 1981, collage on board. (Seavest Collection of Contemporary Realism, White Plains, New York. © Romare Bearden Foundation/VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.)

“We all live in a mask,” he once said. “We all have a hundred different identities.”

One of the best (and most brightly colored) collages in Part II of “Profile” illustrates this in ways that may be hard for contemporary viewers to wrap their heads around. It shows the black vaudeville mime artist, Johnny Hudgins, outside the Lafayette Theater.

Hudgins, who was nicknamed the Wah-Wah Man, often performed in blackface. This was not uncommon for black vaudeville performers (for all that we rightly condemn it now, blackface has a complicated history).

“He was my favorite of all the comedians,” wrote Bearden in the accompanying inscription. “What Johnny Hudgins could do through mime on an empty stage helped show me how worlds were created on an empty canvas.”

A black man in blackface is, if nothing else, an “unreliable narrator,” which may have been part of what Bearden loved in Hudgins. In any case, one can imagine how an African American who usually passed for white might have appreciated what Hudgins was up to, and the art he brought to his popular act.

Bearden took inspiration wherever he found it: George Grosz, Stuart Davis, Chinese painting, Picasso, Matisse, the Dutch masters, African art, Homer, Derek Walcott, jazz. His broad-mindedness was not just aesthetic. From childhood, he also straddled multiple modes of social existence. He instinctively felt, as Tomkins wrote, that “the path of separatism within a culture is basically self-defeating.” He also understood that identity — everyone’s identity — is layered.

The words we use today — “black,” “white,” “Latino,” “Asian” — may be clear. And, God knows, we all crave clarity. But the reality of selfhood is cloudier, more contradictory and harder to parse than those constricting categories allow. In the end, that is not a misfortune. It is a solace (how hard it is to be one thing!).

Art, too, is a solace. It exists to remind us that we come, all of us, in many versions.

“Something Over Something Else”: Romare Bearden’s Profile Series at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta through Feb. 2. high.org

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Franklin Graham talks impeachment, evangelism prior to Decision America Tour stop in Asheville

Some of that’s by design, like Franklin’s frequent appearances on Fox News, but some of it comes from campaigns like the Decision America Tour he started in Iowa in 2016 and finished in Raleigh that October after visiting all 50 state capitals.

The tour ran concurrently with one of the most divisive presidential campaigns in United States history, and became intertwined with it; Franklin was a vocal supporter of then-candidate Donald Trump, and shares many views with now-President Donald Trump.

The Decision America Tour didn’t end in 2016, and neither did Franklin Graham’s evangelism, which often addresses moral issues that bleed into public policy. His comments on Trump, abortion, homosexuality, Islam and North Carolina’s “Bathroom bill” have drawn praise from some, ire from others and sign-wavers from all quarters.

In 2017, the Decision America Tour morphed into a series of regional expeditions, with one in Tennessee and one in Texas. In 2018, his website says 120,000 people saw him in California, Oregon and Washington. This May, it was 31,000 people in seven Northeastern states.

This month, he’s been busy crisscrossing North Carolina on the Decision America Tar Heel State Tour with stops in Fayetteville, Greenville, Wilmington, Raleigh, Greensboro, Hickory and Charlotte.

The Tar Heel Tour concludes in Asheville. Another tour is already planned for Florida in next year. All along the way, Franklin Graham will be asking Americans to make some decisions about God, gays, guns, immigrants, impeachment, Trump’s 2020 re-election and the role of evangelism in American government — past, present and future.

The Smoky Mountain News: The title of your tour is an interesting one and we’ve seen it on billboards, on yard signs, on flyers — what decision are you asking Americans to make right now?

Franklin Graham: First of all, the greatest decision that a person will make is the decision as it relates to God and His Son Jesus Christ. That is the biggest decision that anyone will make and that’s the purpose of this tour. It’s not a political campaign, it’s not a political rally, but we want to confront people with the truth and the reality that God made us and created us and sent His Son to save us from our sins.

SMN: It’s not a political rally, but the role of evangelism in American politics has always been an important one.

FG: Well, I can’t speak to the role of evangelism in politics. I think that’s overblown.

Evangelism, first of all, is the role of the church — to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to every generation. It’s not something that’s just preached once, but it’s preached many, many times, inviting people to put their faith and trust in Christ, and that’s the role of the church, to reach another generation.

The role of evangelism in politics, I don’t know of any historical role of evangelism in politics. I think that’s just something that maybe some of the media made up.

SMN: You’re certainly politically involved. Don’t you think that speaks to the role of what you do in influencing policy or commenting on current affairs?

FG: Well, I’m a citizen of the United States and as a citizen I have a right to speak. We have the First Amendment that allows us the freedom of speech. I think that’s very important, that we have a chance to speak out. I don’t endorse candidates or go out and campaign for candidates. I don’t do that, but I do speak out on political issues that pertain to morals.

Abortion is a moral issue, and for some it’s a political issue. LGBTQ, sexual orientation — it’s a political issue, but it’s also very much a moral issue, and so I may address some of those issues and I think those are important.

When the president speaks out on religious freedoms like he did at the U.N. last week, that’s a very important subject for all Christians, and not just for Christians, but for Muslims, Hindus, Yazidis.

When the president spoke up challenging countries to recognize the freedom of religion, that was a huge, huge statement. No president in the history of the United States has gone to the U.N. and challenged world leaders to recognize religious freedom.

SMN: This isn’t a political rally, but your father walked kind of a middle path and it seems like you’ve clearly chosen a side. Would you agree with that?

FG: No. I mean, my father was friends with, I think 11 presidents. No person in American history has known 11 presidents. Billy Graham was the only one, and he was friends with Donald Trump long before Donald Trump ever entered into politics. He knew him in New York, and of course Donald Trump came to Asheville for my father’s 95th birthday celebration. We had it at the Grove Park Inn, and Donald Trump was there and [hotel magnate] Bill Marriott. Rupert Murdoch came, Sarah Palin, her husband Todd came, Donald Trump and Melania came.

SMN: George W. Bush credits your father with saving him. Do you have any insight into that?

FG: I was not part of that, but it’s in his book and my father talked about it many times. My father did not actually remember that specific occasion because my father was friends with George H. Bush, and would go up to vacations with him there at Kennebunkport [Maine].

He’d go up there and spend a week with them every summer, and it was during one of those summer vacations that George W. Bush was really having some difficult times in his life. His life was kind of falling apart, and my father just sat down and talked to him and they had a wonderful conversation. My father had prayer with him. I don’t think my father really realized at that time [1985] the impact that he had on George W. Bush. George W. tells people that it changed his life.

SMN: One could argue that your father was almost responsible for George W. Bush becoming president, because if Bush had continued on with his ways before he had met your father, he probably wouldn’t have entered into politics or perhaps wouldn’t have been elected president.

FG: For people who say that Billy Graham wasn’t involved in politics, that’s a good answer isn’t it? He was.

SMN: Most recently, in some of your own political involvement, you had remarked on the impeachment inquiry that’s going on with President Donald Trump. You said it could possibly unravel our nation.

FG: I think it’s a very dangerous road that we’re on. Our country is so divided. The Democratic Party has refused to acknowledge the president as the legitimate president of the United States. They are still furious at losing the last election.

We had for two years the Russian investigation, which was a hoax. And then they talked about impeaching him for obstruction of justice and that was nothing. And now they have this whistleblower, which has a lot of concerns that this is all fabricated as well.

What happens when they do this is it distracts us from meeting the needs of the poor. There are a lot of poor people in this country that need our attention, but Congress — the Democrats and the Republicans — aren’t paying attention to it because they are fighting each other.

We have the Dreamers, millions of people in this country that have come in illegally, that have been living here for years that are very productive people, and we need to come up with a solution. Not kicking them out, but giving them a path to citizenship. And neither the Republicans nor the Democrats are facing this issue. We still have the issue of illegal immigration, and how to stop illegal immigration but make it easier for people who want to legally immigrate.

So many problems we’re facing as a country, and this is the distraction that is preventing us from dealing with the serious problems that are before us. I just feel that the Democrats are making a huge mistake and they just need to accept that he is the president and just a little over a year from now, they’ve got an opportunity to win the next election. That’s where the battle needs to take place, at the ballot box, not up there trying to impeach him. This is a huge mistake.

SMN: Democrats have fought this presidency tooth and nail, but you can also probably admit that the president has said some things that most people would consider pretty un-Christian. Recently it was revealed he said he wanted to build a moat on the Southern border and fill it with alligators and snakes. He suggested shooting immigrants in the kneecaps on their way into the country.

How do you reconcile the points of view that Democrats are obstructionists but this president has, in a very revolutionary way, been one of the most frank in history?

FG: Well, he’s the only person we have had that’s not a politician and he doesn’t have a filter. He just says kind of what he thinks. But he also says things to try to get a reaction, to get people to think about something. I don’t defend him when he cusses. I don’t defend when he says shoot people in the kneecaps. I mean, you don’t defend that, but I do know him well enough to know he doesn’t mean that when he says it.

He’s just trying to get a reaction, and he’s very good at that. During the last election, during the Republican debates, he didn’t know how to debate. He wasn’t a member of a debate club. So he said, “I’ve got to find out how to get under their skin,” and he started nicknaming them, Little Marco [Rubio] and Lyin’ Ted [Cruz] and Crooked Hillary [Clinton]. He gave nicknames to people and they stuck, and it got under their skin. He was very clever in that way.

SMN: What do you see as Trump’s fate at the ballot box in the next year? Do you believe there’s a Democrat out there that presents a reasonable alternative for most Americans?

FG: The thing is, you have to have a vision for America and the Democrats don’t have a vision. If you look at it, their vision is, “We’re going to take your guns away from you and we’re going to raise your taxes.” That’s their vision.

Donald Trump actually has a vision and that vision is to “make America great again.” The American economy today is the best economy that we’ve had in 70 years, since the end of World War II. More Hispanics are working, more African-Americans are working, more whites, everybody. The country is on a roll and this last month, we added 136,000 new jobs to the job market. It’s just incredible what he’s been able to do in such a short time with all of opposition that he’s had against him. He’s a business person. He understands what it takes to get this country moving forward, and I don’t see the Democrats having anyone that can come close to it.

The Democratic Party today is a socialist party and socialism isn’t working. In Venezuela, it’s destroying the country. Socialism has destroyed Cuba. It destroyed Eastern Europe. It destroyed Russia, and they’ve rejected socialism and the Democrats are embracing socialism. So I don’t think they have a have a vision that the American people are accepting.

SMN: Certainly we have elements of socialism in our society and have since even prior to the New Deal, obviously Social Security and possibly socialized medicine. There are a lot of Americans that don’t have a problem with the socialism that currently exists. You can even boil that down to public libraries.

FG: Everything that the government takes control of, it gets worse. They deliver mail, but it’s interesting in that UPS can do it better, faster, cheaper than the U.S. Postal Service. The government just doesn’t know how to manage and run things. For them to be in charge of our health care is a huge mistake. With the socialized medicine that President Obama and the Democrats brought in, only the insurance companies, really, are the ones that benefit. The American people have not benefited from this. This is a terrible system. We do need healthcare, but we don’t need the government running it, that’s for sure.

SMN: After the New Deal, in the 1950s Baptist South especially, Christianity started to assert itself a little bit more, weighing in on moral issues. Your dad was certainly a part of that, too.

FG: As a Christian, I have a right to weigh in on moral issues. I mean, that’s our job to speak out on moral issues. I think there’s some that wish we would not speak out on that, but that’s something very important that God would want us to speak on those issues.

SMN: And then in the 1970s, you see a guy like President Jimmy Carter, who brought maybe a little bit more Christian-mindedness to that office.

FG: Jimmy Carter was, I mean he went to church and he was involved in his church while he was in office, and I appreciate the fact that he did that. Reagan had church at the White House, when he was president. Same thing with Richard Nixon. They realized that by going to local churches it disrupted the congregation, bringing the Secret Service and the big entourage in, so they had services at the White House as did other presidents in the past.

SMN: Speaking of Reagan’s era you have some other, I suppose you would probably call them moral issues, like AIDS and drugs emerging, and we saw a lot of Christian denominations start to push back against those issues.

FG: First of all, I think in the early ‘80s, AIDS was something that lot of people did not understand. We saw it totally as a gay disease and also, politicians in Florida who were trying to keep Haitian boat people from coming into Florida were saying that the Haitians had AIDS, so there was a stigma to that in the early days.

A good friend of mine, [late U.S. Senator] Jesse Helms here in this state, a very strong conservative, fought against [helping AIDS patients] then he called me one day and said “Franklin, have I been wrong on this issue?” And I said, “Well, senator, let me just share with you my opinion. God made us and created us, and when Jesus confronted a woman who had lived a very immoral life he did not accuse her. He didn’t ask her how many guys she had slept with or whatever, he just told her, “Go and sin no more. I think for people that have AIDS, we need to show compassion.”

If Jesus were here, he would certainly use his power as the Son of God to bring healing into their life, so I said, “Senator, I think we should do everything we can to reach out to people that have AIDS and show compassion to them and help them if we can.”

He said, “Well, Franklin, thank you,” and he changed his position on that and became an advocate for federal funding for HIV/AIDS. So I think as Christians, we have a role to play in helping to alleviate suffering.

SMN: Do you think that role is being played by Christians today? Going back to what you mentioned earlier with the LGBTQ community or even with AIDS and immigration, do you think Christians are doing what the Lord has called them to do?

FG: Well, I can’t speak on behalf of all Christians. All I can do is to speak on my behalf. I don’t represent Christianity. I represent Franklin Graham. Right now we’re treating Ebola in West Africa, in the Congo. There are only two organizations in the world that treat Ebola. That’s Samaritan’s Purse here in Boone, and Médecins Sans Frontières, or Doctors Without Borders, in Belgium. We have a hospital right now in The Bahamas as a result of Hurricane Dorian. We’re reaching out to the Bahamian people. We have the only hospital in the northern part of the country.

So I do what I can to try to alleviate pain and suffering, and I certainly want to warn people in the LGBT community — not condemn them, not judge them, I’m not their judge — but I want to warn them that God gave sex for us to use and it’s to be used in a marriage relationship between a man and a woman. If we get outside of that, we run the risk of hurting ourselves physically. There are so many different types of diseases that are sexually transmitted.

I would certainly love the LGBTQ community enough to warn them that this can lead to their death. So again, I’m not judging them. I don’t condemn them. I love them enough to warn them.

SMN: Is there a place in the modern body politic for these people who don’t care to accept Christ and don’t want to heed your warning and just want to live their life and be left alone? Do you think that’s something that we can accept as Americans?

FG: Of course, and we do that as Americans. The LGBT community is very involved, politically. They are very strong in the political realm of this country. Their voice is certainly heard and they certainly speak out and they have a right to. This is America. They have that freedom to do that.

SMN: Activity on social media suggests there will be some people here in Asheville that are going to protest your appearance. Have you seen that yet on your tour?

FG: I think we had a few protesters, maybe it might’ve been Fayetteville but I don’t remember. I know there was like four or five people outside holding up a sign, and that’s fine. They certainly are free to protest, but we’re not coming to protest them, we’re just coming to preach the gospel, and everybody’s welcome.

SMN: What would you tell them, if you could go out onto the street and talk to these protestors?

FG: I would tell them they are welcome to come on in, and that I’m not speaking against anybody. I’m for everybody.

SMN: If your dad was here today looking at the current political environment, what do you think he would say?

FG: I think he would say it’s important to pray for our nation, and that’s what I encourage. When I come to Asheville I’m going to ask people to pray for the president, for our governor, for our representatives in Washington, Democrat and Republican. Only God can heal this country. There’s no politician out there that can unite this country. We are too fractured.

Back during the Nixon administration, when we had Watergate, you didn’t have social media, and today you have social media and all kinds of lies and various things said on social media, people would take it as true. So it’s a much different world than it was 30 years ago. I would encourage people to pray for our leaders that God would bring healing to their hearts, [and] forgiveness. I think of the courtroom yesterday down in Dallas when the police officer was convicted of murder, the brother of the man that she murdered says, “I forgive you,” and he goes up and he hugs her there in the courtroom. We need this kind of forgiveness, this kind of unity. Maybe if it can happen in a murder trial, maybe it can happen in Washington, too.

Franklin Graham’s Decision America Tar Heel State Tour comes to Asheville’s U.S. Cellular Center this Sunday, Oct. 13 at 4 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

4 Review First the New Yorker profiled Romare Bearden. Then the artist and activist decided to tell his own story, in pictures.


Romare Bearden (American, 1911–1988), “Profile/Part I, The Twenties, Mecklenberg County, School Bell Time,” 1978, collage on board. (Kingsborough Community College, The City University of New York. © Romare Bearden Foundation/VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo by Paul Takeuchi.)
Art critic

October 9 at 8:00 AM

Romare (pronounced “ROH-mery”) Bearden liked to wear a beret, had pale skin, and looked glabrous and jowly, like Nikita Khrushchev. Unlike Khrushchev, however, he was an artist — and African American.

Born in Charlotte in 1911, Bearden grew up mostly in Harlem. He was an only child, but he was hardly isolated. His mother was an activist, editor and board member; his parents’ home was a hub of Harlem’s black community. Fats Waller and Duke Ellington were regular presences in the young Bearden’s life. As an adult, his friends included James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Billie Holiday, Hannah Arendt, Jacob Lawrence and Toni Morrison.

Bearden belonged in their company: No black artist of the 20th century accomplished more. His rich, incident-filled and (mostly) lucky life is as absorbing to contemplate as his brilliant, manifold art. So it made sense that Bearden, in 1977, was the subject of a New Yorker profile by a master of the form, Calvin Tomkins.

Bearden appears to have liked the profile. But the relationship between words and pictures is perennially uneasy and writers, especially good writers, often spur artists’ competitive instincts. Having his life story narrated in a magazine prompted Bearden to try telling it himself in a series of collages and paintings that he called, with a nod to the New Yorker, “Profile.”

Bearden worked on the series between 1978 and 1981. He divided it into two parts. Both focused on episodes from his early years, which Tomkins’s elegant narrative had skated over. The first part concentrates on his childhood in the South and in Pittsburgh (where he went to live, intermittently, with his grandmother); the second focuses on Harlem in the 1930s. Both parts are on display at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta in a show called “Something Over Something Else.”

You could come away assuming that Bearden grew up in poverty both in the rural South and around the steel mills of Pittsburgh. In fact, although he witnessed these worlds during extended stays, the reality was more complicated. As Bearden’s friend Charles Alston said, “Romy was never a poor kid. He was straight out of the middle class, and the urban middle class at that.”


Romare Bearden (American, 1911–1988), “Profile/Part I, The Twenties, Mecklenberg County, Miss Bertha & Mr. Seth,” 1978, collage on board. (Collection of Susan Merker. © Romare Bearden Foundation/VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo by Paul Takeuchi.)

Romare Bearden (American, 1911–1988), “Profile/Part I, The Twenties, Mecklenberg County, Maudell Sleet’s Magic Garden,” 1978, collage on board. (Collection of Pearson C. Cummin III and Linda Forrest Cummin. © Romare Bearden Foundation/VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.)

The High show’s title is taken from Bearden’s words: “I really think the art of painting is the art of putting something over something else.” The statement, which Tomkins quotes in his profile, speaks to Bearden’s favored idiom of collage — the layering of one thing over another. And it points to his specific achievement: More than any artist I can think of, Bearden pulled collage away from its associations with modernist fragmentation and precious fussiness into something loose and capacious, yoked to storytelling, pulsing and rippling with all the layers of life.

But the phrase also carries a whiff of trickery and masquerade — “putting something over on someone.” Bearden was a sophisticated storyteller — he relished the idea of the “unreliable narrator” — so he surely intended both associations.

Seeing the show, reading Tomkins’s profile and poring over a new anthology, “The Romare Bearden Reader” — which includes a useful introduction by Robert O’Meally, and essays and reflections by Morrison, Ellison, August Wilson, Tomkins (the profile) and Bearden — renewed my love of this artist, who died of bone cancer complications in 1988.

The “Profile” collages have slyly suggestive captions. “The Daybreak Express” shows a bedroom with a nude woman stretched out on her stomach. Behind her is a window through which we see a train puffing steam. The inscription reads: “You could tell not only what train it was but also who the engineer was by the sound of the whistle.”

On its own, the image has an all-at-once clarity that makes verbal description feel labored. (I didn’t tell you, for instance, that the woman’s head rests in the crook of her elbow, nor that one eye looks out at the viewer, nor what kind of room it is, nor whether it is night or day outside; yet when you look at the picture, it takes just a second to register all of that.)

Still, words can do things that images can’t. The inscription, with its double entendre and pungent specificity (were the horn-tooting habits of the train engineers really so distinct?) has a poetic concision that goes beyond the scope of images.

Throughout the series, Bearden sets up echoes, not only visually (women, windows and trains are repeating motifs) but verbally. “The last time I saw Liza was down at the station when I left for Pittsburgh on the 5.13,” reads one inscription. Another says: “Sometimes at night I used to dream of being the one who was running the train.” And a third: “The trains in the stories she told always ran North.”


Romare Bearden (American, 1911–1988), “Profile/Part I, The Twenties, Mecklenberg County, Daybreak Express,” 1978, collage on board. (Courtesy of the McConnell Family Trust. © Romare Bearden Foundation/VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.)

Beyond this roiling interplay between visual and verbal imagery, I love Bearden’s “Profile” series (and his whole oeuvre) for the way it undermines the exhausted premises of 21st century identity politics.

To grasp how, it’s important to say first that Bearden could scarcely have been more engaged with black identity. Everything he made — most everything he did — had to do with telling the story of black life in the United States. He fought prejudice and promoted visibility for African Americans at every turn.

Bitter experience had taught him how cruel and arbitrary racial distinctions could be. An exceptionally talented pitcher, he had played on a professional “colored” team while studying in Boston. He was so good that, in 1932, he was invited to join the Philadelphia Athletics, a team that had won the World Series in 1929 and ’30 and the American League pennant in ’31. But accepting would have meant pretending he was white. (This was 15 years before Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier.) Bearden turned it down.

Like his mother, he was an activist. He had started out in art drawing political cartoons for the Afro-American newspaper. In 1963, he helped found a collective of black artists, the Spiral Group. He spent the 1960s organizing ambitious shows devoted to African American art. With Norman Lewis and Ernest Crichlow, he even started the Cinque Gallery, dedicated to black artists.

By then, he had “made it” as an artist; he wanted to help in every way he could. (“His phone never stops ringing,” Chris Shelton, the gallery’s first director, commented to Tomkins.)

Bearden once said that “an artist is an art lover who finds that in all the art that he sees, he sees something missing.” For him, what was missing was the experiences, dreams and projections of his people. Today’s prominent black artists, including Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas (whose collage aesthetic was heavily influenced by Bearden), Amy Sherald and Kehinde Wiley, are similarly motivated.

Correcting this became Bearden’s life’s work. He wanted, he said in 1964, to “establish a world through art in which the validity of my Negro experience could live and make its own logic.”

He succeeded magnificently, largely because he wasn’t interested in simplifying reality. He would have loathed the idea of depleting the imprint life left on him just to make it fit the requirements of a political worldview. It would have betrayed his understanding of identity itself.


Romare Bearden (American, 1911–1988), “Profile/Part II, The Thirties: Johnny Hudgins Comes On,” 1981, collage on board. (Seavest Collection of Contemporary Realism, White Plains, New York. © Romare Bearden Foundation/VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.)

“We all live in a mask,” he once said. “We all have a hundred different identities.”

One of the best (and most brightly colored) collages in Part II of “Profile” illustrates this in ways that may be hard for contemporary viewers to wrap their heads around. It shows the black vaudeville mime artist, Johnny Hudgins, outside the Lafayette Theater.

Hudgins, who was nicknamed the Wah-Wah Man, often performed in blackface. This was not uncommon for black vaudeville performers (for all that we rightly condemn it now, blackface has a complicated history).

“He was my favorite of all the comedians,” wrote Bearden in the accompanying inscription. “What Johnny Hudgins could do through mime on an empty stage helped show me how worlds were created on an empty canvas.”

A black man in blackface is, if nothing else, an “unreliable narrator,” which may have been part of what Bearden loved in Hudgins. In any case, one can imagine how an African American who usually passed for white might have appreciated what Hudgins was up to, and the art he brought to his popular act.

Bearden took inspiration wherever he found it: George Grosz, Stuart Davis, Chinese painting, Picasso, Matisse, the Dutch masters, African art, Homer, Derek Walcott, jazz. His broad-mindedness was not just aesthetic. From childhood, he also straddled multiple modes of social existence. He instinctively felt, as Tomkins wrote, that “the path of separatism within a culture is basically self-defeating.” He also understood that identity — everyone’s identity — is layered.

The words we use today — “black,” “white,” “Latino,” “Asian” — may be clear. And, God knows, we all crave clarity. But the reality of selfhood is cloudier, more contradictory and harder to parse than those constricting categories allow. In the end, that is not a misfortune. It is a solace (how hard it is to be one thing!).

Art, too, is a solace. It exists to remind us that we come, all of us, in many versions.

“Something Over Something Else”: Romare Bearden’s Profile Series at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta through Feb. 2. high.org

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Montgomery, Alabama, elects its first African American mayor after 200 years


Steven L. Reed speaks at his victory party on Tuesday night in Montgomery, Ala., after he defeated David Woods in the race for mayor. (Mickey Welsh/Montgomery Advertiser/AP)
October 9 at 6:59 AM

Making history, voters in Montgomery, Ala., decisively elected Steven L. Reed on Tuesday as the first African American mayor in the 200 years since the city’s founding.

Reed, already a trailblazer as Montgomery County’s first black probate judge, defeated David Woods, owner of the local Fox affiliate, in a nonpartisan runoff election with 67 percent of the vote and all precincts reporting, according to the unofficial election results.

“This election has never been about me,” Reed, 45, said during his victory speech. “This election has never about just my ideas. It’s been about all of the hopes and dreams that we have as individuals and collectively in this city … and the way we found the opportunity to improve outcomes regardless of neighborhood, regardless of Zip code, regardless of anything that may divide us or make us different from one another.”

His victory reverberated well beyond Montgomery as many celebrated the milestone in a city remembered as both the cradle of the Confederacy and the birthplace of the civil rights movement. Montgomery, where about 60 percent of residents are black, was the first capital of the Confederate States of America, becoming a bastion of racial violence and discrimination in the Jim Crow era but also of protests and resistance in the civil rights era.

It’s home to the Montgomery bus boycott against segregation led by Rosa Parks, and it’s home to the Selma to Montgomery marches for voting rights led by Martin Luther King Jr. It was in Montgomery where, after the third march in March 1965, King addressed a crowd of 25,000 people on the steps of the Alabama Capitol, famously saying, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

“This is a historic day for our nation,” Karen Baynes-Dunning, interim president and chief executive of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is based in Montgomery, said Tuesday on Twitter. “The election of Steven Reed, the first black mayor of Montgomery, AL, symbolizes the new inclusive & forward thinking South that so many have worked to achieve.”

In an op-ed, the Montgomery Advertiser’s editor described Reed’s win as being “for the thousands of civil rights foot soldiers whose names we rarely say but whose legacy lives forever.”

“Do not underestimate what this means to generations of people who fought hard for the man who looks like Reed to hold the city’s highest office,” executive editor Bro Krift wrote. “Do not depreciate what it means to parents of the youth of this city who look like Reed and who now have a man they can hold up as an example.”

Reed, born and raised in Montgomery, worked various jobs in finance and in the Alabama legislature, as an aide to former lieutenant governor Jim Folsom Jr. (D), before turning to local government in Montgomery. Reed became the youngest and first black probate judge in Montgomery County in 2012 ― and the first probate judge in the state to issue same-sex marriage licenses in 2015.

The father of two told the Advertiser earlier this year that he decided to run for mayor after growing dissatisfied with the state of public education and safety, deciding he didn’t need to look to anyone but himself to fix the problems.

“Are you going to sit on the sidelines and complain and throw stuff at the TV about what you could do better or are you going to run to really make a difference?” he told the newspaper.

His rise in politics, in some ways, follows that of his father, himself a political trailblazer and civil rights advocate in Montgomery. Joe L. Reed was elected to the Montgomery City Council in 1975 along with three other African Americans, making them the first black politicians to hold elected office in the city since the Reconstruction era, according to the book “Closed Ranks: The Whitehurst Case in Post-Civil Rights Montgomery.”

The influx of black officeholders that year was largely thanks to Montgomery’s overhaul of its local political system. Before 1975, the mayor and just two at-large commissioners were elected by all residents of Montgomery, rather than having a city council with members belonging to specific districts. Back then, black residents were in the minority, making it difficult for black candidates to win citywide seats, the Advertiser reported.

At the time of Joe Reed’s election, he was already fighting for civil rights. As a student at Alabama State College, he participated in lunch counter sit-ins in 1960, fighting to end segregation in Montgomery. He went on to become a longtime leader in the Alabama Democratic Conference, successfully suing over gerrymandering that diminished the black vote. He served on the city council until 1999 and was known to spar often with Mayor Emory Folmar — described in a 1987 Chicago Tribune dispatch as “the most popular and efficient mayor in Montgomery’s history and reviled as its most racist and divisive.” Announcing his candidacy for reelection that year, he proclaimed race a “dead issue.”

Folmar, the longest-serving Montgomery mayor with a 22-year tenure, initially took office in 1977 in the aftermath of the fatal police shooting of a fleeing, unarmed black man, Bernard Whitehurst, who was mistaken for a robbery suspect — a case that would affect the black community’s relationship with police for years to come. “Rather than take steps to identify and correct the problem, it seems that Folmar’s actions made things worse,” the Journal of the Southern Regional Council observed in 1983.

Since Folmar’s exit from office in 1999, only two other mayors have been elected. The most recent, Mayor Todd Strange, decided not to seek reelection this year after a decade in office. Ten of the 12 candidates running to replace him are black.

Steven Reed’s platform centered on investing in universal prekindergarten, eliminating food deserts and beefing up the Montgomery police force, which most candidates argued was understaffed.

On Tuesday night, Reed did not address his status as the city’s first black mayor but acknowledged its significance hours before the numbers were finally tallied, speaking to the Advertiser.

“I take that with a great deal of humility and a great deal of responsibility, what that means to so many people who have been a part of Montgomery who have lived here and left here because of the racial terror they underwent and moved far, far away,” Reed said. “And what it means to the people who stayed here and continue to chip away and who definitely want to see someone in this position that looks like them. I think I had to kind of take a step back. … It’s way bigger than just Steven Reed.”

Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), who endorsed Reed for mayor, congratulated him on Twitter “on making history in Montgomery tonight.”

“The birthplace of the civil rights movement has a new era of leadership for the first time in its 200-year history,” she wrote. “Montgomery is in good hands.”

Reed was not the only first black mayor elected in Alabama on Tuesday. In Talladega, Ala., a city of about 15,000 and home to a popular NASCAR racetrack, voters also elected their first black mayor, Timothy Ragland. The 28-year-old law clerk defeated the incumbent in a tight race, the Daily Home reported.

Talladega was incorporated in 1835.