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Remembering Alfred Bright: Founding Director of Black Studies and First African American Full-Service Faculty

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By Frances Clause
Alyssa Weston 

Alfred Bright, the founding director of the Youngstown State University black studies program, now known as Africana studies, in 1970 and first African American full-service faculty member at the university, recently died.

Bright was an internationally renowned artist and educator. Before becoming the first African American full-service faculty member at YSU, Bright earned a bachelor’s degree in art education in 1964 and a master’s degree in painting from Kent State University a year later.

“You came away from his courses with a sense of dignity and unique sense of pride of the accomplishments of your ancestors that had pretty much been hidden from you your whole life.”

-Marvin Haire

According to YSU archives, Bright had more than 100 solo art exhibits in his lifetime and received numerous local, state and national awards, including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Diversity Award for Lifetime Achievement for his leadership and service to the Youngstown, Ohio, community in 2011.

Alfred Bright holding a copy of a textbook that he wrote for black studies. It was the first textbook of its kind according to YSU archives. Photo courtesy of YSU Archives

Marvin Haire was one of the first students to pursue the black studies minor at YSU under Bright.

Haire said Bright was an inspiring factor in his decision to study black politics at Clark Atlanta University and that Bright’s original vision for the black studies program was in line with the national movement at the time.

“[The black studies program] sought to infuse the systematic study of African people into university curriculum and do that in a way that provided exposure to a wide range of what we would call the black experience, including music, art, history, politics and education,” he said. “So the original vision was to build a program that offered that kind global awareness to students who took courses.”

In Haire’s opinion, Bright’s students gained a broader perspective and deeper appreciation of who they were in terms of their social and cultural identity through his classes.

“You came away from his courses with a sense of dignity and unique sense of pride of the accomplishments of your ancestors

that had pretty much been hidden from you your whole life,” he said.

Dolores Sisco, professor in the department of English and director of American studies, has taught classes specializing in the literature and culture of the African diaspora at YSU since 2005.

Although Sisco didn’t know Bright personally, she believes she understands his vision about the Africana Studies Department and how it fits in the Youngstown community.

Sisco said that vision includes teaching the community about the black experience through Black History Month, the Youngstown African Marketplace and other local events.

Through conversations with community members, Sisco discovered early in her YSU career that the Africana studies program doesn’t just interest students coming in. It also interests older community members who were “skeptical” of what YSU did for the black community before the start of the program.

“I’m sure [Bright] wanted this to be a two-way street so that we have community involvement and not just African American involvement and what we can contribute to the community,” she said.

Bright’s Art Shines Nationally

Al Bright was not only an artist but also an abstract painter who performed alongside jazz musicians as their music accompanied each stroke of his brush on canvas.

With Trumbull Art Gallery sponsoring his first painting performance in 1976, Bright continued to paint to the rhythm of soulful sounds from bands, including Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. His audience was always engaged in the creative process with him.

“One aspect of [Bright’s] work that I always found appealing was that he dedicates his work to the people that he cares about,” Louis Zona, executive director at The Butler Institute of American Art, said.

As an undergraduate art education major at YSU, Zona studied under Bright.

“I was in [Bright’s] first university class and, if I am not mistaken, it was a graphic design class,” he said. “I knew him for a long time, and we were family.”

Although his contributions to the art community in Youngstown continue to have a lasting impact, it is Bright’s former students that are affected most by his legacy.

In 2005, a friend approached Jaison Lee, a former student, lab assistant and understudy of Al Bright.

“[My friend] told me about this amazing painting professor that I just had to take, so I decided on Al,” he said. “It was not a mistake.”

Lee said he fell under Bright’s wing and studied the same things that gave Bright passion. Becoming inspired, Lee also began his own painting performances after assisting with many of his professor’s.

“His career started in times of very strong racial bias where lots of opportunities for minority artists lacked hugely, let alone those pursuing to instruct at the college level,” he said.

Al Bright was not only an artist but also a friend, mentor and inspiration to those that had the privilege of learning from him or watching each stroke of his brush on his canvas of life.
His legacy lives on in various permanent art collections, including those at the Butler Institute of American Art, Kent State University Gallery, Roanoke Museum of Fine Arts, Northeastern University, Savannah State University, the Harmon and Harriet Kelley Collection of African American Art and the Canton Museum of Art.

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The Black Experience Series: Trauma

By Joshua Turner, Special to AFRO 

“How you wake up in the morning feeling evil, trauma” —  Trauma, Meek Mill 

Trauma, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is  best defined as a deeply distressing or disturbing experience. What I find to be interesting is that the definition uses the singular tense to explain this phenomenon, meaning that one experience is enough to cause trauma. Being Black in America, regardless of wealth or status, acts as a scarlet letter which perpetually subjects you to a host of traumatic experiences throughout your life’s sojourn. A child watching their parents use drugs, a mother struggling to pay her bills, and the act of having to assimilate to your white peers in order to fit into their standard of what an acceptable Black person should look like are all traumatic experiences. 

According to an article about traumatic stress by J. Douglass Bremner, trauma can lead to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  This condition is categorized by hyperarousal, flashbacks, nightmares, and changes in memory and concentration. What I find to be particularly troublesome is that some of the “outliers” that have achieved success look down upon their brothers or sisters who are less fortunate. This exhibition of self hate furthers the plight of the collective Black community and speaks to the skewed view that insists upon pushing forward the normality of resilience and trauma contributing to the despondentic mindset that destroys our community. Habituality does not equal normality. If a system is flawed, it will produce a dysfunction which is converse to said system’s normal function, meaning that although these experiences may happen frequently, or habituality, it is not the norm. Normalization pushes forward the dogma that Black trauma is the norm and that Black resilience is the norm perpetuating the stagnancy of the Black condition. In order to change our condition, we must deconstruct and rectify our systems to patch up the governmental and systemic lapses that have disproportionately subjected Black and brown people to trauma.

(Courtesy Photo)

What It Means To Survive

As a Black person in America, you do not live a normal life. Every moment of your existence is a perpetual state of survival. At our inception, we were taught how to survive, even for those that “defy the odds” or those that are wealthy, the fight at the surface level may appear different, but the goal of survival remains the same. We are given “the talk” not about sex, but on a series of Black codes that we will need to keep us alive. This includes training on how to handle the police: say yes sir or no sir, don’t talk back, and don’t move a muscle. This ensures that a routine traffic stop does not become a public execution. We are taught to always sit facing the door and never go into a one way building, along with a slew of others, these briefings and Black codes operate at the base of our “boot camp” that is ill equipped for preparing us for the “trenches” that lie ahead. The fact that we have to fight to not “live,” but “survive” speaks to the gravity of the Black condition within our country. Meaning that as a Black person in America, you are in a constant fight to preserve your life, rather than living it and this revelation alone is traumatic. 

Survival is living with a tight noose on your neck with your hands prying to create space. It puts individuals into situations that are traumatic, not because of the choices that are made, but the lack of choice that pushes an individual into a course of action that brings about trauma to not only oneself but those around them.

The Trenches

“They got us warring for our freedom” — Traruma, Meek Mill

The Housing Act of 1934 brought about the racist and discriminatory practice of redlining, which created economically disenfranchised areas that still exist today and are largely populated by the same demographic since its inception. These areas are known as “the ghetto,” “the hood,” or as my generation calls them, “the trenches” because Black people have a heavy presence in those communities. When you look at what is happening in these areas a fundamental economic principle lies at its epicenter: scarcity. 

Economics is meant to address the issue of scarcity, by way of allocating resources in a way that efficiently maximizes the use of resources and minimizes scarcity. What we see happening in these communities is the systematic and direct maximization of scarcity and or the creation of scarcity zones (the trenches) creating a perpetual state of survival. Scarcity, not only refers to money, but resources and services. Which explains why, within these areas, there are large quantities of vacant homes and dilapidaded properties, food apartheid, environmental and climate segregation, higher rates of unemployment, higher rates of drug use, lack of access to mental health care professionals, low rates of home ownership, and low performing schools accompanied by high rates of incarceration. The maximization of scarcity zones has subjected countless individuals to perpetual trauma. Perpetual Trauma has a way of killing hope and instilling despondency the prime catalyst for the collective suicide of the Black community. Our people navigate through trenches set with a variety of intertwined traps that are rich with hoards of traumatic experiences guiding us to our own demise via miseducation, disheveled communities, economic disenfranchisement, inept prison systems, and gun violence.

Joshua Turner is a civil rights activist and social justice community developer and
organizer. He is the co-founder of Students Demand Action Baltimore and a member of
Everytown Demands Action for Gun Safety’s National Advisory Board.

The opinions on this page are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the AFRO.
Send letters to The Afro-American • 1531 S. Edgewood St. Baltimore, MD 21227 or fax to 1-877-570-9297 or e-mail to [email protected]

Danae Columbus: Mayor Cantrell lays it all on the line for Nov. 16 election

Mayor LaToya Cantrell and Gov. John Bel Edwards on Monday announce the Essence Festival’s contract extension to 2024. (Danae Columbus)

Mayor LaToya Cantrell is working harder than the candidates themselves in this election cycle. Just like an Energizer bunny, she won’t slow down because she has so much to lose. Cantrell is betting on a robust turnout among the African-American and millennial voters who first got her elected to pass her tax package and re-elect Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Many older black voters rely on traditional paper ballots circulated by the big four groups — BOLD, SOUL, LIFE, and COUP — all of whom produced glossy pieces this year featuring the candidates who helped pay for them, including Edwards and Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin. To get millennials to the polls, Cantrell has been tweeting up a storm – kind of like a president we all know – and constantly updating her Instagram feed. A high-energy leader who prefers her own counsel, Cantrell likes nothing better than keeping the momentum going by stirring up young progressives.

House District 99 candidate Candace Newell, left, encourages early voting Saturday with pastor Debra Morton and Mayor LaToya Cantrell. (courtesy of Newell campaign)

Cantrell spent last Saturday in the East with the Rev. Debra Morton and House District 99 candidate Candace Newell, whom she has endorsed. With Gov. Edwards at her side, Cantrell signed a new five-year contract for the Essence Music Festival.

Cantrell spoke out in favor of allowing Entergy to receive higher profits in exchange for a $75 million commitment for Sewerage & Water Board electrical improvements. She voiced her displeasure with the Civil Service Commission. Cantrell announced disaster recovery loans for businesses impacted by the Hard Rock construction project and held the hands of family members waiting for their loved ones’ bodies to be recovered from the site.

Joined by elected officials from throughout the region, Cantrell also cut the ribbon to open the new era at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.  All in all, Cantrell’s been extremely busy campaigning while governing.

The stakes are high. Cantrell’s approval rating is based in large part on her pledge to rebuild the city’s infrastructure — including the Sewerage & Water Board and streets. She feels pressured to live up to that commitment. If the tax package fails, Cantrell could have hell to pay in neighborhoods across the city.

Edwards’ re-election is also extremely important to her and the city of New Orleans. With the state House and Senate firmly in Republican hands and the long-simmering animosity of rural and north Louisiana legislators toward New Orleans, Cantrell needs a governor who will feel obligated to pump cash into the city’s coffers. Republican Eddie Rispone would never think that way. During the Essence press conference, Cantrell made a not-too-subtle point that re-electing Gov. Edwards is essential to the city’s future.

The retirement of legislative heavyweights like Walt Leger, J.P. Morrell and even Neil Abramson is leaving the New Orleans delegation with reduced bargaining power. Several of the returning legislators are nice people but no match for their more conservative opponents. Cantrell’s close friend state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, Algiers powerhouse Sen. Troy Carter, and newly elected Sen. Jimmie Harris will step up to fill the void. In addition, the new legislators who will be elected Nov. 16 will need time to become leaders. Without a governor in her corner, Mayor Cantrell will be scrambling to move her agenda forward. In Baton Rouge, clout is earned, not given. Clearly New Orleans needs more.

LEGISLATIVE CANDIDATES MAKE FINAL PUSH AS EARLY VOTING WINDS DOWN

Kea Sherman is flanked by moms Carrie Marks and Emily Kupperman at Wednesday’s fundraiser. (courtesy of Sherman campaign)

House District 91 candidate Kea Sherman believes her campaign has hit its stride. She held a successful fundraiser last night, recently picked up the endorsement of U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, and just received results of a new poll showing her in the lead against opponent Aimee Adatto Freeman. Commissioned by Education Reform Now Advocacy, the poll suggests that Sherman has greater name recognition than Freeman and will beat her on Nov. 16.

Freeman says recent research by her pollster, the nationally prominent Ron Faucheux, indicates that she will be victorious. Freeman is also celebrating endorsements by Mayor Cantrell and former opponents Ravi Sangisetty and Carlos Zervigon, her cousin by marriage.

Though Sherman and Freeman are both strong on most issues important to the district, there are subtle differences. Freeman is an accomplished and dependable business and civic leader, mother and grandmother steeped in the culture of her Uptown neighborhood. Though born in New Orleans, Sherman grew up in Lafayette and came back to help reopen schools after Katrina. She married a local boy, started several small businesses and has a daughter, Hayden, still in kindergarten. Her youth and energy are evident. Voters are lucky to be able to choose from these two excellent candidates.

House District 94 candidate Tammy Savoie talks with voters Malik Moffett and Chris Shinaberry at the Bean Gallery Coffee Shop in Mid-City. (Danae Columbus)

House District 94 contender Tammy Savoie is also talking up a new poll that she says has her within striking range of incumbent state Rep. Stephanie Hilferty. “I’ve been the underdog in this race, but my message has caught on with the voters,” said Savoie who claims to have knocked 1,500 doors in the last week. “Voters believe in what we are offering,”  she said. A psychologist and retired member of the military, Savoie is a favorite among teachers groups, having received numerous endorsements from that constituency.

A popular Realtor and young mother active in early education, Hilferty should have had an easy re-election but was forced into a run-off by Republican challenger Kirk Williamson. Since the primary election, Republicans have rallied around Hilferty to keep the seat firmly in their hands.  Hilferty canceled a previously scheduled interview about the race and also declined to submit a current campaign photograph.

State Rep. John Bagneris, second from left, listens to Governor Edwards speak at Mayor Cantrell’s Essence press conference earlier this week. Bagneris is running for State Senate District 3. (Danae Columbus)

Rep. Joseph Bouie, a Senate District 3 candidate, attends a ribbon cutting Oct. 29 for his alma mater, Booker T. Washington High School. (courtesy of Bouie campaign)

After suffering through all the dirty politics in the governor’s race, it’s a breath of fresh air to watch state Rep. Joe Bouie and state Rep. John Bagneris wage a genteel campaign devoid of name-calling. They seek to replace term-limited Sen. J.P. Morrell in Senate District 3. Both Bouie and Bagneris support Cantrell’s tax package.

“I am doing what I have to do to win, day and night,” said Bagneris. “I have continued to make myself available to the voters anywhere and everywhere they are,” said Bouie.

Though Bagneris seems to have the inside track with Cantrell and her inner circle, Bouie has received the majority of endorsements including Gambit, former opponent Kathleen Doody and most recently the African-American newspaper Data News.

City Council President Helena Moreno and U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond headlined an event earlier this week for House District 99 candidate Adonis Expose, a former king of Zulu. Among those in attendance were his Queen Donna Glapion; her mother former School Board President Gail Glapion, former opponent Jameel Shaheer, Lisa Diggs, Renee Lapeyrolerie, Bishop-elect Tyrone Jefferson, pastors Raymond Brown and Tyrone Smith, Laverne Saulny and Lisa Manning Ambrose.

House District 99 candidate Adonis Expose, center, with Rep. Cedric Richmond and City Council President Helena Moreno. (Danae Columbus)

“Our campaign is continuing the hard work we began in the primary,” said Expose. “I am connecting with voters from District 99 daily, to listen to their concerns about the future of our city and to also share with them why I believe I am the best candidate to serve them and their needs in Baton Rouge.”

Expose is facing off against attorney Candace Newell, a member of BOLD, who just barely missed a victory in the primary. Mayor Cantrell hosted a fundraiser for Newell recently that was attended by state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, Council members Cindy Nguyen, Kristin Palmer and Jay Banks, Clerk of Court Austin Badon, state Rep.-elect Kyle Green and former Councilwoman Cynthia Willard Lewis.

“As the only lawyer in the race, I am uniquely qualified to serve the citizens of District 99,” said Newell. “I worked at the Legislature while at Southern University’s Law Center and had the opportunity to learn the behind-the-scenes process. I still have relationships with staff, lobbyists and legislators who are not term-limited. Those relationships matter.”

Newell is also supporting all of Mayor Cantrell’s tax initiatives. To ensure her victory, Newell says, she is continually canvassing the district knocking on doors, visiting churches and neighborhood association meetings.

EDWARDS TO COURT NEW ORLEANS WOMEN VOTERS AT NOV. 15 LUNCHEON

Gov. John Bel Edwards will spend part of election eve in New Orleans wooing female voters at a luncheon to be held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Nov. 15. Edwards’ supporter Julie Schwam Harris is encouraging women to attend to “make it known that President Trump can’t tell us who should be our governor.” Schwam Harris also says that Gov. Edwards has made great strides in several areas, particularly health care. Individual tickets ($45) or tables of 10 are available here.

ORLEANS PARISH REPUBLICANS STRONGLY OPPOSE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION PROPOSAL

The Orleans Parish Republican Executive Committee has come out against the proposal to amend Article V of the City of New Orleans Home Rule Charter that would establish a local Human Rights Commission. “This proposal is a very dangerous attempt of action by the city against the private sector, and is a clear overreach by the government,” said Jay Batt, chairman of the Republican Executive Committee. “It will also likely hurt any attempt to recruit and retain businesses, while certainly, hospitality will also be in the crosshairs.”

Early voting continues through Saturday, Nov. 9. Election day is Saturday, Nov. 16.

Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

Danae Columbus, who has had a 30-year career in politics and public relations, offers her opinions on Thursdays. Her career includes stints at City Hall, the Dock Board and the Orleans Parish School Board and former clients such as District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, City Councilman Jared Brossett, City Council President Helena Moreno, Foster Campbell, former Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former City Councilwomen Stacy Head and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.

Artprice by Art Market: 10 Works That Should Ignite Bidding at New York’s Prestige Sales, 11 – 20 November 2019

PARIS, Nov. 7, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — For thierry Ehrmann, founder/CEO of Artmarket.com, “This year’s best auction performances have relied less on the Art Market’s top four ultra-prestigious signatures (Monet, Picasso, Warhol and Basquiat) and more on artists who are gaining momentum. The major auction houses are today working on bringing new artists into the very closed circle of ‘$10 million-plus’ artists“.

Works sold over $10 million at auction in New York (2000 - October 2019) (PRNewsfoto/Artprice.com)

Rather than waiting for the arrival of a single exceptional work – like the Salvator Mundi or the Women of Algiers – auction houses are concentrating on generating more results above the $10 million threshold. And, as we have seen, when several major collectors are chasing the same piece, prices can fly. This was the case for Past Times (1997) by African-American artist Kerry James Marshall in May 2018, and for La Terrasse (1912) by Pierre Bonnard earlier this year.

Artprice has selected the ten works most likely to elicit strong bidding in New York next week:

Ed RushaHurting the Word Radio #2 (1964): $30 – 40 million

This painting could well exceed the $30.4 million hammered in November 2014 for Smash (1963) and crown an already exceptional year for Ed Ruscha on the secondary market. The first version of Hurting the Word Radio is in Houston’s prestigious Menil Collection.

Gustave Caillebotte – Richard Gallo et son chien Dick (1884): $18 – 25 million

Occasionally, 19th century art – frequently disregarded or overlooked – produces excellent surprises. Somewhat curiously, Gustave Caillebotte is among the artists currently in vogue. His painting at Sotheby’s next week could do even better than the $22 million hammered in February 2019 for his Chemin montant (1881), which was worth $6.7 million in 2003.

Joan MitchellPlowed field (1971): $12 – 18 million

This painting – over 5 metres long – was auctioned in November 2003 at Christie’s in New York where it fetched $657,100. Sixteen years later, it could be resold for almost 20 times that amount.

Brice MardenNumber Two (1983/84): $10 – 15 million

After the new auction record for Carl André’s Copper-Steel Alloy Square at $3 million on 4 October 2019 in London, Minimalism is back with a major Brice Marden canvas. Since it was purchased at the Pace Gallery 34 years ago, the work has never been offered for sale. Its sister work, Number One (1983/84), is part of the Whitney Museum’s collection.

Francis BaconPope (c. 1958): $6 – 8 million

This painting – from perhaps the Irish painter’s most iconic series – is being sold by the Brooklyn Museum, which has kept it for nearly forty years. Its sale will take place during the magnificent retrospective “Bacon en toutes lettres” at the Centre Pompidou in Paris (open until 20 January 2020).

Jean-Michel BasquiatBrown Eggs (1981): $2.5 – 3.5 million

The major absentee on the high-end market so far this year, Basquiat is still only in 11th place in Artprice’s global ranking of artists by auction turnover… This work on paper, which already fetched $254,000 in 2004, then $1.86 million in 2015, will indicate whether the ‘Basquiat frenzy’ has calmed or is continuing to spread. But it won’t be the only indication since his painting The Ring (1981), which sold for $7.6 million in 2012, is also being offered… with an estimate of $12 – 15 million.

Alma Woodsey Thomas – A Fantastic Sunset (1970): $2.2 – 2.8 million

This Afro-American artist, who died in 1978, could finally earn the recognition she deserves on the Art Market. Her research on colour, similar to that of Frank Stella and Morris Louis, has never had the same auction success enjoyed by those two stars of Abstract Expressionism… who have both renewed their personal auction records very recently.

Akseli Gallen-Kallela – Palokärki (1892/94): $1.8 – 2.5 million

Her canvas View over Lake at Sunset (c.1905) exceeded all expectations on 9 July 2019 at Sotheby’s in London. Estimated between $125,000 and $190,000, it was finally purchased for $886,000. This record explains Sotheby’s very bold estimate for Palokärki.

Charles Wilbert WhiteBanner for Willie J (1976): $1 – 1.5 million

Christie’s has finally got its hands on an exceptional painting by this African-American artist who died in 1979. White’s work has recently enjoyed strong auction demand including for two charcoal drawings that fetched over $400,000 each. His painting Banner for Willie J has all the qualities to set a much more substantial record.

Julie CurtissPas de Trois (2018): $100,000 – 150,000

Curtiss is the new darling of the Anton Kern Gallery, which presented her work for the first time in April 2019 in New York. Since that solo show, five of her paintings have already been auctioned for a total of $453,000. And three others have been announced for sale in November.

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RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

More than 100 black female activists endorse Warren for president

… slur MORE’s lead among African American voters.  The group Black … a deep understanding of how racism and gender discrimination don… into Biden’s lead among African American voters, a key Democratic … 19 percent support from African American voters, a 9-point … RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News

What’s on in Houston galleries this week

Published 12:00 am CST, Thursday, November 7, 2019

Houston’s art scene is as diverse and colorful as the city itself, with galleries and museums that feature works by local, national and international talents. Admission is free unless otherwise noted.

GALLERIES

Anya Tish Gallery

“Johan Barrios: Monologo,” through Nov. 30; 4411 Montrose; 713-524-2299, anyatishgallery.com.

Archway Gallery

“Jane Ewen: Intangible References,” through Dec. 5; 2305 Dunlavy; 713-522-2409, archwaygallery.com.

Art of the World Gallery

“Homage to the Great Latin-American Masters,” through Jan. 11; 2201 Westheimer; 713-526-1201, artoftheworldgallery.com.

Barbara Davis Gallery

“Mie Olise Kjærgaard: Ambiguous Aggregations,” through Jan. 10; 4411 Montrose; 713-520-9200, barbaradavisgallery.com.

Booker-Lowe Gallery

“Beyond Time: Australian Aboriginal Art,” co-presented with Coo-ee Gallery, Sydney, through Dec. 14; 4623 Feagan; 713-880-1541, bookerlowegallery.com.

Catherine Couturier Gallery

“Wendy Schneider: States of Grace,” through Nov. 27; 2635 Colquitt; 713-524-5070, catherinecouturier.com.

Deborah Colton Gallery

“”Virgil Grotfeldt: All That Is,” opens 6 p.m. Friday, through Jan. 4; 2445 North Blvd.; 713-869-5151, deborahcoltongallery.com.

Devin Borden Gallery

“David Lackey/Russell Prince: Figment,” through WednesdayNov. 13; 3909 Main; 713-256-0225, devinborden.com.

Foltz Fine Art

“Storied Lands,” three shows about Texas landscapes; opens Saturday, through Dec. 21; 2143 Westheimer; 713-521-7500, foltzgallery.com.

Foto Relevance

“Lou Peralta: Disassemble,” through Friday; 616 Hawthorne; 281-989-4356, fotorelevance.com.

Front Gallery

“Sarah Fisher: The Second Yes,” through Nov. 23; 1412 Bonnie Brae; frontgallery.com.

Gallery Sonja Roesch

“Accrochage 2019,” group show, opens 5 p.m. Sat., through Jan. 4; 2309 Caroline; 713-659-5424, gallerysonjaroesch.com.

Gray Contemporary

“Neil Fortune: Colorful Ribs and Guts of Adam” and “Aimée Terburg: Tending Shapes-Bending Colors,” through Nov. 30; 3508 Lake; 713-862-4425, graycontemporary.com.

Heidi Vaughan Fine Art

“Emma Balder: Connecting Threads,” through Nov. 23; 3510 Lake; 832-875-6477, heidivaughanfineart.com.

Hooks-Epstein Galleries

“Ann Johnson: Acknowledge,” through Nov. 27; 2631 Colquitt; 713-522-0718, hooksepsteingalleries.com.

Jonathan Hopson

“Steven Evans: Introspective,” through Nov. 24; 904 Marshall; jonathanhopsongallery.com.

Inman Gallery

“Jamal Cyrus: Currents and Currencies,” opens 6 p.m. Friday, artist talk noon Saturday, through Jan. 4; 3901 Main; 713-526-7800, inmangallery.com.

Laura Rathe Fine Art

“Nicola Parente and Michael Schultheis,” through Nov. 30; 2707 Colquitt; 713-705-5044, laurarathe.com.

McClain Gallery

“Dorothy Hood: Illuminated Earth,” through Dec. 21; 2242 Richmond; 713-520-9988, mcclaingallery.com.

Moody Gallery

“Dornith Doherty: Atlas of the Invisible,” through Nov. 27; 2815 Colquitt; 713-526-9911, moodygallery.com.

Nancy Littlejohn Fine Art

“Knox Martin: New York 1962-2019,” through Dec. 7; 3465-B W. Alabama; 832-740-4288, nancylittlejohnfineart.com.

Nicole Longnecker Gallery

“Kesha Bruce: Song for Survival,” through Saturday; 3233 W. 11th; 346-800-2780, longneckergallery.com.

Redbud Gallery

“Alfredo Romero: Vestiges of our Time,” through Jan. 14; Gretchen Van Atta Loro: The Language of the Spirit is Dance!,” through Nov. 30; 303 E. 11th; 713-854-4246, redbudgallery.com.

Sicardi|Ayers Bacino

“Alejandro Otero: Rhythm in Line and Space,” through Jan. 16; 1506 W. Alabama; 713-529-1313, sicardigallery.com.

SITE Gallery

“Outta Space,” Sculpture Month Houston group show of installations in grain silos, through Nov. 30; 1502 Sawyer; 713-807-1836, sculpturemonthhouston.org.

Texas Gallery

“Robin Bruch: Full Circle,” through Nov. 30; 2012 Peden, 713-524-1503, texgal.com.

MUSEUMS

1940 Air Terminal Museum

“Pitch and Roll,” Sculpture Month Houston group show, through Nov. 30; The Hangar, 8325 Travelair; $2-$5; 713-454-1940; 1940airterminal.org.

Art Car Museum

“Fernando Casas: Limits and Proximities” and “Susanne Thea: Snapshots,” through Nov. 17; 140 Heights; 713-861-5526, artcarmuseum.com.

Asia Society Texas Center

“Tsuru Kokei: Modern Kabuki Prints Revised & Revisited,” through Jan. 19; 1370 Southmore; 713-496-9901, asiasociety.org/texas.

Blaffer Art Museum

“Paul Mpagi Sepuya,” through March 14, and “Jacqueline Nova: Creatión de la Tierra,” through Jan. 4; University of Houston, 4173 Elgin; 713-743-9521, blafferartmuseum.org

Contemporary Arts Museum

“Will Boone: The Highway Hex,” opens 6:30 p.m. Friday, artist talk 2 p.m. Saturday, through Feb. 16; “Nari Ward: We the People,” through Nov. 30; 5216 Montrose; 713-284-8250, camh.org.

FotoFest

“Velvet Generation,” “Dansk Konceptuelt Fotografi” and “Intersect,” through Saturday; Silver Street Studios, 2000 Edwards; 713-223-5522, fotofest.org.

Galveston Arts Center

“Gerardo Rosales: Undercover” and “Erin Curtis: Night and Day,” through Nov. 17; 127 Strand, Galveston; 409-763-2403, galvestonartscenter.org.

Holocaust Museum

“Danny Lyon: Memories of the Southern Civil Rights Movement,” through Jan. 5; $10-$15, kids and students free; 5401 Caroline; 713-942-8000, hmh.org.

Houston Center for Contemporary Craft

“Objects: Redux — How 50 Years Made Craft Contemporary” and “Nathalie Miebach: The Water Line,” through Jan. 5; 4848 Main; 713-529-4848, crafthouston.org..

Houston Center for Photography

“Daniel Gordon: Hue and Saturate,” through Sunday; 1441 W. Alabama; 713-529-4755, hcponline.org.

Houston Museum of African American Culture

“Riding the Tiger: The Art of Bert Long, Jr.,” through Saturday; “Irinisi: Paintings by Idowu Oluwaseum,” through Dec. 14; 4807 Caroline; 713-526-1015, hmaac.org.

Lawndale Art Center

“Michael Menchaca: The Codex Silex Vallis (The Silicon Valley Codex)” and “Saúl Hernandez-Várgas: “Nothing Left for Us in the Wilderness (No queda nada para nosotros en la espesura),” through Dec. 22; 4912 Main; 713-528-5858, lawndaleartcenter.org.

Menil Collection

“Mapa Wiya (Your Map’s Not Needed): Australian Aboriginal Art From the Fondation Opale,” through Feb. 2; “Jean-Jacques Lequeu: Visionary Architect,” through Jan. 5; 1533 Sul Ross; 713-525-9400, menil.org.

Moody Center for the Arts

“Moon Shot,” works by Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Laurie Anderson and others; through Dec. 21; Rice University, 6100 Main; 713-348-4772, moody.rice.edu.

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

“Beatriz González: A Retrospective,” through Jan. 20; “Monet to Picasso: A Very Private Collection” and “Berthe Morisot: Impressionist Original,” through Jan. 12; “Jasper Johns: 100 Variations on a Theme,” through Feb. 16; $7.50-$25; 5601 Main; 713-639-7300, mfah.org.

Pearl Fincher Museum of Fine Arts

“Mark Burns: Grand Canyon Photographs” and “Anat Ronen: Urban Legend,” through Jan. 11; 6815 Cypresswood, Spring; 281-376-6322, pearlmfa.org.

Project Row Houses

“Round 50: Race, Health and Motherhood”: Site-specific installations exploring how artists, health care professionals and practitioners are responding to the black maternal mortality rate, through Feb. 16; 2505-2517 Holman; 713-526-7662, projectrowhouses.org.

Station Museum of Contemporary Art

“Irvin Tepper: Evidence of Phantoms Made Real Between Thoughts,” through Jan. 12; 1502 Alabama; 713-529-6900, stationmuseum.com.

The Printing Museum

“Where I Come From: The Works and Influences of Charles Criner,” through Dec. 21, and “Joan Son: Paper Couture,” through Dec. 22; $5; 1324 W. Clay; 713-522-4652, printingmuseum.org.

Jeremy O Harris: ‘People say I wrote Slave Play for white people and not for a black audience’

This fall, Jeremy O Harris wrestled with a problem unique to artists of color. He knew his Broadway debut, Slave Play, worked with white audiences – but he wasn’t confident that it worked with black ones. His anxiety only grew after the premiere, especially when he heard black people suggest that he wrote Slave Play solely for white consumption.

“I would say, in this moment, where so many black artists are getting opportunities for the first time, it can feel like you have to make black art for all black people,” said Harris.

His anxieties capture the struggles of being a black artist who wants to highlight something new about race in America: you upset both sides.

Slave Play explores micro-level manifestations of racial trauma among three interracial couples who engage in slave-era sexual fantasies to resolve their relationship issues. The result is a work that attempts to highlight how we all embody complicated, imperfect ideas about ourselves, others, and the people we love.

James Cusati-Moyer and Ato Blankson-Wood in Jeremy O Harris’s Slave Play.



James Cusati-Moyer and Ato Blankson-Wood in Jeremy O Harris’s Slave Play. Photograph: Matthew Murphy/The Guardian

The reception to Harris’s absurdist vision has been a mixture of fear, confusion, and pure amusement. The New York Post called the production “Broadway’s most thoughtful mess”, while Vulture wrote: “Everyone is an archetype and yet no one feels flat or condescendingly sketched.”

Robert O’Hara, the director of Slave Play, told the Guardian he was attracted to what Harris had written because it was “dangerous and necessary”. O’Hara has seen previous black playwrights moving from the wings to center stage. His own first play – which imagined a young, black, gay man traveling back in time to the Nat Turner rebellion – was staged in 1996. “Because black people are not a monolith. There are so many different ways to examine who we are. The more we acknowledge that, the better we are.”

We caught up with Harris to discuss theater audiences, self-censorship, and his advice for young playwrights. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

How are you feeling since Slave Play debuted on Broadway?

Well, I feel anxious and busy, basically. That’s the space I’m in all the time. Anxious and busy. I’ve been in that space for two years and I’ll probably be in it for a year more. Just … consistent anxiety and feeling overwhelmed by how quickly things are moving. But it’s not necessarily a bad thing!

Jeremy O Harris tells other black playwrights, “You need to make black art for your black self.”



Jeremy O Harris tells other black playwrights: ‘You need to make black art for your black self.’ Photograph: Quil Lemons/The Guardian

The play is deeply nuanced in its approach towards race. Did you ever expect to see it on Broadway?

I’m surprised it’s on Broadway in the sense that the goal was never Broadway. The people I worship inside of the canon have never been on Broadway. Or, if they were, it was at a time when Broadway had a lot of risk-taking and daring writing happening. Broadway during the 60s and 70s was really wild. I think a lot of things changed in the wake of the 90s … The 90s changed who we thought Broadway was for.

And fast-forward to today, where that shift in audience is occurring again – but with your play. What do you hope Slave Play accomplishes?

I wanted to push the audience of Broadway to its limits and really challenge who we think sees a play. I don’t think there are any other plays articulating that as their goal. The challenges we are setting are not the box office or how much money we can make. It’s: “How can we change what the next generation of theater-goers look like?”

During previews of Slave Play, you held a night where you invited black artists and students to come see the show at a discounted price.

That was me being able to look certain people in the face and say: “You’re wrong.”

So many people have dictated what my intentions were with Slave Play. One of the things they’ve always articulated is that I wrote Slave Play for white people and that it’s not written for a black audience. That’s so bizarre to me. Because the first audience I ever wrote this for was an audience of my classmates at Yale. And the people who were most upset by it, back then, were the white viewers.

It was amazing to sit in a 99.9% black audience and see that 99.9% of the play worked. And the parts that exhilarated the audience on other nights still exhilarated the audience that night. Or parts that don’t usually work on other nights did that night. Because they were parts that were specifically black.

Joaquina Kalukango and Paul Alexander Nolan in Slave Play.



Joaquina Kalukango and Paul Alexander Nolan in Slave Play. Photograph: Matthew Murphy/The Guardian

The night was a chance for you to see that it did work with a black audience.

Yes, my play has been widely written about by white theater critics and beloved by them. But I got to see there was validation from all the black theater critics as well. It was a room full of other black faces laughing at the same moments, having the same epiphanies, crying at the same moments, and feeling the same depths. And one of the great things about the play, like any good play should have, there were even people – in a room full of black folks – who didn’t like it. It felt like the ratio of people who liked it and didn’t like it was very similar to the ratio of white people who liked it and didn’t like it. Which also told me something about the universality of the play. Or maybe not even the universality – but the Americanness of it.

What is your advice to other aspiring, young, black playwrights?

You need to make black art for your black self. And hope that it connects to other people’s black selves. In the lead-up to this play going to Broadway, I spent so much time worrying about all the ways that my black play wasn’t connecting with certain black audience members that I was ignoring the black audience members that it was connecting to. We can succumb to a fear-based culture really easily, especially when bad people are in charge. That’s when we should be the loudest and the most individualistic, because that’s the only way to actually combat fascism.

When I speak to artists – especially artists from oppressed groups – I see them necessitating this self-censorship. And I’m like: “No, be free! The only time you can be free in this world is when you’re writing.”

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Verna Williams Is the First African-American Dean of UC’s Law College

Illustration by Zachary Ghaderi

Verna Williams is the first African-American dean of the University of Cincinnati’s College of Law. A Harvard Law School graduate, she’s had a rich career full of public service—including arguing and winning before the Supreme Court—and recently helped Michelle Obama (yes, that Michelle) craft her best-selling memoir, Becoming.

As the new dean, what’s your vision for the College of Law?
I see us having an important role
 in the community, providing access to law. I want to build on [our partnership with the Municipal Court] and create a law firm where new graduates of law would help serve people. We’re calling it the Legal Access Project. There are maybe 12 or so of these across the country at law schools. We have a role to play; we have something to say about access to justice.

What was it like working with the former First Lady?
Basically I was the oral historian. I helped preserve what was happening at the time. She was one of the cool people I met at Harvard Law School … the first few times I was doing it, my hands were shaking because I really wanted to do a good job because it’s, you know, it’s the weight of history. Being in the White House—her house is a museum. And it’s the headquarters of the most powerful executive in the world. And then [the president] comes upstairs. I’m all fangirling, and he’s just Barack. It took a while to get back to normal and me teasing him and stuff like that.

What do you like to do in your downtime?
We do like to go out to eat. Allison [her daughter with husband David] loves going to Taqueria Mercado because she loves the horchatas. And Mazunte, we like to go there, too. Metropole, I like that place, too. One thing I’m doing? I take classes at Improv Cincinnati.

Really?
I love it. I love improv. It’s so much fun. I’m a playful person, and I need that outlet. It’s an opportunity to play, be creative, and it doesn’t require me to prepare, because it’s improv. Learning how to be in the moment, how to listen … these are all really good and important principles. I find myself listening differently, paying attention in a different kind of way.