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Milwaukee Repertory Theater Hosts 20/20 Vision For Milwaukee Arts
A One-Day Conference in Partnership with Milwaukee Black Theater Festival
September 9, 2020
August 31, 2020 (Milwaukee, WI) – In partnership with the first annual Milwaukee Black Theater Festival, Milwaukee Rep will host the20/20 Vision for Milwaukee Arts, a one-day virtual conference on September 9, 2020 from 1-4pm CT. The conference will include several industry and community speakers, a panel discussion, and the debut of an original commission by Milwaukee Rep. The conference is free and open to the public, just join via this Zoom link.
Playwright and new Director of The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College Idris Goodwin will give the Keynote address titled Be A Citizen Artist. Goodwin recently wrote and performed an inspiring Break Beat poem Your House is Not Just a House to kick off Milwaukee Rep’s From Our Home to Your Home virtual programming in April.
Playwright Cori Thomas (Lockdown) will introduce her play, Welcome Home, an online commission for Milwaukee Rep’s “From Our Home to Your Home” series. The play centers on Rocket, played by Gavin Lawrence (American Players Theater Core Company Member), who finally walks free after his eighteen year incarceration and discovers a very different world on the other side. In a masked up world in the time of COVID, he makes his very first FaceTime call. The short play is directed by Kent Gash (founding director of NYU Tisch School of the Arts Department of Drama’s New Studio on Broadway) and also features Heather Alicia Simms (A Raisin in the Sun, Broadway).
Milwaukee Chamber Theatre Artistic Director Brent Hazelton, Bronzeville Arts Ensemble Artistic Director Sheri Williams Pannell, UPAF President and CEO Deanna Tillisch and Skylight Music Theatre Artistic Director Michael Unger will take part in a panel discussion around Building and Sustaining a Diverse and Inclusive Arts in Milwaukee moderated by Morgan Phelps founder of Colorful Connections.
Additional speakers include the founder of Milwaukee’s first annual Black Theater Festival, Malkia Stampley, Catina Cole founder of MPower Theater Group, DiMonte Henning founder of Lights! Camera! Soul!, award-winning Milwaukee playwright Malaina Moore, actor and costume designer Austin Winter and more.
The Milwaukee Black Theater Festival’s mission is to create highly visible critical mass for Black narratives and focus energy of theater on the conversations about how Milwaukee can exist as its best self for every Black individual who choose to call it home. The Festival is a multigenerational collaborative endeavor between Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, Lights! Camera! Soul!, Bronzeville Arts Ensemble, Black Arts MKE, MPower Theater Group as well as other notable Black Milwaukee independent artists and arts leaders. The Festival runs now through September 12, purchase a pass today HERE.
For more information on the 20/20 Vision for Milwaukee Arts conference email [email protected].
Catina Cole, Speaker
Catina is a mother of a superhero, trauma survivor, counselor, and “artivist” in the Milwaukee area. She founded MPower Theater Group, a theater troupe that is dedicated to empowering survivors and offering opportunities for underrepresented artists with a social justice focus on activism, advocacy, and awareness. MPower Theater has addressed topics that include Black femininity, racial profiling, police brutality, molestation, rape, domestic violence, and topics that affect people of color and their communities. MPower has been instrumental in creating a safe space and providing transformational healing, in part due to Catina’s leadership and counseling background, but also because the actors of MPower Theater understand the primary purpose is using performance art as a tool for healing. MPower Theater artivists have worked with human trafficking training at Sojourner Family Peace Center. Catina’s contributions work has been recognized by WCASA (Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault) 2016 Voice of Courage award and in 2017 with the Milwaukee FIRE Awards in the Arts category. Since 2015, MPower Theater has put on eight productions to sold-out audiences with the most recent, Yetta Young’s Butterfly Confessions, and was invited three times to Milwaukee Pride. MPower Theater also collaborates with other organizations and “pays it forward” by donating a portion of proceeds to local charities in the Milwaukee area. Catina is excited that MPower Theater Group is included in the Milwaukee Black Theater Festival, with Oliva Dawson’s response piece, 20/20.
Idris Goodwin, Keynote Speaker
Idris is a multidisciplinary arts leader and creative community builder. Across two decades, he’s forged a multi-faceted career as an award-winning script writer for stage and screen, Break Beat poet, director, educator, and organizer. He is the new Director of The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College. The author of Free Plays: open source scripts for an antiracist tomorrow, Goodwin is committed to using the arts to spark meaningful conversation. His critically acclaimed plays like And In This Corner Cassius Clay, How We Got On, and Hype Man: A Break Beat Play are widely produced across the country at professional theatres, college campuses, and non-traditional spaces alike. He’s been honored to receive developmental support from institutions like The Kennedy Center, The Eugene O’Neill Conference, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Arena Stage, and The Playwrights’ Center. In addition to the recently released poetry collection Can I Kick It?, he’s had several publications from Haymarket Books including Inauguration co-written with nico wilkinson, Human Highlight: Ode To Dominique Wilkins, and the play This Is Modern Art co-written with Kevin Coval. The two also cohost The Same Old New School Podcast on Vocalo Radio. He’s appeared on HBO “Def Poetry,” “Sesame Street,” NPR, BBC Radio, and the Discovery Channel. For six years, Idris taught in the department of Theatre and Dance at Colorado College and was voted Teacher of the Year in 2015. Most recently, Idris served two seasons as Producing Artistic Director at StageOne Family Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky. Passionate about cultivating new audiences in the arts, Goodwin actively serves on both the advisory boards of Theatre for Young Audiences USA and Children’s Theatre Foundation Association, as well as New Mexico’s 516Arts. A catalyst for culture, Goodwin uses his full creative powers to galvanize people to the community square. He is a creative voice for change, impassioned by art for social good.
Brent Hazelton, Panelist
A Whitewater, Wisconsin, native and longtime Milwaukee resident, Hazelton enthusiastically joined Milwaukee Chamber Theatre after two decades on the Artistic Staff of Milwaukee Repertory Theater. Most recently at The Rep, Brent served for ten years as Associate Artistic Director, and built The Rep’s John (Jack) D. Lewis New Play Development Program as well as spearheaded the season planning process and participated in ongoing strategic planning. Prior to that, he built The Rep’s Emerging Professional Residency into one of the two strongest such programs in American regional theater. As a director and playwright, his work has set all-time sales records in two of The Rep’s three core performance spaces.
DiMonte Henning, Speaker
DiMonte serves as Artistic Director for theater-arts organization, Lights! Camera! Soul! An organization committed to the advancement of Black artistry and stories expressed through the Black lens. He received his formal theater training from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with additional training from Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s Emerging Professional Residency. In addition to serving as Artistic Director for Lights! Camera! Soul! DiMonte has performed regionally with the following theater credits: Stick Fly (Writers Theatre), A Christmas Carol (Milwaukee Repertory Theater), Lobby Hero (Milwaukee Chamber Theatre) The Wiz (First Stage), Our Town (Milwaukee Repertory Theater), Skeleton Crew(Forward Theater Company), Dreamgirls (Milwaukee Repertory Theater), Black Nativity (Black Arts MKE), and Deathtrap (Milwaukee Chamber Theatre). TV credits include: guest starring roles on NBC’s Chicago PD (Seasons 4&6), UBER, Disney’s Encore, Cousin Subs, and Harley-Davidson.
Malaina Moore, Speaker
Malaina is a Milwaukee based actress, playwright and teaching artist. She trained at Marquette University where she studied theatre with an emphasis in performance and a minor in Social Welfare and Justice. She enjoys writing stories with social justice themes, such as her works: This Just In at the Milwaukee Chamber Theater and White Privilege which has been performed in both a range of times in Milwaukee and Madison.
Sheri Williams Pannell, Panelist
Sheri is a native Milwaukeean who has performed, directed or written for a number of Milwaukee’s theater and arts entities including Bronzeville Arts Ensemble, First Stage, Florentine Opera, Milwaukee Chamber Theater, Milwaukee Fringe Festival, Milwaukee Rep, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Milwaukee Arts Museum, Renaissance Theatreworks and Skylight Music Theatre. Beyond Milwaukee, Sheri has worked at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Utah’s Old Lyric Theatre, University Opera and University Theater at UW Madison, and the Children’s Theater of Madison. Pannell was honored to direct a production as part of the United Nations Conference on Genocide, hosted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A founding member and artistic director at Bronzeville Arts Ensemble, Sheri is also director/teaching artist at Black Arts MKE and co-director of the drama ministry at Calvary Baptist Church. In 2018, Pannell was appointed to the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Peck School of the Arts as an Assistant Professor in Theatre and Area Head for the Musical Theatre Program. Her upcoming directing projects include the tour of Bronzeville Boheme for Florentine Opera (January 2021), All Night Strut (A Jumpin’ Jivin’ Jam) at the Peck School of the Arts (May 2021) and Black Nativity for Black Arts MKE and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts (November 2020). Pannell is a graduate of Spelman College and holds an MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Morgan Phelps, Moderator
Morgan Phelps serves organizations and people who want to become better versions of themselves, create a sense of belonging for all, and uplift the voice of the underrepresented. Morgan is the Founder and CEO of Colorful Connections, a social enterprise that helps businesses succeed by creating inclusive workplaces and connecting with diverse talent. Specifically, Colorful Connections provides diversity recruiting services, inclusion trainings and assessments, as well as career development support with programs such as Think Tank, which retools underestimated professionals for the communications and creative industries. Morgan’s professional history began in Journalism, includes more than 15+ years in Public Relations, and a lifetime adapting to different communication styles and homogenous environments. Throughout her career, Morgan has led high-profile campaigns for top, national agencies and companies such as Edelman, Burrell and Northwestern Mutual. From counseling senior executives to spearheading company announcements, Morgan has worked with an array of clients including GrubHub, SC Johnson, Bush’s Beans, Belize Tourism Board, and the African-American Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin – to name a few. Morgan graduated with a MSJ from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, and a B.S. in African-American Studies, Theater and Politics from Oberlin College in Ohio. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
Malkia Stampley, Speaker
Malkia is one of the founders and leaders of Milwaukee’s first Black Theater Festival, as well as curator, performer in Home and director of Stew. Malkia is an actor, director and producer born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She received her training at Marquette University, Skylight Music, and Milwaukee Rep. She has worked and traveled worldwide as a performer, and in 2013 she co-founded Bronzeville Arts Ensemble in Milwaukee where she served as Artistic Director for three years. Malkia has worked as a performer in Chicago, New York and all over Wisconsin. Favorite productions include Two Trains Running (Milwaukee Rep/Cincy Playhouse), Talented Tenth (Congo Square), Good People (Forward Theater), Flying West (Bronzeville Arts Ensemble), A Midnight Cry (First Stage) among many others. Malkia began directing in 2016, Black Arts MKE and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts’ annual production, Black Nativity. She is most recently directed a workshop of the world premier Sunflowered by Lachrisa Grandberry and Aidaa Peerzada at Northern Sky Theatre and previously directed Nunsense at Milwaukee Repertory Theater. As a tv and film actor, Malkia has appeared on Showtime (“Work in Progress,” “Shameless,” “The Chi”), NBC (“Chicago Med,” “Chicago PD”), HBO (“Native Son”), Fox (“Empire”), Netflix (“Beats”) and a host of independent short and feature films. She is also an emerging film director and producer, having most recently directed the short film trilogy “The Pandemic.” Malkia enjoys being a voiceover artist, yoga instructor and hosts her own channel, “Malkia Talks” on YouTube.
Cori Thomas, Playwright
Cori is an award winning playwright and screenwriter. Produced plays: Lockdown; When January Feels Like Summer; Citizens Market; My Secret Language Of Wishes; Liberian Legacy Trilogy and more. Produced and Developed at: WP Theater; Rattlestick Theater, Playwrights Horizons, Page 73, Ensemble Studio Theatre; City Theater,Pittsburgh; Goodman Theater; Pillsbury House Theater; Mixed Blood; Horizon Theatre Co; Mosaic Theatre Co; and others. She has won the American Theater Critics Osborn Award; Edgerton Foundation Prize; Was a 2017 runner up for The Dramatist Guild Horton Foote Playwriting Award; and more. Cori is the Mellon Playwright in Residence at WP Theater; and a New Dramatists Resident Playwright. Fellowships at O’Neill National Playwrights Conference; Sundance Theater Lab; MacDowell Colony; Bogliasco Foundation; Baryshnikov Arts Center; Djerassi and more. Film and TV Projects include: Original screenplay for HBO Films and Tribeca Productions. Cori is presently co- writing the memoirs of Sex Trafficking survivor, Sara Kruzan for Knopf/Random House. Founder: The Pa’s Hat Foundation a 501c(3) in 2012. an organization focused on helping former child soldiers and other marginalized citizens of Liberia, West Africa with educational and work related assistance. Ongoing volunteer at San Quentin State Prison with the anti-violence program No More Tears. Board of Directors: of New Dramatists, Pa’s Hat Foundation, Project FEEL, and No More TearsSQ. Cori is represented by Leah Hamos and Vernaliz Co at The Gersh Agency, Kirsten Jacobson at Good Fear Content; Eve MacSweeney at Fletcher and Co.
Deanna L. Tillisch, Panelist
Deanna L. Tillisch is President & CEO of the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF), the largest nonprofit of its type in the country. UPAF raises much-needed dollars for 14 “Member Groups” that deliver world-class performances and nationally recognized arts education throughout the region. In 2019, UPAF raised just under $12 million. Prior to UPAF, Tillisch spent almost two decades at Northwestern Mutual, holding leadership positions in Communications, Marketing and the Foundation. Tillisch is a Board member of Milwaukee Institute for Art and Design, serving as Governance Chair and Executive Committee member. She also serves on the Burke Foundation Board, Penfield Montessori Academy Board and Imagine MKE Board. Tillisch is a founding member of UPAF Notable Women, an Affinity Program that raises dollars for arts education. Tillisch received the Women of Distinction Award from the Waukesha County Community Foundation in 2014 and the Women of Influence Award from the Milwaukee Business Journal in 2016. The Tillisch family was honored by Life Navigators in 2017 as the 34th Annual Challenger Honoree. Tillisch holds a Master of Business Administration, graduating with honors, from Marquette University and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Michael Unger, Panelist
Michael joined the Skylight team in September, 2019, as Artistic Director. Michael is also the Producing Artistic Director of NewArts in Newtown, CT, which he started with a local father in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. For NewArts he has directed a dozen large-scale musicals involving over 600 local children. He was until recently the Associate Artistic Director and Director of Education for Off-Broadway’s York Theatre Company. Michael has directed many benefit concerts, including for Susan Stroman, Andre DeShields, as well as for the Sandy Hook, CT and Parkland, FL communities. Selected world premieres include The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Caligula, and A ROCKIN’ Midsummer Night’s Dream, which is featured in the award-winning documentary film, Midsummer in Newtown. Other directing credits include McCarter Theatre, 59E59, Paramount, W.H.A.T., Signature, Cape Playhouse, Deaf West, and The St. Louis MUNY. He has directed fifteen operas, two of which are available on DVD.
Austin Winter, Speaker
Austin is a Milwaukee native actor, educator and designer. He is thrilled to have the opportunity to work alongside a vibrant community of black artists as costume designer for the inaugural summer of the Milwaukee Black Theater Festival. His most recent work has been with the Milwaukee Rep’s 2019/20 Season as an Emerging Professional Resident. Austin is an alum of the Open Jar Residency, Broadway Theater Project, Milwaukee Children’s Choir, and FSCT Young Company. Passionate about physical storytelling he has been a lead teacher, director and choreographer for First Stage Academy the last 2 years working with grades 5th through 12th. Austin holds a BA in Music Theater from Carthage College and plans to return this fall for his Masters in Vocal Pedagogy. Many thanks to black artists who have created space, fought for representation and given themselves through mentorship as well as artistic activism along the way. 1 John 4:18 www.austinwinter.com @austwintermint
About Milwaukee Repertory Theater
Milwaukee Rep is the largest performing arts organization in Wisconsin with three unique performance venues in the Patty & Jay Baker Theater Complex– the Quadracci Powerhouse, Stiemke Studio and Stackner Cabaret. For over six decades, Milwaukee Rep has been a centerpiece of Milwaukee’s vibrant arts and cultural scene with productions ranging from Broadway musicals to Shakespeare to American Classics and New Works that are entertaining, inclusive and impactful. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Mark Clements and Executive Director Chad Bauman, Milwaukee Repertory Theater ignites positive change in the cultural, social, and economic vitality of its community by creating world-class theater experiences that entertain, provoke, and inspire meaningful dialogue among an audience representative of Milwaukee’s rich diversity.
RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment
Significant health inequities continue to persist across California and the entire nation. Health inequities are in large part a result of poverty and an unequal distribution of resources. These inequities take a toll on health as demonstrated by health outcomes that vary by income, education, race, gender, ethnicity, geography and other dimensions of individual and group identity. In California, we pay a high price in lost lives and deteriorating health as disparities continue to widen care gaps. In fact, a recent report commissioned by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation projected U.S. health costs related to racial health disparities alone to be approximately $337 billion between 2009 and 2018. Findings like this have propelled health equity as a leading priority for states and health organizations, including Anthem Blue Cross Medi-Cal health plan (Anthem), which is fighting to restore health equity.
Anthem understands that strong communities do not just happen. It takes a commitment to deliver on the diverse needs of health plan members, a keen understanding of the connections between an individual’s health and the factors that shape it, as well as strategic collaborations with local and national partners to promote inclusion, improve access to resources and ensure sustainability. For these reasons, Anthem has taken a strategic approach to enhancing its operational infrastructure, increasing its focus on data and promoting innovative clinical programs that increase health equity.
ANTHEM BLUE CROSS INFRASTRUCTURE ENHANCEMENTS
Infrastructure enhancements and leader development play an important role in cultivating the organizational collaboration needed to achieve health equity. Training, professional development and capacity building are what help an organization to navigate through various institutional contexts surrounding health equity. Anthem therefore recently enhanced its infrastructure to build capacity and uniquely position its Medi-Cal health plan to succeed.
Anthem built a Health Equity team within its Quality department that is committed to advancing health equity in Anthem’s programming, partnerships and offerings. Led by a Medical Director and driven by a seasoned Director of Quality and a Health Equity Program Manager, this team engages various Anthem departments to form a Health Equity Council, which reviews existing and new programs through the lens of health equity. The group also involves Case Management Nurses, Quality Specialists, Provider Solutions Managers and more to form relationships with county and community organizations across the state. This allows them to develop effective, local solutions and to more meaningfully engage communities. The time spent developing this infrastructure and maintaining collaborations has been integral to Anthem’s success.
ANTHEM BLUE CROSS FOCUS ON DATA
Anthem uses a holistic approach to create and deliver innovative, data driven and personalized solutions that improve lives. Anthem strives to make informed decisions by using actionable data to understand individual needs, and to then offer treatment and support at the right time and place. Anthem uses a combination of data and technology to connect members with the care they need, and is investing in innovative approaches to simplify care for those who need it most.
Anthem’s enhanced focus on health equity has sharpened its focus on data-driven strategies. Particularly, Anthem focuses on close analysis of member data, such as claims and encounter data, and look for unique markers to better understand needs. Findings, along with insight from community partners, then drive the creation of programs and solutions that ensure access to needed services.
ANTHEM BLUE CROSS CLINICAL PROGRAMS
Healthcare is better when everyone contributes, so Anthem has built relationships with healthcare providers and formed collaborations with local and national partners to make a greater impact on lives. These deep relationships along with engagement in every market served uniquely positions Anthem to advocate for diverse needs and redefine what is possible in terms of health equity. Anthem’s doula pilot program, which has been designed to address disparities among African American women in Fresno County, is just one example.
Fresno County has the second highest preterm birth rate in California, and the preterm birth rate for African American women is 64.6 percent higher than white women according to the March of Dimes. There is a growing consensus that doulas play a vital role in supporting vulnerable communities of color and can have a positive impact in birth outcomes. Research suggests that doulas improve maternal health outcomes through multiple mechanisms, including offering continuity of care, and by helping pregnant women feel empowered to communicate their needs and concerns to their provider. Missed or delayed diagnoses are a leading preventable factor for maternal morbidity and mortality, and doulas have been considered a potential solution for helping mitigate this issue at the provider level.
Anthem has thus joined Fresno County Department of Public Health’s Black Infant Health (BIH) Program and a community-based doula organization to launch a doula program in Fresno County. This program offers education, care coordination and case management, depression screening, referrals for resources (e.g., housing, food insecurity, transportation), and family support. Through this collaboration, Anthem ensures participants have a personal advocate and learn self-advocacy skills to navigate through the complex medical system and beyond – so that they can have a healthy pregnancy. The primary objectives of this program are to reduce the risk of preterm birth and ensure that women attend their prenatal and postpartum visits. Anthem is also part of a larger statewide effort to streamline and standardize data from doula pilots in an effort to collectively impact policy change that promotes health equity.
Other examples of Anthem efforts to promote health equity include a vaccination effort that targets the Bay Area’s Southeast Asian community, which has disproportionately low vaccination rates; a cancer screening effort among Central California’s Hmong community to address high cancer mortality rates; and an effort to deploy hundreds of digital kiosks with live, on-demand interpretation capabilities to address language barriers in primary care centers across the state.
It is through efforts and programs like these that Anthem is empowering more Californians to attain full health potential. And while our state has a long way to go to ensure health equity for all Californians, Anthem is emerging as a leader by tackling some of the most complex disparities and taking action to transform healthcare.
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Seven years ago I took my eight-year-old daughter to see a movie called 42, which was the number that Dodgers legend Jackie Robinson wore on his jersey (and no one else has worn since). Silanchi’s mother and I had been deliberating fitfully and anxiously, in our clueless white way, at what point it made sense as parents to begin pulling back the curtains on America’s racist past for our young Black daughter. With some luck, 42 turned out to be an apt choice. It was a heroic story that had, all told, something resembling a happy ending without whitewashing the past or present. It gradually led us into conversations that needed to happen in our family, and at its center was a genuinely valiant and larger-than-life figure who, just by the very fact of his being, began a lineage of activist athletes that has included Muhammad Ali, Tommie Smith, John Carlos, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, LeBron James, and Colin Kaepernick.
If the right movie was 42, Chadwick Boseman was the right actor because, like Robinson himself, Boseman’s portrayal so deftly threaded the needle between a stoic resistance to injustice and insistent nonacquiescence. Boseman remained the right actor up until he died at age 43 last Friday, on what just happened to be Jackie Robinson Day.
Only in the mass public consciousness a little more than a handful of years, Boseman might have been startled by the nerve his death has touched, and by the very real sorrow and dismay that it provoked. It was in keeping with the poise and self-possession conveyed by Boseman as Robinson and as young future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall that the actor did his dying both in plain sight and in private, notwithstanding whispers of recent months that there was something wrong. While the adjectives eulogizing Boseman the man and movie star have been fitting—elegant, dignified, graceful—let’s hope the scope of his brilliance isn’t lost in all the ascribed stateliness: It’s one more sign of life’s vagaries that in the year award-givers were so besotted by Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, the best performance was Boseman’s extravagant and kinetic turn as James Brown in Get on Up.
Chadwick Boseman rests in power, his career a nova extinguished on the dark side of the moon where the rest of us feel we’re living these days.
And then there was Black Panther. Arriving six months after white supremacist torchlit parades in Charlottesville, it had all the more impact a year into the administration of a president reluctant to denounce the “very fine” fascists who run over peaceful protesters.
Black Panther was the spearhead of an emerging African American cinema that testified to Black empowerment. When a project has kicked around Hollywood as long as Black Panther (a couple of decades), it’s hard to be sure how much its timing is fortuitous and how much it’s a totem of the zeitgeist, but Black Panther became a grail among Black filmmakers, benefiting not only from determination but the coherence of a moment in which the movie felt necessary. With the contributions of Lupita Nyong’o, Michael B. Jordan, Daniel Kaluuya, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Kendrick Lamar, Ryan Coogler, Hanna Beachler, and Ta-Nehisi Coates, Black artistry and Black vision reached critical mass in Black Panther, and in the lead role, Boseman became the face of the moment carefully chosen over two dozen other contenders.
Black Panther would have represented something monumental at any locus of any culture’s timeline, but loomed all the larger in an American Reich led by a bloated citric-tinged reality-TV reject. It still feels inevitable we’ll see a response called Snow Leopard slithering its way onto racist websites like Stormfront by way of Dinesh D’Souza or Steve Bannon in his jail cell.
There’s no question in my mind that 20 years from now, assuming we’re all still here, we’ll look back on Black Panther as the most important movie of the decade. More than that, we’ll look back on it as the most American movie of any America worth believing in, and it’s impossible to imagine someone other than Boseman bringing from Wakanda to America the same combination of chops and star power, charisma and gravitas, grandeur and captivation that helped carry both the movie and the responsibility of its implications.
Chadwick Boseman rests in power, his career a nova extinguished on the dark side of the moon where the rest of us feel we’re living these days. They don’t come any more Gone Too Soon than this.
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As we commemorate the centennial of women’s suffrage, we celebrate a momentous milestone in our nation’s march toward equality. But reaching this milestone took decades of advocacy, activism and art. Throughout the suffrage movement, the arts helped sway public opinion, rally support and gave women new tools to make their message heard.
Whether it was the poetic oratory of Sojourner Truth, scathing editorial cartoons, inspirational posters, action-oriented postcards or the (literal) loosening of constrictive fashions, the arts disseminated suffragists’ messaging across the country. The arts made the work of the suffragists more visible to a wider audience and helped women across the country feel connected to the movement.
Commemorating the arts suffrage push
The National Endowment for the Arts recognizes and applauds how the arts were used to change the narrative about the importance of women’s full participation in society and politics. In honor of the centennial, the Arts Endowment has released a book titled “Creativity and Persistence: Art that Fueled the Fight for Women’s Suffrage,” designed to commemorate the ratification of the 19th Amendment.
Since our establishment in 1965, we are proud to have continued the suffragists’ work by supporting projects that empower women through the arts, and by supporting women whose work has shaped and elevated American culture.
We feel the influence and impact of women artists on this country every single day. We feel it when we listen to the anthems of Aretha Franklin or bear witness at Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial; when we reflect on the words of Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, when we watch a performance of Urban Bush Women or when we send our daughters to programs like Project H Design’s Girls Garage and the Girls Write Now. All of these organizations, programs, and people are supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and embody the ways women lift up our nation through the arts.
Stubborn statistics remain
Yet, despite our progress, major barriers remain. Although nearly half of all full-time working artists are women, they earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. As women age, they earn progressively less than men. Women are also far less likely than men to direct feature films, to be represented by galleries or lead major museums, or to serve as conductors or composers for symphonies and orchestras.
These disparities are especially true for women of color. Just as our celebration of the 19th Amendment is tempered by the recognition that women of color continued to face extraordinary obstacles when attempting to exercise their right to vote post-1920 — obstacles that remain today — our celebration of women in the arts is tempered by the knowledge that women of color do not always face an equitable artistic landscape. They are confronted by a double set of barriers: those faced as women and those faced as cultural minorities.
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For example, according to a survey from Williams College, of 18 major American art museums, just 1.2% of artwork was by Black artists—the lowest figure of any cultural group. Black musicians account for less than 2% of orchestras nationwide; Latino musicians make up less than 3%; and just over 9% of musicians were Asian or Pacific Islanders. In the 2016-2017 season, white playwrights wrote nearly 87% of all shows produced at Broadway and nonprofit theaters, while the same percentage of productions were directed by white directors. Similar figures can be found within nearly every artistic discipline.
The American experience is not singular
These statistics are troubling, and I believe that we can and must do better. By honoring and celebrating as wide an array of perspectives as possible — on stage, on screen, on the page, on museum walls — we can prevent a kind of national myopia, one where our worldview is limited to our own experiences. The arts give us insight into and appreciation for communities and ways of life different from our own and show us that there is no singular American experience. To fully understand our country, and to fully embrace the beauty of our differences, we quite simply need to create more opportunities for the voices of women of every hue that have for too long gone unheralded.
As we commemorate 100 years of women having the right to vote, let’s be proud of the progress we have made, and let’s celebrate the remarkable women who have helped make the American artistic canon one of the richest in the world. At the same time, let’s commit ourselves to expanding this canon, and to making it richer still.
Mary Anne Carter is the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. The agency’s new book about women’s suffrage, Creativity and Persistence: Art That Fueled the Fight for Women’s Suffrage, is available for download and as an audiobook on the Arts Endowment website.
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