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Curated by Rashaad Parker
This program will run January 18-February 19, 2021
The Spirit of Protest has its roots in the oppression Black people have endured and survived – from the slave ship to some of the world’s biggest stages and platforms – in order to demand freedom, justice, and equality for all Blacks in America.
In honor of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, this program presents a curated selection of films and videos from the VSW collection that pay homage to the many great Black leaders, thinkers, artists, singers and musicians throughout American history.
The VSW Film Series is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and by the ArtWorks program of the National Endowment for the Arts.
Still from: The Negro and the American Promise
Curatorial Statement by Rashaad Parker
From the musical innovations of spirituals, blues, jazz and rock-n-roll, to literature, poetry, paintings and sculpture, Black people have survived, thrived, and, in many cases, set the standard in the arts. It is no doubt a phenomenon that Blacks have been able to glean from their ancestral roots in Africa an inherent ability to produce some of the most incredible works of art the world has seen. The Spirit of Protest in Black Culture presents a selection of 16mm films that embody the undeniably resilient spirit of Blacks living in America amid chattel slavery, segregation, Jim Crow and systems of racial oppression that continue to define the socioeconomic environment today.
These films provide a surveyed example of the unconquerable human spirit of Blacks who, when first brought to this country, sang songs of woe, freedom and liberation as hundreds of groups organized in pursuit of equality in America.
The first film of the program, From These Roots, recreates the social and political climate of the Harlem Renaissance, a period of great artistic and cultural activity in the 1920s.
The second film, Black Music in America, traces the history of the musical contributions of Black Americans from the slave ship to the 1970’s, featuring famous artists such as Louis Armstrong, Nina Simone, Mahalia Jackson, Billie Holiday, Count Basie, and others.
The third film, I’m A Man, presents the personal struggle of a black militant leader for freedom and manhood.
The final film of the program, The Negro and The American Promise, presents the only televised interview by Dr. Kenneth Clark with Martin Luther King Jr., Malcom X, and James Baldwin. These men act as spokesmen for the Civil Rights and Black Liberation movements. Despite different schools of thought and approaches, each of these leaders are equally passionate about the fight for every Black person to obtain their full rights as an American citizen.
The spirit of protest in Black culture is present in the Black Lives Matter movement today, and continues to motivate and inspire creative action toward equity for all Black Americans.
“Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.” Martin Luther King Jr.
“You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” Malcolm X
“It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.” James Baldwin