Internationally recognized artist Theaster Gates, whose work embraces the plastic arts, performance, archives and the built environment, was in town for a presentation at the Hirshhorn Museum in honor of the opening of the new Museum of African American History and Culture.
He kindly agreed to a performance for the Hirshhorn’s ArtLab students and featuring his colleagues the Black Monks of Mississippi and members of the Howard University track team. The performance was entirely improvised in the moment.
After the performance Gates and his colleagues convened in the ArtLab to discuss creativity, collegiality and process. Members of the Anacostia Community Museum’s Youth Advisory Board were on hand to experience this opportunity to be inspired by a living artist working on creative placemaking in the same community in which he grew up and lives today.
Charlotte, North Carolina has been on our minds and in our hearts these past few days. In an act of community and resilience, it felt appropriate to celebrate both the city of Charlotte and Latino Heritage Month in the next few blog posts.
Thanks to the Latino Initiatives Pool, the Anacostia Community Museum was able to acquire new collections! The Museum has acquired two pieces by Rosalia Torres-Weiner for the upcoming exhibition, Gateways, opening December 5, 2016. Gateways explores the triumphs and struggles of Latino migrants and immigrants in four urban destinations: Washington, D.C., Baltimore, MD, Raleigh-Durham, NC and Charlotte, NC
It has been an honor and a pleasure to work with Rosalia. She is a talented Mexican born and raised, Charlotte-based artivist (artist+activst). Her energy, creativity, thoughtfulness, and commitment to social justice and community stories pervade all aspects of her life and work. I am excited for visitors to get a small glimpse of this in Gateways.
I am the curator, but the other (invaluable!) member of the Gateways team is research/curatorial assistant Elena C. Muñoz. On our trip to Charlotte last week, Elena sat down and spoke with Rosalia about her art in general, and our recent acquisitions in particular. As an art historian, Elena has a deep knowledge of this work. Below, please find Elena’s post about the first piece we will show: Uprising Against ICE.
Many of Torres-Weiner’s pieces deal with the complexities of the United States immigration system as well as the injustices and dangers immigrants often face. Her latest series of ten large format paintings that depict both the contributions and struggles of Latino immigrants in the United States. This painting is a reimagining of one of Diego Rivera’s Mexican Revolution masterworks, The Uprising (1931).
Torres-Weiner’s paintings are typically bright, colorful pieces. This particular piece is painted in blues and grays, alluding to the ICE of the title. For this painting, the artist has abandoned her usual style and has instead mimicked both the style and composition of Mexican muralist Diego Rivera’s The Uprising.
Like Rivera’s painting, Torres-Weiner’s piece features a crowded and compressed picture plane, with a family unit battling an authority figure at the forefront. Torres-Weiner has replaced Rivera’s soldier with an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent in full SWAT gear, reaching with handcuffs towards a humbly dressed, unarmed immigrant family. Like Rivera’s female protagonist, Torres-Weiner has depicted a mother holding her swaddled child, arm outstretched to protect her family. Her husband protects their older daughter to the right of the canvas. The daughter, not present in the Rivera original, is yellow, the color of hope. The father creates a barrier between himself and the agent with a farming spade, reminding the viewer that immigrants perform much of the farm labor in the United States. To the left and behind the agent are more ICE agents and U.S. government officials in suits and ties. On the ground between the family and the primary agent is another figure and dollar bills, both trampled underfoot. Behind the immigrant family is a crowd of protesters, from which a “DREAM” sign can be seen, referring to the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act that failed to pass. In the background is a U.S. flag, a bright contrast to the icy blues and grays of the rest of the work.
In the 1990s, North Carolina led the U.S. in Latino population growth. The southeast U.S. is one of the fastest growing regions in the country, in overall population and Latino population. In January of 2016, there were several ICE raids throughout the Southeast, resulting in the detention of 121 people, most of whom are women and children. The relationship between law enforcement and North Carolina’s Latino population is strained and fraught with anxiety, especially for undocumented families.
Uprising Against ICE gives voice to this anxiety while also subverting it. Torres-Weiner reimagines a family being held together through their own power and through the support of the masses that revolt behind them.
SHORT BIO of Elena C. Muñoz
Elena Muñoz received her MA in Art History from Rutgers University, and her BA in Art History from Fordham University. Her primary research interest is teasing out the African influences in Latin American and Latino art. She is also fascinated with the evolution and uses of Marian imagery in the Americas. In 2014, she was a recipient of the Smithsonian’s Latino Museum Studies fellowship, working with the Teodoro Vidal Collection at the Lunder Center and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Currently she is a research assistant at the Anacostia Community Museum, working on the upcoming exhibition Gateways, which examines Latino im/migration in the D.C. Metro Area, Baltimore, the Raleigh-Durham region of North Carolina, and Charlotte, North Carolina.
SHORT BIO of Rosalia Torres-Weiner
Rosalia Torres-Weiner is a self-taught artist-activist who has lived and worked in Charlotte since 1992. Born in Mexico City, Mexico, she came to the United States in 1985. After working in the hospitality industry, she gradually turned to a career as an artist. She initially worked as a flight attendant; after painting murals in her children’s rooms, her neighbors commissioned her to paint murals in their homes. She launched her company Home Art Designs in 2001, painting murals in residential as well as commercial properties. In 2010, she pivoted and began to focus primarily on using her art as activism for the Latino community. She started the Papalote Project, (the Kite Project) using art as therapy for local children who were suffering from the loss of a parent due to deportation. She continues to produce socially conscious and community-engaging work from her studios in Charlotte, NC.
This #Transcribe Tuesdays we have a field notebook compiled by Lorenzo Dow Turner (1890-1972), the first professionally trained African American linguist. Dr. Turner assembled this notebook while conducting field research in Nigeria on a Fulbright Research Award in 1951. Known as the father of Gullah studies, Turner discovered the speaking pattern of the Gullah people was actually a Creole language, heavily influenced by the languages of West Africa. Transcribe this notebook to learn more about Turner’s research in Nigeria!
Turner’s notebook contains images taken by Dr. Turner in various Eastern Regions of Nigeria. Lorenzo Dow Turner papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Lois Turner Williams.
Designed to enhance reading, research skills, creative ability, and social and intellectual development, the Museum Academy is a cultural arts enrichment program for youth ages seven to eleven in collaboration with schools in the southeast neighborhoods of Washington, DC. I was delighted to stroll through our gallery and program room and find the students engaged in yoga practice this week, during the school year the Museum Academy is located in our partner schools. This summer has offered a nice change as our students are coming to the museum on a daily basis to attend our program and they offer me a good reminder to get on the mat.
On this date in history 62 years ago today, the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, KS made school segregation unconstitutional. This case transformed the lives not only of African-Americans, but was preceded and followed by justice for Black and Brown U.S. citizens around the world.
Highlighting these connections takes nothing away from Black struggles for Civil Rights in the United States. On the contrary, the intent is to demonstrate that past, present, and future struggles for Civil Rights have never been for or by one group alone.
Mexican Segregation: Méndez et al vs. Westminster School District of Orange County California (1947)
Discrimination and segregation in the United States have never been strictly Black-White experiences. The discrimination against Mexican-Americans, especially on the west coast of the U.S. was rampant.
A case in California eight years before Brown set a necessary precedent for Brown vs the Board of Education: Méndez vs. Westminster .
In short, although no law legally segregated Mexican and Mexican American children (de jure), they were in fact segregated (de facto). In 1944, The Orange County school district told Gonzalo Méndez that his three children had to attend the “Mexican” school despite the fact that their lighter skinned cousins attended the white school. Mendez and four other Mexican families took four Los Angeles-area school districts to court and won a class action lawsuit at the trial and appellate levels of the federal court system. (Click HEREto listen to Sylvia Méndez recall her experience as a child attending a Mexican School)
Understanding that legal decisions and civil rights transcend state, racial, and ethnic lines, Mendez’s counsel and support included: League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), American Jewish Congress, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the Japanese American Citizens League.
When Thurgood Marshall represented Linda Brown in Brown vs. the Board of Education, he used arguments from the Méndez case. The relevance — segregation based on color and origin — was clear.
That we are all individuals; that we are all human beings; that we are all connected together; and that we all have the same rights, the same freedom.” – Sylvia Mendez, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011
Brown vs the Board of Education reaches the Panama Canal Zone
We often think of U.S. law within the physical confines of the United States. But what about U.S. territories? Such was the case of the Panama Canal Zone.
The Panama Canal Zone was a U.S. territory from its creation in 1903 until the Panama Canal Treaties of 1977 mandated the Zone’s dissolution in 1979. The United States was a racially segregated society. U.S. society at the time included the U.S. Panama Canal Zone, as the Zone was governed completely by U.S. laws. Segregation existed in the U.S. Panama Canal Zone.
Manuel Sandoval, DC resident, recalled the separated spaces existed along both race (“Black” and “white”) as well as citizenship (“Panamanian” and “American”) in Panama during his interview.
I never experienced discrimination; however, in the Canal Zone there was clear discrimination — Panamanian Blacks went to one place, Black Americans went to another, and White Americans had their own thing.” – Manuel Sandoval
Black Mosaic Exhibition Records, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution
After the landmark decision of Brown vs. the Board of education, citizenship, not race, became the primary source of inequity in the U.S. Panama Canal Zone. Black and white U.S. citizens integrated. This law only applied to U.S. citizens. Zonians (the term for people living in the Canal Zone) of Panamanian or West Indian citizenship remained segregated from U.S. citizens in school and housing, with some exceptions, such as the Canal Zone College. Latin American schools and thus Spanish language instruction replaced U.S. based school with English language instruction for non-U.S. citizens. This language change was especially problematic for West Indian children from English speaking islands, as many did not speak Spanish at home. Between 1960 and 1970, Panama had the largest number and percentage of Central American immigrants to the U.S. The change in language of educational instruction in Canal Zone schools was certainly a factor.
Brown vs. Board of Education, Panama, and the Doll Tests
Although raised in New York, Dr. Kenneth Bancroft Clark was born in the Panama Canal Zone. Dr. Clark was the first Black Ph.D. recipient from Columbia University, the first Black president of the American Psychological Association and the first tenured Black professor at the City University of New York.
Dr. Clark is best known for his psychology experiments colloquially known as “doll tests.” He and his wife, Dr. Mamie Clark used four dolls, identical except for their color, to test kids’ racial perceptions. Children ages 3-7 were asked to identify the dolls and express preference. The majority of the children preferred the white doll, assigning positive characteristics to it and negative characteristics to the darker doll, deemed undesirable.
These tests were prominently cited in the 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas as evidence of the psychological effects of racial segregation on Black children’s self-esteem. It was one of the first times social science research was used in legal proceedings (Méndez vs. Westminster also drew on social science research). Less cited conclusions from the Drs. Clark’s “doll tests” included that racism is an inherently American institution and that school segregation also hindered the development of white children. Given the news that U.S. schools are re-segregating, these lessons are more important than ever.
Latino-centered struggles for Civil Rights and Social Justice will be part of the upcoming exhibition Gateways. Opening December 2016, Gateways explores the triumphs and struggles of Latino migrants and immigrants in four urban destinations: Washington, D.C., Baltimore, MD, Raleigh-Durham, NC and Charlotte, NC
A major emerging immigrant center. One of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. A minority majority city. A city with a rapidly growing Latino community. It is one of the cities that will be highlighted in an upcoming exhibition, Gateways.
North Carolina led the nation in Latino population growth in the 1990s with a nearly 400% increase in its Latino population. Initial Latino immigrants and migrants were largely working class but those numbers have since shifted to include more professionals as the population of Latinos continues to grow.
To help the city deal with rapidly shifting demographics, the city of Charlotte created an Immigrant Integration Task Force in 2013. This group, appointed by the city, explores ways to make Charlotte more immigrant friendly and integrative. Though the task force and national news reports focus on the entrepreneurial integration of immigrants and economic impact, Gateways will begin conversations of community integration at more basic levels.
Housing. Education. Safety. Family.
Family units have been separated by policies such as Secure Streets and Secure Communities that provide overlapping authority between local law enforcement and federal immigration agencies. Between 2009 and 2016 more than 2.5 million people were deported. Earlier in 2016, raids by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) focused on Georgia, North Carolina and Texas.
What does this look like? What does this mean? How do we stop seeing policy and instead focus on people?
Words are powerful emotive tools.
In celebration of April as National Poetry Month, I share this work by Gateways collaborator Herrison Chicas, a UNC graduate who spoke at TedX Charlotte in 2014
Gateways, opening in December 2016, explores the triumphs and struggles of Latino migrants and immigrants in four urban destinations: Washington, D.C., Baltimore, MD, Raleigh-Durham, NC and Charlotte, NC.
During his stay in Salvador, Bahia in 1940-41 Dr. Lorenzo Dow Turner visited several houses of Candomblé worship including the Gantois (Ilê Iyá Omin Axé Iyá Massê) founded in 1849 by Maria Júlia da Conceição Nazaré. Since then the leadership of the Gantois has followed a consanguineous hereditary tradition, in which the rulers are always female. In 1940-41 Mãe Menininha (Maria Escolástica da Conceição Nazaré,) great- granddaughter of the founder, was the iyalorixá or leader of the house. Dr. Turner spent hours interviewing her. He also took several photographs of her and the people who lived in the compound. One of these photographs reproduced here depicts Mãe Menininha and seven other women wearing traditional garb. This photograph and many others are part of the collections of the Anacostia Community Museum Archives.
On November 18, 2015, 75 years after Dr. Turner had visited the Gantois I went there for an interview with Mãe Menininha’s daughter, Mãe Carmen de Oxalá (Carmen da Conceição Nazaré de Oliveira,) great-great-granddaughter of the Gantois founder, and at present the iyalorixá of the house. She has been in this leadership position since 2002. This incredible opportunity was possible because I was in Salvador, Bahia for the opening of the exhibit I curated Gullah Bahia África, which tells the history of Dr. Turner’s life and work including his visit to Bahia. The exhibit is traveling in Brazil under the auspices of the American Embassy and in Salvador was being shown at the Palacete das Artes under the auspices of the Fundação Pedro Calmon. The conduit for the interview were Mariângela Nogueira from the Fundação Pedro Calmon, and Déa Márcia Federico who is the equede of the Gantois, an important position in the hierarchy of the house.
Mãe Carmen, a very youthful 86 years old, graciously received us for an interview that lasted almost one hour. I was told that this is not common; she does not have much time within her activities as leader of the house and her community to give to visitors. Mãe Carmen exuded charisma, peace, security, and, reassurance that all would be well. I was very touched when she told me during the interview that when she looked at me she knew I was trustworthy and that she could deal with me without concern. She was ecstatic when Mariangela produced a high-resolution copy of the photograph taken so long ago by Dr. Turner and proceeded to identify the women in the photo and to my surprise herself. She remembered well the day Dr. Turner came for the interview, and she described the scene of her mother singing into a microphone contraption of old, set at the end of a very long pole. This scene is shown in a photo in the collection of Dr. Turner’s research companion at the time Dr. E. Franklin Frazier which is held by the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center
And so Dr. Turner, represented by this photograph, returned to the site of his research 75 years later. Salvador is much changed from that time, he would not have recognized it. What would have been the outskirts of the city in 1940-41, the Federação neighborhood where the Gantois is located, is now very near the center of town connected by large avenues which would be unpaved roads at the time, and well developed with tall buildings. The Gantois has had its importance for Bahian and Brazilian culture well recognized. The Gantois has been designated as a historical site by Iphan (The Brazilian National Institute for the Preservation of Historic and Artistic Sites) in 2002, and Mãe Carmen received the UNESCO Five Continents Medal in 2010. Dr. Turner would be happy to know that the traditions he researched and recorded in 1940-41 are still maintained by the people of the Gantois.
When I created the exhibit Word Shout Song: Lorenzo Dow Turner Connecting Communities through Language, I was able to obtain through inter-library loan or by downloading files from the internet, a variety of dictionaries related to the more than 30 languages that Dr. Turner had identified as being part of the vocabulary of the Gullah in South Carolina and Georgia. I was trying to determine the relationships between words in African languages, Gullah, and the Portuguese, spoken in the Candomblé houses of worship in Brazil.
Eventually, I chose from hundreds of words a small list to display in what I called the “Wall of Words” of the exhibit and to be spoken in a video by native speakers. This video was shown continuously in the exhibit. It was a way of demonstrating how words from African languages had migrated into Gullah, colloquial English, and the Portuguese spoken in the Candomblé houses of worship in Brazil. The display of words and the video proved to be great hits with visitors to the exhibit both here in the United States and in Brazil where the exhibit is now traveling under its title in Portuguese: Gullah Bahia África.
In fact, I had done a similar exercise earlier. In 2007 I published a book in Brazil titled Os que voltaram: a história dos retornados afro-brasileiros na África Ocidental no século XIX [Those Who Returned: The History of the Afro-Brazilians returnees in West Africa in the 19th century.] At that time I had learned that the Portuguese language brought to Africa by these immigrants had influenced languages spoken in Benin, Nigeria, and Togo three of the countries where Afro-Brazilian returnee communities had been established.
Recently I began translating my book into English with the intention of eventually having it published in the United States. As part of this endeavor I created a table that trace these Portuguese loan words in three African languages: Fon (spoken in Benin), Ewe (spoken in Togo), and Yoruba (spoken in Nigeria.) This process included obtaining a few dictionaries to do research.
One of them was an 1894 dictionary published in France: Maurice Delafosse’s Manuel Dahoméen. The book came through interlibrary loan, and right away I noticed the pencil annotations throughout its pages, in a handwriting that was very familiar to me. It was a dictionary that Dr. Turner had used for his research and then donated to Northwestern University where it had stayed until it reached my hands. What are the chances of this happening, I thought, this is amazing!
But then it got even better. As I looked through the pages, there was Turner’s familiar handwriting using the International Phonetic Alphabet ( IPA, an alphabetic system of phonetic notation devised by the International Phonetic Association as a standardized representation of the sounds of oral language) to write words and their meaning. But what is this? A Portuguese translation of a word here and of a sentence there? And then it dawned on me. Dr. Turner had used this dictionary as his research tool when he was in Bahia in 1940 and 1941 researching at the Candomblé houses of worship. At that time, many people of African descent in Bahia still spoke the African languages of their ancestors.
From the notations on the pages of the dictionary it seems that Dr. Turner took it with him and might have pronounced the words and their meaning to his informants. He most likely had an interpreter with him. One must remember that he was using a Fon/French. So I think what happened was this: Dr. Turner, who knew French, would pronounce the words in Fon, translate their meaning as stated in the dictionary into English for the interpreter who would then translate them into Portuguese. His informants, if they recognized the words, would speak them back establishing their pronunciation and usage in Brazil. Turner would then record then in the IPA on the pages of the dictionary for future reference. What a painstaking way to do research, but very much like Dr. Turner, I must say.
Where was this research done? It was possible that it was at the Terreiro do Bogum (Bogum Temple) located in the Engenho Velho, Federação, in Salvador, Bahia. The Terreiro do Bogum is a Candomblé place of worship which follows the tradition of the Voduns of Dahomey (today Benin) and uses the Fon language, (or Jeje language as it is called in Brazil) for its rituals. Dr. Turner did research there.
So, this is my latest immersion in the world of Dr. Turner’s research. As unexpected as it was, it was also exciting and increased my already high admiration for Dr. Turner skills and research methods.
Rain did not stop over 600 people from attending the Anacostia Community Museum’s Fall Family Day on September 12, 2015. This year’s theme was Celebrating Cultural Diversity. To that end, we found stilt-walkers, Irish dancers, steel drum players, African story tellers and Panamanian folk dancers mingling, dancing, performing, and playing together as you can see below.
My Smithsonian experience has been unbelievable; I have gained skills I thought I would never know, met people who have changed the way I see things and had the most remarkable time becoming more and more independent. I feel that this experience has been life altering to me, as of 2 years ago I would have never have had the courage to fly to America and volunteer at the Smithsonian, and now that I’ve done it, I can’t see myself working anywhere else.
In my week of volunteering at the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum, I assisted Jennifer Morris, the museum’s archivist. She introduced me to several aspects of the archival profession. I helped with the arrangement and description of the Dale/Patterson Family collection which documents the lives of two families who settled in the Hillsdale, Anacostia area of Washington, DC in 1892. Ms. Morris also trained me on Archivists’ Toolkit an archival data management system. I attended meetings and received a behind-the-scenes tour of the Archive Center at the National Museum of American Indian. Jennifer was hard-working and kind-hearted and I enjoyed so much helping her, she aided me to learn as much as my 16 year old brain could hold.
At the museum I finally met the lady who answered my very first email offering me a placement at the Anacostia, Shelia Parker. It was wonderful to finally put a face to the name and she turned out to be one of the nicest people I have ever met. All the people at the museum welcomed me with open arms and wide smiles, I never at any point felt unwelcome or un-wanted; I even had an ongoing comical conversation with one of the guards about my stupid need to get a cab everywhere, when he insists to use Uber.
In the museum, I saw two enormously interesting exhibits first, How the Civil War Changed Washington for which I now know about Washington’s tragic Arsenal event of 1864, where 29 women were working when a colossal fire broke out killing 3 instantly and leaving 18 to die from vicious burns. Second, I learned about Panamanian immigration to Washington, DC from the Bridging the Americas exhibition.
In England I will be starting college this September, studying History Early Modern, English Literature, Psychology and Archeology. I hope that after college, when I turn 18, I can obtain an internship at the Smithsonian giving me the opportunity to be able to come back to DC and gain even more skills and meet even more generous and wholehearted people. There are a lot of people I need to thank, such as, Shelia Parker for answering an annoying English girl’s email, Jennifer Morris who taught me so much and created the best experience I could ever imagine and my family who’s financial and loving support got me to Washington, DC to make memories and start the journey to my, hopeful, aspiring future.
All that I can do now is to work hard and never lose sight of my dream to return to Washington, DC and work at a Smithsonian Museum!