Highlights from the Mosaic Literary Conference 2017
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Saturday, November 25, 2017
Bronx Museum of the Arts • 1040 Grand Concourse • Bronx, NYC
10:30am – 11:00am
11:00am – 11:55am
The Dignity Project: Identity, Place, and the influence of Jamel Shabazz
Panelists: Rhynna M. Santos and Michael Paul Britto.
Facilitator: Sonia James-Wilson
Is there something timeless and universal in Jamel Shabazz’s work that can inspire young people with no experience of New York City’s urban landscape? If given a camera, would their portraits express self-ownership and pride? When young people are encouraged to capture their dignity in a photograph, what kinds of images do they produce?
This panel will examine a series of portraits composed by high school students who used Jamel Shabazz’s work as a springboard to explore issues of identity and place through Art ID’s Dignity Project. Following in Shabazz’s footsteps, public parks, street corners, front porches, chain linked fences, barber shops and street corners were used, not only as background, but were “foregrounded” to help convey the ways they see themselves, and want to be seen by others. Panelist will share their thoughts about how Shabazz’s work was taken up by the students, and the ways in which photography can be used to help form, and inform, the ways youth see themselves, and the images projected upon them by others.
11:00am – 11:55am
Finding the Poetry In Photographs of Others and Ourselves
Facilitator: John Maney, Jr.
In this workshop we’ll be going over ways to interpret photography, and how to take more compelling pictures. This will be done by examining the work and techniques of several famed African-American photographers (including a taped interview with Urban Photographer Jamel Shabazz). Participants are encouraged to bring their cameras, or cell phones to practice with.
12:00pm – 12:55pm
Documenting Ourselves: Reframing Our Visual Narratives
Panelists: Yenile Rosario, Yael Barber, Ziyah Myers, and Jayda Yvette Frazier
Facilitator: Aiesha Turman
Images of Black women have always been problematic. Not only have they been susceptible to negative gender-based ideologies, they have been negatively racialized in order to support white supremacist notions of Black femininity. This panel, consisting of high school-aged young women, will discuss the impacts of these images over time and the importance of counter-images in reframing the visual narratives of Black women and girls.
12:00pm – 12:55pm
Jamel Shabazz: A Lesson Plan
Facilitator: Kanene Holder
At the intersection of instinct and genius we find Jamel Shabazz. With a camera in his hand and love in his heart for his people and his community, Shabazz makes you stop, look and wonder. Shabazz, a photographer from Red Hook, Brooklyn followed his gut, triggered to shoot what many would find mundane; street culture in the early 80s. Did Shabazz reach for his camera knowing that these practitioners were in fact the architects of Hip-Hop- a global phenomenon that would reach all four corners of the Earth? Perhaps.
This workshop will help educators explore media representations and how to utilize Shabazz’s work to better engage their student’s myriad identities.
1:00pm – 3:00pm
Filmmaker Ava DuVernay explores the history of racial inequality in the United States, focusing on the fact that the nation’s prisons are disproportionately filled with African-Americans.
The documentary opens with an audio clip of former President Barack Obama stating that the US has five percent of the world’s population but twenty-five percent of the world’s prisoners. DuVernay contends that slavery has been perpetuated in practices since the end of the American Civil War through such actions as criminalizing behavior and enabling police to arrest poor freedmen and force them to work for the state under convict leasing; suppression of African Americans by disenfranchisement, lynchings and Jim Crow; politicians declaring a war on drugs that weigh more heavily on minority communities and, by the late 20th century, mass incarceration of people of color in the United States. She examines the prison-industrial complex and the emerging detention-industrial complex, demonstrating how much money is being made by corporations from such incarcerations.
3:00pm – 3:55pm
Kalief Browder: A Lesson Plan
Facilitator: Kanene Holder
This workshop has been developed for educators and adults wishing to use social justice material in their teaching. It will explore the short but resonant life of Kalief Browder. Accused of a crime he did not commit, and not willing to accept a guilty plea, Browder spent three years on Riker’s Island, primarily in solitary confinement, while awaiting trial. Two years after his release he committed suicide –he was 22 years old. The workshop will be facilitated by Kanene Holder. Lesson plan designed by Eisa Nefetari Ulen
4:00pm – 4:55pm
Jamel Shabazz and Liza Jessie Peterson
Facilitator: Ron Kavanaugh
Legendary street photographer Jamel Shabazz and activist/performance artist Liza Jessie Peterson will chat about their parallel lives of presenting a variety of Blackness in art and media; their time working on Riker’s Island; and how their pride and love for Black people manifests in their work.
Jamel Shabazz was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. At the age of fifteen, he picked up his first camera and started to document his peers. Inspired by photographers Leonard Freed, James Van Der Zee, and Gordon Parks, he was marveled with their documentation of the African-American community. In 1980 as a concerned photographer with a clear vision he embarked on a mission to extensively document various aspects of life in New York City, from youth culture to a wide range of social conditions. Exhibitions include Art Basel; Miami, Bronx Museum, Newark Museum, Contact Photo Festival, the Victoria and Albert Museum, The Studio Museum in Harlem, Duke University, and the Adidas Photo Festival in Ethiopia
Liza Jessie Peterson is a renowned actress, poet, playwright, educator and advocate. Liza has written several plays including her most recent one woman play The Peculiar Patriot, which embarked on a national prison tour where she performed in over 35 jails and penitentiaries across the country. She recently performed The Peculiar Patriot, opening for Angela Davis, at Columbia University’s conference on mass incarceration. Her plays have been featured in notable theater festivals and performed in various theaters, nationally and internationally.
5:00pm – 6:00pm
Booksigning & Networking
Identity is malleable, often shaped by external inputs and media representations that amplify specific agendas. Black Documents: Mosaic Literary Conference will explore historical and contemporary presentations of black identity in literature, education, media, and photography; and how self-affirming imagery and text can counter negative stereotypes. To this end, the conference will also present photography exhibits Jamel Shabazz: Black Documents and Black Documents: Freedom (aka Jamel Shabazz: Black Documents: Freedom). A supplemental lesson plan for middle and high school educators will be designed to focus on the conference and exhibition themes of black identity and the work of Jamel Shabazz.
MLC2017 will feature a mix of panels, workshops, film screenings, and networking that enhance community engagement and broaden access to an array of topics.
Black Documents will be informed by the spiraling currency of black lives. The goal is to explore complex identity narratives related to race, gender, sexual identity, and media representation. It seeks to provide a place to explore “unforgivable blackness” and how recent social movements, such as BlackLivesMatter, can be used to connect and strengthen all communities.
The conference will be complemented by tandem photography exhibitions, Jamel Shabazz: Black Documents and Black Documents: Freedom, and will be informed by the imagery of Jamel Shabazz as an inspirational nexus for presenting panels, workshops, and film focused on black identity and media representation. Photographic works by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, Lola Flash, Danny Ramon Peralta, Edwin Torres, and Michael Young will be on view.
Previous conferences have focused on Audre Lorde, Gwendolyn Brooks, Black identity, Malcolm X, Black Lives Matter, James Baldwin; and invited such partners as Black Girl Project, Bronx Museum of the Arts, WNYC, African Voices, New York Writers Coalition, National Book Foundation, Hostos Community College among others.
Past conferences were made possible with donations and public funds from the Bronx Council on the Arts through the New York State Council on the Arts and Humanities New York, and Citizens Committee for New York City. In-kind support is provided by The Bronx Museum of the Arts and The Andrew Freedman Home.
Additional support has been provided by community partners AALBC.com, BxArts Factory, Bronx Book Fair, Bronx Cultural Collective, The Center for Black Literature, En Foco, The Laundromat Project, The Roew, WideVision Photography, and Word Up Bookstore.