Podcast: What's Art Got to Do With IT?

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Activists, Allies, Artists, Breaking Down Racism, Scholars, Uncategorized

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Can art help to erase racism? In this episode of BREAKING DOWN RACISM, dancer, choreographer and activist Paloma Mcgregor discusses how artists can be effective activists?

Produced/Written/Directed by: Crista Carter, Johanna Galomb and Benjamin Jackson

Host/Executive Producer/Series Creator Robin J. Hayes, PhD

Recorded at The New School in New York City

PICTURED Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, “Revelations” 2012 courtesy Alvin Ailey Theater

All the World's Futures

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From Urban Requiem, 2015 by Barthélémy Tuguo Cameroon at the Venice Biennale

Saluti dall’Italia! Greetings from Italy!

I hope you’ll join me in congratulating two new alumni of the New Leaders for Social Change program—Xiomara Pedraza and Justyn Richardson—who both earned their Master’s degrees in Urban Policy from The New School last week. During their time with Progressive Pupil, Xiomara and Justyn have blossomed from exceptionally intelligent and dedicated youth to experienced resourceful professionals. Although their time in our office has ended, their careers as social justice advocates are just commencing.  I look forward to the impactful things they will accomplish in their work as social justice advocates.

I am currently attending the 2nd NYU Black Portraitures Conference in Florence—convened by Henry Louis Gates, Thelma Golden, Deborah Willis, and Cheryl Finley among others—which focuses on “imaging the Black body” and “re-staging history.”  Given these themes, it is especially fitting that I will be giving a presentation about portraits of Black radicalism in Black and Cuba this Sunday.

Making Black studies for everybody requires creating fresh, empowering images of not only Black bodies, but of Black life and history.  It also requires re-staging history so that it can be seen from the perspective of communities who have struggled to be seen as human and heard as citizens.

Earlier this week I was fortunate to see the “All the Worlds Futures” exhibition at the Venice Biennale.   This year is the first time in history an African artist—Okwui Enwezor—has curated the exhibition and that 25% of the artists exhibiting have been Black.  The diverse, explicitly political work on display revealed that there is a global and vocal chorus of artists, activists, teachers, and allies who have a clear vision of the world’s futures—which include an end to exploitation and marginalization for everyone. I’ve posted some highlights of the exhibition, including work by Jason Moran, on my instagram @robinjhayes.

Yours in Solidarity and Ciao,


Robin J. Hayes

Principal Organizer, Progressive Pupil

Director, Black and Cuba [Available on Vimeo on Demand and DVD]

The New Old “Ghetto Fabulous”

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Activists, Allies, Artists, Field Notes, Parents, Prisoners, Scholars, Students, Teachers
l. Rihanna and Iman model Balmain Gold Bamboo Earrings courtesy W Magazine Mother and Child at Brooklyn's Fulton Mall photographer Jamel Shabazz
l. Rihanna and Iman model Balmain Gold Bamboo Earrings courtesy W Magazine Mother and Child at Brooklyn’s Fulton Mall photographer Jamel Shabazz


Happy October!

When I saw the epic fashion photo spread featuring Rihanna, Iman and Naomi Campbell in W magazine, I immediately connected the gold earrings by French luxury fashion house Balmain (pictured above, $850) and the bamboo earrings I coveted at Brooklyn’s Fulton Mall when I was growing up.


Empire in 3D: The Installations of Yinka Shonibare

Posted 3 CommentsPosted in Allies, Artists, Students


"Flower Time" instillation by Yinka Shonibare courtesy of stephenfriedman.com.
“Flower Time” instillation by Yinka Shonibare courtesy of stephenfriedman.com.

Yinka Shonibare is a British-Nigerian artist who is perhaps most known for his work on “colonialism and post-colonialism within the contemporary context of globalization.” He suffers from a disorder called transverse myelitis, which has caused one side of his body to be paralyzed. According to Shonibare himself: “I do have a physical disability and I was determined that the scope of my creativity should not be restricted purely by my physicality. It would be like an architect choosing to build only what could be physically built by hand.”


Amiri Baraka and the Obligation of Artists

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Portrait of Amiri Baraka by former Black Panther Party Revolutionary Artist Emory Douglas.
Portrait of Amiri Baraka by former Black Panther Party Revolutionary Artist Emory Douglas.

Are artists obligated to be activists? To Amiri Baraka, born Everett LeRoi Jones in 1934, the answer was “Yes!”. Baraka first became known for establishing the Black Arts Movement in the mid 1960s and described the movement as an attempt to be Black in form, accessible to Black people, and so effective it could be used as a weapon against racism. In further support of this movement he set up the Black Arts Repertory Theatre/School (BARTS) in Harlem with an aim at advancing the Cultural Revolution. (more…)

Capoeira: Artful Resistance

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Historical Rendition of Capoeira. Image courtesy of Rio.com
Historical Rendition of Capoeira. Image courtesy of Rio.com

The history of slavery in the U.S. is taught nationwide; however, slavery elsewhere in the world is barely touched upon in school curriculum. Yet, the resilience and ingenuity that enslaved Africans displayed during and after the Trans-Atlantic slave trade extends beyond U.S. borders. From the 16th to 19th centuries, Brazil was the main destination for Africans sold across the Atlantic and contained the largest slave population in the world. Just as slaves in the U.S. used music, poetry and dance to preserve their heritage and subtly organize against oppressors, African slaves in Brazil also created new forms of art and defense. One of the most influential creations to come from this period is a type of martial arts called Capoeira.


Total Liberation

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A 1971 Poster by OSPAAAL, depicting the murder of Black Panther George Jackson at San Quentin prison.

We cannot foresee the future, but we should never give in to the defeatist temptation of being the vanguard of a nation which yearns for freedom, but abhors the struggle it entails and awaits its freedom as a crumb of victory.


Today in 1966, the Organization of Solidarity with the People of Asia, Africa and Latin America (OSPAAAL) was formed in Havana, Cuba and attended by delegates from 82 countries.  Their objective was simple – total liberation.  An organization of national liberation movements and shared ideology, they fought against colonialism, globalization, racial segregation and capitalism.  They had a vision that solidarity and cooperation among nations could lead to better lives for everyone; that their fate was intertwined with their neighbors across the sea.  From Cuba to Palestine, they worked to support economic development in emergent in the spirit of internationalism. Their posters were printed in several languages, folded inside the Tricontinental, and sent to subscribers around the world.


Brooklyn to Beirut: Art and Theater against AIDS

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Join Black and Cuba community partner Sophia Dawson for an evening of Fine Art and Theater at Brooklyn’s South Oxford Space on August 18th. Dawson’s latest works will be auctioned off at Brooklyn to Beirut, an event that will include a talk-back, a solo dance performance by Fela! cast member Danny Soto, and a performance by Paige Gilbert and Khiry Walker. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to HIV/AIDS research, outreach and provide scholarships for students studying Fine and Performing arts. If you are unable to attend, donations are greatly appreciated, and encouraged.