Black cultural leaders make a unified call: 'Value our work'

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Friday, May 24, 2024

Black cultural leaders make a unified call: 'Value our work'
The writer, actress and producer Lena Waithe in Paterson, N.J., Nov. 11, 2019. A letter signed by hundreds of artists, writers, film producers and directors, actors and singers, including Waithe, demanded that institutions be “active agents” in fighting racism. Ike Edeani/The New York Times.

by Julia Jacobs

NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- A letter released Friday that carried the names of some of the most influential Black figures in film, television, visual art, music, theater, literature and other cultural disciplines called on the institutions they work with to actively fight racism by cutting ties with the police, as well as financially supporting and advocating for Black artists and their work.

The letter, published online to commemorate Juneteenth, was promoted by a new organization called Black Artists for Freedom, which describes itself as a collective of black workers in the culture industries. It carries the names of hundreds of cultural leaders, including Ava DuVernay, Barry Jenkins, Lupita Nyong’o and Tessa Thompson in film; Debbie Allen, Lee Daniels and Sterling K. Brown in television; John Legend, Questlove and Janelle Monáe in music; and Jamaica Kincaid, Marlon James and Jesmyn Ward in literature.

Making a direct appeal to the institutions with which they work, the collective laid out the ways that racist stereotypes are perpetuated in books, film and other mediums, and demanded that institutions work to right those wrongs.

“No more stereotypes. No more tokenism. No more superficial diversity,” the letter read. “No longer will we watch Black culture be contorted into a vehicle for self-congratulation, complacency, guilt relief, experiential tourism, fetishism, appropriation, and theft.”

Lisa Lucas, executive director of the National Book Foundation and one of the architects of the effort, said the letter started to come together informally a few weeks ago when she was on the phone with a friend discussing the protests across the country in response to the killing of George Floyd. She said the question was “What can we do?” And the answer that arose from the conversations that followed was to compose a letter in celebration of Juneteenth that unified the voices of artists across different cultural fields.

“We wanted to use the day to celebrate our imagination and our value,” Lucas said. “We thought one way we would be able to do that is show our strength in numbers.”

The initial letter published online carried more than 1,000 signatures and offered an option for others to add their names.

The letter echoes the appeals of protesters marching against police brutality in its call for institutions like museums, theaters, book stores and festivals to break contracts they have with police departments and “reconceive what it means to keep art, audiences, and patrons safe.”

“We hope to amplify the movement’s work and to call out our own industries for what they are: institutions that promote colonialism, capitalism, and racism, and that function in exploitative and destructive ways,” the letter read.

Many cultural institutions put out statements in solidarity with protesters or posted black squares on social media for #BlackoutTuesday — efforts that, in some cases, were criticized as tone deaf or insufficient in responding to the racism in their own organizations. Friday’s letter urged these institutions to “put their money where their mouths are” by hiring and promoting Black cultural workers in all disciplines and putting substantial resources into their work. It called on them to recruit Black people for leadership positions and create pathways for Black students to enter their professions.

The letter closed with the demand that Black artists have the freedom to shape how stories about Blackness are told rather than listening to what overwhelmingly white institutions consider “marketable” or “palatable,” whether in television shows, novels, fashion, podcasting or the myriad disciplines that the 1,000-plus names represent.

© 2020 The New York Times Company

Today's News

June 21, 2020

Exhibition at Groeningemuseum focuses on Jan van Eyck's Bruges period

Sotheby's to debut live auction of American Art

Art and antiques consistently in high demand in the auctions at Hermann Historica GmbH

A long revered relic is found to be Europe's oldest surviving wooden statue

Black cultural leaders make a unified call: 'Value our work'

Sonia Gomes joins Pace Gallery

Gerard Widdershoven founder of Maison Gerard passes away at 69

The Glyptotek presents a series of new bronze sculptures and plaster works by Tal R

Sotheby's Hong Kong announces Modern & Contemporary Southeast Asian Art Spring sales

Award-winning contemporary art space Franklin Street Works permanently closing due to COVID-19

Mady Mesplé, French soprano with a silvery voice, dies at 89

Ketterer Kunst to offer photographs by Sebastião Salgado

Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg opens an exhibition curated by Peter Lindbergh himself

Summer exhibition at Almine Rech Paris focuses on some of the gallery's most iconic artists

Collection of Naval General Service Medals dating from 1793-1840 fetches £263,922 at Dix Noonan Webb

Phillips presents Land, Sea, Sky: A no reserve online-only sale of works from Albion Barn

Tate celebrates pride with Uniqlo Tate Lates Night In

Barney and Linda Ronstadt help Simpsons cel plow its way to $24,000 record price

Tesla Cybertruck makes public debut at the Petersen Automotive Museum

"Does where we are change how we see?" The NYUAD Art Gallery convenes Ways of Seeing curators

15 essential black liberation jazz tracks

European record for Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone

Juilliard's secret weapon keeps actors on their toes

Rothschild magic casts its spell as ceramics and glass take tens of thousands at Woolley & Wallis

Benefits of spying on your children through GPS tracking

Top 5 best and affordable essential oils in U.S.

The benefits of regular check-ups


Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

sa gaming free credit
Truck Accident Attorneys
Accident Attorneys

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site Parroquia Natividad del Señor
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful