This marked the third year of collaboration with the Park Avenue Armory and the first time of partnering with ArtChangeUS for a day of panels, performances and discussions about the extraordinary world-changing events of 1968, the fifty years that followed, and the promise of the next fifty years. The symposium used cultural history as a way of assessing our progress as a nation and seeing how much further weve yet to go.
Hosted in the historic halls of the Park Avenue Armory, the program boasted an array of multidisciplinary, multigenerational and multicultural voices that explored race, gender, class, and citizenship in the U.S. George Stonefish, a First Nations activist and artist, opened and closed the symposium by honoring the Lenape peoples (who were the original inhabitants of Manhattan and the surrounding North East region) and other Native American tribes who lost land and livelihood as a result of European settlements. Close your eyes and imagine, Stonefish sang, referring to memories of war and displacement.
Memorable Movements, the session directed by Arts Program Director Damian Woetzel, explored the power of symbols to represent social movements. The performance included a creative rendering of the images of Tommie Smith and John Carlos standing with fists in the air during the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. Michelle Dorrance, Teresita Fernández and Davóne Tines joined Woetzel onstage to discuss how the now iconic image still inspires them as artists and activists.
Conversation flowed throughout two floors of Armory, as over 335 attendees exchanged opinions and reactions to 20+ panel sessions and salons. This included a discussion about the impact of the 1960s protests, especially the Poor Peoples Campaign of 1968, and on current movements that challenge systemic racism, poverty and gender inequality in American society. The day closed with No More Water | The Fire Next Time: The Gospel According to James Baldwin led by musician Meshell Ndegeocello in collaboration with director Charlotte Brathwaite. The words of James Baldwin inspired the stirring performance and served as a pertinent reminder of the power of art: the artist cannot and must not take anything for granted, but must drive to the heart of every answer and expose the question the answer hides.