The Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA) is proud to present the timely and provocative exhibition I AM A MAN.
February 1968 saw 1,300 African American sanitation workers strike to demand their basic rights to organize a union, to gain a living wage, and to garner respect and dignity deserving of all working men and women. The Civil Rights Leader, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., eventually came to Memphis to support the strikers and was subsequently assassinated.
From those dramatic events, one phrase emerged that continues to inspire community activists forty years later, “I AM A MAN.” The sanitation workers strike and the phrase that came to symbolize that movement are emblazoned with a larger purpose, an acknowledgment about the persistence, intellect and drive of African American males in America to reclaim their manhood and be respected and treated as equals in America and all over the world.
With this theme, eleven artists have been selected to create new work that immortalizes the 1968 workers strike as well as a reflection of their interpretation of what it means to be an African American man in America in 2008, forty years after the sanitation workers strike and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
The eleven artists that have been selected for the exhibition are from all over the United States and represent several generations of American history. This thought provoking exhibition comes at a time when the perception of a Black man in America is most under introspection ranging from Barack Obama securing the Democratic nomination to the controversial not-guilty verdict in the Sean Bell trial.
This group exhibition includes a combination of painters, photographers, film makers and video artists: Hank Willis Thomas, Russell Frederick, Rah Crawford, Radcliff Bailey, Carlos Palmer, Leroy Henderson, Lorenzo Steel, Fahamu Pecou, Jefferson Pinder, Jamel Shabazz and Juan Sanchez.
The exhibition also includes a DVD compilation reel of images of the sanitation workers’ strike by photographer Ernest Withers, who also designed and printed the “I AM A MAN” protest signs for the strike.
Mr. Withers died at the age of 85 in 2007 and was known for his photographic coverage of the funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Emmett Till murder trial, the funeral of Medgar Evers and the integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., in 1957.
Opening Reception: Thursday, September 25th 6-9pm
On View: September 25, 2008 – January 18, 2009
Curators: Kevin Powell, Kimberli Gant & Laurie Cumbo
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