Thursday, December 14, 2006

Political Drama / Black History Museum

Some things I want to think about more when I get the time:

Black History Trove, a Life’s Work, Seeks Museum
An article by Jennifer Steinhauer about Mayme Agnew Clayton's amazing collection of artifacts from African-American history. I think this collection will grow in importance over the years. I'm struck by the work her son (Avery Clayton) believes culture can do. Am collecting information about what people think culture does or can do. More later.

Her collecting grew from her work as a librarian, first at the University of Southern California and later at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she began to build an African-American collection. In 1969 she helped establish the university’s African-American Studies Center Library, and began to buy out-of-print works by authors from the Harlem Renaissance. Around that time, Ms. Clayton invested in a bookstore. When the principal owner squandered their profits on the horses, Mr. Clayton said, his mother agreed to take her partner’s collection of black-oriented books rather than take him to court. . . . “One of the things that culture does is that it works like a family,” Mr. Clayton said. “If you know you come from a good family, it enables you to go out into the world, no matter what happens to you, and do O.K. It is the same thing with culture: If you know you come from a great people, it gives you that same feeling.”

Political Drama Re-enacts Moments in a Death Chamber
Barbara Becnel and Shirley Neal wrote and produced a reenactment of the execution of Stanley Tookie Williams. The article is by Jesse McKinley. I'm thinking a lot about art that intends to be political these days, who shows up for it, and how it does its work. What I want to remember to think about is the way simply re-presenting what happened can be a comment on it. I saw in the news today that executions have been suspended in Florida and "a federal judge ruled that the lethal injection system in California violated the constitutional prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment." How much does how we understand what is happening play a role in this? How much does art have to do with how we understand what is happening.

“This is political theater in the extreme,” Ms. Becnel told a crowd of about 150 people who gathered to watch the performance. “But it’s political theater in the extreme because we need it.” . . . On Wednesday, the theatrical re-enactment began at 12:01 a.m., the time Mr. Williams entered the death chamber. . . . With a simple set — folding chairs, a gurney and a platform — the play’s action was minimal: three witnesses stood, a guard strapped Mr. Tillis to a gurney, a nurse fumbled with an IV. Only once did anyone speak, when Mr. Tillis asked the actor playing the frustrated nurse whether she knew what she was doing. The entire performance took about 12 minutes — about a third of the actual execution time.


Anonymous Richard Ross said...

Do you have any information as to how I might be able to contact Mr Avery at the Black History Museum?

I have some artifacts I think he might be interested in.


Richard Ross

5:49 PM, February 01, 2007  
Blogger Mendi O. said...

Sorry, I don't, but you might try the New York Times.

2:23 PM, February 02, 2007  

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