Thursday, August 27, 2020

Black Artists Through History Series Inspired By The Roosevelt Island March For Justice, Take The Drawing Challenge Says RIRA Youth Committee Chair - Lesson 4 On Artist Ajamu Kojo, Portrait Painter Exploring 1921 Racial Violence That Destroyed Black Wall Street In Tulsa Oklahoma

Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) Children, Youth & Education Committee Chair Adib Mansour developed a series of Black Artists Through History Lessons inspired by the June 3 Roosevelt Island March For Justice

The first lesson was on sculptor Edmonia Lewis.

The second lesson was on the painter Romare Howard Bearden.

The third lesson was on the contemporary artist Kehinde Wiley

The current lesson is on painter Ajamu Kojo.

According to Mr. Mansour:

This is a special lesson for me as I have met this phenomenal artist, Ajamu Kojo. In recent conversations with Ajamu, he encourages the youth of our island (and elsewhere) to embrace their heritage, because “it is going to make society better If you could understand where people are coming from.”

In this 4th Black Artists Through History Lesson, I emphasize Ajamu’s Dignified Portraits, nearly 100 years after the racial violence that destroyed the Black Wall Street in Tulsa, OK. It is a reminder that racial injustice has been around for a long time. In May 31, 1921, a white mob attacked residents and their homes and business, leveling 35 square blocks, killing countless Black people in a thriving and successful community. The mob left in ruins many homes, schools, theaters, a church, library, doctors’ and lawyers’ offices, shops and restaurants.. only because the Black community there was thriving.

Through his art, Ajamu beautifully painted the portraits of some of the inhabitants of Tulsa’s Greenwood section with pride, humility and humanity. About this collection, Ajamu said "The project is about uplifting memories, shared histories, and how reflections of the past echo in the present.” In particular, I have chosen the portrait of Dr. Olivia J. Hooker who was one of the last survivors of the 1921 massacre. I encourage you to read more about her accomplishments and the amazing life she built herself!. I ask you to ponder on the following outcome: In 2003, Dr. Hooker was one of the plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit filed against the state of Oklahoma and the city of Tulsa by more than 100 survivors and about 300 descendants of people who lost their lives or property in the attacks, seeking compensation due to the local governments' involvement in the massacre… the US Supreme Court dismissed the case without comment in 2005.

Dr. Hooker, retired at the age of 87. She joined the Coast Guard Auxiliary at the age of 95 and served as an auxilliarist in Yonker, New York.

Enjoy, print the black & white outline, and send me your artistic interpretations

and your thoughts to . Feel Free to share.

I would also encourage the youth to email me your thoughts on these wonderful black artists and your opinions on a vision for equality on the island, in this city of ours, and in our country. I would love to engage in a thoughtful discussion of race and equity in art history and theory.
Here's more on the artist Ajamu Kojo including his project Black Wall Street: A Case for Reparations.

Also, check out Mr. Mansour's Black Artists Through History: