Otabenga Jones & Associates aim to preserve and promote the core principles of the Black radical tradition, and—in the words of the late O’Shea Jackson— work to “OPEN THE EYES OF EACH!!!” The collective is collaborating with the Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium to produce a temporary outdoor radio station that will broadcast live from the back of a pink 1959 Cadillac Coupe de Ville. Broadcasts will pay tribute to former Bed-Stuy cultural center “the East,” founded in 1969 a hub for creating cultural awareness around the Black Nationalism and pan-Africanist movements.
Houston-based Otabenga Jones & Associates was founded in 2002 by artists Dawolu Jabari Anderson, Jamal Cyrus, Kenya Evans, and Robert A. Pruitt. While their commission for Funk, God, Jazz & Medicine: Black Radical Brooklyn will emerge from the collective’s collaborative process, each member is an established artist in his own right.
Learn more about the #FunkGodJazzMedicine artists here.
(Top: works by Robert A. Pruitt; Middle: works by Jamal Cyrus; Bottom: works by Dawolu Jabari Anderson)
“We have evolved into an underground network of guerrilla parenting and survivalist experts.” —Robert A. Pruitt
Meet Otabenga Jones & Associates, one of four commissioned artists for Funk, God, Jazz & Medicine: Black Radical Brooklyn. OJA is a Houston-based artist collective, founded in 2002 by artist and educator Otabenga Jones in collaboration with members Dawolu Jabari Anderson, Jamal Cyrus, Kenya Evans, and Robert A. Pruitt. The group’s pedagogical mission takes a myriad of forms, including actions, writings, DJ sets, and installations. In scope, the organization’s mission is three-fold: to underscore the complications of black representation, to maintain and promote the core principles of the Black radical tradition, and (in the words of the late Russell Tyrone Jones) “teach the truth to the young black youth.”
Learn more about their #FunkGodJazzMedicine project here.
Are you getting excited for our fall exhibition, Funk, God, Jazz & Medicine: Black Radical Brooklyn? We’ve updated our website with tons of information about the projects, as well as some historic images from Weeksville Heritage Center and our other partner organizations to get you in the spirit. Check it out.
Mark your calendars for opening day on September 20!
For his Funk, God, Jazz & Medicine project, Bradford Young is creating a three-channel video installation titled “Bynum Cutler.” Inspired by late playwright August Wilson, the film will feature velvet monuments set against the backdrop of Weeksville’s historic Bethel Tabernacle African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in a tribute to the pioneering Black women, men, and children who embarked on countless journeys in search of refuge. It will be installed the former PS 83 building across the street, where the church congregation met for decades.
Partnered with Bradford Young for Funk, God, Jazz & Medicine: Black Radical Brooklyn is Bethel Tabernacle AME Church. As one of the first established African Methodist Episcopal churches in Brooklyn, Bethel Tabernacle has been important not only as a house of worship, but for also embodying the meaning of Weeksville, the 19th-century community which was founded by a group of black freedmen. Although the cornerstone reads 1847 there is evidence that the Church was organized originally in 1818.
Learn more about the #FunkGodJazzMedicine partner organizations HERE.
“I’m big on faces. I like to fill the frame with heads. I use faces as landscapes, as architecture. That always feels like the right place to start.”
Meet Bradford Young, one of the four featured artists in Funk, God, Jazz & Medicine: Black Radical Brooklyn. A native of Louisville, Kentucky, the award-winning cinematographer moved to Chicago at age 15 to live with his father, where he received early artistic inspiration from the works of Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, and Aaron Douglas. Young studied film at Howard University, where he was influenced by Haile Gerima. He has been director of photography on feature films like Pariah (2011), Middle of Nowhere (2012), and Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (2013), and has won two cinematography awards at Sundance Film Festival.
Mark your calendars! Nick Cave will be discussing his incredible new book, “Epitome,” with our chief curator Nato Thompson on September 10 at NYPL The New York Public Library. This monograph surveys Cave’s gorgeous, genre-defying Soundsuits, installations, and performance work—including his “HEARD•NY” with Creative Time last spring.
For her work “Free People’s Medical Clinic,” Simone Leigh will convert the ground floor of 375 Stuyvesant Avenue—home of Dr. Josephine English, the first African-American woman to have an OB/GYN practice in the state of New York and midwife to all six daughters of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz—into a temporary space for dignified health care that asks visitors to consider the often-overlooked women nurses, osteopaths, gynecologists, and midwives in the history of Black Brooklyn from the 19th century to the 1980s.
Recalling the Black Panther Party’s network of People’s Free Medical Clinics, Leigh’s clinic will contain mixed-medium installations, as well as local homeopathic services ranging from yoga instruction to personal consultations.
Banker White: We launched our first [WeOwnTV] program in Sierra Leone in 2009 by facilitating a month-long filmmaking workshop for 18 young men and women just outside the capital city Freetown. Workshop participants were selected not based on technical skills or prior experience, but on the enthusiasm, eloquence and sense of purpose each of them exhibited during the interview process. Many participants had never worked with a camera or touched a computer and many had not finished school, but they each demonstrated an incredible strength and resolve in overcoming tragic circumstances.
Partnered with Simone Leigh for Funk, God, Jazz & Medicine: Black Radical Brooklyn is Stuyvesant Mansion in Bed-Stuy. Built in 1914 by architects Henry P. Kirby & John J. Petit, the building was eventually bought by the family of Dr. Josephine English (1920-2011)—one of the first black, female OB/GYN doctors in New York State. It became a senior center that was photographed by Dinanda Nooney in 1978 and most recently a community center and intergenerational hub of artists, educators, activists, entrepreneurs, and youth of all socioeconomic backgrounds.
“Enough is enough. I foresee a time when black artists will be encouraged to dive deep into their work with the same vigor as Paul McCarthy and Lisa Yuskavage—without this strange, accompanying commentary and gatekeeping.”
Meet Simone Leigh, one of the four featured artists in #FunkGodJazzMedicine. Leigh’s practice is an object-based, sculptural exploration of female African American identity, informed by ancient African and African American object-making. With work that is both highly abstracted and grounded in timeless recognizable objects like pottery jars or cowrie shells, Leigh challenges the boundaries between art and craft, past and present, her ceramic objects simultaneously evoking archaic and futuristic forms.