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Jerry C. Waters

an interdisciplinary artist and musician, was born Terry Roger Adkins in Washington, D.C., the eldest of five children of Robert Hamilton Adkins, a teacher and a musician, and Doris Jackson Adkins, a homemaker and musician. Adkins was raised in Alexandria, Virginia.

The artistic and musical achievements of Terry Adkins are linked to his formative years. Born in the racially segregated South, he attended a predominantly black primary school in Alexandria, Virginia, and graduated in 1971 from Ascension Academy a mostly white Catholic high school Adkins s parents encouraged his artistic talents and academic pursuits because education was valued within the extended Adkins family His father Robert Hamilton Adkins was a chemistry and science teacher at Parker Gray High School a predominantly black school in Alexandria and performed within the community as an organist and vocalist Adkins s grandfather the Reverend Andrew Warren Adkins pastored Alfred Street Baptist ...

Article

Rebecca M. Bodenheimer

was born on 22 November 1948 in Havana, while his mother, Rosa Zayas, was in the capital for a visit. Of Afro-Cuban descent, he grew up in the central Cuban province of Camagüey. His father, Enrique Fortunato Álvarez, was the arranger and bandleader for a youth band called Avance Juvenil, in which the nine-year-old made his debut performance playing the timbales (a pair of metal drums mounted on a stand). Between 1966 and 1972 he studied solfege, music theory, harmony, and bassoon at the National School of the Arts (Escuela Nacional de Arte, or ENA) in Havana. His first composition, “Con un besito mi amor” (With a Kiss My Love), was popularized in 1971 by one of Cuba s most prominent bands at the time Conjunto Rumbavana After graduating from the ENA Álvarez returned to his home province of Camagüey to carry out his mandatory civil service as a ...

Article

Cynthia Hawkins

ceramist, sculptor, filmmaker, and cofounder (with her husband, James Hatch) of the Hatch‐Billops Collection, an archive of African American cultural history, was born in Los Angeles, California, to Lucius Billops, a cook and merchant seaman, and Alma Gilmore, a dressmaker, maid, and aircraft assembly worker. Billops graduated from Catholic Girls High School in 1952, and in 1954 she began her studies at the University of Southern California. She majored in occupational therapy, which included drawing, sculpture, and ceramics. She transferred to Los Angeles State College in 1956 after she became pregnant, and then she changed her major to special education. Billops worked during the day as a bank bookkeeper and maintained a full academic workload in the evening. At the end of 1956 her daughter, Christa, was born, and Billops put her up for adoption. This was an experience she would explore in her 1992 ...

Article

Caryn E. Neumann

a still photographer and documentary filmmaker, was born in Houston, Texas, the second child and only daughter of the schoolteacher Mollie Carroll Parrott and the dentist Frederick Douglas Parrott Sr. At least one grandparent had been born a slave. Both parents were the first in their respective families to obtain advanced college degrees, but racism kept the family poor. The Parrotts lived in the Third Ward, one of Houston's African American neighborhoods, and Blue attended a segregated grade school. As she wrote in her memoir, The Dawn at My Back, the challenges of growing up poor and black in a racist, classist society put a shadow over her life.

Blue did not intend to pursue a career in the visual arts. She enrolled as an English literature student, specializing in the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English Renaissance period, at Boston University in 1960 with the goal of becoming ...

Article

Scott Yanow

blues and jazz singer and pianist, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Butler, who was born blind due to glaucoma, started playing piano when he was six and sang in the choir of the Louisiana State School for the Blind when he was seven. While at the school, he studied classical piano and, starting in eleventh grade, voice training that included opera. He also studied drums, baritone horn, and valve trombone although he did not pursue a career on those instruments.

Butler began playing piano professionally when he was fourteen in Baton Rouge area clubs. While attending the Southern University in Baton Rouge in the late 1960s, he studied with Alvin Batiste, who guided him toward the recordings of Charlie Parker and John Coltrane along with Brazilian, Afro-Cuban, and Caribbean music. He also had private lessons with Professor Longhair Harold Mabern and Roland Hanna and received a grant ...

Article

Devora Fogelman

was born Alverta Elise La Pallo in New York City to Bernando La Pallo, a chef and later an author, and Ida Roberta (Small) La Pallo, who worked at Saks Fifth Avenue as a marker of prices, as well as at a small company that made diaper bags. Lee had one younger sister, Nandra.

Chamberlin attended Our Lady of Lourdes elementary school in Harlem and Cathedral High School in midtown Manhattan The year of her graduation is unknown At the age of seventeen she won a play writing contest through the New York Chapter of the American Cancer Society The year is unknown when she began her studies at Washington Square College of New York University where she was a member of the Sigma Gamma Rho sorority and participated in an exchange program at the Sorbonne in Paris France The year of her graduation is unknown After completing college with ...

Article

Rickey Vincent

was born William Earl Collins in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of Nettie Collins (24 Feb. 1916–24 Nov. 1997). His older brother was musician Phelps “Catfish” Collins, Jr. Raised by a single mother, the Collins brothers learned to play music as children on their own, and in the public schools. As a teenager Bootsy Collins sought to emulate his brother, who played rhythm guitar in local clubs. So Bootsy turned to the bass guitar, fashioning bass strings onto his first guitar, purchased by his mother. The two Collins brothers frequented King Records, in Cincinnati, the headquarters of soul star James Brown’s record company.

Their presence at King Records afforded Bootsy Collins opportunities to record on singles produced at the company and become known to James Brown. In March 1970 after a dispute of over wages and work hours most of James Brown s band was dismissed and ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

an early New Orleans radio show host, who made his name in rhythm and blues, but devoted most of his life to gospel, was born Vernon Winslow in Dayton, Ohio, the son of Harry and Lenora Winslow; his father was the foreman at a sign company, while his mother stayed home raising seven children. Four brothers and two sisters were all born in Ohio; their father was born in Indiana around 1886, and their mother in Kentucky around 1888.

By 1930, his father was gone, probably deceased, and Lenora Winslow was raising her family in Chicago Illinois The oldest sons Wendell and Vernon were the primary breadwinners working as a porter for a retail store and a messenger at the office of an oil company respectively Somehow carrying this responsibility at the age of nineteen Winslow was able to attend Morehouse College in Atlanta then ...

Article

Wendy A. Grossman and Sala E. Patterson

was born Casimir Joseph Adrienne Fidelin on 4 March 1915 in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe’s largest city and economic capital. Fidelin posed for several photographers in Paris in the 1930s, including Roger Parry, Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze), and Man Ray. Although there is remarkably little written documentation about her, Fidelin is widely recognized as the model featured in an extensive assembly of images by Man Ray and acclaimed as the first black model to appear in a major American fashion magazine.

Fidelin emigrated with her family to France following the catastrophic September 1928 hurricane that swept the Caribbean archipelago and the South Florida peninsula killing twelve hundred people on her native island She came of age in Paris in an era in which the influx of émigrés from the French colonies in the Caribbean fueled the creation of a vibrant diasporic Antillean music and dance community that coincided with and ...

Article

Catherine M. Grant and Margaret Rose Vendryes

American printmaker, film maker, installation and conceptual artist and writer.

Green, of African descent, has worked primarily with film-based media, and has published criticism and designed installations that reveal her commitment to ongoing feminist and black empowerment movements. She earned her BA from Wesleyan University in 1981 and also spent some time at the School of Visual Arts in New York in 1980, returning in the late 1980s to study in the Whitney Independent Study Program, graduating in 1990. At the age of 24 she began exhibiting her comparative compositions containing found objects, images, and texts that question recorded history.

Green’s work deals with issues of anthropology and travel. By undertaking projects via the methodology of the 19th-century explorer, she exposed the arbitrary and prejudiced nature of classification, as in Bequest (1991; see 1993 exh cat an installation she made at the ...

Article

Pamela Lee Gray

musician, activist, author, painter, and sculptor, was born Richard Pierce Havens in Brooklyn, New York, the oldest of nine children. He grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. His father, Richard Havens, worked as a metal plater and dreamed of becoming a professional pianist, eventually learning to play a number of instruments. Richie's mother Mildred a bookbinder and casual singer at home encouraged her young son when he started singing background vocals at the age of twelve for local groups All kinds of music were played in the Havens home Richie s grandmother listened to Yiddish gospel and big band music his mother enjoyed country music and his father loved jazz He joined the doo wop singing group the Five Chances at age fifteen and performed the next year with the Brooklyn McCrea Gospel Singers a group that sang hymns for neighborhood churches Havens ...

Article

Scott Yanow

jazz bassist, was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi. His mother played piano and organ and directed the church choir. Hinton moved with his family to Chicago when he was eleven years old. Two years later he began studying violin, sticking with it for four years. While attending Chicago's Wendell Phillips High Schools, he learned to play bass horn, cello, tuba, and string bass. He went to Crane Junior College (now Malcolm X College) from 1929 to 1930.

By then Hinton was already working in Chicago-area clubs, doubling on bass and tuba; he would give up the latter within a couple of years. He gained important early experience working with Freddie Keppard, Jabbo Smith, Art Tatum, Fate Marable, Erskine Tate's orchestra, and the pianist Tiny Parham, making his recording debut with Parham in 1930. His main job between 1931 and 1936 was with the ...

Article

Pamela Lee Gray

dancer, painter, choreographer, actor, author, photographer, director, musician, and costume and set designer, was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad. He was one of four children of middle-class parents of Irish, French, and African descent.

Holder was educated at Queen's Royal College in Port of Spain. His grandfather, Louis Ephraim, was a French painter whose influence led both Holder and his older brother Boscoe to begin experimenting with oils Geoffrey began teaching himself to paint at age fifteen when he was forced to stay home from school due to a prolonged illness He also learned much from Boscoe who was a pianist painter and dancer When Boscoe moved to England Geoffrey took over as director of his brother s dance company while continuing to create new paintings and display work at gallery exhibitions Holder s work was displayed at ...

Article

Tim Haslett

visual artist, filmmaker, and cinematographer, was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, and grew up in Clarksdale, Mississippi, the son of Rowena and Arthur Fielder. He studied architecture and film at Howard University from 1978 to 1982. While there, he worked with the filmmaker Haile Gerima, who became a mentor and an influential friend. Jafa's concerns with the centrality of the Middle Passage and slavery in the African Diaspora led him to rethink the political and aesthetic importance of defining “blackness,” and how what Jafa called “primal sites” are crucial to any project concerned with the liberation of people of African descent.

Renowned for his cinematography on Julie Dash's path-breaking film Daughters of the Dust (1992 Jafa put into practice techniques he had long been theorizing Black Visual Intonation was a radical aesthetic notion about the mechanics of filmmaking Jafa won Sundance Film Festival ...

Article

Leila Kamali

Black beggar and performer in 19th‐century London known as ‘Black Joe’. The details of Johnson's birth are unknown, but he is immortalized in a drawing, first published in 1815, which is featured in John Thomas Smith'sVagabondiana; or, Anecdotes of Mendicant Wanderers Through the Streets of London (1817).

Johnson had served in the merchant navy until he retired following an accident. Not being entitled to any relief payments because of his foreign birth, he was obliged to earn a living by begging. In order to avoid confrontation with the local beadles, he first started on Tower Hill, where he amused passers‐by by singing George Alexander Stevens's ‘Storm’, and later ventured into the public streets, becoming a so‐called ‘Regular Chaunter’. Johnson built a model of the ship Nelson and fixed it to his hat so that by bowing his head he was able to simulate the motion ...

Article

Livia Apa

Angolan photographer, documentarist, and filmmaker, was born on 30 July 1976 in Benguela, Angola. When he was eight years old, his family moved to Portugal. Although Liberdade stayed in Portugal, he often visited Angola for professional reasons. He graduated with a degree in cultural marketing from the Universidade Lusófona of Lisbon, and also attended some courses for a master’s degree in African studies in the Instituto Superior de Ciências do Trabalho e da Empresa (ISCTE) in Lisbon. Liberdade attended a course of cine-video in the Instituto Superior de Artes Design, Marketing e Publicidade (IADE) of the Portuguese capital. At the age of twenty, he produced his first documentary, O Rap è Uma Arma 1996 which follows rappers living in the suburbs of Lisbon These suburban spaces usually known for their violence are presented in Liberdade s film as places of extreme cultural vitality He won the prize for best ...

Article

Willie Hobbs

visual artist and educator, was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of Alyce and Edward Love, about whom little is known. After attending Manual Arts High School, Love, a baseball standout, was slated to be recruited by the San Francisco Giants. The U.S. Air Force proved more attractive to Love than baseball. While serving a five-year stint in the military that ultimately took him to Japan, Love became deeply influenced by Japanese culture. He also developed an affinity for the music of Charlie Parker and Miles Davis and the discourse of the Black Arts Movement, as well as a fascination with architectural design.

After an honorable discharge, Love earned a BFA in Sculpture in 1966 and an MFA in Design in 1967 from California State University Los Angeles A postgraduate fellowship to study humanities and fine arts at Uppsala University in Sweden soon followed While there ...

Article

Scott Yanow

jazz and soul pianist and singer, was born in Lexington, Kentucky. He was self-taught on the piano other than four piano lessons. McCann sang and played piano from an early age. In the early 1950s he left the South to join the U.S. Navy. McCann was stationed near San Francisco, where he had an opportunity to see major jazz artists in local clubs, including Miles Davis and the pianist whom he considered his earliest influence, Erroll Garner. In 1956 he won a talent contest sponsored by the navy that led to him appearing on television as a singer on The Ed Sullivan Show.

After his discharge later that year McCann settled in Los Angeles. He attended music school and worked toward forming his own trio. Miles Davis recommended him to Cannonball Adderley leading to Adderley offering McCann a chance to join his quintet However McCann turned ...

Article

Jennifer Lynn Headley

cultural critic, historian, performance and installation artist, photographer, writer, and activist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Her mother, Lena, emigrated from Jamaica to Boston in the 1920s. She earned a BA from Wellesley College in Spanish and Economics and an MFA in Fiction Writing from the University of Iowa, studying-in its renowned Writers' Workshop. From Iowa, she moved to New York City and began writing for the Village Voice and Rolling Stone as a rock critic. She changed her career course with her first performance pieces in the 1980s and her critical writings about art and its effect on students and peers.

O'Grady's first performed as Mlle. Bourgeoise Noire, loosely translated into Ms. Black Middle Class; her alter ego was a rowdy uninvited guest to numerous high-profile art exhibitions. Mlle. Bourgeoise Noire Goes to JAM (1980), Mlle Bourgeoise Noire Goes to ...

Article

Alejandro Gortázar

was born on 8 August 1937 in Montevideo, Uruguay. Currently he is the director of Conjunto Bantú, and the president of Asociación Civil Africanía, two non-governmental organizations. As a child Olivera Chirimini lived in South Reus or Ansina neighborhood (Barrio Ansina) of Montevideo and candombe was part of his musical environment. In the 1950s he won first place as an amateur painter at the First Ramon Pereira Hall, a contest organized by a group of artists in honor to the Afro-Uruguayan artist Ramón Pereira (1919–1954). Around that time he finished high school and later on became part of the Black Independent Theater (Teatro Negro Independiente). The group was created by Dr. Francisco Melitón Merino in 1965 and pursued aesthetic and social objectives It promoted the idea of transforming society through theater providing the Afro descendant community with tools for individual improvement and appreciation of their cultural values ...