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Joseph S. Mella

painter, graphic artist, printmaker, and publisher, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Ned Adams, an electrician and occasional sign painter, and Laura. Adams first explored art making by mimicking his father, who, according to Adams, enjoyed drawing. After the divorce of his parents around 1944, Adams lived with his aunt and uncle, Claudia and Caleb Spivey. Although he sought to attend a program for gifted children at the Detroit Institute of Arts, his uncle vehemently prohibited it, preferring that Adams spend his free time working jobs such as delivering newspapers. Adams attended Northwestern High School in Detroit while continuing to live with the Spiveys until age fifteen, when he moved to his father's home.

After graduating from high school in 1951 Adams moved to Romeo Michigan a then rural town forty one miles north of Detroit There Adams worked at ...

Article

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

Kyra E. Hicks

quilt historian and researcher, was born in Cincinnati to Walter Ray Sr., a dining car steward for the Southern Railway Company, and Marie Jones, a seamstress and homemaker. After age six, following her mother's death, Benberry and her older brother, Walter Jr., lived in Saint Louis with their maternal grandmother, Letha Jennings.

After earning a BA in 1945 from Stowe Teachers College (later Harris-Stowe State University) in Saint Louis, she married George L. Benberry in 1951. The couple had one son, George Jr., born in 1953. Benberry spent about forty years as a teacher, reading specialist, and librarian for the Saint Louis public school system. She went on to get a certificate of Library Science, also from Stowe, in 1967, and a masters of Education in 1973 from the University of Missouri, Saint Louis.

Benberry s interest in quilting began during a trip ...

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 ...

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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

Guillermo Anderson

was born Delvin R. Cayetano to George and Victoria Cayetano in 1954, in Dangriga, Stann Creek District, Belize. He attended Holy Ghost School in Dangriga from 1960 to 1969. Cayetano spent his childhood in his hometown and began painting and playing music at an early age.

A self-taught musician, Cayetano is credited with the creation of punta rock, a modern version of punta, a rhythm and dance of the Garifuna tradition played with drums, originally at funeral rites. Traditional punta is played with two drums, maracas, and a turtle shell. According to Cayetano, the idea came to him in 1978 at the end of an annual tribute to Thomas Vincent Ramos, a Garifuna cultural leader of Belize, when the youth attending a Garifuna ceremony started playing traditional punta with vulgar lyrics, displacing the elder musicians, who picked up their drums and left.

Concerned that new generations of Garifuna ...

Article

Thomas George Caracas Garcia

was born in Salvador, Bahia, on 30 April 1914. His paternal great-grandfather (whose name was spelled “Caimmi”) immigrated to Brazil from Italy and was a construction worker. His father, Durval Henrique Caymmi, was a civil servant and amateur musician, and his mother, Aurelina, was an amateur singer of African and Portuguese descent. Dorival never had any formal training as a singer, and in his teens he had a variety of jobs, most notably as a street vendor. His musical career, however, took off while he was still a teenager. He was a self-taught guitarist, singer, and composer, and by the early 1930s, he was performing his own songs on the nascent radio stations in his hometown.

By 1935 Caymmi was singing and playing guitar on Rádio Clube de Bahia (Bahia Radio Club, a major broadcaster in Salvador) and in 1935, he had his own show, Caymmi e Suas ...

Article

Ingrid Schorr

curator, fashion designer, dancer, and artist, was born James Watson in rural Woodruff, South Carolina, to sharecropper parents whose names are unknown. Little information about his early years is available except that he attended the Fashion Institute of New York and studied at the Sorbonne in Paris before moving to New York in the 1960s.

As Chanticleer established himself as a fashion designer in New York City he also began to propagate the biographical embellishments and falsehoods that would be repeated until his death: that he was born in Harlem to a Barbadian concert pianist and a Haitian high school principal; that he completed a master's degree at the Sorbonne; that as a five-year-old he designed a prize-winning folding chair for a competition at the 1940 World's Fair.

Whether or not he grew up in Harlem Chanticleer identified so strongly with its place at the center of black history and ...

Article

Therese Duzinkiewicz Baker

prima ballerina, modern dancer, choreographer, teacher, and painter, was born Janet Fay Collins in New Orleans, the daughter of Ernest Lee Collins, a tailor, and Alma de Lavallade (the noted dancer Carmen de Lavallade was a first cousin on this side of the family), a seamstress. At the age of four Collins moved to Los Angeles with her family, which included three sisters and one brother. In Los Angeles, Collins had trouble being accepted into “whites-only” dance studios, so she worked with private tutors. Her first formal ballet lessons were at a Catholic community center at the age of ten.

When she was fifteen Collins auditioned for the prestigious Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo led by the legendary Leonide Massine Collins was accepted but only on the condition that she stay in the corps de ballet and that she paint her face white to blend in with the other ...

Article

Jason Philip Miller

photographer, was born in Columbus, Ohio. Details about Cowans's upbringing and early education are difficult to come by. He attended local schools and around 1954 matriculated to Ohio University, where he undertook a study of photography. There he fell under the influence and tutelage of the great Clarence White Jr., one of the founders (along with Alfred Stieglitz and others) of the Photo-Secession movement, which helped to solidify photography as a legitimate art form. He earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in Photography in 1958 and subsequently enlisted in the U.S. Navy, which he served as a photographer until his discharge in 1960.

Upon leaving military service, Cowans removed to New York, intent on pursuing a career in photography. There he landed a job at Life magazine, at the time perhaps the most famous and widely distributed photo magazine in the United States. With Life ...

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

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

Kathy-ann Daniel-Gittens

was born on 1 August 1930 in Port of Spain, Trinidad. He was one of five children of Arthur Holder, a salesman originally from Barbados, and Lucy de Frense, from the French Caribbean island of Martinique. Holder’s family lived in a middle-class neighborhood in Port of Spain, the capital of the island. He attended the nearby Tranquility Intermediate School and then Queen’s Royal College (1935–1945). Holder did not take well to the restrictions of the colonial classroom, and he left school prematurely to do clerical work for the government.

From early in life Geoffrey Holder was heavily influenced by the artistic inclinations of his older brother Boscoe Holder When their father bought a piano Boscoe quickly taught himself and then Geoffrey how to play it In addition to following in his brother s footsteps in music Geoffrey also pursued Boscoe s interest in painting and dance In the ...

Article

Jerry C. Waters

artist and musician, was born Lonnie Bradley Holley in Birmingham, Alabama, and was, according to Holley in a personal interview, the seventh child of twenty-seven children born to his mother, Dorothy May Holley Crawford, and to his father, Arthur James Bradley.

Holley s childhood and adolescence were extremely difficult in that he experienced intense poverty physical abuse and homelessness Following his birth Holley s mother placed him with a woman who moved to Ohio Four years later she returned to Birmingham and gave him to another woman known as Big Mama and her husband Big Daddy in exchange for a bottle of bootleg whiskey Holley ran away from them because of continual corporeal punishment he received from Big Daddy As a result of this decision Holley lived with several foster families was incarcerated in the Alabama Industrial School for Boys and Girls in Mount Meigs and spent time ...

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

Jennifer Drake

poet, visual artist, performer, and bohemian citizen of the world, was born Theodore Jones in Cairo, Illinois, to parents who worked on Mississippi riverboats. While little is known about Joans's childhood, two stories circulate widely. The first is that he was born on a riverboat; the second is that his father, a riverboat entertainer, gave the twelve-year-old Joans a trumpet and dropped him off in Memphis, Tennessee, to make his own way in the world. It has been documented that Joans's father was murdered in the 1943 Detroit race riots, and various autobiographical writings indicate that Joans spent some of his childhood in Indiana and Kentucky.

After earning his BFA in painting from Indiana University in 1951, Joans moved to New York's Greenwich Village and became a central figure in the Beat scene. He associated with Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg who would first ...

Article

Kathryne V. Lindberg

Ted Joans was born in Cairo, Illinois, on 4 July 1928, to African American entertainers working on Mississippi riverboats. He says that by the age of thirteen, he had learned to play the trumpet as well as the crowd and otherwise to fend for himself after his father's death in the Detroit Riot of 1943. Upon earning a bachelor's degree in painting at Indiana University (1951 he headed for New York where his studio apartment soon became a famous salon and party site With other New York bohemians he attended the New School for Social Research but the extracurricular activities of Greenwich Village and increasingly of Harlem s Black Arts movement were his preferred teaching and learning venues After marrying and fathering four children three of them sons bio blurbs remind with heroic African surnames he departed conventional life entirely in order experientially and textually to ...

Article

Elena Bertoncini Zúbková

Swahili poet, scribe, calligrapher, woodcarver, performer, tailor, musician, and dance master, was born in Lamu on the northern coast of Kenya. Nicknamed Kijum(w)a, “little slave,” by his mother at his birth (hoping this nickname would be auspicious), his full name was Muhammad bin Abubekr bin Omar Kijumwa (also Muhamadi bin Abu Bakari, Mohamed Abubakar Kijumwa, and other possible transliterations from the Arabic script). He studied at the qurʾanic school, made the pilgrimage to Mecca three times, and became a renowned and versatile artist, who handed to his son Helewa the craft of carving the beautifully ornamented doors in Lamu. Among other skills, he made musical instruments and was a famous player of the kibangala a seven stringed lute He passed most of his life in Lamu but in the 1890s he worked as a scribe in the small protectorate of Witu inland from the Kenyan coast which was part ...

Article

Marie-José Nzengou-Tayo

was born Robert V. Lemoine in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, the son of Victor Lemoine and Espérance Gervais Lemoine. He credited his family’s nurturing for his passion for cinema.

A graduate of the Faculty of Ethnology (State University of Haiti), Lemoine worked in fields related to communication and performing arts to define himself as a “communication animal.” In an interview with Movie Lakay, he recalled entering the world of radio broadcasting at age 17, starting at Ricardo Widmaiër’s radio station Radio Haiti. He then worked at Radio MBC with Gérard Résil, a drama teacher, playwright, and the director of the theater company La Compagnie Gérard Résil; and as a presenter on Radio Port-au-Prince and Radio YM, before joining Radio Haiti in 1965. In 1968 Lemoine immigrated to Canada, where he worked briefly at Radio Canada and at Le Journal de Montréal He worked for a year at the newspaper ...