SYRACUSE — A collaboration of Syracuse Stage, ArtRage Gallery and SUNY Oswego and its Metro Center keys on the 50th anniversary of the march from Selma to Montgomery, the aftermath of apartheid and recent searing national events in order to frame a community-wide series of arts presentations and conversations about race and identity starting this month.
Banners on loan from the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, featuring the award-winning work of civil rights-era photographer Matt Herron, will help interlace a multi-venue series of presentations collectively titled “race.place.being”: Athol Fugard, John Kani and Winston Ntshona’s play “Sizwe Bansi Is Dead” at Syracuse Stage, a reception and exhibition at SUNY Oswego Metro Center in Syracuse, Herron’s historic civil rights photographs at ArtRage on Hawley Avenue, and a host of other events at the theater, gallery and on campus in Oswego.
“A long-awaited ‘national conversation’ on race and identity notwithstanding, all three of our organizations felt it timely — even urgent — to help open the doors for this discussion in Central New York, and we have put together a host of performances, exhibitions, film screenings, presentations and more to seed it,” said Amy Bartell, coordinator of the months-long effort and a member of the art department faculty at SUNY Oswego.
ArtRage Gallery will display six of the banners during its exhibition of Herron’s photographs from Feb. 7 to March 28.
“Sizwe Banzi Is Dead” will run Feb. 25 to March 15, with a lobby display that includes two banners.
And SUNY Oswego Metro Center will play host to a Feb. 19 reception to launch the exhibition-in-chief of nine of the banners, showcasing them through March 28 in the Atrium on Clinton Square, at the SUNY Oswego Phoenix Center and in Oswego.
“We want this collaboration of Syracuse Stage, ArtRage Gallery and SUNY Oswego to help move the public’s attention forward, from scarring, polarizing incidents and a legacy of segregation and distrust, toward mutual understanding, healing and change,” Bartell said.
The calendar for “race.place.being.” — online at oswego.edu/race-place-being — continues to develop, with an array of events around the three main presentations:
Feb. 7, 7-9 p.m.: Opening reception for the exhibition at ArtRage Gallery, 505 Hawley Ave., of “Selma to Montgomery March at 50: Civil Rights Photographs by Matt Herron.” A Rochester native, Herron’s powerful photographs during pivotal civil rights milestones, helped focus global attention on the political and personal impact of racist segregation. The reception is free and open to the public.
In conjunction with Black History Month and “race.place.being”– but with an eye to a semester-long conversation — SUNY Oswego began in late January to infuse aspects of race and identity into classrooms, programs and projects. At 6:30 p.m. Feb. 11, the college’s Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management will host a screening and discussion in the Marano Campus Center auditorium of the PBS documentary “Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II.” The screening is free and open to the public.
Feb. 12, 7 p.m.: Douglas Blackmon, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Slavery by Another Name,” will speak and answer questions in SUNY Oswego’s Marano Campus Center Auditorium. The college’s Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management is sponsoring the appearance of Blackmon, a contributing editor at the Washington Post and the host of “American Forum” on PBS.His presentation is free and open to the public. For more information, call 315-312-3214.
February 16, 7 p.m.: A panel discussion, “Remembering Why We Struggle: Reflections on Selma –Then & Now,” will take place at ArtRage Gallery, featuring retired City Court Judge Langston McKinney, civil rights activist John Brulé and SU professor Paula Johnson, director of the Cold Case Initiative. They will look at the lessons of the ’60s Civil Rights Movement and what it means to our country’s streets, schools and lives today. The moderator will be CNY ACLU Director Barrie Gewanter. This event is free and open to the public.
Feb. 19, 5 to 8 p.m.: Opening reception, free and open to the public, of the exhibition titled “Apartheid and Identity” at the SUNY Oswego Metro Center and its branch of Tyler Art Gallery, in the Atrium Building on Clinton Square.
On Feb. 20 and 21 at 7:30 p.m., ArtRage Gallery, 505 Hawley Ave., will present “STEADY, a Selma Anniversary Drama,” a work conceived and directed by Ryan Hope Travis and presented by the Syracuse University Theater Initiative and Onondaga Community College.
Feb. 27, 8 p.m.: Opening night performance at Syracuse Stage, 820 E. Genesee St., for “Sizwe Banzi Is Dead,” directed by co-creator and Tony award winner John Kani. In the play, an intensely funny and poignant drama exploring the universal struggle for human dignity, a black man in apartheid-era South Africa tries to overcome oppressive work regulations to support his family. The Syracuse Stage production originated in South Africa’s legendary Market Theatre before moving to Princeton, New Jersey, then here. Following this performance, audience members are invited to attend the opening night party in the lobby to mingle with the cast, and enjoy free food and live music. The play runs through March 15. For ticket information, visit syracusestage.org.
Feb. 26, 7 p.m.: ArtRage will screen Spike Lee’s 1997 documentary “Four Little Girls,” which uses archival photos and interviews to tell the emotional tale of the children killed in a 1963 bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, a tragedy that helped launch the civil rights movement. The screening is free and open to the public.
March 3-4, 7:30 p.m.: Actor and storyteller Natalie Daise brings her one-woman show, “Becoming Harriet Tubman,” to SUNY Oswego’s Hewitt Union ballroom. The famous and daring “conductor” of the Underground Railroad during the Civil War comes to life as Daise takes on personas of those who witnessed Tubman’s evolution, finally “becoming” Tubman herself.Daise’s appearance is part of SUNY Oswego’s Artswego Performing Artist Series. Visit tickets.oswego.edu or call 315-312-2141 for ticket information.
March 4, 1 p.m.: A free lecture in Syracuse Stage’s Sutton Pavilion by Grant Farred titled “Once more, ‘Sizwe Banzi’: Relevance of Apartheid Theatre in a Post-Apartheid Era,” in the Sutton Pavilion at Syracuse Stage, 820 E. Genesee St. A professor of Africana Studies and English at Cornell University, Farred’s books include “Midfielder’s Moment: Coloured Literature and Culture in Contemporary South Africa,” “What’s My Name? Black Vernacular Intellectuals,” “Phantom Calls: Race and the Globalization of the NBA,” and “Long Distance Love: A Passion for Football.”
March 5, 7 p.m.: SUNY Oswego Metro Center in Syracuse will screen the Robert Bilheimer documentary “Cry of Reason,” which follows the Rev. Beyers Naude’s personal and social odyssey from South Africa’s white Afrikaner elite to his new ministry dedicated to the liberation of the country’s black majority. The presentation is free and open to the public.
March 10, 7 p.m.: At the Marano Campus Center auditorium, SUNY Oswego will screen “The Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela,” about Academy Award-nominated director Thomas Allen Harris’ journey of reconciliation with the stepfather, who raised him as a son but whom he could never call “father.” B. Pule Leinaeng, and his 11 comrades left their home in Bloemfontein in 1960, told the world about the brutality of the apartheid system and raised support for the fledgling African National Congress and its leader, Nelson Mandela. The screening is free and open to the public.
March 19, 7 p.m.: A panel discussion, “Civil Rights Moving Forward,” will take place at ArtRage Gallery, featuring Dana Alas, political director, Upstate New York, for Local 1199 SEIU; Walt Dixie, president, National Action Movement-Syracuse Chapter; Emily NaPier, Alliance of Communities Transforming Syracuse (ACTS); Danielle Reed, THE General Body at Syracuse University; Pastor Daren C. Jaime, People’s AME Zion Church; and moderator Timothy K. Eatman, research director of Imagining America at Syracuse University. The discussion is free and open to the public.
March 25, 7 p.m.: Artist talk at ArtRage Gallery with Herron, who served as a volunteer photographer for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and leader of The Southern Documentary Project in Alabama and Mississippi in the 1960s. The talk is free and open to the public.
March 27-28, 7 p.m.: ArtRage will host the Paul Robeson Performing Arts Company presentation of “Legend,” which features the poetry of renowned black authors, including Pearl Cleage, Sonia Sanchez and others. The play explores issues of redemption, revolution and collective activism in the African American community. In the spirit of Selma, the play directed by Ryan Hope Travis charges communities to use unity and compassion to spark social change.
For more information on attending events and participating in “race.place.being,” visit oswego.edu/race-place-being. For ArtRage Gallery, navigate to artragegallery.org
Syracuse Stage’s website is syracusestage.org. Information about SUNY Oswego Metro Center in Syracuse may be found at oswego.edu/metro