Artist: Manuel Couceiro Prado

Manuel Couceiro Prado was a painter and the founder of the Grupo Antillano (1978-1983), a group of Cuban artists who were trying to establish the African and Caribbean context of Cuban national identity. He was radicalized against Batista in 1952 and was a founding member of the July 26th Movement.

As a post cuban revolutionary artist, Prado channels the instability of his times into his artwork. This can be seen In his work Untitled, where life like figures are exaggerated into each other, founding a feeling of insecurity.

Examine Prado’s artwork and  check out the award-winning documentary Black and Cuba. The film provides much needed information on the Cuban Revolution, which has shaped and influenced Prado’s artwork. Knowledge on the Cuban revolution is vital to understanding his works of art.

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Above, to the left is the oil on canvas painting “Untitled” / “Sin título” (Manuel Couceiro, Untitled / Sin título, oil on canvas, 107 x 152 cm., ca. 1970.)

To the right is the artist Manuel Couceiro Prado.

Can a Documentary Change the World?

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Black and Cuba director Robin J. Hayes discusses “Socially Engaged Art as a Tool for Social Justice” at UnionDocs Socially Engaged Documentary Art Seminar Sunday June 21, 2015 10:30am 322 Union Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11211. For filmmakers, artists and cultural producers, the seminar offers vital information about the theory and practice of documentary making with a purpose. Tell them Progressive Pupil sent you and get 20% off conference registration with promocode SEDA15. Learn more at http://www.uniondocs.org/socially-engaged-documentary-art/.  Share with a friend who wants to make films for their communities.

All the World’s Futures

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From Urban Requiem, 2015 by Barthélémy Tuguo Cameroon at the Venice Biennale

Saluti dall’Italia! Greetings from Italy!

I hope you’ll join me in congratulating two new alumni of the New Leaders for Social Change program—Xiomara Pedraza and Justyn Richardson—who both earned their Master’s degrees in Urban Policy from The New School last week. During their time with Progressive Pupil, Xiomara and Justyn have blossomed from exceptionally intelligent and dedicated youth to experienced resourceful professionals. Although their time in our office has ended, their careers as social justice advocates are just commencing.  I look forward to the impactful things they will accomplish in their work as social justice advocates.

I am currently attending the 2nd NYU Black Portraitures Conference in Florence—convened by Henry Louis Gates, Thelma Golden, Deborah Willis, and Cheryl Finley among others—which focuses on “imaging the Black body” and “re-staging history.”  Given these themes, it is especially fitting that I will be giving a presentation about portraits of Black radicalism in Black and Cuba this Sunday.

Making Black studies for everybody requires creating fresh, empowering images of not only Black bodies, but of Black life and history.  It also requires re-staging history so that it can be seen from the perspective of communities who have struggled to be seen as human and heard as citizens.

Earlier this week I was fortunate to see the “All the Worlds Futures” exhibition at the Venice Biennale.   This year is the first time in history an African artist—Okwui Enwezor—has curated the exhibition and that 25% of the artists exhibiting have been Black.  The diverse, explicitly political work on display revealed that there is a global and vocal chorus of artists, activists, teachers, and allies who have a clear vision of the world’s futures—which include an end to exploitation and marginalization for everyone. I’ve posted some highlights of the exhibition, including work by Jason Moran, on my instagram @robinjhayes.

Yours in Solidarity and Ciao,

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Robin J. Hayes

Principal Organizer, Progressive Pupil

Director, Black and Cuba [Available on Vimeo on Demand and DVD]

Strong Hearts, Weak Perceptions

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Confronting a particular idea within the African Diaspora can be problematic in many ways. While certain concepts and themes are communicated across the wide and diverse scope of writers, which have enriched the continent with intuitive and poignant works, there always runs a risk of coming across as reductive and assimilative. In mingling several identities into one collective, which parts of the West continue to do, some may fail to recognize Africa as a continent composed of several unique societies rather than one country. While several artists across the diaspora have embraced a strong sense of African unity and solidarity in revolt against colonialism and forged an identity, ideas of self-image on a micro scale continue to be problematic, not only within international boundaries, but regional ones as well. Particularly for women, ideals of feminism and liberation are suddenly divided by preconceived notions of race and class, an issue which is extremely present today in the Western hemisphere. This is particularly crucial in Assia Djebar’s renowned work, Women of Algiers in their Apartment, as notions of gender, nationalism, and othering become focal points of contemplation for the female protagonists.

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Capturing Puerto Rico: a “Nation on the Move”

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Those who study Puerto Rico are familiar with the phrase La nación en vaivén (Nation on the move). This phrase described the Puerto Rican diaspora, how Puerto Ricans would move “back and forth” between the Caribbean island, the United States and elsewhere.
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Icon: Bola De Nieve

The song in this video is an AfroCuban lullaby called “Drume Negrita.” In the song, an AfroCuban mother is trying to sing her baby daughter to sleep. She tells her baby that if she goes to sleep, she’ll buy her a new crib with a cap on it and a bell. I heard this song a lot growing up; when my father was feeling especially nostalgic for home he would sing “Drume Negrita” to himself. In an effort to connect his kids to their culture, he would share little bits of information about the song with us from time to time to help us understand its cultural significance. Like the fact that pronunciation in the song was bit different from standard Spanish because it was sung in an AfroCuban dialect—so “Duermes” turned into “Drume.”

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Icon: Amiri Baraka

Photo Courtesy of The Poetry Foundation

Photo Courtesy of The Poetry Foundation

Are artists obligated to be activists? For Amiri Baraka, the answer was yes. Baraka, born Everett LeRoi Jones in 1934, first became known for establishing the Black arts movement in the mid 1960s. He imagined the movement as an attempt to be Black in form, accessible to Black people, and so effective it could be used as a weapon against racism. In further support of this movement he set up the Black Arts Repertory Theatre/School (BARTS) in Harlem with an aim at advancing the Cultural Revolution.

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Looking for Langston

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The man on the right is Ben Ellison, Langston Hughes, and the man on the right is his boyfriend Mathew Baidoo. From the movie “Looking for Langston,” 1989.

Is freedom merely enough? That was a question for most Black people in the United States in 19th and 20th centuries. Harlem had become the destination for most African Americans in the early 1900s. They were looking to find a way to achieve equality and civil rights. With a stronger community in Harlem, Black residents started a movement in 1910 to fight for their American rights. Uniquely, this movement was inspired by various works by Black artists: Three Plays for a Negro Theater, Claude McKay’s If We Must Die, poems by Langston Hughes, and others.

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Glossary: AfroFuturism

1974 poster for "Space is the Place" starring the Legendary Sun Ra. Photo Courtesy of Getty Images

1974 poster for “Space is the Place” starring the Legendary Sun Ra. Photo Courtesy of Getty Images

What is Afrofuturism?

In 1909 Filipo Tommaso Marinetti launched the Italian Futurist movement in his Futurist Manifesto. Among its many principles, FT Marinetti and his fellow futurists sought to make people producers of their society rather than just consumers. They were obsessed with the idea of stretching the imagination, robots, technology and war. They wanted to destroy libraries, schools, museums, and all history in hopes that society would cleanse itself.

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Black Resistance Screening List: “Shoot The Messenger”

Still from "Shoot The Messenger" Film. Photo Courtesy of BBC

Watch “Shoot The Messenger” Film

Shoot the Messenger is a BBC film written by Sharon Foster and directed by Ngozi Onwurah. The film aired in 2006, receiving a mixed reception. The film is an extremely provocative story that follows a young Black man in his own experience with racial self-hatred. It is clear that the filmmakers consider negative stereotypes a realistic hurdle to be crossed and shamelessly embrace them. However, if the satirically negative outlook of the film can be tolerated, there may be some worthwhile messages to absorb, including an analysis of the prison system in the U.K. and its treatment of Black citizens.

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