The 4-weekend (September 20-October 12) Bed-Stuy art exhibition is called “Funk, God, Jazz, and Medicine: Black Radical Brooklyn” (quite the title, don’t you think?), and it’s presented by Creative Time and Weeksville Heritage Center. In addition to new work by Mr Young, the project will also include works from other artists: Xenobia Bailey, Simone Leigh, and Otabenga Jones & Associates.
Full, juicy details on the event via press release below. I’ll see you there:
Creative Time and Weeksville Heritage Center have joined forces to pair four artists in collaboration with
four community partners for Funk, God, Jazz, and Medicine: Black Radical Brooklyn, a walkable
month-long art exhibition that reveals 150 years of local Black self-determination in Brooklyn’s Bedford
Stuyvesant and Crown Heights neighborhoods. Beginning September 20, artists Xenobia Bailey, Simone
Leigh, Otabenga Jones & Associates, and Bradford Young will debut site-specific works that engage
hidden Black histories at a school, medical clinic, jazz consortium, and church around the historic
Weeksville grounds at 158 Buffalo Avenue and Bergen Street.
Creative Time Chief Curator Nato Thompson says, “Creative Time is proud to be working alongside
Weeksville Heritage Center to realize Black Radical Brooklyn, a socially engaged art project that not only
talks about race, geography, and history, but also works with organizations who have historically
positioned themselves in a conscious relationship to questions of self-determination in this
Black Radical Brooklyn launches from the site of Weeksville, a Brooklyn community established by free
and formerly enslaved Black citizens 11 years after abolition. Black investors and abolitionists including
founder James Weeks grew this intentional community to more than 500 households that leveraged their
property-owning status for the right to vote. Black Radical Brooklyn draws inspiration not only from this
story— achieving self-determination through claiming and holding a neighborhood—but also from
radical local battles for land and dignity from the 1960s to today.
“Weeksville was a model for empowerment through community building. This progressive neighborhood
was built up, fought for, and preserved by people working together,” says Weeksville Heritage Center
Public Progams Curator Rylee Eterginoso. “Weeksville Heritage Center plays a critical role as custodian
of a crucial, compelling, yet almost forgotten history. In a space recognized for its radical acts of self-
determination initiated by James Weeks and echoed by Joan Maynard, the citizens of Weeksville have
successfully preserved this history while confronting and resisting a constant threat of erasure through
Independent curator Rashida Bumbray adds, “By engaging the issue of Brooklyn as a contested
landscape through the lens of these three critical historical moments—the 1840s abolition and
emancipation era, the 1960s civil rights and Black Power movements, and our contemporary moment—
these amazing artists in collaboration with their community partners help us all to imagine the future with
a historical context in place. I am very pleased to be working with Creative Time and Weeksville Heritage
Center on this important initiative, one that is bound to change the conversation about self-
determination in the future of Crown Heights and Bedford Stuyvesant as well as their national and global
Black Radical Brooklyn is to be experienced on foot. A curated walk over an eight-block radius in Crown
Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant (Bed-Stuy) will reveal artworks that echo stories and sites of Black self-
determination. A guide map with information about these sites, the art projects, artists, partner
organizations, wheelchair access, and more will be available at the site of each artwork and on the
Creative Time website, at www.creativetime.org/blackradicalbrooklyn. The commissioned art
projects are as follows:
FUNK: Xenobia Bailey in collaboration with Boys & Girls High School
Project Title: Century 21: Bed-Stuy Rhapsody in Design: A Reconstruction Urban Remix in the
Aesthetic of Funk
For three months, Xenobia Bailey collaborated with Boys & Girls High School students to design
and produce “up-cycled” furniture created in the African-American aesthetic of Funk. These
pieces will outfit one of Weeksville Heritage Center’s historic Hunterfly Road homes. By
designing home artifacts for an imaginary young artist couple living in today’s Bed-Stuy,
students engage with recycled materials while exploring how Brooklyn artisans can leverage
industrial design to support their creative dreams and self-determined financial goals.
BOYS AND GIRLS HIGH SCHOOL
Affectionately known as “The Pride and Joy of Bed-Stuy,” Boys and Girls High School (BGHS)
traces its roots back to Brooklyn’s first public high school: the Central Grammar School founded
in 1878. The current building at 1700 Fulton Street boasts an outstanding collection of artwork
by African-American artists commissioned for the school, including Ernest Crichlow and Ed
Wilson. BGHS’s significance as a site of self-determination was famously acknowledged in 1990
when Nelson Mandela visited the school just months after his release from prison. Prominent
alumni include Shirley Chisholm, Lena Horne, and jazz pianist Randy Weston.
GOD: Bradford Young in collaboration with Bethel Tabernacle AME Church
Project Title: Bynum Cutler
Award-winning cinematographer Bradford Young (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, 2013; Mother of
George, 2013; Pariah, 2011) will create 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.
BETHEL TABERNACLE AME CHURCH
Bethel Tabernacle AME Church was founded in Weeksville in 1847 and was the third African-
American church to be established in Brooklyn. Prominent members of the church included
Junius C. Morel, who wrote for the AME national newspaper The Christian Recorder, and T.
McCants Stewart. As a member of the Brooklyn School Board from 1891-94, Stewart played a
pivotal role in the establishment of Brooklyn’s first racially integrated school, PS 83, which is
currently owned by the church and located across the street at the intersection of Schenectady
Avenue and Dean Street.
JAZZ: Otabenga Jones & Associates in collaboration with Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium
Project Title: OJ Radio
Houston-based artist collective Otabenga Jones & Associates (OJA) 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.
CENTRAL BROOKLYN JAZZ CONSORTIUM
Founded in 1999, Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium (CBJC) is an amalgam of patrons,
entertainment venues, faith-based institutions, community organizations and musicians
committed to the development of audiences and the nurturing of institutions and individuals
throughout Brooklyn that specifically deal with jazz as well as other African American cultural
expressions. Over the past fifteen years CBJC has presented an annual spring festival,
established a Brooklyn Jazz Hall of Fame & MuseumTM and produced yearly programs that
feature local jazz talent. CBJC is a nonprofit corporation committed to preserving, promoting
and supporting live music within the underserved communities of Brooklyn.
MEDICINE: Simone Leigh in collaboration with Stuyvesant Mansion
Project Title: Free People’s Medical Clinic
Simone Leigh is known for an object-based, sculptural exploration of female African-American
identity, with a practice informed by African and African-American object-making. 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 celebrating the achievements of Black women in healthcare,
as well as limited homeopathic and allopathic services ranging from yoga instruction to private
medical consultations, all offered by local practitioners.