Writing New Worlds a conversation between Alexis De Veaux, Walidah Imarisha and Alexis Pauline Gumbs on legacy, possibility, and the role of writers in making the future we deserve intriguing, imaginable and irresistible. This conversation was a plenary event at the Allied Media Conference, July 23rd to July 26th 2020.
“The conversation between countergenerational artists was an extraordinary defining moment during this time of global pandemics. I was deeply honored to share it with Alexis Pauline Gumbs and Walidah Imarisha”
Memory and the Archive 1619-2019 Past/Present/ Future was the theme for the 2019 Black Portraiture event held at New York University.
The Afterlife of Slavery: Visual, Textual, Sonic Arts and Archives of Catastrophic Memory featured presentations by Alexis De Veaux, University of Buffalo, Professor Emerita and Independent Scholar, Cheryl Clarke, Poet and Jenna Wortham, The New York Times Magazine
The panel, “‘The Afterlife of Slavery:’ Visual, Textual, Sonic Arts and Archives of Catastrophic Memory” is set against the backdrop of Saidiya Hartman’s articulation of “the afterlife of slavery” as the enduring calculus imperiling present-day black life. This focus is nourished by Kara Walker’s visual and sonic reading of domestic slavery in the United States as indicative of “a Catastrophe for millions.” Thus the panel forwards critical discussions of visual, textual, and sonic works by black artists engaged, across time, with the practice of re-rendering and re-imagining the impact of transatlantic enslavement as a catastrophic archive of persistent black memory.
Alexis De Veaux, Professor Emerita/ Independent Scholar will offer a critical reading of visual artist Valerie Maynard’s “un-named” spectral series of visual renderings of the Middle Passage as a “lost” archive of both catastrophic memory and catastrophic belonging, ‘Lost Found: Catastrophe and Memory in the Work of Valerie Maynard’. This paper offers a critical reading of the iconic visual artist Valerie Maynard’s “un-named” spectral series of visual renderings of the Middle Passage as a “lost” archive of both catastrophic memory and catastrophic belonging.
In “One,” the artist draws our attention to a barrier, a gate like structure, that symbolizes this ancestral enslavement. And she draws attention to three figures foregrounded against it. With them, she informs our memory of what enslavement did. Enslavement turned captured Africans, humans, into hybrid creatures. It denied and brutalized their humanity, without question. It deformed and dismembered them. Maynard narrates this hybridity, framed by abject brutalization, in two small figures, especially.
Cheryl Clarke will explore the poetry of Natasha Tretheway as Tretheway’s work memorializes slavery by historicizing its “everlasting” effects on black culture and subjectivity. “there to here” Natasha Tretheway’s poem, “Theories of Time and Space,” from her celebrated Native Guard (2006), exposes the poet’s approach to poeticizing historical portraits and paintings (ekphrastic) of black people, specifically mixed race black women, in captivity or various forms of oppressive servitude, including prostitution. In Bellocq’s Ophelia (2002) and Thrall (2012), Tretheway’s getting from “here” (author stance) to “there” (subject/ “Participant”) is historical and personal distance, i.e.; it is the interstices of space, “the space of space.” The cover art of both works utilize reproductions of photographs and “Casta” paintings; and images of prostitutes, metstizos, and mulattoes, pose themselves (and us) for her narrative portraiture. Tretheway sees the camera, photography, and portraiture as one of history’s tricks, with its pandering to our willingness to be fooled, its fixing of the past in the present, and its fragility. “This past week I splurged, spent a little of my savings on a Kodak . . . .” (Bellocq’s Ophelia, 28), says the speaker, Ophelia, marking the democratization of the archive. This paper hopes to travel the poet’s distance from “there to here” in the space of slavery’s afterlife.
Jenna Wortham will make a case for examining the processes inherent to black archives primarily as opportunities to resist the ephemerality of social media and digital transactions, in order to preserve and create a blueprint for engaging the black “present” in a “future” situated in the black “past.”
AFP 2019: Engage for Change, Buffalo State College’s 11th annual Anne Frank Project social justice festival, was held this week, featuring author and activist Alexis De Veaux, distinguished speaker in the Buffalo State College Paul G. Bulger Lecture Series, who kicked off the event Tuesday evening.
Dr De Veaux’s keynote “What IF: Imagination as Engaged Action” was received with a standing ovation from a full auditorium of students, faculty and guests.
“What if “race” and racism as human life has constructed them, were done away with? Imagined out of existence? What if we could agree tonight, right here, right now, without need to argue the point, that racism and white supremacy are, as Toni Morrison suggested, indicative of “a profound neurosis.” What if we had a way to imagine our intraspecies health. What if we dispensed with the notion of ourselves as “allies” to social movements, and became accomplices. Became risking something rather than sidelines. “
Dr Alexis De Veaux’s lecture “What If: Imagination as Engaged Action” was incredible! She was introduced by Katherine S. Conway Turner, the President of Buffalo State, SUNY, who is herself a dynamic scholar, teacher, and administrator. Here are some of the gems: “Imagination is the bloodstream to the vernaculars of freedom and love.” “Life is not about what I cannot do, but about what I want to do.” — “The opposite of poverty is justice.” —“Freedom and love are doing words. They are “We” forming and “We” sustaining.” — “Every movement for change started in someone’s imagination” — Citing @alexispauline’s #MArchive “Freedom is not a secret, it’s a practice.” — She also shared some of the wisdom from the Revival we participated in last weekend in Durham in celebration of our dear and beloved @sangodarejroxwallace. — I am so grateful for Alexis De Veaux and all my queer Black Feminist elders. For her queer Black Feminist brilliance. For her activism and art. For her queer Black Feminist elder-ing. For her legacy here in Buffalo and everywhere she calls home as a “multi-local” person. For the wisdom she shares with all. What a gift and an example of fortitude in the work of the possible!
On Wednesday 2nd October, Dr De Veaux facilitated a workshop “Activate Peace” which was again a full house with mainly students, and some faculty and administrative staff attending.
In Celebration of the 60th anniversary of Lorraine Hansberry’s, A Raisin in the Sun, we welcome you to join us at Ashé Powerhouse Theatre—in conjunction with a production by Voices in the Dark—for a Symposium celebrating the tremendous contributions of Lorraine Hansberry and Black women writers everywhere.
This symposium will include a screening of Tracy Heather Strain’s documentary, Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart.
Alexis De Veaux is joined by four award winning authors, performers, activists and scholars in a panel discussion and literary reading.