Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Brooklyn Museum Panthers Panel March 19, 2016

"The Role of Culture in Social Change" an inter-generational  conversation” was held at the Brooklyn Museum on Sunday March 20th. Presented were Kathleen Cleaver,  law professor and former Communications Secretary for the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense; Monica Dennis, NY organizer for Black Lives Matter; Professor Jamal Joseph, filmmaker, author and professor at Columbia University, and  the youngest member of the Panther 21; Carmen Perez, Executive Director of the Justice League; and Laura Whitehorn,  an organizer for the Release Aging People in Prison Project (RAPP) and former member of the Weather Underground. Moderator: Soffiyah Elijah, Executive Director of the Correctional Association.

At the conclusion questions were taken. As AAAC director I took the opportunity to ask a question given the Peter Liang/Akai Gurley issue. To paraphrase what I said or should have said if time allowed:

My question is on culture, cultural activism.
I was with IWK, I Wor Kuen*, sister organization to The Young Lords in 1969. To the former Black Panthers here, and White Allies in support, I express my gratitude for your devotion to your community, and the courage of your actions. To many in the Asian American Movement it is recognized the debt we owe you for inspiring us, and demonstrating how we could help our community. It is conceivable the Asian American Movement would not be what it is today were it not for your actions. I thank you.

I was also with Basement Workshop, the seminal arts organization at the beginnings of the Asian American Movement. For decades now my wife and I continue with  community cultural work. So many friends have developed their activism in social services, education, health, electorial  politics. The Movement has evolved. Yet few grasp why I work with artists.

I’ve heard Black Lives Matter, when asked where is their policy stance, or a draft of the bills they might propose, in response they have said such proposals and laws wont change hearts, where real change matters.

One of the exhibitions we did was called Ancestors**: a collaboration with Kenkeleba House in 1995. Its theme was the historical ties between African and Asian Americans. Acknowledging the rites and beliefs of diverse people permeate society, we wrote  “…we recognize the wealth of our heritage as Americans and encourage the act of paying homage to all the Ancestors of this Land” Twenty four artists were presented, many of them biracial. Howardena Pindell, Simone Leigh, Lily Yeh and Faith Ringgold were among them. One goal was to collect and document those historical ties, stories of the relationships between Asian and African Americans, stories like that of Lotus Do and Aukram Burton in Boston with artist Allan Crite. We did this and are still open to gather more. Prof. Burton in Louisville was ready to help gather these materials. However funding was not forthcoming to continue the project.

Given the current issue of Peter Liang and Akai Gurley, my question has to do with culture and the relations between African and Asian Americans – can you please speak to this. 
In reply several past approaches and projects were mentioned including the leadership of Yuri Kochiyama.

Note: One of the artists exhibited maternal grandfather was Howard Thurman, a theologian who founded the Fellowship Church of All Nations in the 1940s, a predecessor to Glide Memorial Church where poet Janice Mirikitani with her husband, Reverend Cecil Williams enabled, I understand, the congregation – composed of Blacks and Japanese Americans, to save their property and belongings after Pearl Harbor before leaving to the Internment Camps by transferring these to fellow parishioners.  Dr. Thurman himself went to India where he met Mahatma Gandhi.  He taught the young Martin Luther King, Jr. at Moorehouse University and influenced him with his introduction to the teachings of Non-Violence.  
* Righteous Harmonious Fist

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Wednesday, March 9, 2016
Martin Wong Exhibition Tour


Saturday March 12th 1pm-3pm
 "Blue Voices", Martin Wong

Join us for an exhibition tour of Bronx Museum's extensive solo exhibition of Martin Wong’s art titled, “Human Instamatic”! 

Lead by Robert Lee, this will be the last week you can see it! 

$10, (free for high school and college students with ID). 

Special intro for those unfamiliar with fine art/Asian American art.

See for directions:

If coming from Chinatown take the D train to 167 St, walk two blocks south to 1040 Grand Concourse/ the Bronx Museum. (45min ride)


From an Asian American perspective, it is important to appreciate and recognize the qualities Martin Wong enables Americans and Asian Americans themselves to see and recognize Asian values interfacing into our American culture. 

In his own way, Martin’s ethos is similar to Teh Ching Hsieh's profound expansive humanity. Teh Ching, whose several one year performances immediately made him an internationally important artist. The whole top floor of the Guggenheim Museum in 2009 The Third Mind exhibition was filled with just one of his one year performances - a worker punching time clock cards, every hour every day for one year. Martin's sense of compassion is related to this work.    

As Chinese Martial Arts teachings council, be mindful of the heavens in your posture (Martin's paintings often show the pattern of the stars) with feet squarely on the earth (earthen pottery initiates his career & continues with earthen pigments throughout his career) in this way connecting heaven and earth – a scholarly virtue. 

His paintings are covered with his own varied scripts, claiming his relation, in this way, to China's painting traditions. His paintings are rooted in his poetic spirit revealed in his early calligraphic poetry scrolls (See PPOW's website An Asian sensibility unleashed in the heart of the inner city, his visual poetry critiques US jails, ghettos, shuttered lives, that turn Sky into bricks, so lovingly painted. With his feet squarely on the earth (earthen pottery initiates his career; continues with earthen pigments) and his written scripts and star patterns in the sky, his connection to heaven and earth he is always mindful. Bricks are clearly his own Zen practice. Even his painting in bricks of a monumental penis is an Asian tradition - you can find circular stone trays of water fountains throughout China with a large stone erect motif as a central structure.  

Sad that his Asian faces are only mass media tropes, with none of the tenderness he renders in brown faces. Except of course, for his own and his parents, whose faces can be seen in a painting of a laundry storefront.  Some of his own portraits take part in Asian grotesqueries, however Pop.

Martin studied pottery in college, so his painting skill may be self taught. In that sense he could be termed possibly an outsider artist. In 1998, a year before his death at 53, in San Francisco Martin Wong was elected grand marshal of the city’s Chinese New Year Parade. Like his firemen so well equipped rendered as heroes, Martin Wong is himself a hero in painting the inner world of our inner cities in praise of what he saw there – its deep humanity.

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