My family lived in the part of Birmingham called “Dynamite Hill.” It is where the Klu Klux Klan dynamited houses belonging to civil rights leaders, and others who were challenging Jim Crow Laws.
I went back to school after I was an established artist to get credentials. When God gives you raw talent and you start to see more that can be associated with that talent, we must do as much as we can with that talent.
All the pieces in the exhibit were handpicked. I did studio visits. I had long conversations with the artists to make sure that I am representing them the way that they want to be represented. I want to show as much of the evolution of their work as possible.
The radical civil rights movement was founded and organized by white folks (the Quakers). The book “CORE the philosophy of the Civil Rights Movement”, by Elliot Rudwick traces how he got involved. He followed the white folks (Quakers). There has always been a black movement outside of that. The first black in CORE was James Farmer.
This wall is rich in history and can cause us to be exposed to much of the history and culture that we might not know existed.
We focus on the positive, activism, and uplifting the people. We focus on what makes the African American experience beautiful and wonderful, and sometimes ugly and horrible too.
I did not know about the Tuskegee Airmen until I got out of the military. I found out about them by meeting a few of the Tuskegee Airmen. From what I hear they didn’t lose any of the planes that they were guarding.
They asked for volunteers to try out for Airborne. Everyone’s first reaction was, “we don’t want to jump out of no planes”. We were told that it was an extra $55 per month in pay. When I heard that I said, “What the heck I’ll try. It is something different”. About 480 of us went to jump school; but only 125 passed.
I served in the Airforce from 1954 to 1974. I was a ground radio operator. Stateside I worked air ground traffic talking to airplanes. Overseas in Vietnam I was in SAC. I worked U2s (Lockheed U-2. A single jet engine aircraft).
The artists of the Harlem Renaissance pushed past the negative things to capture the positive productive aspects of life. They set the foundation for many of the artists today. The arts seemed to connect, the music, the paintings, the books, the sculptures, and dancing.
I really must pay homage to those who came before me. That is the reason I was excited to participate in this event today. It is a way to honor all those writers and poets in the Harlem Renaissance.