Last week was heart wrenching. First and in close succession, were the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile at the hands of police with details broadcast through social media. Then came the killings of five police officers, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael J. Smith, Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa in Dallas. Rage, depression, frustration are running very deep.
Around the country, artists are responding. You can see a collection of visual artwork on the Huffington Post that supports #BlackLivesMatter and from Mass Appeal about how hip hop is responding to police violence.
But the fear and bigotry being stoked by political demagogues has added gasoline to the fires already burning from years of injustice. Vaguely coded hate speech has brought racism, sexism, and xenophobia out of the shadows and back into the mainstream under the excuse of a refusal to be politically correct. We need our cultural leaders now more than ever to help navigate the waters of trauma, healing, and most of all action.
In more hopeful news, last week the graduation ceremony was held for the 2015-16 class of Urban Arts Leadership Fellows. The evening featured presentations from each of the young leaders and generated much enthusiasm and optimism for the future. For example, Fellow Khadija Adell has worked over the past six months to create the exhibition, With these Hands: Artifacts of the Enslaved People at Mount Clare, in partnership with the Baltimore City Mayor's Office, The Baltimore City Department of Planning, and the Baltimore National Heritage Area. This exhibition displays artifacts from Mount Clare, a former plantation located in what is now Carroll Park in southwest Baltimore City. Archaeological investigations spanning over 30 years at this site has provided significant information about the many eras of history at Carroll Park. This exhibit at the Visitors' Center in the Inner Harbor explores Mount Clare as a black landscape, focusing on the artifacts of the enslaved people at the plantation and what these objects can tell us about their lives and beliefs, and is
Speaking of leaders, congratulations to FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture for receiving the 2016 Sondheim Prize. You can see their work along with the six other finalists at a special show now running at the Baltimore Museum of Art.