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Talks | Film

Essex Hemphill: Remembering and Reimagining

Thu, May 9, 2019
  • 7PM
+  Discussion: 1hr 30min and Screening: 96min
May 2019
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Thursday May 09, 2019
Performances no longer available.

Co-presented by BAM and PEN America Part of PEN World Voices Festival

With Timothy DuWhite, Michelle Parkerson and Ni’Ja Whitson
In conversation with Darnell L. Moore

Proud, provocative, and uncompromising poet and activist Essex Hemphill gave voice to the experiences of black gay men during the 1980s and 90s. He used verse and performance to inspire a generation of artists, activists, and readers, exploring the interplay of race, identity, and politics during the rise of AIDS. His collaboration with activist and writer Joseph Beam on the 1991 literary anthology Brother to Brother continues to resonate today.

Several of today's leading artists, writers, and poets convene for an evening to pay tribute to Hemphill’s work and influence. First, writer Darnell L. Moore hosts a panel discussion featuring Timothy DuWhite, Michelle Parkerson and Ni’Ja Whitson, reflecting on how Hemphill’s work has reverberated across the decades and how his legacy has influenced activist artists from the 1980s through the present.

After a short break, we present a screening of Black Is…Black Ain’t (1994), a study of the definitions of “blackness” that African-Americans impose on each other, and Anthem (1991), a hip-hop-inflected experimental short. Both films feature Hemphill and were directed by his friend and collaborator Marlon Riggs.

This program is presented as part of the PEN World Voices Festival. Hemphill’s work is also featured in Triptych (Eyes of One on Another), presented as part of the 2019 Winter/Spring Season.

Evening Schedule
7pm / 1hr 30min
8:30pm / 15min
Film Screening
8:45pm / 96min
Essex Hemphill: Remembering and Reimagining
Darnell L. Moore

Darnell L. Moore is the author of No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black and Free in America. He is currently the head of strategy and programs at Breakthrough US and was formerly editor-at-large at CASSIUS (an iOne digital platform) and senior editor at Mic. He is co-managing editor at The Feminist Wire and an editor of the Feminist Wire Books, a series of the University of Arizona Press. He is also a writer-in-residence at the Center on African American Religion, Sexual Politics, and Social Justice at Columbia University.

Essex Hemphill: Remembering and Reimagining
Michelle Parkerson

Michelle Parkerson is a writer, lecturer, and filmmaker based in Washington, DC. She has documented the lives of LGBTQ icon Audre Lorde, jazz innovator Betty Carter, acappella activists Sweet Honey in the Rock, and legendary male impersonator Storme’ DeLarverie. Her work has screened at Sundance Film Festival, the Berlin Film Festival, and AFI Fest.

Essex Hemphill: Remembering and Reimagining
Timothy DuWhite

Timothy DuWhite is a Brooklyn-based writer, poet, playwright, and performance artist who addresses issues like HIV, racism, and queerness in his work. He has performed at the Apollo Theater, Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Bowery Poetry Club, Dixon Place, La Mama, and Issue Project Room, and his writing can be found in The Rumpus, The Root, Black Youth Project, The Grio, and elsewhere. He is the program director at New York Writers Coalition and has facilitated workshops at Urban Word, the Queer Detainee Empowerment Project, Housing Works, and Rikers Island. He is currently at work on a one-man play at Dixon Place, where he is in residence.

Essex Hemphill: Remembering and Reimagining
Ni’Ja Whitson

Ni’Ja Whitson is a “Bessie” Award winning, gender nonconforming/astral transmogrifying interdisciplinary artist and writer. Through a critical intersection of gender, sexuality, race, and spirit, they engage a nexus of transdisciplinary and African diasporic performance practices in sacred and conceptual performance. Whitson created a live adaption of Marlon Riggs' Tongues Untied centralizing the collaborative work of Hemphill and Riggs, premiering at American Realness to sold out audiences.

Essex Hemphill: Remembering and Reimagining
Black Is...Black Ain't
Directed by Marlon Riggs | 1994, 87min

Having grappled with the stereotypes imposed upon black people by white America, Marlon Riggs turns his attention to another fraught issue: the definitions of “blackness” that African-Americans impose on each other. Black Is...Black Ain't weaves together poetry, commentary from scholars like Angela Davis and bell hooks, and a direct address from Riggs—filmed from his hospital bed, dying of AIDS—offering a moving call for communion among black Americans.

Essex Hemphill: Remembering and Reimagining
Directed by Marlon Riggs | 1991, 9min

“Pervert the language.” Kinetically edited in the style of a music video, this hip-hop-inflected experimental work issues a proud statement of black gay love and humanity.

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