I recently visited the California African American Museum's exhibition, No Justice, No Peace: LA 1992. Here in 2017 there's a startling symmetry: 25 years since the LA Uprising, and 50 years since the Detroit Rebellion, one of approximately 300 civil disturbances across the country that took place in the 1960s. As we prepare for the opening of our 50th anniversary commemorative exhibition, Say It Loud: Art, History, Rebellion, what struck me about the CAAM exhibit were the similarities in these histories – the marginalization of African Americans, the segregation and impoverishment of neighborhoods, the brutality of a justice system at odds with those it was sworn to serve.
Whether it's 25 or 50 years ago, important questions remain. What are the conditions that lead to rage and despair? Do we, as a society, have the fortitude necessary to confront the past? How do we, as a community, as a region, and as a society, heal?
Each question comes with an opportunity for action, for progress in the growth and renewal of our relationships with one another – individually, and collectively.
Be it 1967 or 1992 – then as in now – children grow up amidst the debris of history and wonder how things came to be. This year's commemoration marks an opportunity to engage in a process of discovery and dialogue long in need. If we don't learn from the lessons of the past, the cycle of disillusionment and despair will repeat. Instead, we must be enlightened, energized and spurred to action.
It is significant that so many organizations are marking the commemoration of the 1967 Rebellion. Developed in partnership with the Detroit Institute of Arts, The Wright's Say It Loud: Art, History, Rebellion, in tandem with its sister exhibition, Art of Rebellion: Black Art of the Civil Rights Movement, open July 23. It has been a wonderful collaboration, and will offer visitors a multilayered look at a subject fraught with historical significance. It is imperative these and the commemorative works of all of our many partner organizations reach as wide an audience as possible. The need for understanding, for acceptance, and for action is the reason for the myriad of exhibits, performances, poems, artworks, songs and stories, to be seen, heard and ingested. It's through this process that we'll come to understand our history, one another, and what meaningful action must entail.
The Wright's 50th anniversary commemoration began one year ago on July 23, 2016, with the unveiling of Kresge Eminent Artist Charles McGee's sculpture United We Stand. This was a call for unity.
Maya Angelou said: "History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again." Let us have the courage to face this history.
One year later that call, like the landmark, still stands. The time to heed its mandate and move forward is now.
President & CEO