Artists and activists convene at the U; more Marlon James

Photo by Ryutaro Mishima
Dean Moss in “johnbrown”

Penumbra’s Sarah Bellamy will be there. So will Roger Guenveur Smith, whose one-man play “Rodney King” just launched Penumbra’s 2015-16 season. And Dean Moss, whose performance piece “johnbrown” starts tonight at the Walker. And visual artist Dread Scott, whose work was once denounced by the U.S. Senate.

Bree Newsome will be there; she’s the artist who was arrested at the South Carolina statehouse on June 27 after climbing a 30-foot flagpole and removing the Confederate flag. (It was replaced that day but came down for good on July 10.) And Andrea Jenkins, artist, trans activist, Bush Leadership Fellow and senior policy aide to Minneapolis Council member Elizabeth Glidden. And Walidah Imarisha and Adrienne Maree Brown, co-editors of the anthology “Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction from Social Justice Movements.”

Photo by Mark Von Holden
Dread Scott

They’re among many who will gather Saturday at the Humphrey School’s Cowles Auditorium for “Convening: Resistance & Rebellion,” a daylong event exploring the role of art in revolution, social transformation and fighting racial injustice. Presented by the Givens Foundation for African American Literature in partnership with the Million Artist Movement, it’s a first for the 43-year-old organization known for its NOMMO African American Author series, Black Books community reading campaigns, Emerging Writers’ Mentor Program and work in the schools.

“We’re interested in going where artists and thinkers are going with their ideas,” Givens’ executive director Tana Hargest said Wednesday by phone. “If that takes the form of a book or poem, or if that takes the form of a song or a dance-based performance piece, we’re willing to go there.” Hargest, a visual artist, joined Givens last year by way of the Soap Factory, the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts in New York and other positions in arts administration and education.

Tana Hargest

“A strong throughline of our work [at Givens] is connecting people to their voice, and ensuring that the vital nature of black cultural production is well understood,” Hargest said. “Black cultural production and creativity is at the core of American culture; it is American culture. It is not the separate added spice. … Everyone is engaged with black culture, no matter their background.”

Saturday’s convening was sparked, as so much has been, by the events of August 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri, where 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer. Ever since, Hargest said, “there has been this ongoing rolling conversation among arts organizations and artists, looking at what impact and role art and artists have on movements for liberation. … We wanted to be able to bring people together to speak to that.”

The day’s schedule includes keynote conversations, panels, roundtables, workshops and breakout sessions. The goals are for people to form connections and alliances locally and nationally, to share strategies and stories, to get inspired. The entire day is open to the public; tickets are $50 and available online or at the door. You can come for all or part of the day.

Who should go? “Anyone who’s interested in equity,” Hargest said. What does she hope people will leave with? “I would love for people to walk out the door having made connections to folks who are living right there in their communities.”

***

Most of us have heard that Marlon James has won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction for his book “A Brief History of Seven Killings.” He’s the first Jamaican and the first Macalester College professor to win literature’s most prestigious prize. We’ll go out on a limb here and guess he’s the first Twin Cities resident to win it, and we’re probably safe in saying he’s the first winner with dreads.

And now we should all 1) read the book, if we haven’t already, and 2) get tickets to one of James’s Pen Pals lectures at the Hopkins Center for the Arts on Thursday, Oct. 29 (7:30 p.m.) or Friday, Oct. 30 (11 a.m.). He’ll speak on his life growing up in Jamaica and his inspirations for the novel, a fictional account of the 1976 attempt to assassinate Bob Marley. Tickets are $40-$50. An author reception after Thursday’s event is an additional $25. Buy tickets here.

If you’ve been waiting for the paperback, it will be out Monday, Oct. 19. James will be at Magers & Quinn for a launch event and reading. 7 p.m. Free.

The picks

Tonight at a movie palace near you: National Theatre Live: Benedict Cumberbatch as “Hamlet.” Cumberbatch’s casting as the Danish prince at London’s Barbican Theatre triggered a media frenzy. The Oscar-nominated, Emmy-winning film and TV star (“The Imitation Game,” “Sherlock”) has been getting rave reviews for his performance. Oh, and Ciarán Hinds (“Game of Thrones,” “Rome”) is Claudius. This will be a live broadcast. Go here, click “Buy Tickets” and enter your ZIP. 7 p.m.

Saturday at Crossings at Carnegie in Zumbrota: “John Muir: University of the Wilderness.” In this inspiring “narrative concert,” the Chance ensemble – cellist Ed Willett, vocalist Cheryl Leah, violinist Liesel Wilson and actor Thomas Clyde Mitchell – celebrate America’s most famous and influential naturalist and conservationist, the father of our national parks and founder of the Sierra Club. Muir’s own writings tell the story; Chance’s original music blends contemporary, classic and Celtic sounds in a way that brings the natural world into the concert hall. Doors at 6:30 p.m., concert at 7:30. FMI and tickets ($20/$10).

Monday at the Schubert Club Museum in the Landmark Center: Immanuel Davis and Barthold Kuijken: Wooden Flutes: 18th Century French and German Music. The silver concert flutes we know weren’t common until the mid-20th century. Before then, most flautists played wooden instruments. It’s said they produce a richer, more powerful tone than metal flutes. Hear for yourself as the Schubert Club’s Live at the Museum series opens with Belgian baroque flute virtuoso Kuijken, U of M flute professor Davis, and music by Clérembault, Hotteterre, Quantz and Telemann. Complimentary wine, sparkling water and treats. In Landmark Center Courtroom 317. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($12/$10 advance, $16 door).

Tuesday at Minneapolis Central Library: Talk of the Stacks with Arctic Voyage Leaders Cathy de Moll & Will Steger. We wanted to give you an early nudge about a special Talk of the Stacks. Officially, it’s the launch of de Moll’s new book, “Think South: How We Got Six Men and Forty Dogs Across Antarctica,” just out from Minnesota Historical Society Press. But it’s also a reunion. This is the 25th anniversary of the 1990 International Trans-Antarctica Expedition, the first and only traverse of Antarctica by dogsled. De Moll was the executive director; Minnesota native Will Steger and Frenchman Jean-Louis Etienne were its leaders. Both Steger and Etienne will join de Moll on stage. In the audience will be a number of other expedition team members from across the world, ready to tell their own stories of near misses and magical coincidences. How cool is this? It’s off the cool-o-meter. Doors at 6:15, event at 7. First-come, first-served. Free. 

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