George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police on May 25, 2020, was a stone dropping into a pond the size of a planet. Waves of fury, outrage, violence, grief, protest, resistance, calls to defund the police, calls for the end of white supremacy, demands for systemic change and a long overdue racial reckoning rippled around the globe.
It started here and it’s not over yet. The world is watching the Derek Chauvin trial. For many of us, life will never be the same.
The Westminster Town Hall Forum, Minnesota’s longest-running, most prestigious speakers’ series, wants to explore this further. From May 4 through May 25, the anniversary of Floyd’s death, the Forum will present a series of four weekly talks called “The Arc Toward Justice: Taking Stock One Year After George Floyd’s Death.” All four will be free and viewable by anyone, with no registration required.
Tane Danger has been the Forum’s director since late November 2020. “The eyes of the world are on Minneapolis this spring,” he said in a statement. “What progress have we made toward racial justice since the tragedy of George Floyd’s killing? Where must we go? Those are some of the questions we hope our speakers will talk about.”
The series will launch at noon on Tuesday, May 4, with Jelani Cobb’s “Policing, Protest, and Power.” Cobb is an award-winning writer for the New Yorker on issues of race, history, justice and politics. “Policing the Police 202,” his documentary for PBS’ “Frontline,” examined the complexities and realities of race and policing in America.
Tuesday, May 11, will bring the Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III and “Life, Liberation, and Community.” Moss is senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, where he addresses mass incarceration, environmental justice and economic inequality from the pulpit. He led the team that came up with the “My Life Matters” curriculum and its viral video “Get Home Safely: 10 Rules of Survival,” created after Michael Brown’s death at the hands of police.
On Tuesday, May 18, Deborah Archer will present “Race, Civil Rights, and the Law.” In January, Archer was elected the first Black president of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). She is a professor of clinical law at the NYU School of Law and faculty director of its Center on Race, Inequality and the Law.
And finally, on May 25, Angela Harrelson, Paris Stevens and Ben Crump will speak on “Changing the World, One Year Later.” Harrelson was Floyd’s aunt, Stevens his cousin. Crump leads the family’s legal team. Floyd had moved to Minneapolis after his mother died to be closer to Harrelson and build a new life.
Forum talks are usually broadcast live on the Forum’s website and Facebook page and MPR News. In a departure, the four talks in “The Arc Toward Justice” series will be prerecorded shortly before their air dates. All will be rebroadcast by MPR and permanently archived on the Forum’s website for on-demand viewing.
Forum talks have traditionally taken questions from audience members. So will these, but you’ll need to submit your questions in advance. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a voicemail at 612-584-9843. Questions for Cobb and Moss are due by April 26; for Archer by May 4; and for Harrelson, Stevens and Crump by May 11.
V is for virtual, L is for live and in person.
V Tonight (Thursday, April 8), 7 p.m.: Twin Cities Jazz Festival: Jazz Fest Live: Mac Santiago Quartet. Livestreaming from the Dakota’s stage, the co-founder and director of Jazz Central Studios will lead his band in a night of jazz, with maybe some rock, salsa, country, blues and/or R&B thrown in, because he plays those, too. Santiago on drums will be joined by Dale Alexander on piano, Billy Peterson on bass and Aaron Hedenstrom on saxophone. On Crowdcast (registration required, but once you sign up, they remember you) and Facebook.
V Tonight (Thursday, April 8), 7:30 p.m.: Cowles Center: Ballet Co.Laboratory: “Freddie – Break Free: A Ballet in the Making.” Ballet Co.Laboratory is working on a new rock ballet about Freddie Mercury, to be set to live music by the Queen tribute band Ready Freddie. God willing, we’ll see it live in spring 2022. Meanwhile, this behind-the-scenes documentary, filmed before COVID came to town, includes rehearsal footage, interviews with artists and more. Free with registration. (Registration ends at 5:30 p.m. Thursday.)
V Friday (April 9), 8 p.m. on TPT-2: American Masters: “Oliver Sacks: His Own Life.” We loved this film when we saw it in September at MSP Film’s Virtual Cinema and plan to watch it again. Here’s what we wrote back then, and we wouldn’t change a thing: “Ric Burns’ new film explores the life and work of the legendary neurologist and storyteller, author of Awakenings,’ ‘The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat’ and ‘Musicophilia,’ among others. It features exclusive interviews with Sacks conducted just weeks after he received a terminal diagnosis and months prior to his death in August 2015, plus many personal interviews with family members, colleagues, patients and close friends – including Bill Hayes, the man with whom Sacks fell in love at age 75.” TPT-2 will show it again at 2 a.m. Saturday morning. Here’s a preview and more information.
V Friday through Sunday, April 9-11: Cantus: “Fields of Wonder.” The men’s vocal ensemble continues its virtual Hometown Series with a concert that explores the interplay between poet/lyricist and composer. And it’s all music by Black composers. Anchored by the title work, “Fields of Wonder,” a newly rediscovered song cycle by Margaret Bonds set to the poetry of Langston Hughes, it also includes Rosephanye Powell’s “When We Sing” (written for Cantus in 2014), Ysaye M. Barnwell’s “Tango With God,” “Renmen Renmen” by Sydney Guillaume, and more. Streaming on demand from Friday at 7:30 p.m. until Sunday at 7:30 p.m., “Fields of Wonder” was recorded live at the Ordway Concert Hall after a period of quarantine and isolation, which has been Cantus’ modus operandi since the pandemic began – and one that has kept them singing together for all these months. FMI and tickets (pay-what-you-can from $5-20).
L Opens Saturday, April 10, 5-9 p.m.: Gamut Gallery: MPLSART Sketchbook Project Exhibition. From July through December 2020, artists all over the Twin Cities contributed to five traveling sketchbooks. Eventually, they contained 120 original works by 68 artists, some prominent, some emerging. A limited-edition book based on the sketchbooks – aka a survey of our visual arts community in a historic time – has met its Kickstarter goal and will be published by MPLSART.COM. Gamut’s show will feature new original works by 35 of the artists included in the book. The original sketchbooks will also be on display. Timed tickets are required for 45-minute reserved tour sessions, 10 visitors per tour. FMI and tickets ($7). The show continues through May 8.
V Saturday, April 10, 8 p.m.: The SPCO: “Sounds From Home.” Livestreaming from the stage of the Ordway Concert Hall, this program will begin with the world premiere of Chinese American composer Chen Yi’s “Elegy for Solo Oboe,” written for SPCO principal oboe Cassie Pilgrim. It will also include Dvorák’s “American” string quartet and music by Florence Price, John Novacek, James Lee III and PaviElle French, who will perform her original song “Save a Place for Me” on piano and vocals. This concert will be rebroadcast on Thursday, April 15, at 7 p.m. View at the SPCO’s Concert Library.
P.S. Tonight at 7 p.m., your intrepid arts reporter will speak with Sarah Bellamy, the artistic director of Penumbra Theatre, as part of the MinnPost Festival taking place this week. Tune in to learn more about her vision of the Penumbra as a center for racial healing. Festival passes are pay-what-you-can, including free.