"Black History Month 2012"
MIAMI — Whether their ancestors experienced the tragic transatlantic slave trade or not, Americans of African descent are as varied as folks from Cleveland or Jamaica, Haiti or Brazil or Trinidad.
February’s 28-day Black History Month is not enough time to recall the significant contributions of the African Diaspora to the development of Americas, particularly as it relates to the cultural arena.
The strong pool of people enhancing the arts’ viability, cultural experience, educational resources and community development for the diaspora in South Florida and internationally include Jamaican nationals Rosie Gordon-Wallace, director and curator of the Diaspora Vibe Arts Cultural Incubator, and Neil Hall, architect, designer, cultural activist and founder of the Urban Collective.
Gordon-Wallace, one of the most respected gallery curators and directors in the southeast United States, wants to make sure there is legacy. For her, connecting people of the diaspora is deeply personal.
EYES ON CARIBBEAN
“The gallery and incubator space has transitioned to a virtual space, yet remains intimate and gives artists the same power of collaboration around the globe,” she says of her facility at 686 N.E. 56th St. in Miami. “It allows artists to create and express things that are important intelligently.”
There is a sense of urgency to reach artists of the diaspora and to prepare them for shifts in arts and cultural movements. “Every step and pilgrimage we take as immigrants and artists should be documented, because we continue forward from our ancestors,” she said. “That is a great responsibility.”
Her intention is to support underserved artists. “The Incubator is a catalyst to their thoughts, ideas, and offers support by providing a dais they can present from.”
She wants artists of the Diaspora to know her eyes are on the Caribbean and that someone has their back inside and outside the U.S., providing a platform as she has in France, London, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Martinique, St. Martin, Aruba, Grenada, St. Kitts and Puerto Rico, working with such artists as Jacquenntte Arnette, Wura Ogunji, Ayanna Jolivet Mccloud, Juana Valdes, Antonius Roberts, John Cox, Toby Lunn, Jason Bennett, Marc Jean Louis and Andree Ferdinand.
“The Diaspora Vibe Arts Cultural Incubator provides an important base for what could otherwise become scattered movement. What I hope to garner is an indelible imprint for generations to come.
Says Hall, founder of the Urban Collective llocated at 3246 N. Miami Ave, in Miami. “My first and foremost concern is with all things African and I have purposely set out to transform community and the art and cultural landscape of South Florida with a heavy concentration on developing and branding by artists of the diaspora.”
ALL THINGS AFRICAN
He adds, “I have a complete love affair with all things that are African in nature. When you have a love affair with something or someone, you tend to pay more attention to it.”
This is reflected in his profession of architecture and design and as a cultural activist, deeply involved with community development through the art. His eye is on redeveloping Overtown, Liberty City, Wynwood and the Design District with a very distinct African feel, a place to call home away from the diaspora’s ancestrial home, Africa.
“I am simply fascinated with the depth and breadth of our history,” Hall says.
“Communities transform the psyche and as an architect and designer, I strive to show how the African-American community can take control over their environment. If as an architect and designer I can dream, so can regular folk about the communities they want to live in and be a part of, and I have decidedly committed to doing so.”
His stance is to prove as an artist of the diaspora that “I can design architecture for African-American culture.” Enter the Urban Collective, which ties directly into the movement.
Africans are intrinsically creative people, they say, who rather than be ashamed of what we are as a people, should celebrate regardless of how enslaved we once were as a people.