“The Supreme Court decision was only one month old when I entered prison, and I do not believe that I even had the vaguest idea of its importance or historical significance. But later …this controversy awakened me to my position in America, and I began to form a concept of what it meant to be black in white America.” –Eldridge Cleaver
In 1954, when the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed school segregation, civil rights leader Eldridge Cleaver began to write a collection of essays while serving a state prison sentence for marijuana possession.
Soul on Ice, his psychological autobiography, was first published in 1968, and gave an insightful look into the core of an incarcerated black man’s soul. Although the book is now 40 years old, Cleaver’s mindset bears similarities to those of many young African-American males today.
Cleaver was a member of the Black Panther Party, a black organization that promoted civil rights and self-defense, and that was staunchly opposed to police brutality against black people. It was most active during the mid-1960s and ‘70s.
Seeking to highlight the ties between the civil rights era and today’s struggle for African-American equality, the Old Dillard Museum presents “Soul on Ice,” an exhibit that features the work of four local contemporary artists: Addonis Parker, Wanda Paulette, Charles Humes and Winsome Bolt.
The exhibit, scheduled for the same time as the museum’s Juneteenth exhibit, is on display throughout July at the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center near Fort Lauderdale.
The exhibit’s theme, conceptualized by Parker, the featured artist, “captures the artists’ feelings on how the movement that sought freedom and justice during the ‘60s affects us today,” said Derek T. Davis, curator at the Old Dillard Museum.
Davis noted, “There was a lot of fury in the time of Cleaver, and the artists speak about the issues and the things that they see are still affecting the black communities in their pieces.”
The Old Dillard Museum, formerly known as “the Colored School,’’ was the first school in Broward County that gave African-Americans much-needed educational opportunities during segregation. Today, the Broward County School Board operates the former school site as a museum. It provides enriching exhibitions and educational opportunities to keep black history alive.
Parker, a Miami artist and studio owner who received the 2007 Van Guard Award from Dade County Parks and Recreation in recognition of his work, said, “I came up with the theme ‘Soul on Ice’ to cause electricity and sparks. I wanted it to be catchy and I felt that it was a name geared towards our advancement in the African Diaspora.”
Parker continued, “The exhibition is about liberation, empowerment and respect for the riches of our souls and creativity.”
The piece that Parker claims is his most controversial is called “The Cure.” It touches on many issues, such as Hurricane Katrina, the veterans who are not getting proper treatment or a hero’s welcome, and the current high gas prices. It includes images of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Statue of Liberty, Parker said.
Paulette specializes in surreal art. One of her pieces at the exhibition is “Call to Remembrance,” a portrait of a baby surrounded by water who is playing the guitar. The baby is singing a song that calls her to revisit the past.
“We artists have a way of capturing those views, and my pieces connect the past with the future,’’ Paulette said. “It shows where we’ve come from as a people and attempts to find out if the drive for improvement is there, or if we’ve ‘made it.’ ”
Photo by Khary Bruyning. Addonis Parker stands next to a portrait in his Miami studio.
IF YOU GO
What: The Old Dillard Museum presents the art exhibit, “Soul on Ice”
Where: Broward County African-American Research Library and Cultural Center, 2650 Sistrunk Blvd., near Fort Lauderdale
When: Grand Opening and reception on Saturday, July 5at 3 p.m.; public exhibit runs throughout July
Contact: Derek T. Davis, 754-522-8828