Simone Leigh, Xenobia Bailey and Otabenga Jones & Associates participate in "Funk, God, Jazz, and Medicine: Black Radical Brooklyn" co-presented by Creative Time and Weeksville Heritage Center at various venues in Brooklyn

Sep 20 2014 - Jan 01 2015


Weeksville Heritage Center
1698 Bergen Street
Brooklyn, NY




Visual Arts

 Presented by Creative Time and Weeksville Heritage Center, Funk, God, Jazz, and Medicine: Black Radical Brooklyn will include a series of diverse, community-based artist commissions, launching this fall in Brooklyn’s Bedford–Stuyvesant, Crown Heights and Weeksville neighborhoods. The project will comprise works by artists Xenobia Bailey, Simone Leigh, Otabenga Jones & Associates and Bradford Young, each of whom is collaborating with a local organization. Comprising performances, installations, and events, the commissioned works will build upon the powerful history of Weeksville—founded in 1838 as an independent free Black community and site of self-determination—as well as the larger history of Black radical Brooklyn.

For three months, Xenobia Bailey collaborated with Boys & Girls High School students to design and produce “up-cycled” furniture created in the African-American aesthetic of Funk. These pieces will outfit one of Weeksville Heritage Center’s historic Hunterfly Road homes. By designing home artifacts for an imaginary young artist couple living in today’s Bed-Stuy, students engage with recycled materials while exploring how Brooklyn artisans can leverage industrial design to support their creative dreams and self-determined financial goals.

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Houston-based artist collective Otabenga Jones & Associates (OJA) preserve and promote the core principles of the Black radical tradition, and—in the words of the late O’Shea Jackson— work to “OPEN THE EYES OF EACH!!!” The collective is collaborating with the Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium to produce a temporary outdoor radio station that will broadcast live from the back of a pink 1959 Cadillac Coupe de Ville. Broadcasts will pay tribute to former Bed-Stuy cultural center “the East,” founded in 1969 as a hub for creating cultural awareness around the Black Nationalism and pan-Africanist movements.

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Simone Leigh is known for an object-based, sculptural exploration of female African American identity, with a practice informed by ancient African and African American object-making. Her Free People’s Medical Clinic (FPMC) will engage the critical intersections of public health, racial consciousness, and women’s work as it asks viewers to consider the often-overlooked players—most especially the unknown Black women nurses, osteopaths, gynecologists, and midwives—who have overserved an underserved population for centuries. While the project name borrows from the Black Panthers’ community-based healthcare efforts in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, its gaze lingers on 19th century medical pioneers including Dr. Susan Smith McKinney Steward, the first Black woman doctor in NY State and a Weeksville resident; The United Order of Tents, a secret fraternal order of Black Women nurses founded during the Civil War; and Dr. Josephine English, the first African-American woman to have an OB/GYN practice in the state of New York, delivering all six daughters of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz. Leigh will convert the late Dr. English’s home at 375 Stuyvesant Avenue into a temporary space that explores the beauty, dignity and power of Black nurses and doctors, whose work is often hidden from view. Leigh’s FPMC will point to a larger need for dignified healthcare experiences by offering a limited array of homeopathic and allopathic services ranging from yoga instruction to community acupuncture, all offered by Brooklyn-based practitioners.

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