Gloom and Loom at BBG

Gloom and Loom at BBG
Artist's rendering of proposed development along eastern perimeter of BBG

Thursday, January 26, 2017


I traveled to DC in an unexpectedly pink bus filled with overwhelmingly white New York artists, many, perhaps all, of whom were aware of the overwhelmingly whiteness of our group and the challenge to feminism that that color line represents. After I got back, I saw this photo in The New York Times of my friend and fearless leader, anti-gentrification activist Alicia Boyd, founder of MTOPP, the Movement to Protect The People, in Crown Heights. Alicia is a former kindergarten teacher and a 1000% force of nature who intends to continue to see "people who look like me" when she steps out her door. I want to continue to see people who look like her when I step out my door a few blocks away, too.

Alicia was photographed at a protest in front of the Whitney Museum on Inauguration Day where the gathered unfurled a banner that declared, “Resistance against fascism is the best art.” Alicia is not an artist, but I expect at least some artists heard about the dust-up she and other gentrification activists created and sustained against the Brooklyn Museum last summer, a chain of events set in motion by the museum's hosting the city's annual real estate developers jamboree, an event scheduled long before Anne Pasternak took office weeks before, in fairness.

The image at the top of this blog shows the response from MTOPP, EqualityForFlatbush and other groups on the day of the event. Pasternak shortly afterward offered an olive branch also covered in the Times (click on link), which was to have MTOPP etc., participate in their ongoing Agitprop! exhibition.

But it proved thorny for the museum to allow an active activist group to use their wall space (I was stunned to see a section of the MTOPP display dedicated to a statement I'd made at a meeting months before) as opposed to displaying the artifacts of past protests. So when the museum tried to re-write the terms of the agreement they'd reached with Alicia and the other organizers – regarding public forums to discuss and otherwise agitate about the displacement of longtime area residents by luxury rentals and condos – things got riled up again, and up and down they went.

A short time later, she and I and dozens of others participated in a BDS occupation of the Museum's "This Place" exhibition, funded by organizations and individuals who fund the Israeli settlements, featuring many famous photographers including Stephen Shore. We placed stickers with the ancient name of each photographed location beside the photos while someone spoke briefly of the history of the site. It was really a wonder. The Museum was freaked; mission accomplished. The main drivers were the We Will Not Be Silent folks and Andrew Ross at NYU. Incredible day.

So while we artists, statistically all white women, rode to DC together, this black woman, not an artist, was holding artists and museums to task. Some kinda wonderful. I haven't seen her since this all went down, so no details, just the photo and a para. But food for intersectional thought, I'm sure you agree.

It seems to me, thinking about the composition of the DC marchers and marchers everywhere, that we have an opportunity to build a movement that for the first time in this nation's history includes a possible actual majority of white people in solidarity with all historically marginalized Americans. I have long held the conviction that the only people who can lead this "white man's country" out of the mess it's in and hold us to the high standards of our founding documents are those who have been most brutalized. Nina Turner said recently that we may not have all come here on the same ship, but we're in the same boat now. I think she missed an opportunity to acknowledge that white people came here in ships too and also occupy the same boat now. Let us acknowledge that commonality now. It may well be the last chance we get.

March with a group you don't identify with! If you're straight, march with the LGBTQ crowd! If you're white, show up for Black Lives Matter!


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