June 4, 2020
Since George Washington’s decision to use Phillis Wheatley’s poetry to manage the public relations challenge of fighting a revolutionary war while preserving his own right to enslave, America has often signified its virtue through its public embrace of Black art while remaining far too silent on the harsh realities of Black life. We, at the Fine Arts Center, understand that it is not enough to celebrate and be moved by great artistic achievements like Coltrane’s Love Supreme, Walker’s Tales of Slavery and Power or Ailey’s Revelations. We must also call out the injustices endangering the people and communities behind the work.
Indeed, Black art matters, and so do Black lives.
The Fine Arts Center, along with UMass Amherst, stand in solidarity with Black people and all communities seeking justice for victims of police brutality George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Sean Reed, Eric Garner, John Crawford III, Michael Brown, Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, Michelle Cusseaux, Laquan McDonald, George Mann, Tanisha Anderson, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, Rumain Brisbon, Jerame Reid, Matthew Ajibade, Frank Smart, Natasha McKenna, Tony Robinson, Anthony Hill, Mya Hall, Phillip White, Eric Harris, Walter Scott, William Chapman II, Alexia Christian, Brendon Glenn, Victo Larosa III, Jonathan Sanders, Freddie Gray, Joseph Mann, Salvado Ellswood, Sandra Bland, Albert Joseph Davis, Darrius Stewart, Billy Ray Davis, Samuel DuBose, Michael Sabbie, Brian Keith Day, Christian Taylor, Troy Robinson, Asshams Pharoah Manley, Felix Kumi, Keith Harrison McLeod, Junior Prosper, Alonzo Smith, Tyree Crawford, India Kager, La’Vante Biggs, Michael Lee Marshall, Jamar Clark, Richard Perkins, Nathaniel Harris Pickett, Benni Lee Tignor, Miguel Espinal, Michael Noel, Kevin Matthews, Bettie Jones, Quintonio Legrier, Keith Childress Jr., Janet Wilson, Randy Nelson, Antronie Scott, Wendell Celestine, David Joseph, Calin Roquemore, Dyzhawn Perkins, Christopher Davis, Marco Loud, Peter Gaines, Torrey Robinson, Darius Robinson, Kevin Hicks, Mary Truxillo, Demarcus Semer, Willie Tillman, Terrill Thomas, Sylville Smith, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Terence Crutcher, Paul O’Neal, Alteria Woods, Jordan Edwards, Aaron Bailey, Ronell Foster, Stephon Clark, Antwon Rose II, Botham Jean, Pamela Turner, Dominique Clayton, Atatiana Jefferson, Christopher Whitfield, Christopher McCorvey, Eric Reason, Michael Lorenzo Dean, and sadly, too many other unarmed Black people who have lost their lives to violence.
In this painful and illuminating moment, the Fine Arts Center acknowledges how far we are from realizing equality and justice for all in our practices. 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the UMass Amherst W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies, and also the Augusta Savage Gallery, supporting a legacy of social justice and inclusion since its incorporation as a Fine Arts Center program. And while our 45-year programmatic history has long honored diverse voices and artistic expressions, we must be a better arts and culture ally that truly recognizes and safeguards difference and magnifies the voices of the oppressed.
In our recommitment to build a more just, equitable and antiracist world, we recognize that this struggle is intersectional and will take time and deliberate effort to confront. We pledge to match our words with the following actions.
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