by Bernice Elizabeth Green
Last Thursday night (Feb. 23), Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso honored Black History Month with a stellar opening night reception for the “Brooklyn is Africa: Survival + Persistence = Resistance” exhibit featuring rare art treasures from the acclaimed collection of Eric Edwards and the Cultural Museum of African Art (CMAA).
More than 250 celebrants, including artists and community, business and faith leaders, attended the vibrant opening of the week-long art exhibit, a salute to the cultural arts and free to the public. The exhibit closes tomorrow, Friday, March 3, 2023, (10am – 4pm). *
“Art is storytelling. Art is beauty, courage, and love. But more than anything, art is resistance and perseverance,” said BP Reynoso at the reception for the exhibit’s return to Borough Hall. “For thousands of years, the stories of our African ancestors have survived erasure and persecution through art and artifacts – and Eric Edwards’ collection of pieces help us celebrate the mark all of Africa has made on the world of today.
“This ‘Brooklyn is Africa’ exhibit is about honoring the many people and cultures of the African diaspora that have made their home here in Brooklyn, whether generations ago or just this year, I’m so grateful to the Cultural Museum of African Art and the many partners who made this celebration possible.”
“We are very thankful for the support of the Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, and the opportunity to serve the people of New York City and, in particular, Brooklyn,” said Mr. Eric Edwards, Founder and Executive Director of the Cultural Museum of African Art. “We appreciate the opportunity for allowing us to provide a deep insight, through CMAA’s artifacts collection, of the contributions of Africa, and the diaspora, to man and womankind.” Mr. Edwards, in his warm remarks, spoke of the inspiration of his beloved sister Myrna Delores Edwards-Williams who joined the ancestors on January 6.
During the week, visitors and African art lovers viewed, up close, more than 30 pieces of African Diasporan art treasures dating as far back as 16-17th century Chad, and rare pieces like a 19th century Yoruba palace door from Nigeria carved by the renowned Olowe of Ise (ca. 1873 – 1938).
The opening event featured showstopping performances by popular vocalist Patsy Grant and her Friends jazz trio, and the Jamel Gaines Creative Outlet dancers — considered one of New York City’s premier contemporary dance companies. The performance of Creative Outlet’s acclaimed “Thank You” commemorated the 60th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington and recognized the 60th anniversary of the Birmingham Church bombing. Among the guests present were many Our Time Press friends and associates, including Brooklyn-based author-artist Lorenzo Pace, sculptor of the Triumph of the Human Spirit installation at Foley Square, Bob Myers of Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium, Educators and Community Activists Audrey Baker and Geraldine Baker, Attorney Jacqueline McMickens, and Wayne Devonish, Chair, Magnolia Tree Earth Center of Bedford Stuyvesant, Brenda Brunson-Bey of Tribal Truths, and Barbara J. Williams, Director of Outreach, New York City Civic Engagement Commission.
LaRay Brown, CEO of One Brooklyn Health System, was honored at the event when BP Reynoso presented her with a citation for her contributions to excellence and healthcare in our communities. Ms. Brown is the first Black woman to lead a private hospital in New York City and she was deemed a Crain’s “most powerful woman” in 2021.
CMAA is the creation of African artifacts collector Eric Edwards, who has amassed the most significant and important African artifacts collection in the world. Edwards’ journey spans more than 50 years, in which he has carefully selected unique pieces from all 54 countries on the African continent, some which date back more than 4,000 years of human history. Mr. Edwards, in his poignant comments dedicated the evening and his collection to his sister who joined the ancestors several years ago.
The evening celebration was made possible through the support of Brooklyn for All, Inc., Citizens, Macy’s, National Grid, and EmblemHealth.
“The intention of our partnership with the Cultural Museum of African Art is to celebrate culture and storytelling, as part of our ongoing pledge to creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace and world,” said Nuno Dos Santos, SVP, Retail Director, Citizens. “We continue to be committed to … supporting unique platforms that encourage innovation, learning and shared understanding.”
Renee McClure, Director, Community & Customer Engagement, National Grid New York, said “This event helps build relationships by connecting people through cultural teachings of black history and deepens the foundation of our community members to create a sense of pride in being a part of this beautiful borough.”
“I applaud Borough President Antonio Reynoso for bringing us together to celebrate and honor the culture and vitality of black history,” said Ann Marie Adamson-Serieux, AVP, Community and Corporate Engagement, EmblemHealth. “As we celebrate tonight, I am proud to represent EmblemHealth’s ongoing commitment to making our healthcare system more equitable and accessible to ALL New Yorkers.”
This Black History Month event annually occurs the last week of February as the capstone for the borough’s array of Black History Month tributes.
(*Note to readers: Photography is not allowed in the exhibit. Media visits for press coverage must be scheduled through the BP’s press office.)