Colin Kaepernick’s Jersey Hangs in the Same Museum as ‘Starry Night’

by Priscilla Frank, HuffPost Black Voices

One of the most recent additions to the halls of New York’s Museum of Modern Art is a red San Francisco 49ers jersey. The same jersey worn by Colin Kaepernick between 2011 and 2016.

Kaepernick’s sports jersey hangs with four others featured in the ongoing MoMA exhibition “Items: Is Fashion Modern?”, which explores the impact of 111 carefully curated items of clothing and accessories on the 20th and 21st centuries.

The jersey is a unique item of clothing in that its uniform design conjures an almost immediate sense of power, promise and camaraderie. As MoMA curator Paola Antonelli and her curatorial team expressed in an email to HuffPost, “Children around the world look up to sports heroes as role models; for them, the jersey embodies a dream or aspiration.”

Kaepernick’s jersey, the San Francisco 49ers’ number seven, became the best-selling jersey in the NFL’s official shop website in 2016 and remains one of the top selling items to this day. The stats are especially noteworthy seeing as Kaepernick no longer plays for the 49ers, or any other NFL team at present. The popularity of the uniform, then, illuminates the quarterback’s status not only as a star athlete but a contemporary icon of civil rights.

Kaepernick first sat down during the national anthem ahead a preseason game in August 2016, lowering himself in silent protest of the racial injustice plaguing the nation. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” he told NFL Media of his decision. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

In September 2016, Kaepernick took a knee instead of a seat, and has continued to do so ever since. The protest has been an unremitting source of inspiration, controversy and debate since its inception. Just last month, President Donald Trump criticized the gesture, while public figures including fellow NFL players, Stevie Wonder and former CIA director John Brennan expressed their unwavering support for Kaepernick and his demonstration.

After the 2016 season came to a close, Kaepernick opted out of his 49ers contract and has been a free agent ever since. Nonetheless, his red jersey continues to sell in massive quantities, a testament to the influence Kaepernick holds off the field as well as on it. His jersey embodies so much of the ongoing political conversation in this country today ― what America stands for, and what it kneels for.

“We hope that visitors to ’Items will see in these sports jerseys not only the blood, sweat and tears of their original wearers but also the complex synthesis of aesthetics, personal choice, collective style, politics, business, race, gender, marketing, labor and technologythat are embodied by their reproductions,” Antonelli and her team wrote.

The other jerseys in the exhibition are Pelé’s 1958 FIFA World Cup Brazilian national soccer team jersey, Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls basketball jersey and the Black Ferns women’s rugby national team jersey. Athletic gear aside, the MoMA show will also feature garments including a little black dress, a keffiyeh, a pearl necklace and Levi’s 501 jeans.

For the full article, read here.

For more information about the growth in recognition of black history in museums, read here.

For more ABHM Breaking News, read here.

Restoring Black History

By Henry Louis Gates, Jr., New York Times

logo-nmaahcWith the ringing of a bell and a speech from President Obama, the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington is to officially open its extraordinary collection to the public on Saturday. But the museum can claim another, equally important achievement: helping resolve the protracted debate about the contributions of black people to American history and, indeed, about whether they had a history worth preserving at all. Those questions were at the heart of the nation’s original debate about whether, and how, black lives matter.

For years, the issue was whether black people were fit to be more than slaves. “Never yet could I find that a black had uttered a thought above the level of plain narration; never see even an elementary trait of painting or sculpture,” Thomas Jefferson wrote. “I advance it, therefore, as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind.”…

gww_negroraceinamerica_2_cropIn the 1880s, George Washington Williams, whom the historian John Hope Franklin called “the first serious historian of his race,” published the “History of the Negro Race in America from 1619 to 1880”; he confessed that part of his motivation was “to call the attention to the absurd charge that the Negro does not belong to the human family.”

About a decade later, W.E.B. Du Bois became the first black person to earn a Ph.D. (in history) at Harvard, followed by Carter G. Woodson, a founder of Negro History Week, who wanted to make history by writing it. “If a race has no history,” he wrote, “it stands in danger of being exterminated.” Arthur A. Schomburg, the famous bibliophile, posited a solution: “The American Negro must remake his past in order to make his future.” History “must restore what slavery took away.”

Representative Leonidas C. Dyer, a Missouri Republican, introduced legislation to create a monument to black veterans. One hundred years later, the effort he and the veterans began has finally born fruit.

Representative Leonidas C. Dyer, a Missouri Republican, introduced legislation to create a monument to black veterans. One hundred years later, the effort he and the veterans began has finally born fruit.

This mandate to rewrite the status of the race by writing the history of its achievements was too broad to be contained only in books. Public history mattered, too. In 1915, Woodson and several of his friends established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, in part to popularize the study of black history. That same year, black leaders called for a memorial to honor black veterans. And a year later — exactly a century ago — Representative Leonidas C. Dyer, a Missouri Republican, introduced legislation to create a monument in their honor. After decades of resistance, that effort took a giant leap forward in 2003, when Congress passed bipartisan legislation to build the museum that was signed by President George W. Bush.

Some $540 million later, the first black president will open the museum’s doors…We can only imagine the triumph that the pioneers of black history would feel had they lived to see this occasion.

The new NMAAHC repudiates the long and dismal tradition of objectifying black people in museums, as exemplified here by the famous display of the "Venus Hottentot," Saartjie Bartman, in the European freak shows of the 19th century.

The new NMAAHC repudiates the long and dismal tradition of objectifying black people in museums, as exemplified here by the famous display of the “Venus Hottentot,” Saartjie Bartman, in the European freak shows of the 19th century.

More than a museum, the building on the National Mall is a refutation of two and a half centuries of the misuse of history to reinforce a social order in which black people were enslaved, then systematically repressed and denied their rights when freed. It also repudiates the long and dismal tradition of objectifying black people in museums….

[The NMAAHC] reinscribes race at a symbolically central place in American culture, on the National Mall, where we celebrate our collective public histories, ensuring that a mountain of evidence about black contributions to America will be on permanent display. It does this on the same mall shared by those symbols of the founding fathers’ hypocritical slaveholding past, the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial, which the new museum, brilliantly designed by David Adjaye, complements and also deconstructs.

Read the Gates’ full opinion piece here.

More Breaking News here.

Museum of Fine Arts Boston Receives Monumental Boost To African Art Collection

From the Huffington Post

African art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

African art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

The Museum of Fine Arts Boston recently received a collection of extremely rare sculptures from Benin, adding new depth to their African art collection. Until now, the museum only owned a single piece from Benin — though it opened its African Art section over twenty years ago. The pieces are prized for their sharp detail and scarcity, as a majority of the works were destroyed during colonialism. Now the Boston MFA is the proud owner of 28 bronze statues and six ivory pieces.

New York banker and collector Robert Owen Lehman, great-grandson of a founder of Lehman Brothers, is behind the gift. He purchased the Benin pieces in the 1950s and 1970s, and ultimately chose to part with his prized collection, according to the Wall Street Journal, because they “would make a real difference in Boston.”

With great skill and clarity the works give a realistic view of West African history through its people’s own traditional artwork. Metalworking was a key component of the King’s court during Benin reign, and Benin people were especially fond of working with brass, which symbolized the continuity of kinship because its resistance to corrosion. The musical instruments, weapons and ornaments on display shed new light on a rich history that is rarely discussed in America today.