A museum centered on Art + Education + Social Justice through the lens of Africa + the diaspora
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Kholisile Dhliwayo | Brooklyn Bronzes

On View: MoCADA Permanent Collection

Location: MoCADA Ubuntu Garden, 48 Lafayette Avenue Brooklyn

Artist: Kholisile Mazithulela Mufari Dhliwayo

Artist team: Gabriel Soomar

Bronze Foundry: Gina Micheals, Tobias Canfield

MOCADA curator:Amy Andrieux

MOCADA curatorial team: Zola-Jourdan Savage

SUMMARY

Brooklyn Bronzes is a permanent scuplture series by artist/architect Kholisile Dhliwayo, curated by Amy Andrieux, that celebrates Brooklyn’s living legends –the Black pillars of our community who have contributed greatly to arts, education, and advocacy through their work. Each sculpture is accompained by audio spoken in the voice of each honoree documenting their legacy, their joy, and resilience. The first 20 unveiled as part of the ongoing series, which will continue to roll out with new sculptures over the months and years to come.

ARTIST STATEMENT

“Brooklyn Bronzes is an ode to the generative legacies that have affirmed the agency of Black communities in Brooklyn, paying tribute to the leaders and elders among us, who through their work nurture and protect Black bodies, cultural practices, and knowledge systems.

In the kingdom of Benin, bronze sculptures were made to celebrate the lives of important figures. Skilled artisans developed lost-wax bronze casting in this part of West Africa as far back as the 13th century. This form of bronze casting transformed the production of sculpture on the continent and throughout the world.

This garden holds a significant place in the hearts and minds of Black Brooklyn communities.

Through the installation of the Brooklyn Bronzes, we embrace and revive ancestral practices that celebrate and document the contributions of our leaders and elders. Created through processes of 3-dimensional scanning and lost-PLA casting, this installation pays homage to the creation of Benin Bronzes. In keeping with oral narrative cultural practices from across the diaspora, the installation also creates opportunities to hear the stories of the elders and leaders we celebrate in their own voice.

Brooklyn Bronzes is a spatial and oral narrative monument to the joy, resistance, resilience, and legacy of Black advocates, community organizers, artists, educators, and spiritual leaders. Their commitment and legacy serve as a reminder that we too are future ancestors.” – Kholisile Dhliwayo, Artist

CURATOR STATEMENT

In what was supposed to be our annual end-of-year open call to artists, organizers, and educators to submit ideas for MoCADA programming consideration, became a two-year new beginning with artist + architect Kholisile Dhliwayo.

I was taken with Shrouded, the original name for the series of clay works Kholisile proposed, which sought to explore “real Black people and their experiences of corporate America, as an expression of the resilience required and dignity compromised as a result of being Black” in those spaces. And while I loved the idea behind the project, a few things did not sit well with me: I did not want to relive the pangs of working inside corporate America. I wanted to celebrate our joy in being Black and how that reverberates through the work of those who love us. Thirdly, I wanted to respond to the ongoing controversy of the Benin Bronzes: To be returned from Europe or not, having been looted from the Kingdom of Benin hundreds of years ago, and if the are returned, how will we preserve them. I also wanted to create something lasting, our own monuments, shrines, altars that celebrate our living legends (not just those we have lost) who move powerfully and yet humbly, who quietly deserve all of their flowers.

In that sequence, Kholi and I fought between clay and bronze, between indoor and outdoor, to land where our beautiful series resides…on the walls of MoCADA’s Ubuntu Garden. He then pressed upon me to identify the faces of whom we would immortalize, and that was the longest phase of the project. I curated a list of 80 people (the end of the series is not quite in sight now) using a social justice lens to determine a cross-generational, cross-discipline, cross-experience family of change makers born, bred, and or cut their teeth in Brooklyn, who poured so much into our community over the years that it was time for us to give back to them. And now, with the first 20 we kickstart the series … Through their stories of triumph and their relentless determination to ensure that we are seen and loved (especially as our community faces erasure), we uplift them as our living testimony: We’ve been here. And together in celebration, we reclaim our home.” – Amy Andrieux, Curator

THE BRONZES

LAURIE CUMBO

Laurie Cumbo was appointed as the Commissioner of Cultural Affairs for the City of New York by Mayor Eric Adams in March 2022. Laurie Angela Cumbo previously served as majority leader in the New York City Council and represented the City Council’s 35th district for eight years. She wrote over forty laws and resolutions in that role, including creating the first-ever Mayor’s Office to End Gun Violence and the Mayor’s Office of Victim Services. Cumbo focused her career on institution building and worked diligently throughout her tenure in the City Council to secure permanent cultural homes for the Noel Pointer Foundation, Ifetayo Cultural Arts Center, the West Indian American Day Carnival Association, African Voices Magazine, Creative Outlet Dance Company, Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA), 651 Arts, the Brooklyn Music School, The Brooklyn Pride Center and Digital Girl.

Prior to her time in the City Council, Cumbo founded MoCADA in Brooklyn and previously worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the High Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. At MoCADA, Cumbo was instrumental in expanding the museum to a newly renovated space at the James E. Davis 80 Arts Building in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, and pushed to build a multimillion-dollar, state-of-the-art museum into its new home in the BAM South Building in partnership with BAM, The Brooklyn Public Library, and 651 Arts.

Cumbo is a lifelong Brooklynite. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History from Spelman College and a Master of Arts degree in Visual Arts Administration from New York University.

OTTO NEALS
Otto Neals was born in Lake City, South Carolina in 1930 to Gus and Della Neals. Before he was five years old, his family left the South and settled in Brooklyn, New York, where he still lives. All of Mr. Neals’ schooling was in Brooklyn, where he studied commercial art at George Westinghouse Vocational High School. Mr. Neals describes himself as a self-taught artist although he studied briefly at the Brooklyn Museum Art School with Isaac Soyer and printmaking at the Bob Blackburn Printmaking Workshop with Krishna Reddy, Mohammed Khalil and Roberto DeLomanica. He was introduced to stone carving by sculptor Vivian Schuyler Key, who presented him with his first set of stone carving tools. The Prospect Park Alliance and Ezra Jack Keats Foundation commissioned him in 1995 to create a bronze sculpture entitled “Peter and Willie”, based on the works of author and illustrator Keats. For this work, which is located in the “Imagination Playground” in Prospect Park, Mr. Neals was presented with the New York City Arts Commission’s “Award for Excellence in Design”.Other commissions include 10 bronze plaques for the “Harlem Walk of Fame,” a bronze sculpture for the Brooklyn Children’s Center, a 20-foot mural for Kings County Hospital and recently a bronze portrait of the late Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton for the City University of New York. Neals’ art work has been exhibited at the Columbia Museum of Art, the Huntsville Museum of Art, The Ghana National Museum, The Library of Congress, The Smithsonian Institution, and the collections of Congressman John Lewis, jazz musician Randy Weston, actor/singer Harry Bellafonte and Oprah Winfrey.

IBON MUHAMMAD
Ibon Manar Muhammad is an Urban Planner that has dedicated her life to the development of housing and economic development of communities of color and their inclusion in the resurgence of downtown Brooklyn. With that inspiration she has worked alongside her now deceased husband Bilal Mahdi Muhammad to create the Bogolan Merchants Association and an Afro-Centric Cultural Arts district in Fort Green, a neighborhood adjacent to the BAM Cultural Arts District. Bogolan was an anti- displacement effort to preserve the long-term neighborhood businesses owned by black and brown people and an effort to create a destination ala Chinatown or Little Italy where the best of Afro-centric and Caribbean culture could be enjoyed.

Ibon has also been in the anti- gentrification movement in downtown Brooklyn since the 1980’s. She has worked tirelessly to Create the Park Slope North Housing Development Corporation, a 23 Building, 102 apartment limited equity cooperative in Park Slope that was purchased from HUD and developed into an affordable housing cooperative that prevented the displacement of over 100 families in Park Slope and now has been in tenant ownership for 40 years. She remains President of the corporation, ensuring that it remains an affordable housing development serving long term neighborhood families.

She was the Housing Director at the Fifth Avenue Committee and Director of Special Projects for 10 years during which time she was coordinating the development and management of hundreds of units of affordable housing in downtown Brooklyn neighborhoods. Over the years Ibon has been a trainer of tenant groups in various states, always with the idea of creating ownership opportunities for low and moderate income families.

Ibon has been recognized for her work by the Catherine McAuley Institute, The Fort Greene Association during Juneteenth 2011, Neighbors Helping Neighbors, Borough Presidents Howard Golden and Marty Markowitz, New York State Senator Velmanette Montgomery’s “Women Change America” iniative, many other political figures and community groups with whom she has worked to create equity and inclusion for communities of color and low and moderate income families.

After many years of community engagement and raising four daughters, Ibon entered the Pratt Institute’s PICCED Center and earned a Master of Science degree in City and Regional Planning.

Ibon’s motto is “Knowledge is Power”…but only if you use it!

MONIFA BANDELE
Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer at MomsRising, Monifa Bandele co-leads a national on-the-ground and online grassroots organization of more than a million people working to achieve economic security and justice for moms, women, and families. There, she directs the organization’s work on reproductive justice, maternal and children’s health, and criminal justice reform–including ending the school-to-prison pipeline, successfully winning better practices and policies at the federal, state, and local levels. Prior to her tenure at MomsRising, she had already been a leader in the field of policy analysis, communications, civic engagement organizing, and project management working with groups like the Brennan Center for Justice, Peoples Hurricane Relief Fund, and the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation. During her tenure at the Brennan Center as national field director for the Right to Vote Campaign, the coalition successfully changed laws in five states expanding the franchise to more that 250,000 formerly incarcerated people. 

Finally, Monifa sits on the policy table leadership team for the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), as well as the steering committee for the New York-based Communities United for Police Reform. Just in the past decade, she led the launch of two historic and successful legal cases against police misconduct (Daniels v NYC and Floyd v NYC); worked to pass landmark police reform legislation in New York City (Community Safety Act 2013) and New York State (Repeal CRL 50-a bill, Special Prosecutor, and NY STAT Act); and was a contributing writer to M4BL’s Vision for Black Lives.

LUMUMBA BANDELE
Lumumba Akinwole-Bandele is an organizer and educator based in central Brooklyn. He is the former National Strategies and Partnerships Director at The Movement for Black Lives. From 2011 to 2020, he served as the Director of Community Organizing at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. From 1994 – 1998 Lumumba served as programming coordinator at the Franklin H. Williams Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCC). During his tenure at CCC, he also co-found Azabache, an organizers training conference and workshop series for young activists. All the while as a Black Studies Major at City College of NY/CUNY. Lumumba received his Masters of Human Service from Lincoln University in 1998. As a member and organizer with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Mr. Akinwole-Bandele helped establish its campaign to counter police abuse and misconduct. He also co-founded the world renowned Black August Hip Hop Project. Black August raises awareness and support for political prisoners in the United States. From 2002 to 2007 Lumumba served as a counselor and lecturer at Medgar Evers College/CUNY. Lumumba continues to teach his community organizing class as an adjunct lecturer within the City University of New York. Lumumba currently sits on three boards, the Center for Constitutional Rights, The Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center, and the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute.

FELA BARCLIFT
Fela Barclift has been a passionate and lifelong advocate for the younger child of color and  their families. Her vision and intention to make a difference in the world materialized when  she created the Bedford Stuyvesant early childhood community institution known as Little Sun  People. Fela named the early education program, Little Sun People, in homage to, and with an  intentional focus on the history, cultures, arts, and ways of the children and families whose  skin has been warmly kissed and deeply browned by the equatorial sun. 

Fela has committed herself to her work at Little Sun People since its opening day in 1981. Her  life’s work at the Little Sun People’s program has served as a practical laboratory for her, where developing and refining a curriculum that is specifically designed to counter and  balance the traumatizing impact of systemic racism on even the youngest child, has been in  steady progress. 

Operating in Bedford Stuyvesant, a historically Black community, serving a client base of nearly  100% Black and Brown young children and their families has been a gift for Fela. Especially  having grown up in Bedford Stuyvesant herself, where she attended schools at a time when she and most Black children of that community were invisibilized, marginalized, and held in  low regard. Fela has been able to transform her own harsh educational experience into love,  care, and historically informed thoughtfulness for the children that she is fortunate enough to  currently serve. A student body which remains nearly 100% Black and Brown, even in the  gentrifying community of Bedford Stuyvesant. 

Fela received her undergraduate degree in Education at Brooklyn College and received a  Master’s Degree in Administration and Supervision from Bank Street College.  

Fela is a community activist in Bedford Stuyvesant and a staunch proponent of Black Lives  Matter. She is a member of several Boards of Directors, a member of the NAACP and the  Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and a member of the Brooklyn Coalition for  Early Childhood Programs.

NUPOL KIAZOLU
Nupol Kiazolu is a powerhouse in the field of activism, from being on the front lines of the Charlottesville protests to taping “Do I look suspicious?” behind her hoodie in the wake of Travyon Martin’s death. Ms. Kiazolu is an award-winning Civil Rights Activist, Organizer, Miss Liberia USA, and proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. She lends her spirit, expertise and voice to her organization, We Protect Us, to empower disenfranchised Black and Brown communities through mutual-aid, education, violence prevention services and sustainable resources. The Brooklynite has been a leading voice among Generation Z, focusing on civil rights, domestic and sexual violence, and homelessness. When Ms. Kiazolu is not at Hampton University, striving to obtain her BA in Political Science, she is being recognized by Forbes, Seventeen Magazine and The New York Times. The multi-hyphenate is also the first HBCU student to be a part of Teen Vogue’s 21 under 21 list.

ZAKI SMITH
Michael “Zaki” Smith is an policy entrepreneur and activist with 15+ years of experience in youth empowerment and social justice with a focus on dismantling collateral consequences. In 2018, he co-founded “Feast for Fair Chance,” an organization with a mission to increase awareness around the 47,000+ policies that continue the silent life sentence of “perpetual punishment” for formerly incarcerated individuals after their term is served. “Feast for Fair Chance” aims to change national legislation in key areas that most impact an individual’s ability to reintegrate into society post incarceration, including: employment, housing, education & voting.

Like many activists, Zaki’s social justice work started within his own community. As a barber, he spent time having conversations with patrons about their daily challenges. The barbershop often felt like a community center — a place where people would congregate and connect. There, Zaki found opportunities to coach others, leveraging his experiences. Specifically, he instilled life lessons by sharing the experiences of his youth that led him to incarceration and the moments that served as catalysts for positive change upon his return.

In 2004, Zaki took coaching beyond the barber shop when he entered the nonprofit world as a youth advocate and coach. He began working with high schools, community organizations and juvenile detention centers on various empowerment and personal development initiatives, serving as a speaker and facilitator. He worked in service of causes ranging from prostate cancer awareness to international education in Kenya and his current work in criminal justice reform. Zaki currently leads the strategic growth and development at “Feast for Fair Chance” in an effort to drive legislative change nationally, while based in New York City. In addition to his activism work, Zaki continues to be a licensed barber and DJ, who leverages his crafts to connect with the community.

ELIZABETH YEAMPIERRE
Elizabeth Yeampierre is a internationally recognized Puerto Rican attorney and environmental and climate justice leader of African and Indigenous ancestry born and raised in New York City. A national leader in climate justice movement, Elizabeth is the co-chair of the Climate Justice Alliance. She is Executive Director of UPROSE, Brooklyn’s oldest Latino community based organization. Her award winning vision for an inter-generational, multi-cultural and community led organization is the driving force behind UPROSE. She is a long-time advocate and trailblazer for community organizing around just, sustainable development, environmental justice and community-led climate adaptation and community resiliency in Sunset Park. Prior to assuming the Executive Director position at UPROSE, Ms. Yeampierre was the Director of Legal Education and Training at the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund, Director of Legal Services for the American Indian law Alliance and Dean of Puerto Rican Student Affairs at Yale University.  She holds a BA from Fordham University, a law degree from Northeastern University.

In 2015, Ms. Yeampierre was part of the leadership of the People’s Climate March Mobilization – a march of over 400,000 people. She played a major role in ensuring the frontline was made up of young people of color, and successfully proposed the adoption of the Jemez principles for democratic organizing which have since become the road map to building just relationships in the climate movement. Elizabeth was the first Latina Chair of the US EPA National Environmental Justice Advisory Council. She worked diligently to ensure that environmental justice was incorporated into EPA rulemaking and integrated into all federal agencies. Her most recent effort led to the creation of a US EPA NEJAC workgroup dedicated to developing recommendations for resilience from storm surges for industrial waterfront communities. Ms. Yeampierrealso served as member of the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences Advisory Council where she successfully advocated forauthentic engagement and leadership of communities in scientific research in their own communities.  In addition, after joining a group of national environmental justice leaders to brief the Obama transition team in 2008, Elizabeth was selected as the opening speaker at the first White House Forum on Environmental Justice. In September 2015, Elizabeth was one of the opening speakers at Pope Francis’s Climate Change Rally at the National Mall in Washington DC. Ms. Yeampierre is a co-founder of the BEA-I (Building Equity & Alignment for Impact) an initiative designed to strengthen strategic relationships between philanthropy, big greens and the grassroots and she also serves on the steering committees of the Solution Project and Climate Justice Alliance.

Ms. Yeampierre was part of the New York City environmental justice leadership responsible for getting New York State’s first Brownfield legislation passed and NYC’s Solid Waste Management Plan adopted. Ms. Yeampierre helped incorporate environmental justice into the State of New York Climate Adaptation and Integration Plan. She served on Mayor Bloomberg’s Long Term Planning and Sustainability Advisory Board, the NYS Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Advisory Board, and was a Commissioner on the historic NYS Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission. She currently serves on Mayor DeBlasio’s Sustainability Advisory Board.

As a community leader, her work at UPROSE has facilitated a successful, aggressive urban sustainability and environmental justice agenda.  She created an urban forestry initiative and significantly contributed to the doubling of open space in Sunset Park. The Sunset Park community celebrated the opening of a 23 acre waterfront park UPROSE championed for over 15 years. Ms. Yeampierre developed a project that resulted in the retro-fit and re-powering of 12 diesel trucks for a local business. She founded the NYC Climate Justice Youth Summit, a space where young people of color throughout the City come to learn how to engage their local communities in addressing the intersection of racial justice and climate change. Most recently, in response to the community’s request after Super Storm Sandy, Elizabeth created the Climate Justice Center-NYC’s first grassroots-led, bottom-up, climate adaptation and community resiliency planning project.

Elizabeth was named one of the top 100 Green Leaders by Poder Hispanic Magazine.  She is the recipient of the 2015 Earth Day New York& NRDC Advocate of the Year Award, 2011 National Alliance for Hispanic Health VIDA (Vision, Innovation, Dedication, and Advocacy) Award, Boricua College Professional Achievement Award in Environmental Health Award 2011, American Bar Association Commission on Hispanic Legal Rights and Responsibilities 2011 Award, La Federación Nacional de Pioneros Puertorriquenos Award 2010, Speaker Quinn’s 2009 NYC Council Women’s History Award: Women in Environmentalism, 2007 NRDC Earth Day New York Environmental Advocate of the Year Award, the Municipal Art Society Yolanda Garcia Community Planner Award, 2007 American Planning Association Paul Davidoff Award, 2006 USEPA Region 2 Environmental Quality Award, 2006 Urban Agenda Urban Visionary Award, 2004 National Latina Leadership Award from the National Foundation of Women Legislators and its affiliate, the National Council Of La Raza, the country’s largest Hispanic civil rights organization. Ms. Yeampierre received the 2003 Asian Americans for Equality Dream of Equality Award and the Comite Noviembre Hispanic Heritage Award.

Ms. Yeampierre has been a featured speaker at local, national and international forums including Sage Paris 2015, 2016 GRI Amsterdam, White House Forum on Environmental Justice, Yale, Harvard, Cooper Union, Columbia, and universities, colleges and conferences all over the country and spoke at the opening climate rally for Pope Francis at the National Mall.  Her work is featured in several books, in addition to TIEMPO, Latina Magazine, VOGUE, Vanity Fair, The Guardian, Grist, American Prospect, Al Jazeera, Huffington Post, Despierta America, and a variety of media outlets throughout the United States, Latin America and Europe. 

CHIEF AWOSANMI SÉKOU ALÁJÉ
Chief Sékou Alájé empowers community by providing opportunities to explore and understand African culture. He accomplishes this through his work as a healer, musician, priest and educator. His methodology to maintaining one’s spiritual health is deeply connected to his knowledge as a practitioner and his vast experiences in Africa, Asia, South America, and the world. As an initiated priest in several spiritual systems, he holds the title of Babaláwo (Ifa Priest), Olosun (Osun Priest), and Olu Aña (Owner of the Sacred Drum). He serves as the Senior Priest at The Ogundase Ifa Temple, a temple dedicated to spiritual practices from Yoruba Land, West Africa; the founder of 256 Healing Arts, a practitioner network providing access to various indigenous healing modalities ; and the 256 Academy for African Spirituality, an institution educating its members in the arts of African spiritual systems.

MIKKI SHEPARD
Mikki Shepard is a producer, presenter, curator and philanthropist. Her professional work has concentrated on building new and reimagining existing performing arts institutions, creating and producing unique arts programs, and advising on major arts initiatives for foundations.  She has been an influential voice in support of Black art and culture, contemporary dance and innovative performance presentations, and in community and audience engagement and access. She currently serves as a consultant in organizational and institutional program development and strategic planning and implementation. Ms. Shepard is a senior advisor to foundation and nonprofit arts organization leadership nationally, and mentors emerging and mid-career executive and artistic leaders in the performing arts field. 

Ms. Shepard is a member and former Board Chair of the Mertz Gilmore and member of Fan Fox & Leslie R. Samuels Foundation board. Past board memberships include: the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP), Brooklyn Community Foundation, and Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone.  Ms. Shepard has been an advisor to The Ford Foundation, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Heinz Endowments, August Wilson African American Cultural Center, and New Jersey Performing Arts Center and others. She served as a Tony Awards Nominator from 2016 – 2019.

The 1983 landmark Dance Black America festival produced by Mikki Shepard for the Brooklyn Academy of Music inspired and was the subject of acclaimed multidisciplinary artist and filmmaker Tiona Nekkia McClodden’s The Trace of an Implied Presence – a multichannel video installation and performance exhibition on the living history and influence of contemporary Black dance in the United States presented at The Shed in 2022.  Other honors include: a 2017 Bessies, NYC Dance and Performance Award, APAP’s Fan Taylor Distinguished Service Award (2017) for exemplary service to the field of professional presenting, and was the first recipient of Association of Arts Professionals (APAP) Halsey and Alice North Award for Committed Excellence and Service to the Presenting Field (2014).

Ms. Shepard produced NYC FREE, the first multidisciplinary arts festival, for the 2021 inaugural season of Little Island Park that supported over 400 artists in 20 days; 70% contemporary performing artists of color.  Ms. Shepard served as Executive Producer of the Apollo Theater from 2006 – 2016. She led the development and implementation of the Apollo’s new institutional vision and organizational infrastructure. Under her leadership, the Apollo Theater’s new artistic vision celebrated and re-envisioned the Apollo’s legacy.  A key aspect was the Apollo’s 21st Century global program of large-scale productions and festivals, the revitalization of Amateur Night and its digital presence, the creation of the Apollo Music Café and Apollo Comedy Club and international tours of original Apollo productions such as James Brown: Get on the Good Foot, A Celebration in Dance. Other major productions include Apollo Club Harlem, the Apollo’s first global festivals – Breakin’ Convention – A Hip Hop Dance Theater Festival and WOW, Women of the World Festival.

Ms. Shepard was the Director of Arts and Humanities at the Rockefeller Foundation.  As  Executive Producer and co-founder of Brooklyn’s 651Arts, she produced Betty Carter: Jazz Ahead, 100 Years of Jazz and Blues Festival, Sung and Unsung/Jazz Women, Dance Women/Living Legends, and Lost Jazz Shrines and commissioned and  presented major dance productions such as Ralph Lemon’s Geography and Donald Byrd’s The Harlem Nutcracker.  

Ms. Shepard created and led the development of the Africa Exchange Program, a Ford Foundation international initiative that supported collaboration and the creation of new work between artists from the U.S. and African countries. She created and produced over 25 performing arts programs for the Brooklyn Academy of Music, including Steps in Time: A Tap Dance Festival, DanceAfrica, Dance Black America: 300 years of Black Dance in America.  

CHI OSSÉ
Chi Ossé is the Council Member for New York City’s 36th District, representing Bedford-Stuyvesant and North Crown Heights. He entered politics as an organizer and prominent figure in the Black Lives Matter movement. At 23 years old, Ossé was elected in 2021 as the youngest member of this Council and its only member hailing from Gen-Z.

Ossé is the co-Chair of the Brooklyn Delegation and the Chair of the New York City Council Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries, and International Intergroup Relations. Outside of his committee, Ossé’s work is focused on implementing innovative and human-centered public safety solutions and investing in solving New York’s housing crisis. More broadly, he recognizes the immense power of municipal spending and is an outspoken advocate for budget justice.

In his first term, he passed life-saving legislation to provide anti-overdose medication to bars and nightlife establishments across the city, and a legislative package to tackle Gotham’s Public Enemy Number One: rats.

Ossé recognizes local government as democracy in its most impactful form, and works to faithfully represent the people of his district while building New York City into a beacon of prosperity and successful governance for the nation to follow. 

APRIL WALKER
April Walker is a fashion icon, entrepreneur, educator, and author whose work has been featured in Forbes, In Style, Essence, The New York Times, Drink Champs, Vogue, CFDA. Walker has also been featured in award winning documentaries such as “The Remix Hip Hop X Fashion” and “Fresh Dressed”.

As a Brooklyn native, she followed her creative intuition, pioneering urban fashion, setting the stage for a revolution in fashion industry norms, gender politics and culture shifting. Walker shaped the direction that style would take in the future. As the first woman with an urban fashion brand, Walker Wear helped to create a multi-billion dollar industry known as streetwear today, commanded millions in sales, and kicked in distribution doors for this category.

Creating one of the most influential brands in our histories to date, “Walker Wear” is still relevant and sold worldwide, and most recently, has collaborated with the WNBA’s New York Liberty team. As one of the first to identify and implement the power of product placement, Walker was one of the first to start a styling division working with clients like SHAQ, Wu-Tang Hype Williams, and many more. Icons such as Tupac, BIG, Jay-Z, and Aaliyah have all donned her brand. Walker has also served as the Vice-President for Phat Farm, launched a women’s division for And-1, and has consulted for Dreamworks, Champion, Ron Artest, and MLB Licensed products. When Walker is not sitting at the helm of Walker Wear, she is a book author, an educator, TISCH/NYU adjunct professor, contributor to Parson’s “Streetwear Essentials”, producer, and her work has been featured domestically and internationally by Sotheby’s, Photoville, and at the Kunsthal and Centraal Museum.

DR. ROB GORE
Dr. Gore is an attending physician and clinical assistant professor at Kings County Hospital – SUNY Downstate Department of Emergency Medicine in Brooklyn, NY. After finishing his undergraduate studies at Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA, he then went on to the State University of New York at Buffalo for medical school. He then completed his emergency medicine residency training at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, where he was chief resident.

Dr. Gore was the assistant program director for the Kings County-SUNY Downstate Emergency Medicine Residency Program for four years. He is the founder and currently the executive director of the KAVI (Kings Against Violence Initiative), a hospital and school based youth violence intervention prevention and empowerment program targeting teens that have been injured as a result of violence or at risk for violent and recurrent violent injury.

He is the founder and director of the Minority Medical Student Emergency Medicine (MMSEM) Summer Fellowship, which is a mentoring and enrichment program for underrepresented minorities interested in Emergency Medicine with a focus on project development.

Dr. Gore has lectured around the U.S, the Caribbean, and Asia and has worked in East Africa, Haiti and South America. Since 2008 he has been working as a consultant for Clinique Espérance et Vie in Terrier Rouge (Northern Haiti) and working towards establishing a regional health care system in the northern part of Haiti. He is on the board of directors for EMEDEX International, a non-profit organization dedicated to the global promotion and advancement of emergency medicine, disaster management and public health.

ESSIE GREGORY
Essie E. Gregory hails from the Palmetto State of South Carolina. Growing up she succeeded right through the New York City education system. She has received a Bachelor of Science Degree from Polytechnic University, formerly Polytechnic Institute of New York. Her studies continued and she was awarded a Masters of Science to Management from Long Island University. 

A well-rounded background includes: holding positions and memberships in social. Civic, Community, Fraternal and Service organization. The include but are not limited to: the National Council of Negro Women, Inc., United Order of Tents, Disabled American Veterans and the Order of the Eastern Star. Her participation and time given to these groups has made her an outstanding leader in the Brooklyn civic, political and spiritual communities. Being the leader the she is, Essie has the opportunity to be most influential in the lives of many people by demonstrating an above average participation and commitment to responsibility. She enjoys working and being able to give satisfaction to people. Ms. Gregory is retired from the United State Department of Veterans Affairs where she served her fellow veterans and their families for 31 years. She is a Viet Nam Era veteran.

Essie has been the recipient of numerous awards for her efforts. Included are the Business Association Community Service Award, the Greenwood Child Care Service Award for participation in the Building Understand, Diversity in Development of Youth (BUDDY) Program, the New York Federal Executive Board Community Service Award and the Sojourner Truth Award. In community service, she received the highest award, the President’s Award, from President Ronald Reagan.

RÉGINE M. ROUMAIN
Régine M. Roumain is the founder and Executive Director of Haiti Cultural Exchange (HCX).  Established in 2009, HCX has developed programs designed to present Haitian culture to a broad audience, while supporting emerging and established artists, promoting cross-cultural exchanges, and encouraging dialogue around contemporary social issues. Roumain has over 20 years of experience in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors, most recently as a Program Officer with the New York Women’s Foundation, where she managed grant-making in two of the Foundation’s largest portfolios: community organizing & advocacy and economic security. Over the past decade, Roumain has spearheaded the artistic vision of HCX, developing programs highlighting the cultural richness of Haitians; programs rooted in community, collaboration, and dialogue. Through her work with HCX, she has become a leading figure in the presentation of arts and cultural programs focused on Haiti and the Diaspora. Her efforts have been recognized by the Union Square Award for the Arts and the Haitian Roundtable. Roumain was born in Brooklyn, NY, where she currently resides with her family, and was raised between Port-au-Prince, Haiti and NYC. Roumain graduated from St. John’s University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Communication Arts. She is fluent in French and Haitian Creole and travels frequently to Haiti to stay in touch with the pulse of contemporary arts and culture on the island. 

JOHNNY NELSON
Johnny Nelson Jewelry was founded in 2017 by Johnny Nelson. Each piece is proudly crafted in NYC using various fine metals and stones. Johnny Nelson Jewelry was brought to fruition long before it’s initial inception. Nelson’s transition into jewelry design began in 2014, when he was on tour and decided it was time to look as good as he felt while performing. His solution? Jewelry. The first piece was an attention-grabbing 3-finger ring, made with stone and wire, that he asked his mom to bring to life. It was then Nelson found he had not just a genuine passion for jewelry, but the raw talent and creative vision to match. In his designs, Nelson draws inspiration from his diverse artistic and cultural experiences that merge punk, hip-hop, and spirituality. The line heavily focuses on statement pieces that spark conversation amongst consumers.

Johnny Nelson was born in England and raised in Brooklyn. His biggest influences include Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen, and the iconic neighborhood jewelers that elevated hip-hop culture in the 80s and 90s.

LYNN NOTTAGE
Lynn Nottage is a playwright and a screenwriter, and the first woman in history to win two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama. Her plays have been produced widely in the United States and throughout the world. Recent work includes the book for MJ the Musical (Broadway), the libretto for the Intimate Apparel Opera(LCT), and Clyde’s (Broadway, 2ST, Goodman Theater), and co-curating the performance installation The Watering Hole (Signature Theater). Past work includes Sweat, Ruined, the book for The Secret Life of Bees; Mlima’s Tale; By the Way, Meet Vera Stark; Intimate Apparel; Fabulation, or the Re-Education of Undine; Crumbs from the Table of Joy; Las Meninas; Mud, River, Stone; Por’knockers; and POOF!. She has also developed This is Reading, a performance installation in Reading, Pennsylvania. Ms. Nottage is the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship (among other awards), is an Associate Professor at Columbia University School of the Arts, is a member of the Theater Hall of Fame, and is a member of the Dramatists Guild.

SHARON CONTENT
Sharon Content is the Founder and President of Children of Promise, NYC a community-based organization with locations in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn and the Bronx, with a mission to embrace the children of incarcerated parents and empower them to break the cycle of intergenerational involvement in the criminal justice system. 

She founded Children of Promise, NYC in 2007 after growing increasingly concerned about the lack of support offered to children who experience parental incarceration. Sharon Content successfully developed a unique and innovative program – the only one of its kind in New York City that now serves 350 children and families per year. The organization’s holistic model co-locates a mental health clinic and an after-school and summer day camp program, seamlessly providing access to evidence-based therapeutic services and the best practices of youth development under one roof. Children of Promise, NYC is proud to report that no young person in the program has been involved with the criminal justice system to-date. 

Under the entrepreneurial leadership of Sharon Content, Children of Promise, NYC has evolved from a small community-based organization to a growing sustainable non-profit that has served more than 1,000 children and families impacted by incarceration. 

She and the organization have been publicly recognized and honored for its exemplary work. Content was the recipient of the prestigious Hidden Heroes Award from the Andrew Goodman Foundation, a New York Post Liberty Medal for Leadership, and the Brooklyn Foundation’s Do Gooder Award. Children of Promise, 

NYC was selected as “Agency of the Year” by the New Jersey Nets, was featured in the following press outlets: The New Yorker Presents, Aljazeera America, MSNBC, the New York Daily News, CNN World, ABC’s Secret Millionaire, BBC, and has recently been named one of Crain’s New York Business 2023 Notable Black Leaders. 

Prior to founding Children of Promise, NYC, Sharon Content enjoyed a thriving career on Wall Street in a major Investment Bank before leaving the private sector to pursue her lifelong passions in youth development. She then worked for more than 12-years within the non-profit sector for various organizations focused on addressing the needs of youth residing in high crime, low-income neighborhoods. 

Sharon Content is a native New Yorker and respected alumni of Howard University. She brings her compelling vision, uncompromising leadership, and deep commitment to impact the lives of children residing in high needs communities.

RICHARD BEAVERS
Richard Beavers is a seasoned art professional with over fourteen years in the art industry. He is the founder of Richard Beavers Gallery in Brooklyn, New York established in 2007.

He has worked with numerous private and corporate clients and often provides guidance and information related to art investments and art education. Richard has quietly amassed a reputation for his curatorial experience having curated exhibits across the country with works by contemporary fine art artists such as: Jamel Shabazz, Dan Ericson, Jas Knight, to name a few.

He spent ten years in the television and film industry with MTV Networks. It was during this time that he worked on the side and honed his skills by assisting mentors Lorita Brown, owner of Clinton Hill Simply Art Gallery and renowned artist Leroy Campbell. His experiences with both proved invaluable and led to many other opportunities.

Richard has been recognized by the National Urban League of Young Professionals for his accomplishments and contributions to the contemporary fine art world. He has become a driving force in the art world within a very short period of time and is recognized by artists and collectors alike.

He believes is giving back to the community and has graciously donated his time to speak at area schools to young people about art, community responsibility and entrepreneurism. He has also worked with various foundations and organizations to raise money through the sales of art for worthy causes (Tom Joyner Foundation, Brooklyn Prom Project) Richard’s commitment to art can be witnessed at House of Art Gallery.

THE ARTIST

Kholisile Dhliwayo is an African-Australian architect and creative, whose work focuses on engaging diaspora and community-driven design through BIPOC knowledge systems. He is the principal architect of Culture as Creative the curator of afrOURban (a collective of African artists in the diaspora and on the continent).

He is also the curator and creative director of Black Diasporas; a digital mapping platform that documents the experiences of Black individuals and the spaces and places that have meaning to them in New York City. The project manifests as a geolocated oratory experiences of Black people. The pilot commenced in New York City with a new edition expected for Melbourne Australia. www.BlackDiaspras.com In collaboration with Simba Mafundikwa and renowned filmmaker Kalu Oji, Black voices telling Black stories.

He has worked extensively in Melbourne, Sydney, Toronto and New York. He is collaborating and working interdisciplinarily to decolonize his practice through BIPOC knowledge systems and cultural practices.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

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MoCADA is committed to giving wings to artists by bringing dynamic, contemporary African art to a broad audience through a series of highly visible artists’ projects, new commissions, installations, and exhibitions in public spaces, like this virtual gallery. Your support goes in a long way in helping MoCADA create exhibitions and other special programs that benefit the community. Click GiveMo to give a gift today. 

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