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Sunday, April 23 • 11:15am - 12:45pm
Freedom Sounds in a National Museum

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In 2016, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture opened on the National Mall in Washington, DC. One of the museum’s permanent exhibits, Musical Crossroads, tells the dynamic and complex story of African American music from its earliest manifestations to the present day. Though the exhibition serves to celebrate the vivid joys and universal spirit of music, the stories told within also explore the social power of African American music, framing the production and consumption of black music as an expression of cultural solidarity and an agent of collective resistance, mobilization, and social change. Through the presentation of artifacts and the exhibition’s written, audio, and visual content, visitors engage with the history of African American music, innovation and performance to develop a broader understanding of black music’s role in sonically narrating stories of cultural survival, transformation and representation, as well as the crucial role that politics and identity play in determining the aesthetic and cultural impact of African American music production on the domestic and global stage. Celebrating the social power of African American music and its unique ability to unify and to sustain hope in moments of despair and inspiration, Musical Crossroads explores how black musical expression is rooted in the social and political struggles of African Americans, with the goal of illustrating how cultural expressions of protest and affirmation have mobilized the freedom dreams and liberation projects of people worldwide.
This roundtable panel will discuss how the politics of performance, identity, futurism, and social change is demonstrated and displayed in the museum’s exhibition and presented to a national audience. The roundtable participants will feature the exhibit’s curator and historians and will highlight objects both on display and from the museum’s collections that speak to music’s political power, its value to communities, and calculable ability to affect social change. Dwan Reece will highlight acquisitions related to the 5th Dimension as part of a larger effort to deconstruct the demonstrated ways that music, as subject and process, transcends constructed boundaries of genres and race and how audiences respond to these breaches of compartmentalization in ways that support and undermine an integrationist agenda. Kevin Strait will explore other acquisitions such as the P-Funk Mothership and the ways objects physically symbolize grander, centralized notions of freedom, and liberation. And using Nona Hendryx’s costume from LaBelle’s 1974 performance at the Metropolitan Opera House, Timothy Anne Burnside will explore LaBelle’s transition from singing ballads in the 60s female group model to voicing their ideas about politics, identity, sexuality, the erotic, and empowerment of black women through their futuristic costumes and elaborate stage performances, creating a new platform for women in popular music. The roundtable will also serve as an opportunity for panelists and session participants to converse about the various ways that music and politics play out in the overall narrative of African American music history and can be explored in a national museum.

avatar for Regina N. Bradley

Regina N. Bradley

TwitterRegina N. Bradley is Assistant Professor of African American Literature at Armstrong State University in Savannah, GA. She writes about race and sound, hip-hop, and the post-Civil Rights Black American South. Her first book, Chronicling Stankonia: OutKast and the Rise of the Hip-ho... Read More →

avatar for Timothy Anne Burnside

Timothy Anne Burnside

TwitterTimothy Anne Burnside is a Museum Specialist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. She works with artists and others to build collections and develop exhibitions that offer accurate and rich representations of African American history and c... Read More →
avatar for Dwan Reece

Dwan Reece

TwitterDwan Reece is Curator of Music and Performing Arts at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History Culture. Along with building the museum’s collections and developing programs, she served as co-curator of the museum’s grand opening music festival, Freedom Sounds... Read More →
avatar for Kevin Strait

Kevin Strait

TwitterKevin Strait is a Museum Specialist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History Culture. He has worked closely with curators on the research, development and acquisition of objects for several of the museum’s permanent exhibitions. Kevin received his PhD in Americ... Read More →

Sunday April 23, 2017 11:15am - 12:45pm PDT
JBL Theater MoPOP, 325 5th Avenue N, Seattle, WA 98109