Artists Respond to the 2019 Race Amity Conference

Panel: Patrick Patterson, Titi Ngandu Ngoma Okalo, Kianyani Douglas, Kevin Wade Miller (Photo ©2020 Glenn Scott Egli)

“Art + Discussion,” an arts-inspired reflection on the 2019 National Race Amity Conference, was hosted January 26 at the Green Acre Bahá’í Center of Learning in Eliot, Maine.

African-inspired pottery dinnerware by Kiayani Douglas. (Photo ©2020 Glenn Scott Egli)

The four presenting artists, Kiayani Douglas, Kevin Wade Mitchell, Titi Ngandu Ngoma Okalo, and Patrick Patterson were all scholarship recipients in Artists Building Capacity as World Citizens’ third annual Call for Art in honor of the UN Decade for People of African Descent. The artists revealed new work inspired by their conference experience and shared insights they had gained from it.

This free public event was the culmination of a collaboration between Artists Building Capacity as World Citizens, the Race Amity Team of the Seacoast, and the Green Acre Bahá’í Center of Learning.

Titi Ngandu Ngoma Okalo shares his learning in moving to the USA, reflected in his collage to the left. (Photo ©2020 Glenn Scott Egli)

In individual presentations and a panel discussion, the artists explored the role that the arts play in conveying stories of human experience, which, when shared, can help to both heal the wounds of the past and build durable bonds of amity between all people, and between blacks and whites in particular. The artists described how art can create an environment that is both welcoming and safe in which to explore issues of justice and equity, bringing people together in an atmosphere that allows for both the beauty and the challenges of investigating truth together.

Photographer Patrick Patterson reflects on his journey and purpose. (Photo ©2020 Glenn Scott Egli)

The media shared by the artists included photography from Patrick Patterson, visual art from Titi Ngandu Ngoma Okalo, ceramics from Kiayani Douglas, and a performance piece from actor Kevin Wade Mitchell.

Kevin Wade Mitchell recites his piece about Louis Gregory and Race Amity. (Photo ©2020 Glenn Scott Egli)

Kevin’s performance highlighted Louis Gregory, a 20-century Bahá’í who was the founder of the first Race Amity Conferences held in the United States in the 1920s. He conveyed the challenges that Mr. Gregory and his wife, Louisa, encountered in their interracial marriage while living in a racially segregated America, and also shared a poem of Mr. Gregory’s.

The artists’ presentations were followed by a question-and-answer session and break-out consultation with participants about what they could do in their own communities and neighborhoods to foster race amity.

William “Smitty” Smith shares future plans for the National Center for Race Amity (Photo ©2020 Glenn Scott Egli)

William H. “Smitty” Smith, Ed. D., founding Executive Director of The National Center for Race Amity, which sponsors the Race Amity Conference, offered closing remarks that encouraged setting both a personal and a community vision for fostering racial amity in America.