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42nd annual MTW virtual event set for Saturday, February 19

The theme for the 42nd MTW is Play and Performance
Rutgers-Newark/Clement Price Institute on Ethnicity, Culture and the Modern Experience
The theme for the 42nd MTW is Play and Performance

The 42nd Annual Marion Thompson Wright (MTW) Lecture series is set for February 19 in Newark. This year's virtual event will once again be hosted by the Clement Price Institute on Ethnicity, Culture & the Modern Experience.

Jack Tchen is the inaugural Clement A. Price Prrofessor of Public History & Humanities at Rutgers University-Newark and Director of the Price Institute. He's been in that position since 2018. Tchen says this year's conference is being held in partnership with Black Portaitures VII, an academic conference committed to the study of African diasporic art and culture.

"As Clement Price would say it's that time of year, the third Saturday of every February people gather for this tradition. This is the 42nd year so it's really quite remarkable for such a long-standing series to be continuing and flourishing. The theme and the exhibits that we're featuring this year are really building on the work of our dear esteemed colleague, photographer, curator Deb Willis, who is a former colleague at NYU and who kind of formulated this concept of Black Portraitures."

The theme of this year's MTW is "Play and Performance." Salamishah Tillet, Associate Director of the Clement Price Institute, Founding Director of the New Arts Justice Initiative and Henry Rutgers Professor of African American Studies & Creative Writing, is excited about the focus of this year's virtual event.

"In African American culture and Afrodiasporic traditions, play is always a deeply political act, whether it's Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago or Mardi Gras in New Orleans and so we wanted to embrace the idea of play being a place of performance, a play of subversion. It's often used against people of color, whether it's segregated swimming pools that people don't have access to or pantomime or minstrelsy, so we really wanted to cover the range of what is embodied in the word "play" both as a practice of liberation and also to recognize the ways it's been used against Black people historically here in the United States and throughout the globe."

Tillet says the speakers include jazz violinist Regina Carter, photographer Tyler Mitchell who is best known for being the first African American to have his work on the cover of Vogue, New Jersey hero and well-known visual artist Bisa Butler as well as Broadway playwright Dominique Morisseau.

Tillet, Jack Tchen and acclaimed historian and author Graham Russell Gao Hodges joined WBGO Journal host and News Director Doug Doyle to talk about this year's MTW three-day event (conference is on Saturday).

Graham Russell Gao Hodges (top left), jack Tchen (lower left) and Salamishah Tillet (lower right) join WBGO Journal host Doug Doyle
Doug Doyle/Zoom
Graham Russell Gao Hodges (top left), jack Tchen (lower left) and Salamishah Tillet (lower right) join WBGO Journal host Doug Doyle

Hodges, a Colgate University professor of History and Africana and Latin american studies, is the author of the new book The Marion Thompson Wright Reader. In that book, Hodges provides a scholarly, accessible introduction to a modern edition of Marion Thompson Wright's classic book, The Education of Negroes in New Jersey and to her full body of scholarly work.

Hodges says MTW would be delighted to know the lecture series named in her honor has flourished for 42 years.

"She absolutely appreciated Black culture, she lived in it, studied it, wrote about it, it was all about her life. The terrific lineup would really be things she would want to take part in and to be there."

Rutgers University-Newark and The Newark Museum of Art are also involved in two events leading up to Saturday's MTW conference.

On Thursday, February 17 is Picturing Black Girlhood: Moments of Possibility at Express Newark, an international exhibition that features more than 180 works by over 72 Black women, girl and genderqueer artists ranging in age from 8 to 94 who work in the mediums of photography and film.

On Friday, February 18, Scheherazade Tillet: Black Girl Play will be displayed at the Project for Empty Space gallery in Newark . That's a culmination of Tillet's artist in residency at Shine Portrait Studio and New Arts Justice at Express Newark. This exhibition is a common exploration of the ways in which coming of age, community traditions and radical play, converge at various points in the lives of Black girls.

You can find out more about all the MTW-related events at the Institute's web site.

You can SEE the entire conversation about MTW here.

Doug Doyle has been News Director at WBGO since 1998 and has taken his department to new heights in coverage and recognition. Doug and his staff have received more than 250 awards from organizations like PRNDI (now PMJA), AP, New York Association of Black Journalists, Garden State Association of Black Journalists and the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists.