1) BLACK STUDIES LIBRARY
My parents met in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. My mother pursued a Ph.D. in sociology; my father completed some college and spent the next sixty years educating himself about African American history. When I became a professor, he gave me his personal library—several hundred volumes. While I recently donated a couple dozen to Van Pelt Library’s special collections, his books remain the core of my Black studies reference section.
2) PENN'S PLACE COMIC ORIGINAL ARTWORK
In 2015, I curated the exhibition “Represent” for the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which featured objects by artists of African descent drawn from the museum’s permanent collection. Towards the end of the show’s three-month run, The Philadelphia Inquirer ran this comic, which noted the large number of African Americans who were then visiting the galleries was occasioned by the increased presence of art by and about Black people.
3) PATRICK BURNS, MAN'S GIANT LEAP, 2016
During my last sabbatical, I was a senior fellow at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. The art of Patrick Burns stood out as some of the most innovative and compelling work in the D.C. area. In his flag series, Burns overlays the familiar stars and stripes above layers of vintage newspapers. This flag focuses on the ways our country has changed since the first man walked on the moon in 1969.
4) TIFFANY AND CO. BOX
In 1994–95, I completed a fellowship in the Painting and Sculpture department at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The museum was in the process of opening its new building, designed by Italian architect Mario Botta. This little box made by Tiffany and Co. was an adaptation of Botta’s design. Working as a curatorial fellow helped me to focus on the goal of the Ph.D., which I began the following year.
5) OUR LADY OF CHARITY OF COBRE
I purchased this papier-mâché sculpture of Our Lady of Charity of Cobre in the craft market in Havana, Cuba. Cobre represents the Virgin Mary in the New World, but by some, is recognized as Ochun, a Yoruba orisha, or deity. The syncretic merging of West African orishas and European Catholic saints occurred throughout Latin America as enslaved, captive Africans and their descendants worked to retain the religious beliefs of their ancestors.