Events | Counter-Memories: A Series of Virtual Dialogues

Online | November 23, 2020

In the United States, Germany, and throughout the world, citizens are questioning conventional historical narratives and reflecting on the meanings and implications of public monuments. Recent protests and interventions around statues of Confederate generals and figures such as Columbus and Bismarck reflect a yearning to correct and critically re-examine dominant histories and their ongoing legacies in the present.

Every two weeks, the conversation series Counter-Memories will investigate a number of international monuments and places of remembrance whose symbolic significance often reveals a great deal about our relationship to history. The Thomas Mann House, the Goethe-Institutes in North America, and Onassis LA will convene artists, activists, and intellectuals for illustrated virtual conversations around historical memory.

Episode 2 will be released on November 23, 2020 and will focus on the Levi Harrington Memorial Marker in Kansas City, Missouri. The link to the discussion will be released here on November 23 at 10:00 a.m. (PT). Set Reminder on You Tube.

Levi Harrington was a 23-year old Black man, who became a victim of a racial terror lynching when he was brutally lynched by a white mob of at least 300 people in Kansas City, Missouri in 1882. Harrington's story is only one out of numerous racial terror lynchings that took place after Reconstruction across the US. In 2018, 136 years after Harrington’s brutal death, a memorial marker was installed by the Community Remembrance Project of Missouri to commemorate Harrington and to rectify a lack of recognition of lynching and racial conflict in Missouri. It was the first marker, which publicly remembers a victim of a lynching in Kansas City.

The memorial marker has already been vandalized twice since its installation 18 months ago. In June of this year, amidst Black Lives Matter protests spurred by George Floyd’s death, it was cut from its pole and thrown off a nearby cliff. The pole that once held the marker is now the only physical remainder of the monument — ​making this place of remembrance and the vandalism it suffered a special place of (non-) remembrance, or even a place where remembrance is confronted with denial. The Community Remembrance Project of Missouri refers to the vandalism in the following way: "The attack on the marker represents a violent denial of truth and the very right of Black communities and other communities of color to proclaim it. It is a hate crime."

This Counter-Memories episode centers around the story of the Levi Harrington Memorial Marker as an example of how a local initiative in Kansas City is attempting to remember the countless victims of lynchings and create historical memory. It is comprised of a conversation between Glenn North and Staci Pratt, the two founders of the Community Remembrance Project of Missouri and journalist Amira El Ahl. Their conversation will be enriched through spoken word performances and illustrated with videos, images, and archival material.

Participants Episode 2

 

Glenn North is the Executive Director of the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center and a Co-Liaison for the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) and the Community Remembrance Project of Missouri (CPR-MO). As a Co-Liaison, North is helping to lead a statewide effort to explore the history of lynching and racial terror in Missouri in an effort to help communities better understand and confront present day issues such as police brutality and disparities in the justice system. North holds an MFA in Creative Writing and is a spoken word artist and the author of City of Song, a collection of poems inspired by Kansas City’s rich jazz tradition and the Black experience. He is a Cave Canem fellow, a Callaloo creative writing fellow and a recipient of the Charlotte Street Generative Performing Artist Award and he is currently filling his appointment as the Poet Laureate of the 18th & Vine Historic Jazz District.

Staci Pratt spent five years as the Executive Director of Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (MADP), and previously acted as the Legal Director for the ACLU of Nevada. She is currently the Director of Public Services, at UMKC School of Law. Pratt led the effort to establish a Community Remembrance Project in Jackson County, and now functions as a Co-Liaison for the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) and Community Remembrance Project of Missouri (CRP-MO). Pratt holds a B.A. from Dartmouth College, a J.D. from Boston College Law School, an LLM from King’s College, University of London, and a M.S.W. from the University of Kansas.

Amira El Ahl is a journalist and interviewer. She studied Arabic at the American University in Cairo and majored in Arabic and History at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. Between 2006 and 2008 she was the Middle East correspondent for Der Spiegelmagazine in Cairo, Egypt. For the next eight years she was a freelance journalist, author and moderator in Cairo, for Die Welt, Deutsche Welle, Qantara.de, GEOand the Goethe-Institut, amongst others, about the events in the Middle East. In 2016, she took over as the editorial coordinator at documenta 14 in Kassel and since 2017 she has been an editor at the local daily Hessische Niedersächsische Allgemeine Zeitung. El Ahl moderates panel discussions, events and symposiums in both German and English for the European Capital of Culture N2025 in Nürnberg, the Goethe-Institut, the Initiative “Offen für Vielfalt” and many others.

 


Episode 1 – Counter-Memories: Paul Holdengräber & Joel Garcia | Los Angeles

The series started on "Indigenous People's Day," a holiday that is meant to commemorate the history of Native Americans. Curator Paul Holdengräber  talked with artist Joel Garcia about the Serra statue in Los Angeles. A statue in honor of Juniper Serra, who was instrumental in building the California mission system during the Spanish colonization. The statue was removed by activists in June 2020.   

Paul Holdengräber is an interviewer and curator. He is the Founding Executive Director of Onassis Los Angeles (OLA). Previously, and for 14 years, he was Founder and Director of The New York Public Library’s LIVE from the NYPL cultural series where he interviewed and hosted over 600 events, holding conversations with everyone from Patti Smith to Zadie Smith, Ricky Jay to Jay-Z, Errol Morris to Jan Morris, Wes Anderson to Helen Mirren, Werner Herzog to Mike Tyson. Before his tenure at the Library, Holdengräber was the Founder and Director of “The Institute for Art & Cultures” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and a Fellow at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles. He is the host of the ongoing series The Quarantine Tapes: A week-day program from Onassis LA and dublab.

Joel Garcia is an Artist, Arts Administrator and Cultural Organizer with more than 20 years of experience working transnationally focusing on community-centered strategies. His approach is rooted in Indigenous-based forms of dialoguing and decision-making (non-hierarchical) that uplifts non-institutional expertise. Joel uses art and organizing to raise awareness of issues facing underserved communities, inner-city youth, and\ other targeted populations. He’s the co-founder of Meztli Projects, an Indigenous based arts & culture collaborative centering indigeneity into the creative practice of Los Angeles by using arts-based strategies to advocate for and organize to highlight issues impacting native artists and youth.

Click here to watch the first Episode

 


Counter-Memories is a cooperation between the Thomas Mann House, the Goethe-Institutes North-America, the Onassis Foundation Los Angeles and the Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung in collaboration with the project “Shaping the Past.”

       

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