Dreams, Diaspora, and Destiny
King Britt and Joshua Mays • 2017 • Sound, light, vinyl panels, and student collaborations • Malcolm X Park
DJ King Britt and visual artist Joshua Mays collaborated with high school students from Mural Arts Philadelphia’s Art Education program on a performance-based project for Malcolm X Park. Britt, a celebrated producer and sound artist originally from West Philadelphia, and Mays, a painter and muralist from Oakland, were already working with Mural Arts on a longer-term project when they were invited to join Monument Lab. They envisioned a one-night-only performance in the park under a central pavilion as a “monumental time portal.” They drew inspiration from their Art Education summer course focused on art, music, and history. In particular, they explored with the students how artists of color conceptualize stories that are set in the future, including those channeling the legacy of Malcolm X. Britt and Mays explain their conceptual framework:
“All of us are here learning who we are through our ancestral makeup and the dreams of what our ancestors wanted for us. They laid the groundwork for our lineage and are now carrying on the dream. Many of our ancestors were displaced by various circumstances. As we delve into diaspora studies, we learn more about ourselves and how we wound up in this present time and space. So what will we do with this, what is the future, and what will we leave?”
For the performance, held on October 14, 2017, Britt led a musical ensemble featuring Chuck Treece (guitartronics), John Morrison (electronics), Heru Shabaka-Ra (trumpet), Rich Hill (upright bass), Lyrispect (poet), Anthony Simpson (vocals), and Gionna Clift (vocals). Mays illustrated thirty-foot-long rectangular panels with Afrodiasporic-inspired images of transcendence, struggle, and futurity. Britt and Mays are working with Mural Arts to complete a mural at 53rd and Lansdowne Avenue that features an augmented reality app to provide access to archival images and sounds from this collaboration.
Collaborators: King Britt (Electronics), Joshua Mays (Visual Artist), Chuck Treece (Guitartronics), John Morrison (Electronics), Heru Shabaka-Ra (Trumpet), Rich Hill (Upright Bass), and Lyrispect (Poet)
Partners: Mural Arts Philadelphia, The City of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, Friends of Malcolm X Park, and Mural Arts Philadelphia’s Art Education program. Dreams, Diaspora, and Destiny was presented as a part of the Monument Lab: Philadelphia (2017) exhibition.
Major support for Monument Lab 2017 projects staged in Philadelphia’s five squares provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. An expanded artist roster and projects at additional neighborhood sites made possible by the William Penn Foundation. Generous additional support provided by the National Endowment for the Arts. Full list of exhibition sponsors.
Project Manager: Phil Asbury
All of us are here learning who we are through our ancestral make-up and the dreams of what our ancestors wanted for us. They laid the groundwork for our lineage and are now carrying on the dream.
Many of our ancestors were displaced by various circumstances. As we delve into diaspora studies we learn more about ourselves and how we wound up in this present time and space. So what will we do with this, what is the future, and what will we leave?
This project is a two-part youth-driven project that will be a temporary monument to the future in Malcolm X Park.
The forward-thinking and futuristic utopian artwork of Joshua Mays will be the main visual element through the lens of the youth from Mural Arts Philadelphia’s Art Education program.
As part of the multimedia installation, King Britt will provide a sound element as well as a culminating performance on October 14 with local musical legends, creating an improvised work as the audience enters our monumental time portal.
As a tribute to one of our ancestors that laid the groundwork, we will also include some of Malcolm X’s peaceful ideas, to pay respect to the space.
About the Artist
King Britt is a renowned Philadelphia DJ, record producer, composer, and performer. He has released over 20 albums with a variety of collaborators. Britt has toured and worked with Digable Planets, Sade, Alison Moyet, De La Soul, and Josh Wink. He is also a Pew Fellow (2007) and guest curator at MoMA PS1 & Fringe Arts
Joshua Mays is a muralist, illustrator, painter, and mixed media artist who lives and works in Oakland, CA. He has created public murals and been in exhibitions in cities around the world including Philadelphia, Denver, Washington DC, Portland, and Mexico City.