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Presented By: University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA)

Speaking Freely: Lightning Talks & Roundtable Discussions facilitated by museum changemaker and social justice curator Monica O. Montgomery

University of Michigan Museum of Art Part of "Free to Speak: A Convening on Art, Slavery and Reconciliation"

Click here to register:

Join us for an action packed afternoon of learning and exchange, highlighting the artists, people and projects advancing equity and bringing us closer to our shared humanity. Using the power of story to bring people together, we are inviting a cross section of artists, community members, descendant family members, curators, historians, activists, poets, and scholars to be "Free to Speak!" presenting lightning talks on a variety of powerful entry points connected to the Hear Me Now exhibition and its themes. Our afternoon will be guided by museum changemaker, social justice curator, and expert facilitator Monica O. Montgomery and also includes roundtable discussions among participants, summary segments to recap and synthesize important ideas, and a graphic notetaker creating vivid illustrations of all that is being shared.

The afternoon will feature three "lightning rounds" with the following featured speakers:

1:00pm - 2:15pm: Nandi Comer, Poet Laureate of Michigan  Tonya Matthews, President & CEO, International African American Museum Wayne O’Bryant, storyteller, activist, and public speaker Yodit Mesfin Johnson, activist and poet

2:30pm - 3:45pm: Mary Elliott, Curator of American Slavery, NMAAHC James Claiborne, Senior Vice President of Exhibitions and Programs, The Wright Museum Beverly Willis, historian & storyteller from Washtenaw County

4:00pm - 5:30pm: With descendants of Old Edgefield potter David Drake: Pauline Baker, Wanda Holmes, and Fortune Carolina, Jr.

This program is part "Free To Speak! A Convening on Art, Slavery and Reconciliation", a 2-day celebration of Black creativity, agency, and memory. Inspired by UMMA’s presentation of Hear Me Now: The Black Potters of Old Edgefield, South Carolina, 'Free to Speak' hopes to contribute to urgent national conversations about racial justice while exploring what it means to exhibit materials made by enslaved people in Southeast Michigan, especially in light of the region’s relationships to the Underground Railroad, the Great Migration, the explosion of Black music and culture, and ongoing racial protest and liberation movements. Part storytelling, part scholarly deep dive, the discussions and diverse perspectives that emerge will offer new possibilities to inspire change in the arts and culture field.   For the full convening schedule and to RSVP, click here.


The Arts & Resistance Theme Semester, organized by UMMA and the U-M Arts Initiative, is generously supported by the U-M Office of the Provost, the U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch, and Erica Gervais Pappendick and Ted Pappendick.

Free to Speak is generously supported by the U-M Inclusive History Project, the U-M Arts Initiative Arts & Resistance Theme Semester Fund, the Americana Foundation, Michigan Humanities, the U-M Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and the U-M Department of History.


Hear Me Now is organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, with support from the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Henry Luce Foundation.

Lead support for UMMA's presentation of the exhibition is provided by Michigan Engineering, the U-M Office of the Provost, the U-M Office of the President, the Americana Foundation, the U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, the U-M Inclusive History Project, and Michigan Humanities. Additional generous support is provided by Larry and Brenda Thompson and Melissa Kaish and Jonathan Dorfman. 


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