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Link between art, culture and the Black experience


Kinsey African-American Art & History exhibit

A recent and possibly overlooked trend in the construction of America's citadels for sports culture is their transition into multi-use structures for civic engagement, strengthening their ties to the community around them. National Football League teams who've done this include the Green Bay Packers, the Kansas City Chiefs, and the New England Patriots. Locally, the recently constructed So-Fi Stadium has taken a step further by featuring events not normally related to athletics.

A recent example is the multi-billion dollar So-Fi Stadium in Inglewood. Within the bowls of this 70,000 seat edifice are any number of compartments and suites available to be utilized for small events. These include the second floor mezzanine which hosted the recently ended Kinsey African-American Art & History exhibition in conjunction with the nonprofit media organ Zocalo Public Square.

An affluent couple of means and curiosity, Bernard and Shirley Kinsey, began purchasing artifacts related to the Black experience in the 1970s. Now totaling more than 700 pieces, it is one of the world’s largest private collections of art and historical objects relating to the African-American Diaspora. To mark its closure at So-Fi, a lecture facilitated by their son, Khalil Kinsey was held on Mar. 28. Joining him on the dais were: floral artist and designer and owner of coffee shop/flower store Bloom & Plume in Echo Park, Maurice Harris; former former NFL offensive lineman and current director of football affairs for the Los Angeles Rams, Jacques McClendon; and human rights activist, spoken word artist, and “surrealist blues poet,” Aja Monet.

The panelists shared their own personal histories on the road to self-awareness in an environment dominated by, in Monet's words, “...the pervasiveness and the force of White American history.”

McClendon mentioned his favorite book, the autobiography of Georgetown University basketball coach John Thompson, “I Came As A Shadow.” Thompson's revelations included his habit of hanging a white towel over his shoulder during Hoyas' games, as a tribute to his mother, who used to do the same in the kitchen to wipe her hands or dry a dish. In doing so he made an homage to his parents.