On an eery afternoon at the end of 2014, I found myself at an abandoned public housing complex in the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans. It rained lightly during the earlier part of the morning, and the clouds still hovered over the area. Despite it being December, it was still about 70 degrees and humid outside. I mean, this was New Orleans. What else would one expect?
I had just left a Basquiat exhibit at the Ogden Museum, but a more captivating piece of art was about to reveal itself. The ground still wet, I walked over to parking lot of the blighted property. Standing there surrounded by buildings that once held so much livelihood, I looked up and down, then turned slowly in a circle. This was my introduction to Brandan Odoms and Exhibit Be.
I was at the same warehouse a few months prior for Amnesty International’s Art for Rights, where Albert Woodfox was featured in artwork by Odoms. Just a week ago, Woodfox was finally released from prison after serving 43 years in solitary confinement. For the record, 2016 has turned out to be the best Black History Month ever! ✊🏿Take a step inside Studio Be next, which features Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Muhammad Ali, Eldridge Cleaver, and more…
This weekend I had the opportunity to check out Amnesty International’s very first Art for Rights event in New Orleans. The event sought to bring awareness about human injustice across the world by presenting 12 murals by 12 artists from around the world. The end goal for Amnesty International was to inspire attendants to write letters to appropriate officials and take action. I don’t even remember how I found out about it. Surely it was via social media, so Mayonaka and I started up early Saturday morning and rolled through.
The event took place over on the corner of Royal and Press St. – near the location where Homer Plessy was arrested in events that lead to the Plessy v Ferguson case that challenged segregation laws. In the words of Lil Wayne in “Sky is the Limit,” “ain’t got sh*t to do with this, but I just thought that I should mention!”
Anyway, it was open from 10am – 6pm. Usher (ya know, Usher Raymond, AKA Ursher) was expected to attend later in the evening to speak on the need for reform in the justice system. I figured there would be a huge crowd at that time, so I went early to avoid the madness. My 14-year old self would have jumped at the opportunity just to breathe the same air as Usher, but I’m older, wiser, and way less starstruck. There were a lot of people when I got there some time before 11 am, but it seemed like many of those were volunteers and security.
Artwork by Brandan Odoms
Here are some of my favorite pieces from the event.