As the nation paid tribute to the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in April, Geneva Johnson vividly recalled what was happening in her Baltimore City neighborhood following the death of the civil rights leader.
“I worked the graveyard shift and was asleep,” recalled the 71-year-old who has lived in Baltimore’s Sandtown-Winchester community all her life. “I found out that Dr. King had been killed when I woke up. The first day was fine, but then the next night, we couldn’t take our normal route home from work because of rioting. A curfew was being enforced by the National Guard, and if you didn’t have a reason to be on the street, they sent you to jail. I remember it just like it was yesterday.”
Ada Pinkston captured Johnson’s experiences of that turbulent time in 1968 through artwork that is part of a unique exhibit. The exhibit is entitled “50 Years Since the Assassination of Martin Luther King: An Anniversary of An Uprising,” and premiered on Friday, April 27, 2018 at Jubilee Arts located at 1947 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Pinkston affectionately referred to Johnson as “Miss G.”
“It was great meeting Miss G. and learning about the past of Pennsylvania Avenue,” said Pinkston. “My piece is a layered artwork installation which includes art and video. Miss G. talked about the jobs she had and I started thinking about the layers of experience she had over the years.”
Pinkston added, “Jubilee Arts is doing a great job of renewing artistic vibrancy in the community.”
Through the pairing of the artists and residents, Jubilee Arts seeks to use an intergenerational exchange of information that compares and contrasts experiences then and now to create unique works of art reflecting personal viewpoints.
The exhibit is the latest from Jubilee Arts, and is a program of Intersection of Change, which uses visual art, jazz, and the stories of community residents to explore these ideas, themes and issues.
Intersection of Change, formerly Newborn Holistic Ministries, is a community based non-profit located in the Sandtown-Winchester and Upton areas of Baltimore City and is dedicated to providing programs that enrich the economic, social and spiritual lives of those dealing with poverty-related issues.
The event featured feature artist talks and live jazz from renowned Baltimore musician Todd Marcus, Executive Director of Intersection of Change. Marcus’ latest CD is entitled On These Streets, A Baltimore Story, and also offers a portrait of the community and includes reflection on the 2015 unrest in the neighborhood.
“For the community and the kids to see something different other than police sirens is good,” said artist Mateo Blu who was paired with storyteller Elder C. W. Harris. “Jubilee Arts also ensured each artist got a stipend for materials, which was great. In my piece, the houses overlap, and the upper part of the painting depicts an abstract flow. That represents the spirit of ancestry and sacrifice that takes place daily.”
Longtime resident Kaleb Tshamba was paired with artist LaToya Peoples.