Garden Party

Garden Party
Oct 6, 2019
Honoring Lisa Farrington

Lisa Farrington
2019 Lifetime Achievement Awardee
with the 2019
Lifetime Achievement Award.

Lisa Farrington is an American art historian, specializing in African-American art, Haitian art, and women's art. She is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Art and Music at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice (City University of New York).[1] Farrington is one of the major scholars of Faith Ringgold, is the author of several books on African-American art, and is one of only six full professors of African-American art history in the United States. 


Ma Rainy Quilt by Marla Jackson  and  Our Lady of Weeksville by Sara Bunn
The garden party is the Anyone Can Fly Foundation's annual fundraising event. The first garden party celebrated the official status and the beginning of the foundation in October 1999. The garden party has become a celebrated annual tradition ever since. If you attend the garden party you can expect to see summer hats, colorful summer dresses, fanciful summer party clothes and you will enjoy wonderful soul food as they have also become a tradition at the garden party.

Eleven years ago, in 2004 the first "Lifetime Achievment Award" was given to Cuesta Benberry, a quilt historian and since then the foundation has honored; Elizabeth Catlett, David Driskell, Samella Lewis, Richard Mayhew, Dr. Margaret Burroughs, Aminah Robinson, Sam Gilliam, Camille Billops, Nelson Stevens and Dr Carolyn Mazloomi for their contributions to the cultural history and the rich legacy of African Americans.  

2004 Cuesta Benberry, quilter and quilt collector
2005 Elizabeth Catlett 
2005 Elizabeth Catlette
2006 David Driskell
2007 Samella Lewis 
2008 Richard Mayhew
2009 Margaret Burroughs
2010 Aminah Robinson
2011 Sam Gilliam
2012 Camille Billops
2013 Nelson Stevens
2014 Carlolyn Mazloomi
2015 Curlee Holton
2015 Juliette Harris 
2016 Norman Lewis 2016
2017 Beverly McIver
2918 Marla Jackson and Sara Bunn
2019 Lisa Farrinton

Marla Jackson

Meet the world-renowned visual narrative artist and quilter Marla A. Jackson, in her art studio and teaching gallery. Jackson is a community-based visual art educator.  Her works have been exhibited in over thirty-five national and international venues, including the American Folk Art Museum, The Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. One of her most famous works is part of the permanent collection at Smithsonian's Anacostia Community. Jackson's narrative quilts are inspired by the oral histories of her ancestors and the Kansas region. Jackson is a partner with Freedom Frontier's Heritage Area. Jackson has been featured in the Kansas History Society Quarterly, Threads of Faith, MS Magazine, Speaking Out of Turn Magazine, Wild West Magazine, Quilt Life Magazine, PBS programs, local and regional syndicated press, as well as exhibit catalogs. Jackson's company, Marla Quilt's Inc. African American Museum and Textile Academy is an impetus for developing artistic skills, enhancing individual and communal expression and furthering intellectual awareness.
The African American Quilt Museum and Textile Academy is recognized as a program in the National Park Service, National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program.

Sara Bunn

BunnFunn is an independent company whose creator, Sara Bunn, is a socially conscious 9-5 CEO's Executive Assistant, at home seamstress hobbyist, turned moonlighting designer. With a taste for history, culture, fashion, crafts and civic duty, has created a fashion line that includes hand sewn vintage reproduction era silhouettes, casual and conservative classic dresses, jackets, coats, and wraps; performance wearable art, whimsical textile creations, women's business attire, and glam holiday separates. We also carry a line of resort wear with multi purpose interchangeable pieces for quick getaways or elaborate destination weddings, in addition to honeymoon or special occasion pieces, all made to measure. A ten year plan projection will find BunnFunn working towards expanding in terms of creating community activities for youth in the arts and crafts fields, hosting benefits for charitable organizations geared to our youth, and seeking solutions to some of the social problems of our communities through exposure to the arts. BunnFunn wants to be a part of combatting the negative influences of social media on our youth and young adults. There is the threat of the lure of the streets, and the obvious lack of fundamental survival skills such as basic home economics in addition to the arrested development of their personal sense of purpose and responsibility, especially in our communities that are economically challenged. We look forward to educating through fashion, music and the arts and helping to spread awareness of the ever growing abuse of women and children, the destruction of the nucleus of our families, and to help cultivate in victims of domestic violence, a sense of pride in spirit, along with their style. BunnFunn wants to ultimately help beautify as well as empower women and communities, one stitch at a time.


Artist, Beverly McIver was presented with the 2017 ACFF Lifetime Achievement Award.

 The mission of the Anyone Can Fly Foundation is to expand the art establishment's canon to include master artists of the African Diaspora and to introduce the Great Masters of African American Art and their art traditions to kids as well as adult audiences. The Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization supported by people devoted to the visual arts.

The garden party is the Anyone Can Fly Foundation's annual fundraising event. The first garden party celebrated the official status and the beginning of the foundation in October 1999. The garden party has become a celebrated annual tradition ever since. If you attend the garden party you can expect to see summer hats, colorful summer dresses, fanciful summer party clothes and you will enjoy wonderful soul food as they have also become a tradition at the garden party.

Eleven years ago, in 2004 the first "Lifetime Achievment Award" was given to Cuesta Benberry, a quilt historian and since then the foundation has honored; Elizabeth Catlett, David Driskell, Samella Lewis, Richard Mayhew, Dr. Margaret Burroughs, Aminah Robinson, Sam Gilliam, Camille Billops, Nelson Stevens and Dr Carolyn Mazloomi for their contributions to the cultural history and the rich legacy of African Americans.  

The Anyone Can Fly Foundation
is pleased to present the 
2017  Lifetime Achievement Award to 
Beverly McIver

Beverly McIver is widely acknowledged as a significant presence in contemporary American art and has charted a new direction as an African American woman artist.  She is committed to producing art that examines racial, gender, social and occupational identity. Her work is in the collection of the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Weatherspoon Art Museum, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the NCCU Museum of Art , the Asheville Museum of Art, the Crocker Art Museum, the Nasher Museum, and the Nelson Fine Arts Museum. McIver is the subject of an HBO documentary, entitled Raising Renee. This documentary aired on HBO December 2011, and was nominated for an Emmy in 2014. McIver has served on the Board of Directors at Penland School of Arts and Crafts, and currently serves on the board of directors at Yaddo and at the Walentas-Sharpe Studio Program.She has completed many residencies, including Yaddo, the Headland Center for the Arts, Djerassi, Penland School of Crafts, and is one of the 2017 winners of the Rome Prize, awarded by the American Academy in Rome. Beverly McIver is currently the Esbenshade Professor of the Practice of Art, Art History, and Visual Studies at Duke University.

Visit Beverly's website to learn more about her and to see her paintings

The Foundations's 2016 
African American Maters Legacy Award
Norman Lewis
Photograph © Gary Schoichet. 
Courtesy of the Estate of Norman W. Lewis and 
Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY

The Foundation’s 2015

Curlee Raven Holton, master printmaker, artist,

Executive Director, Experimental Print Institute 
at LaFayette College 
and the

Executive Director of the David C. Driskell Center 
at the University of Maryland

Juliette Harris
The International Review of African American Art (IRAA) 

Please help build the AIR (Artist-in-Residency) for Kids endowment fund by making a donation today.

The Anyone Can Fly Foundation Inc is a 501(c)(3) not for profit private foundation and thrives because of your generous contributions.  Proceeds will be used to keep the Foundation's mission alive.

(201) 816-1374 Faith’s home phone
(858) 576-0397 Grace Matthews in San Diego (available here until June 15)
(858) 735-0687 Graces cell

quilts by Carolyn Mazloomi

Garden Parties Past

an illustrated history

2014 Carolyn Mazloomi

The Foundation’s 2014
is the celebrated quilt historian, quilt maker, 
author, curator a and artist
Carolyn L Mazloomi, PhD.

Honoring Nelson Stevens
Sunday, June 23, 2013

photos by Stacy Long

More photos by Stacy Long of the 2013 Garden Party

Honoring Camille Billops

2012 Lifetime Achievement Winner
Camille Billops

Known as a filmmaker, Camille Billops has produced and directed six film documentaries. Suzanne, Suzanne was chosen by the Museum of Modern Art for its New Directors Series in 1983. Finding Christa won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 1992. Her last film, A String of Pearls was chosen “premiere” film for the Planet Africa series at the Toronto Film Festival in 2002.
In 1975 Camille Billops, together with her husband, founded the Hatch-Billops Collection, Inc. an archives of African American cultural materials. This library has interviewed over 340 minority artists and published their lives and work in 24 annual journals of Artist and Influence.
Billops has exhibited at the Studio Museum of Harlem, as well as in Hamburg, Germany; Cairo, Egypt; Los Angeles and New York. She wrote and published The Harlem Book of the Dead, featuring the poetry of Owen Dodson and the photography of James Van Der Zee. In 2003 she lectured on the Bob Blackburn Printmaking Workshop at the Library of Congress.
Billops has received grants from the New York State Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, The Rockefeller Fellowship in Filmmaking and the Skowhegan Award for contribution in the arts. This year she exhibited in the photo retrospective for Percent for Art Exhibition in NYC, at the Parsons School of Design, and was elected to the Advisory Board of WAAND—The National Directory of Women Artists Archives at Rutgers University at New Brunswick.

2011 Garden Party

2011 Lifetime Achievement Winner
Sam Gilliam

The Anyone Can Fly Foundation is proud to honor Sam Gilliam. Acclaimed for his use of saturated color and his highly improvisational spontaneous technique, Gilliam is regarded as one of the most important and inventive colorists of the last 30 years. His works are in museums across the United States and the world including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, and the Art Institute of Chicago. 

Video interviews

2010 Garden Party
Aminah Robinson 
Aminah Robinson, Faith Ringgold and Zoe DeCosta photo Brad Matthews
Aminah and Faith photo by Brad Matthews

in the studio photo Brad Matthews
Follow this link to see more great 
2010 garden party photos 
by Faith Wallace Gadsden

photo: Pennt Dell

photo: Penny Dell

photo: Penny Dell

Margaret Burroughs

                                   2009 Garden party photos by Faith Wallace


2007 Invite
Samella Lewis

2007 Mailing party in San Diego




Faith Ringgold and Trish Maunder

Faith Ringgold and Dr. Laurie Verderame

Lisa Farrington, Marta Reed Stewart, Marva Whitehead, Eddie Silverman




Garden Party 3

Garden Party 1
First Row:  Margo Jefferson,  Barbara  Hoffman, Michele  Wallace,  Barbara Wallace, Faith   Ringgold, 
Burdette Ringgold,  Camille  Billops, Lois Knox , Reginald  Knox, Margorie  Smythe

Second Row: Nancy Kramer, Aaron Kramer , Moses Foyer, Marjorie  Durden, Moira Roth
Mrs. Alvin Hollingsworth, Alvin  Hollingsworth , Marvin   Hieferman, Maurice  Berger, Cassie  Doll

1999 Invite (the first garden party)
This was the cover of a booklet with Jones Road text inside

First Garden Party Letter

September 8, 1999

Dear Friends,

Faith Ringgold Inc invites you to the first in a series of Faith's garden parties to be held at our newly completed Jones Road Studio and Garden in Englewood, New Jersey on Sunday, October 3, 1999 from 4pm to 8pm. You will preview the first two painted quilts of the Jones Road Series. The Jones Road Series is a collection of paintings, drawings and prints in which Faith will create the mythological presence of escaped and free black people in New Jersey from the early 1700s through our (still somewhat traumatic) move in 1992. This series of works will benefit the Any One Can Fly Foundation, Faith's foundation, which is currently being formed. Another wonderful reason to celebrate is our daughter, Dr. Michele Wallace, who has completed a Ph.D. in Cinema Studies from The Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. Congratulations Michele.

Guests will be photographed in the garden and will become subjects of a series of limited edition copied drawings and prints of Faith's Garden. "Picnic at Giverny" was just the beginning. Monet, eat your heart out!

Women come as you are, or wear flowered hats and long colorful dresses. Men make this a day to express yourself, or come as you are. We will be delighted to see you.

You Can Fly

Faith Ringgold, Inc.

Draft 1 of "Putting Jones Road on the Map" by Moira Roth

The Making of Faith Ringgold's Jones Road Series and the annual Garden Parties, Englewood, New Jersey

June 24, 2000
The Garden and The Studio
In the elegant, mysterious and meticulously designed and constructed garden--which contains, aside from towering oak trees, and shrubs and flowers, a pond with fish behind which a waterfall tumbles, a weather-stained wooden pagoda, a white gable-roofed bird house perched on a stand, a "stream" of dry pebbles, and a small stone "fire" fountain and stone bench--I sit reading about the history of slavery in New Jersey.

Earlier this morning I had spent time upstairs in Ringgold's studio, which she had had constructed between July 1998 and March1999. (The garden was designed and created between March and August of 1999.)
It is spacious and tall, well -lit by windows almost the length and height of the walls on either side, and skylights, with piles of brushes and paints on a cluttered table, and an easel with four sheets of paper, rough scenes and one painted plain red (an undercoating for what future image?). The walls are studied with story quilts and prints of the Jones Road Series. (Ringgold and her husband, Burdette, live on Jones Road in the city of Englewood.)

Jones Road Series
In this year's invitation to the Garden Party, Ringgold describes the series," a collection of paintings, drawings and prints in which Faith will channel the stories of escaped slaves and free blacks in New Jersey, from the late 18th century through the present. The sale of these works will help support Faith's Anyone Can Fly Foundation."

FR: "I was thinking of ways to promote my Foundation and thought of annual garden parties. I started talking about it in the spring of 1999 when I was still in California, but the garden was being constructed here."

"The Foundation, however, has been on my mind for a long time. I moved here in 1992 with that in mind: a small house and a large studio that could house my art and my archives, and be the center of my Foundation. That was the whole purpose of getting the house. But when I got the garden, I realized how important it is to have a garden and that the sheer beauty of a garden is an inspiration all in itself. "

"Then there were the problems I had with my hostile neighbors after I moved here that inspired me to give greater attention to the history of black people who had come here centuries before me. "

"I wanted to use the beauty of the place and the hars h realities of the history of this place to create a kind of compenstory series that could turn all this ugliness into something beautiful. I am also trying to speak in their voice which is hardest part."

On one wall in the studio is "Aunt Emmy in White Hat and Dress" (Jones Road No. 3), which was incomplete last year; it still unfinished with more to be done to the painting itself, and after that the border will be repainted. Aunt Emmy is a slight woman. She stands, composed and still, her eyes surrounded by the faint outlines of gray spectacles, and her hands folded neatly in front of her, a purse hanging from one wrist. Her face, clearly delineated, is framed by a large hat, her waist circled by a black sash, and her long-sleeved dress reaches down to the ground. Emmy's white dress and hat are full of subtle pinks and blues that play off both against her dark skin, and the splashes of greens, reds, yellows and blues that form the abstract background.

FR: "I have my mother's grandmother's spectacles. They are gold rimmed, not at all like the cheap plastic ones we have. Of course, I don't know if they are the spectacles that Grandma Bingham is wearing in that photograph."

Next to the painting Ringgold has tacked up a copy of a small blurred photograph of a sturdy, erect and proud-looking black woman in a wide-brimmed white hat; her white dress is framed against the dark foliage behind her, and she holds a purse to her right side. Below is a handwritten caption, "Grandma Bingham."

Grandma Bingham is Ringgold's great-grandmother and a direct connection for Ringgold into slave history.

FR: " Freda, my cousin, and I are meeting regularly to exchange family photos and documents. There are lots of family letters mostly from my mother's side. The letters usually have to do with crisis situations in the family, matters of death and money. That photograph of Grandma Bingham is probably from around 1900, so I wonder when she was born."

[At this point, while editing this text together , in order to try to find Betsy Bingham's birth and death date, Ringgold and I go to her study, and browse through books of photographs and letters, from a photograph of Susie Shannon through to contemporary photos, looking at lettters from and to B. B. Posey, Ringgold's grandfather.]

"I want to find out more closely about Grandma Bingham's life. When was she set free--I know she was born into slavery--so I can find out how she got to be so regal.

In Ringgold's 1995 autobiography, We Flew over the Bridge, she describes Betsy Bingham: "My mother was devoted to her mother, and I suspect that in many ways they were very much alike. Grandma Ida's parents, Peter and Betsy Bingham, had been slaves who had acquired land and property in Palatka, Florida, after the Civil War. The earliest traceable member of my family is my great-great-grandmother, Susie Shannon, Betsy Bingham's mother." (p. 69)

Both Betsy Bingham and Susie Shannon appear in Ringgold's Matisse's Chapel (1991). In the tranquil setting of the Vence Chapel's yellow, blue and white stained glass windows, embroidered tapestry and tiled floor, a black audience, composed of portraits of Ringgold's deceased relatives, sits attentively. They are listening to Grandma Bingham telling them a story that her mother told her. Awhite man had asked Susie how it felt to be a descended from slaves , but instead of answering him, she had responded with a question : "How you feel descendant from SLAVERS? " He told her about an episode when his grandparents were on a boat coming from Europe when a strong wind blew the stench of a nearby slave ship toward them--"spraying the ocean liner like a madame sprays perfume, only the scent was pure shit." The result was that all the passengers were violently sick.

This great-grandmother Bingham is also a direct link for Ringgold into the history of black quiltmaking

A few pages later in the autobiography, Ringgold writes that "When she was a little girl growing up in Florida, Mother had learned quilt-making in the free-hand piecing technique her grandmother, Betsy Bingham, had taught her" (p.76).

FR: "Betsy Bingham also taught my mother how to boil the flour sacks until they were soft and white as snow. These sacks were then used as batting to fill the quilts."

By the time of her first Garden Party, held on October 3, 1999, Ringgold had written the beginning of the Jones Road story in which Aunt Emmy plays a pivotal role. The tale is about slaves escaping from the South who finally arrive at Jones Road. The 1999 text (printed in the little book given to the guests of this first Garden Party) begins abruptly.

"The sun went down early that night, cotton fields black, and in no time all of us stepping quiet to the shacks. 'You all come on just follow me,' Barn Door whispered, 'We going north to freedom tonight.' Barn Door had heard a message spoken so loud you'd a thought everyone coulda heard it . . .The voice said, "Barn Door, go ahead. Walk away to freedom. Aunt Emmy waitin for you, isn't nobody gonna stop you now. Wait till nightfall then go . . .Keep a coming till you get to the Palisades then turn onto Jones Road. Look for an old white farmhouse. Aunt Emmy and Uncle Joe and Ma and Pa be there waiting for you. God's on our side. You as good as free. "

"We arrived at the Palisades one morning before daybreak, dog-tired, starving and aching from head to toe . . .Lord, don't let this be a dream and we wake up choppin cotton. Well we was here cuz we see Aunt Emmy and Uncle Joe proud and pretty standing in the morning sun, and the old white farm house with my dead grandmother's quilt on the roof and now we can't walk no more. Just fall on our knees making a river of tears right there on the ground . . . . .God be my witness that's how it happened. That's how we got to Jones Road in the year of our Lord 1792."

Last year when I attended the initial Garden Party, I saw the first three paintings of the Jones Road Series. "Aunt Emmy in White Hat and Dress "(No. 3) was flanked on the left by "Coming to Jones Road" (No. 1) and on the right by "Sunday Evening on Jones Road." (No. 2).

"Coming to Jones Road" shows the slaves (lit only by the light of the moon in the dense sky of dark blue and white clouds) in a long procession, a line that stretches across the canvas, wending their way through the woods; hidden in the trees above them is the white house of Aunt Emmy. In the other scene, "Sunday Evening on Jones Road," the sky is lighter, the moon has disappeared, and now the house is nearer to the figures.

On December 30, 1999, Ringgold began work on another moment in the narrative, "Under A Blood Red Sky," and this constitutes the theme of the works that are now on the studio walls--works that the guests of the second annual Garden Party will see tomorrow.

Again there is an accompanying text (part of this year's invitation book to the garden party), which is an longer version of Ringgold's1999 tale--repeating some of its phrasing, but expanded and adding the birth of the child Freedom and the image of the blood-red sky.

"There was 28 of us and a newborn baby on that long hard sojourn through the woods and swamps. We named the baby Freedom because she was born almost free. By day we prayed for the black of night to come to cover us. By night we crept softly to muffle our steps. We moved as if in one body hardly knowing where we were going, our way lit only by a chalk white moon in a blood-red sky."

On the studio wall next to two 1999 works ("Aunt Emmy in White Hat and Dress" and a small sketch of the slaves arrived at the house), there is a large new work. "Jones Road, No. 4: Under A Blood Red Sky" which depicts the dangerous journey of the slaves at night. Black figures silhouetted on an undilineated red ground move upward, as though on a steep hill, through blue-trunked, green-foliaged trees. . Above them is the red-blood sky and a white moon.

FR: Someone commented to me a little while ago [Buck, the printer who made me a litho of the Blook Red Sky? Faith to check]that it looked to him as you would have to be flying, to be up off the ground, to view the scene in that way."

This story quilt is almost finished excepted for the piping, which Ringgold plans to be red. Around the central scene is a thin yellow border, framed by green piping. Pined up on the wall behind it is a further outer border of layers of handpainted stars, random-patterned and in different sizes; on one side is a red sponge-painted "flying geese" pattern.

FR: " When I talked with Grace Welty, my assistant, about appropriate painted patterns for the borders for the Jones Road Series, she suggested that she look through Hidden in Plain View: A Secret History of Quilts and the Underground Railroad and use some of the slaves' coded quilt patterns.

In Hidden in Plain View: by Jacqueline L. Tobin and Raymond G. Dobard (1999), Tobin describes her meeting with the black quilt maker, Ozella Williams, in Charleston, South Carolina, who tells her about "the Underground Railroad Quilt Code. These were a series of signs and symbols used as secret messages for escaping slaves to find safe houses and get traveling directions to freedom.

The symbolism of the stars and geese in Ringgold's border clearly relate to the "Codes," described in this book. Geese fly north in the spring time or summer, and the Flying Geese pattern is accordingly an indication of both the "direction as well as the best season for slaves to escape." (p.111) The authors, too, write about the symbolism of stars. "Like the star of Bethlehem guiding the Wise Men, the North Star has been historically connected with the Underground Railroad. We see references to it in Frederick Douglass's newspaper, The North Star." (p. 116)

In boxes, packed under the studio, bench, are a series of further unfinished paintings underway in the Jones Road Series. Ringgold is in the midst of completing Jones Road Nos. 5-8, and she shows me the titles: "Long Dark and Lonely Nights"(No. 5), "Baby Freed Came One Night" (No. 6), "We'd Just Keep Coming" (No. 7), and "We Free Now" (No. 8)

On the opposite side of the studio are series of examples from multiple editions. The most elaborate is "Coming to Jones Road" (an edition of 20). Around the rectangular silk-screened image is a carefully inscribed text that starts with "There were 28 of us. . . .", and surrounding that is tie-dye border of abstract shapes in black, brown, red, yellow and green. There is also a copy of a lithograph, "Coming to Jones Road: Under A Blood Red Sky" (a 40- edition). Nearby are two works relating to the first Garden Party: Ringgold's "Faith's Garden Party, #1, October 1, 1999" (a hand-painted etching in an edition of 19), which portrays, in a densely composed group, the 39 guests of the event); and "Faith's Garden #1" (a hand-colored computer print edition of 10) by Grace Welty, an artist and Ringgold's assistant of several years. These limited editions, and subsequent ones (to be created each year) will be sold to help raise money for the Any One Can Fly Foundation which Ringgold is currently creating.

Research for the Jones Road Series
Among the books Ringgold is currently reading are Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation (by John Hope Franklin and Loren Schweninger, 1999); More Than Chattel: Black Women and Slavery in the Americas (edited by David Barry Gaspar and Darlene Clark Hine, 1996) and Hidden in Plain View: A Secret History of Quilts and the Underground Railway (Jacqueline L. Tobin and Raymond G. Dobard, 1999). She has also sought out specific studies of the history of Afro-Americans in New Jersey--the last of the northern states to abolish slavery, and then only gradually.
Among these are Graham Russell Hodges' "Roots & Branch: African Americans in New York and New Jersey, 1613-1863" (1999), Clement Alexander Price's "Freedom Not Far Distant: A Documentary History of Afro-Americans in New Jersey," (1980), and a slim book entitled "Englewood and Englewood Cliffs"(1998) researched, planned and written by the Friends of the Englewood Library Centennial Book Committee.

FR: "I've an ongoing invitation to talk with scholars at the New Jersey historical Society."

I sit in Ringgold's magical, sun-lit garden on this Saturday afternoon reading one Price's "Freedom Not Far Distant, " which traces the three centuries of black history in the state.

Price writes that "New Jersey had a relatively large black population since the eighteen century," and that when the East and West New Jersey were united in 1702, the West contained many Quakers who protested again slavery, while "the eastern section of the colony was drawn tightly into the orbit of slaveholding New York." (p. 4). The book is basically an anthology, with commentaries, of contemporary newspaper accounts, laws and excerpts from letters, journals, biographies and autobiographies. The captions of the early sections of the book--"Quakers Protest Slavery, 1693", "Law Controlling Slaves, 1694","Slave Courts Established, 1695","Tightening Slave Regulations, 1713"," John Woolman on Racial Justice, 1754" (a Quaker abolitionist in New Jersey), "Duty-Free Importation of Slaves, 1744," (which meant that the state became a major slave trading area in the North) and "Slave Rebel, 1734, 1737" --evoke all too well a sense of the state's deep reluctance to abolish slavery.

There are accounts too of slaves taking matters into their own hands. In the "Taking Their Freedom, 1772-82" section, there are reprints of many newspaper ads describing escaping slaves from New Jersey. For example in the New Jersey Archives there was a thirty-dollar award for Bret. " He can read and write, and 'tis supposed will forge a pass . . . .Tis probable that he may endeavor to get to the Mississippi . . .Those that harbor said fellow may depend on being prosecuted by Jecamiah Smith, May 19, 1773." (P.43).

After the successful Revolution, there was an intense battling out between the pro-slavery and abolitionists forces. In 1786, a New Jersey Act was passed in order "to Prevent the Importation of Slaves Into the State of New Jersey, and to Authorize the Manumission of Them Under Certain Conditions and to Prevent the Abuse of Slaves." (p.73) In the beginning of 1804 the New Jersey Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery submitted a petition to the state's legislature, and almost immediately the cautious, and easy to circumvent, "Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery" was passed. (There were by this time 12,422 slaves, 5.8 per cent of the population.) This allowed, for example, for children born of a slave, to be held in bondage until a male was twenty-five years old, and a female twenty-one.There were many abuses of this law including, as Price writes, "unscrupulous owners [who] sold an undetermined number of blacks to slave traders in the southern states." (p. 85)

This is the state to which the fleeing slaves of Ringgold's Jones Road Series arrived in 1792. What was life to be like for them after their arrival in New Jersey, a state still committed to slavery?

FR: "I talked with Michelle Wallace, my daughter, about this. I explained that though I knew there was still slavery in New Jersey, there was not in Aunt Emmy's house because she had a certain power. She knew things about the leading families in the area --secrets about death and crime in their families--and her silence about these bought not only her own freedom but also the freedom of those in her house."

June 25, 2000
A warm summer's day for the second annual Garden Party. A mild drama early in the day of an overflowing pool was solved before the 35 guests appeared for sweet festive hours of conversation, strolling and eating….

June 26, 2000
Today there is a sense of business back to usual. As if to reflect this, the weather has turned; it is no longer sunny but actually raining.

Ringgold has now tacked up four unfinished story quilts of the Jones Road Series, two merely at the stage of underpainting, and another is the rough sketching out of "Baby Freedom Came One Night" --the figures cluster around what must be a birth scene which reminds me a little of the American Collection…

The most finished is "Long Dark and Lonely Nights," in which the figures move up from a watery blue -green path toward a forest of trees, and above is the night sky, a dark blue with a gold moon. The trees' tall slim trunks remind me uncannily of the oak trees in Ringgold's garden, which I can see through the window of the studio from where I am sitting.

From where I sit, I also look at two posters--on the door is "Wanted: Douglas, Tubman and Truth" (part of the American Collection), concealed in dense foliage. And I think of the history of Ringgold's representations of slaves and slavery, from her Slave Rapes Series of 1973 to the nightmarish dream in We Came to America.

On a nearby wall is an extraordinary early work, "The United States of Attica "(1971), her most widely distributed poster of the 1970s, and her response to the uprising of prisoners in the NY States Attica prison. The red-gree-and-black poster cotains a litany of acts of violence in America, and at the bottom there is a caption that reads, "This map of American violence is Incomplete. Please write in whatever you find lacking. "

And that is what Ringgold has continued to do through the decades, and here she is looking at the history of violence against slaves in the states in which she has lived since 1992, when she and Burdette left their home in Harlem.

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