In honor of Toni Morrison’s 89th birthday on February 18, the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) will launch “Happy Birthday, Toni! A Celebration of Black Women,” a week of screenings, conversations, and performances. The events are curated by Black women artists, activists, scholars, and cultural leaders who are inspired by the late author.
Morrison, the Nobel Prize laureate in literature who gained worldwide fame for pathbreaking works like Beloved (1987), Song of Solomon (1977), Sula (1973), and The Bluest Eye (1970), died in August of 2019 at age 88.
The series will open with The Pursuit of Vulnerability, a program curated by filmmaker and performance artist Ayanna Dozier. The program will pay tribute to Morrison and Audre Lorde (who was also born on February 18) with the documentary A Litany for Survival: The Life and Work of Audre Lorde (Ada Gay Griffin and Michelle Parkerson, 1995) and the short film All That is Left Unsaid (Michele Pearson Clarke, 2014). The screenings will be followed by a conversation with Dozier and director Michele Pearson Clarke.
Other programs throughout the week include Ava Duvernay’s film I Will Follow (2010), with an introduction by Racquel Gates; Care Cinema, a selection of experimental and archival shorts curated by Melissa Lyde and followed by a conversation with Lyde and Zahra Patterson; and Lilac Dust: Traces of Toni, an “evening of remembrance and reflection” through performance, dance, poetry, and speeches, presented by actor and playwright Eisa Davis, and followed by a dance party with DJ Reborn.
The series will continue with a Tribute to Toni Morrison: Archival Tour, a closer look at the Black Book, an encyclopedic survey of the Black experience in America edited by Morrison, in the BAM Hamm Archives, led by archivist Zakiya Collier; Toni, Adapted, a screening of Beloved (1998), starring Oprah Winfrey and Thandie Newton, with a pre-screening discussion about adaptations between Gaylene Gould and artist Ja’tovia Gary; and the short film program And She Was Loved: A Suite of Sounds and Images for Toni Morrison, a discussion of the themes of Morrison’s work, concluded with screenings of short performances by Nina Simone and Jessye Norman, programmed by Jessica Lynne and Tayler Montague.
When: February 18-25
Where: Various locations at the Brooklyn Academy of Music
Visit BAM’s website for more information.