The Black Death Project
How do we render and receive stories of death and violence in black communities? Cathy Cohen (University of Chicago, Political Science), film producer and director Orlando Bagwell, and sculptor Garland Taylor develop a project that investigates how representations of blackness, death and violence are reflected in and refracted by neoliberalism and new media.
Orlando Bagwell is an award-winning documentary filmmaker whose films have captured the history of violence and movement from slavery to the civil rights and Black power movements and present-day stories of race and conflict in contemporary American society. He received his BA and masters degree from Boston University in filmmaking and journalism, and was recently appointed as Director of the Documentary Program at The University of California, Berkeley, Graduate School of Journalism. Throughout his documentary career his work has considered the tensions within America’s racial diversity by considering the foundations of attitudes and actions beginning in its early history of slavery and slave resistance and the implications of that history in America’s 21st century where shifting demographics represent an emerging new majority representing people of color. Always recognizing the power of story as a transformative tool, his work considers what these changes mean for an understanding of national identity and futures. His work as a filmmaker and storyteller has translated this conversation of American identity into long form dramatic documentary films, biographies, series television and museum installations - all contributing to an ongoing exploration of the historical precedents and events that contribute to a shifting national identity and consideration of how race, gender and American identity converge, diverge, and interact.
Some of Bagwell's films include Citizen King, a documentary for PBS about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King; Eyes on the Prize, a 14-part mini-series on the civil rights movement in America; and Roots of Resistance: The Story of the Underground Railroad. Bagwell was also a recent director at the Ford Foundation where he oversaw JustFilms, a foundation initiative which supports independent film and digital storytelling projects that explore urgent social justice issues.
Cathy J. Cohen is the David and Mary Winton Green Professor of Political Science and chair of the department. She has served as the Deputy Provost for Graduate Education and is the former Director of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture at the University of Chicago. Cohen is the author of two books: Democracy Remixed: Black Youth and the Future of American Politics (Oxford University Press 2010) and The Boundaries of Blackness: AIDS and the Breakdown of Black Politics (University of Chicago Press 1999) and co-editor with Kathleen Jones and Joan Tronto of Women Transforming Politics: An Alternative Reader (NYU, 1997). Her work has been published in numerous journals and edited volumes including the American Political Science Review, GLQ, NOMOS, and Social Text. Cohen is principal investigator of two major projects: The Black Youth Project and the Mobilization, Change and Political and Civic Engagement Project. Her general field of specialization is American politics, although her research interests include African-American politics, women and politics, lesbian and gay politics, and social movements.
Garland Martin Taylor
Garland is a sculptor and independent researcher from Chicago where he studied both sculpture and visual studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In his studio he welds, shapes, and polishes metal manufacturing industry discards into both life-sized functional works, and monumental public sculptures. His new works are fueled in part by research interests that stem from a brief stint at the DuSable Museum of African American History where Garland was introduced to the works of Henry Jackson Lewis, a late nineteenth century African American artist, engraver, and political cartoonist. Since 2012 Garland has devoted half of his professional practice to studying the life and art of H. J. Lewis. He recently contributed the essay Out of Jest: The Art of Henry Jackson Lewis to "Comics & Media: A Special Issue of Critical Inquiry." And in late 2014 Garland was awarded a Curtis Sykes Memorial Grant for Arkansas History from the Arkansas History Commission to further research Lewis.