The News Service
Feb. 8 through March 11, 2005
John Hay Library presents Black Lavender exhibition
The John Hay Library will present Black Lavender: An Exhibit of Writings by Black Gay Men Feb. 8 through March 11, 2005. This exhibition, free and open to the public, features an extensive array of books and periodicals dating from the late 19th century to today, along with photographs, posters and other ephemera. The opening reception, set for Feb. 8 at 5:30 p.m., will feature a lecture by Nigerian poet Julius Sokenu.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The work of notable writers James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen and Essex Hemphill, along with the writings of many lesser known gay men of African descent, will be featured in Black Lavender: An Exhibit of the Writings by Black Gay Men, a new exhibition at the John Hay Library, opening Tuesday, Feb. 8, and continuing through Friday, March 11, 2005.
Nigerian poet Julius Sokenu, a professor at Connecticut’s Quinebaug Valley Community College, will speak on “What Distinguishes the Black Gay Voice?” during an opening reception that begins at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 8, in the library. The lecture, reception and exhibition are all free and open to the public.
Black Lavender will feature an extensive array of books and periodicals written by black gay men, dating from the late 19th century through the Harlem Renaissance to the present day, as well as photographs, publicity materials, posters and other ephemera. The publications range from novels to poetry, sociology to history, and culinary arts to musical theory. They and the other items featured come from the private collection of local bibliophile Robb Dimmick, the curator of the exhibit. Dimmick co-directed the exhibition project with Samuel Streit, leader of the University Library’s Scholarly Research Department.
Dimmick developed this exhibit to “explore the enormous canon” created by “the burgeoning cadre of black gay writers that has grown out of literary movements such as Black Heart and Other Countries.”
“This mostly closeted, vastly overlooked and usually maligned body of work is far greater than most would assume,” Dimmick said. “[My] intention is to illuminate this literature by providing concrete examples of publications, showing the extent of the oeuvre and demonstrating how surprisingly influential and, at times, unexpectedly mainstream it is... I believe this is truly a landmark exhibit.”
An auxiliary display of books written since 1960 by more than 30 black gay men of Rhode Island will accompany the larger exhibit. These writers include academics from Brown, Rhode Island College and University of Rhode Island, as well as several Brown alumni – Guy Mark Foster, Jeffrey Mingo and Derek Livingston, among others – and local freelance authors. In an essay also featured, author Daniel Scott III identifies black gay writers working in Rhode Island and discusses what attracts and keeps them here.
“Many would be surprised by the number of gay men of African descent who live and work in the state,” said Dimmick. “By highlighting them, the exhibit will provide an intimate and valuable cultural connection for viewers.”
The John Hay Library, 20 Prospect St., is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, call (401) 861-7244 or 863-2146.