I reached out to a non-existent tissue in my bag. I would understand Primo Levi’s words and depictions of Auschwitz better if I could only see through the tears that forced their way to my eyes. While my vision was momentarily impaired, the experience of the night was far from curtailed.
“Everything was as silent as an aquarium, or as in certain dream sequences”
The stage in the middle of the amphitheatre was unadorned. There was a small background screen that had a wooden wall projected to it, and in front of it there was a stool, a bench, and a man. English subtitles were projected on both sides of the screen.
Coming up in The Season at Villa La Pietra, the World Premiere of PBS biographical film of Sammy Davis Jr. directed by Sam Pollard and written by Laurence Maslon, who will be in attendance to present the film. It is the first documentary to examine the personal and artistic identity of this extraordinary entertainer in the context of the social and racial evolution of the 20th Century.
Sammy Davis Jr. (1925-1990) “was the ultimate hipster, who lived at both the margin and the center, who indeed brought the margin to the center of American life.”
– “Rat Pack’s Sammy Davis Jr. Lives on Through Daughter’s Stories”, NPR, May 8, 2014.
The film screening will be followed by a conversation with Laurence Maslon.
«Istruitevi, perché avremo bisogno di tutta la nostra intelligenza. Agitatevi, perché avremo bisogno di tutto il nostro entusiasmo. Organizzatevi, perché avremo bisogno di tutta la nostra forza.»
“Instruct yourselves, because we will need all our intelligence. Stir yourselves up, because we will need all our enthusiasm. Organize yourselves, because we will need all our strength.”
(Antonio Gramsci, the first issue of L’Ordine Nuovo, May 1 1919)
On the evening of Wednesday, April 13th, over thirty NYU Florence students gathered around a banquet table in Villa Sassetti to participate in a discussion around the mobilization of identity and revolutionary activism. Among the students sat two great political activists and scholars: Angela Davis and Gina Dent. “We the Students” created by Wendy Koranteng was the first student-organized La Pietra Dialogue of the semester.
Anthony Appiah presented a calm, unassuming figure as he stood in front of those gathered at Villa La Pietra Monday to deliver his talk on identity. Appiah began by breaking down our idea of identity into three categories: Nationality, Race and Culture. Appiah examined the idea of nationality as a form of identity, looking at the concept of the nation and what it represents. Soon, it became clear that even our idea of what a nation should be is primarily a social construct, so fluid and arbitrary that a concrete definition of identity based on nationality is essentially impossible. Appiah looked at some important interpretations of what a state is through history: it has often been founded on the idea of a group of people with a shared sense of ancestry who care about that ancestry, people who share a genetic heritage. However, if we look at the sort of nation that that definition connotes, it is one known as a Romantic State, something along the lines of Benito Mussolini’s ideal Italy. A Romantic State would be one where people share a single consciousness and have no disagreements. To refute this idea, Appiah looked at many nations in Africa, such as Ghana, where despite not having a shared ancestry, (Ghana is composed of many different tribes), a national consciousness is forming nonetheless, as a product of the people of Ghana living together and working together to govern their nation–for evidence of the emergence of this national consciousness, Appiah cites the example of how people from Ghana have adopted kente cloth as the national cloth despite the fact that it is only truly native to one or two of the tribes that make up Ghana. Appiah ended his discussion on nationality by highlighting the importance of the Liberal State: a state where the people may not share the same ideas and same will, but do have a willingness to compromise with one another, to find a middle ground in an effort to move forward. Appiah pointed out that, because there is no definite national essence, a nation represents a medley of cultures and identities, meaning that we need a state where different people are capable of coming together and finding common ground.Read more
“Beauty is personal and political; it can be read both aesthetically and within the context of cultural studies.” – Deborah Willis
Proud recipient of MacArthur Genius Award and Guggenheim Fellowship, curator and author of multiple books including Posing Beauty (2009) and Reflections In Black (2000), Deborah Willis is a contemporary African-American artist, photographer, and educator. She is currently Professor of Photography and Chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts of New York University. She has also taught a seminar entitled “Beauty Matters” at Harvard University. Willis has pursued a dual professional career as an art photographer and as one of the nation’s leading historians of African American photography. She has also curated multiple exhibitions promoting African-American culture and heritage. Read more
Join us for Dialogues by Anthony Appiah, Deborah Willis and Jack Halberstam challenging our assumptions about identity and the consequences of these for society and politics.
Video created by NYU Florence student Arthur de Oliveira.
March 13 6:00pm Mistaken Identities: Culture, Color, Country, Creed – Anthony Appiah
March 14 6:00pm Posing Beauty – Deborah Willis
March 15 6:00pm Trans*: A Quick and Quirky Guide to Gender Variance – Jack Halberstam
RSVP at email@example.com.
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Truthfully, I have a very boring bucket list. Actually, I have a non-existent bucket list. There are only a few things that I want to accomplish before my death, and since these things are so few I never felt the need to list them. These wishes are more like pipe dreams – things I passionately want but would never expect to actually happen…until one actually did.
I have always been fascinated with African-American history in the US. My lullabies were negro spirituals. My cartoons were 90s sitcoms with all Black casts. My bedtime stories were newspaper articles about the Civil Rights Movement. I had the urge to march before I could walk. So when the opportunity arrived to meet Angela Davis, I stopped rushing to my Italian class and decided that I would be a little late.
A day before the iconic Angela Davis and feminist thinker Gina Dent spoke to the New York University Florence community about systemic racism within American institutions, two NYU Florence students organized a series of panels to discuss how race and gender impact the representations and interactions of Black women globally. The event was entitled the “Black Femininity Series.” Six Black women, leaders in their respective fields, shared their experiences and reflected on how they combat the prejudices they face that affect their professional relationships and self-perceptions.
I was one of the organizers of the event alongside my friend and colleague Rahni Davis. Rahni and I are young Black women ourselves, passionate about diversity, promoting more nuanced representations of Black women and their role in society, and bringing this diverse conversation to the global forum in Florence, Italy. On a cold October evening together we jotted down a proposal for the Black Femininity Series in the basement of Rahni’s home stay. The idea ascended to heights we never anticipated. Read more
Black Femininity Panelist Rachel Wang is sharing with the NYU Florence community access to her incredible work with the project 1000 Londoners, produced under her film production company Chocolate Films.
To Wang, this work is a source of inspiration and shines light on the extraordinary black women that exist in our world today.