Thelma Golden, Kehinde Wiley Will Speak at Ta-Nehisi Coates–Organized Festival in New York

Coates at the University of Virginia's 2015 Community MLK Celebration. WIKIMEDIA

Coates at the University of Virginia’s 2015 Community MLK Celebration. WIKIMEDIA

Today, the programming lineup for the Ta-Nehisi Coates-organized Festival Albertine—a free five-day event hosted by the French Embassy-run bookshop of the same name—was announced. Among the participants for this exquisitely-assembled event, happening between November 2 and 6, are everyone from visual artists (Kehinde Wiley, Catherine Meurisse) to writers (Thelma Golden, Jelani Cobb) and voices from the world of television (David Simon, the creator of the acclaimed show The Wire). And that’s just skimming the surface.

Coates is the author of the National Book Award-winning Between the World and Me, and just returned to New York after a year spent in Paris. All events will take place at the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in New York and in addition to being free will also be livestreamed. According to a release, participants will “explore the ways in which the politics of race are changing in America and France in a time of both growing extremism and the rise of activist movements like Black Lives Matter; what the rise of the populist right in both countries means for national identity; and what both countries’ attitudes toward immigration have done to shape its interaction with the broader world.”

Find a list of events, as explained by organizers, below.

When Will France Have Its Barack Obama?
Featuring Jelani Cobb, Iris Deroeux, Pap Ndiaye and Benjamin Stora
Moderated by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Wednesday, November 2

Barack Obama’s election in 2008 was celebrated as the advent of a “post-racial” America, coming to terms with its diversity and redefining its identity. At the end of his second term in office, the political debate on both sides of the Atlantic revolves more than ever around issues of identity, of common values, and inclusion of minorities. Reflecting both countries’ singular histories, journalists Iris Deroeux and Jelani Cobb and historians Pap Ndiaye and Benjamin Stora will debate issues regarding political representation of minorities and explore how these questions figure among the challenges facing liberal democracies today. They will discuss the differences in construction of identity in France and the United States, and will explore what specifically allowed for Barack Obama in the U.S. and how a similar evolution could happen in France.

From the Margins to the Mainstream:
High Art vs. Low Art in France and the U.S.
Featuring Kelly Sue Deconnick, D’ de Kabal, Catherine Meurisse and David Simon
Moderated by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Thursday, November 3

In the past twenty years we’ve seen television move from the realm of pedestrian art to the realms of the auteur. And yet even as comic book movies dominate commercially, comics in America have yet to escape the image of being the property of teen boys. Moderated by Ta-Nehisi Coates, producer David Simon (The Wire), graphic novelists Kelly Sue Deconnick (Captain Marvel) and Catherine Meurisse (La Légèreté), and spoken word artist D’ de Kabal (Chants Barbares) will look at how and why certain art forms—from television to comic books and slam poetry—move from low art to high art. They will also explore how those same art forms are considered within the realms of French and American culture.

Blacklisted: From Hollywood to Paris
Featuring Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche, Claire Diao, and Nina Shaw
Moderated by Kamilah Forbes
Friday, November 4

Hollywood has long been criticized for its lack of inclusion of filmmakers, actors, and professionals from diverse cultures and backgrounds. Initiatives to tackle this issue have emerged following the #OscarsSoWhite polemic. Conversely, one might wonder whether the French film industry, which has a strong tradition of supporting African, Middle-Eastern, Asian and Latino-American cinema, accurately reflects the cultural diversity within its own borders.  Panelists Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche, Claire Diao and Nina Shaw consider how the complex and diverging histories of each country have impacted their respective film industries.

Europe and America in the Black Literary Imagination
Featuring Laurent Dubois, Scholastique Mukasonga, Maboula Soumahoro and Darryl Pinckney
Moderated by Chris Jackson
Saturday, November 5

This panel will look at how black authors on both sides of the ocean have engaged the country and culture on the other side. Is France an escape for black authors? Is America the land of individual expression and opportunity? After the Second World War, prominent African-American authors such as Richard Wright, James Baldwin and Chester Himes made Paris their home. French authors have themselves long been fascinated by the United States, and New York in particular. This common interest has fed many authors’ writing, both thematically and stylistically. Laurent Dubois, Darryl Pinckney, Maboula Soumahoro and Scholastique Mukasonga will reflect on this mutual fascination and ponder how it has impacted their own work and influenced literature more broadly. But how substantive is this connection? Is it myth or reality?

Art, Race & Representation
Featuring Denis Darzacq, Kehinde Wiley, Thomas Lax and Nacira Guénif-Souilamas
Moderated by Thelma Golden
Saturday, November 5
7:30 PM

Artists Denis Darzacq and Kehinde Wiley, curator Thomas Lax and sociologist Nacira Guénif-Souilamas explore race and representation in contemporary art through practice and process in a conversation moderated by Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator of The Studio Museum in Harlem.

Every Name in the Street
Featuring Raphaël Confiant, Zahia Rahmani, Claudia Rankine, Jacqueline Woodson
Moderated by Adam Shatz
Sunday, November 6

This panel will look at literature, both here and in France, and how it engages the work of identity in our era of political extremism and activist movements such as Black Lives Matter in the U.S. or the Nuit Debout in France.
Considering language as a site of political struggle, and a reflection of the social constructions that shape our worldview, the authors will discuss the intersections between identity, language and politics. What is the role that literature plays in challenging our preconceptions and reimagining society?

Race, Equity, and Otherness in Ballet and Society
Virginia Johnson and Benjamin Millepied
Moderated by Jennifer Homans
Sunday, November 6
Co-presented by the Center for Ballet and the Arts, New York University
Made possible by Michele and Timothy Barakett and Cheryl and Blair Effron

Recently, ballet companies have been denounced for uncritically perpetuating traditions at odds with contemporary society and notions of racial diversity, equality, and social justice. In France, Benjamin Millepied is actively trying to push back against racial stereotyping in the ballet; meanwhile, in the United States, the recent rise of Misty Copeland as the first black female principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre has thrust this decades-old debate into the spotlight. However, in both societies, ballet traditions run deep and those who may have the most to gain from reevaluating ballet’s traditions and labels—minorities and dancers of color—are some of its staunchest supporters. Virginia Johnson, Benjamin Millepied, and historian Jennifer Homans discuss race, equity, and otherness in ballet, against a larger backdrop of identity politics in American and French society today.

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