Black Power & Jazz: A Film Series

Wednesdays, February 5-26, 2020


MoAD presents a four-week film series in conjunction with Black is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaitea photographic exhibition focussing on how the Black Pride movement manifested in fashion and in jazz & soul music. Dr. Tanisha C. Ford writes in the catalogue, “Jazz set the rhythm for all of Brathwaites’s work… he is a son of the modern Jazz age.” The Black Power & Jazz film series complements the exhibition with works on representative and still influential icons of the era — from the widely celebrated performer Abbey Lincoln to the community-based California Jazz musician Horace Tapscott — as well as touching on the era’s “L.A. Rebellion” independent film movement.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

HORACE TAPSCOTT: MUSICAL GRIOT (Barbara McCullough, 2017, 72 minutes). A Bay Area premiere

HORACE TAPSCOTT MUSICAL GRIOT is a “poetic meditation on the strength of African American music and activism embodied in the history of Los Angeles through the life of musician, composer and community activist, Horace Tapscott (1934-1999)”.  During the Watts Rebellion of 1965, LAPD stopped his performances, stating that his music incited people to riot.  He was blacklisted in the 1960’s and 70’s because of his affiliation with political groups active during those times. The film allows Mr. Tapscott to reveal his story as a griot would in a West African society who preserves the knowledge, legacy and oral history of his culture.  Filmmaker Barbara McCullough will introduce the film and lead a post-screening discussion.

A native of New Orleans, Barbara McCullough spent most of her life in the Los Angeles area.  She attended UCLA and was part of a group of filmmakers who were termed, “The LA Rebellion”. Her goal is to reveal untold stories reflective of African American life. Other film and video projects include: “Water Ritual #1: An Urban Rite of Purification”, “Shopping Bag Spirits and Freeway Fetishes: Reflection on Ritual Space”, “Fragments”, and “The World Saxophone Quartet”. These projects have been screened in galleries and museums nationally and internationally. Her film, “HORACE TAPSCOTT: MUSICAL GRIOT” is a documentary on musical genius, community activist and mentor to generations of accomplished jazz musicians, the late Horace Tapscott. Through his story, the history of jazz in Los Angeles is told. Ms. McCullough worked in the special visual effects industry for over 20 years and was past chair of the visual effects department at Savannah College of Art and Design.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

PASSING THROUGH (Larry Clark, 1977, 115 minutes)

This narrative feature film shot in Los Angeles tells the story of a jazz musician who struggles against music industry pressure in order to remain authentic with his art. Eddie Warmack, an African American jazz musician, is released from prison for the killing of a white gangster.  Not willing to play for the mobsters who control the music industry, including clubs and recording studios, Warmack searches for his mentor and grandfather, the legendary jazz musician Poppa Harris.  Director Larry Clark theorizes that jazz is one of the purest expressions of African American culture, embodying the struggles of generations of Blacks going back to slavery times, but now hijacked by a white culture that brutally exploits jazz musicians for profit. Filmmaker Larry Clark will introduce the film and lead a post-screening discussion.

Larry Clark is a filmmaker and former professor of film at San Francisco State University. Born in Ohio (where he was president of the Black Student Union at Miami University), he later drove to Los Angeles to enroll in the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. With musical roots (his uncle was renowned jazz pianist Sonny Clark; his mailman father played sax and taught Latin dance, and his housekeeper mother sang opera), it’s fitting that his first feature, Passing Through (1977), is often cited as one of the best jazz films ever made. Featuring Horace Tapscott and his Pan-Afrikan People’s Jazz Arkestra and co-written by actor Ted Lange, it united a wide range of black artists. It had its world premiere at Los Angeles’ Filmex and went on to win the Special Jury Prize at the Locarno International Film Festival.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

ABBEY LINCOLN IS (Paul Raoux, 52 minutes, 1998) Bay Area Premiere

(Image: Kwame Brathwaite, b. 1938, Abbey Lincoln singing at an AJASS event, Harlem, ca. 1964. Archival pigment print. Courtesy of the artist and Phillip Martin Gallery, Los Angeles)

For more than 50 years, jazz singer, songwriter and movie actress, Abbey Lincoln lived her life in a way that demanded respect –  as an artist and as a Black woman.  In this rare portrait, she discusses her career, her relationships with other musicians such as former husband/collaborator Max Roach and Miriam Makeba and how she integrated art and activism   The documentary features clips from live musical performances and from her film appearances. Independent curator Ashara Ekundayo and music scholar Angela M. Wellman will introduce the film and lead a post-screening discussion.

Ashara Ekundayo is a Detroit-born, Oakland-based independent curator, artist, creative industries entrepreneur and organizer working internationally across cultural, spiritual, civic, and social innovation spaces.  Through her company AECreative Consulting Partners and her projects Omi Arts Project + Space and Ashara Ekundayo Gallery, she places artists and cultural production as essential in equitable design practices, real estate development, and movement-building. Additionally, her worldview offers an Afrofuturist, intersectional framework to the public sector that centers the lives, traditions and expertise of Black womxn of the African Diaspora.  She is the author of the forthcoming book, “Artist As First Responder.”

Angela M. Wellman, an award-winning musician, scholar, educator, and activist, is the founder of the Oakland Public Conservatory of Music which centers the Black experience in the development of American musical culture and identity. She is presently completing her dissertation at the University of Wisconsin-Madison exploring the impact of racism and white supremacy on access to music education for Black students.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

MR. SOUL! (Melissa Haizlip, 2018, 115 minutes)


SOUL! was a groundbreaking public affairs and entertainment program on public TV hosted by the
Visionary Ellis Haizlip.  It was a mixture of talk and performance with poets from the Black Arts
Movement such as Nikki Giovanni and Sonia Sanchez, activists like Stokely Carmichael and musical
artists such as LaBelle and Ashford and Simpson. It was on SOUL! that Maya Angelou first read an
excerpt from I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings to a national audience. Melissa Haizlip is founder of the Shoes in the Bed Productions focusing on independent productions of non-fiction works by filmmakers of color. The award-winning MR. SOUL! is her first feature length film. Filmmaker Melissa Haizlip will introduce the film and lead a post-screening discussion.

MELISSA HAIZLIP is an award-winning filmmaker born in Boston and raised in the US Virgin Islands, New York and Connecticut, where she attended Yale. Melissa’s feature documentary, Mr. SOUL!, won the 2018 International Documentary Association Award for Best Music Documentary. An IFP Spotlight on Documentaries alum. Mr. SOUL! premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival 2018, followed by HOT DOCS, the British Film Institute, and AFI DOCS at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Oprah Winfrey Theatre, where it won the Audience Award for Best Feature. Mr. SOUL! screened at over 50 festivals, receiving 16 Jury and Audience Awards for Best Documentary, including the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival, Urbanworld, the Pan African Film Festival, and the 2019 FOCAL Award for Best Use of Archival Footage in an Entertainment Production. The film was awarded as a finalist for the inaugural Library of Congress Lavine / Ken Burns Prize for Film, a new annual prize that recognizes a filmmaker whose documentary uses original research and compelling narrative to tell stories that touch on some aspect of American history.

Melissa’s two-channel art films have been funded and exhibited by the Hammer Museum’s Los Angeles Biennial, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, and Clifton Benevento Gallery, SoHo, NY. Mr. SOUL! screened at the Brooklyn Museum, the Detroit Institute of Arts, and the Portland Art Museum. Melissa has received grants from the Ford Foundation’s JustFilms, the National Endowment for the Humanities, IDA’s Pare Lorentz Grant, the National Endowment for the Arts, Black Public Media, Firelight Media, ITVS, and Awesome Without Borders. She has served on application review panels for the NEH. She recently directed and produced the film CONTACT HIGH: A VISUAL HISTORY OF HIP-HOP for the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles, currently on exhibit at the International Center for Photography in New York City.

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This project was made possible with support from California Humanities, a non- profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Visit

Categories:  Public Programs