ENGAGE: Black Refractions Symposium

February 23, 2019 @ 10:00 am – 3:00 pm
Museum of the African Diaspora
685 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94105
$45 General Admission | $35 MoAD Members | $25 Students with ID | $55 at the door, if space is available

Join MoAD for our second annual day-long symposium. This year’s program is inspired by the artists in Black Refractions: Selections from the Studio Museum in Harlem. Featuring exhibition artists, curators, collectors, gallerists, and art writers who will join us for insightful conversations around identity, politics, and the role of institutions on the works and careers of artists of African descent. The day begins and ends with keynote addresses, live music and dance performances, inspiring panel discussions with artists and curators, and a catered lunch. For the first time, MoAD will fully livestream the entire event.



10:00 am Doors Open

10:30 am Introduction

10:45 am Opening Keynote: Naima Keith, Deputy Director and Chief Curator, California African American Museum

11:15 am Panel 1: On Artists of African Descent

Moderator: Jacqueline Francis, PhD., California College of Art

Henry Taylor, Artist

Mariane Ibrahim, Gallerist, Mariane Ibrahim Gallery

Emily Kuhlmann, Director of Exhibitions & Curatorial Affairs, Museum of the African Diaspora

12:15 pm Lunch provided by Blackberry Soul Catering

12:50 pm Performance : PUSH Dance Company

1:20 pm Panel 2: Artist as Social Change Agent

Moderator: Leigh Raiford, PhD., UC Berkeley

Kori Newkirk, Artist

Erin Christovale, Assistant Curator, Hammer Museum

Bridget R. Cooks, PhD., UC Irvine

2:20 pm Performance

2:50 pm Closing Keynote Speaker: Aruna D’Souza

3:20 pm Adjourn


PRESENTERS – Biographies 

Naima Keith (Opening Keynote) 

Naima J. Keith is Deputy Director, Exhibitions and Programs for the California African American Museum (CAAM), where she also serves as curator. She was the 2017 recipient of the David C. Driskell Prize in recognition of her contributions to the field of African American art history and is co-artistic director of Prospect.5 in New Orleans in 2020. Previously Keith served as associate curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem (2011–16), and between 2008– 11, Keith worked as a curatorial fellow at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, serving as the primary contact for the groundbreaking exhibition Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960–1980, organized by guest curator Kellie Jones. Keith holds degrees from Spelman College and UCLA and is a proud native of Los Angeles.

Aruna D’Souza (Closing Keynote) 

Aruna D’Souza writes about modern and contemporary art; intersectional feminisms and other forms of politics; and how museums shape our views of each other and the world. Her work appears regularly in 4Columns.org, where she is a member of the editorial advisory board. Her book, Whitewalling: Art, Race, and Protest in 3 Acts was published by Badlands Unlimited, and was named one of the best art books of 2018 by the New York Times. She is currently editing two forthcoming volumes, Making It Modern: A Linda Nochlin Reader, and Lorraine O’Grady: Writing in Space 1977-2018.

Jacqueline Francis, Ph.D. 

Jacqueline Francis, Ph.D., is the author of Making Race: Modernism and “Racial Art” in America (2012) and a co-editor of Romare Bearden: American Modernist (2011).  She teaches US art history and researches critical questions about minority identities represented in historical and contemporary visual cultures in the Americas and Europe.  She is Associate Professor and Chair of the Graduate Program in Visual & Critical Studies at the California College of the Arts (San Francisco). 

Henry Taylor 

Henry Taylor is a contemporary African American painter whose enigmatic works include portraits of psychiatric patients, historical figures, and friends. “I paint everyone, or I try to,” the artist has explained. “I try to capture the moment I am with someone who could be my friend, a neighbor, a celebrity, or a homeless person.” Taylor’s colorful, expressive paintings are characterized by their emotional intimacy and gestural looseness, following in the tradition of American artists such as Alice Neel and Jacob Lawrence. Born in 1958 in Oxnard, CA, his father was employed as a painter by the US Navy and it was seeing his brushes that partly inspired the young artist to take up the craft. Taylor went on to study art under James Jarvaise at Oxnard College, where he was introduced to the work of Willem de Kooning, Philip Guston, and Jean Dubuffet. While working as a nurse at Camarillo State Mental Hospital for a decade, he returned to school and completed his BFA in 1995 at the California Institute for the Arts. Since then, he has been the subject of solo exhibitions at Blum & Poe in Los Angeles, MoMA PS1 in Queens, and The Studio Museum in Harlem, and in 2017, the artist was included in the Whitney Biennial. He currently lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.

Mariane Ibrahim 

Mariane Ibrahim, who was born in Nouméa, New Caledonia, and raised in Somalia and France, founded Mariane Ibrahim Gallery in Seattle, Washington, in 2012. She works with a roster of primarily African artists while maintaining a presence at international art fairs. Her global roster of artists frame Africa and its diaspora as a part of the contemporary world and not as a colonial fantasy. 

In 2017 she won the Presents Booth Prize for a presentation of work by the German-Ghanaian artist Zohra Opoku at the Armory Show in New York.

Emily Kuhlmann 

Emily Kuhlmann has been engaged at MoAD in various capacities since 2011. She organized past exhibitions such as The Grace Jones Project (2016), Where is Here (2017) and The Ease of Fiction (2017). As Director of Exhibitions and Curatorial Affairs she has curated various solo artists exhibitions including: Alison Saar: Bearing (2016), A Matter of Fact :ToyinOjih Odutola (2016), Todd Gray: My Life in the Bush with MJ and Iggy (2017) and most recently co-curated, Black Refractions: Selections from the Studio Museum in Harlem.

Emily received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Irvine in Art History with a minor in Women’s Studies. Returning back to Bay Area, she received her Master of Arts in Visual and Critical Studies from California College of the Arts. Herresearch interests include performance studies and critical race art history.

Leigh Raiford 

Leigh Raiford is Associate Professor and H. Michael and Jeanne Williams Chair of African American Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, where she also serves as affiliate faculty in the Program in American Studies, and the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies. She received her PhD from Yale University’s joint program in African American Studies and American Studies in 2003. Before arriving at UC-Berkeley in 2004, she was the Woodrow Wilson Postdoctoral Fellow at Duke University’s John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies. She is the recipient of fellowships and awards from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Ford Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson foundation, and the Hellman Family Foundation and has also been a Fulbright Senior Specialist. 

Raiford is the author of Imprisoned in a Luminous Glare: Photography and the African American Freedom Struggle (University of North Carolina Press, 2011), which was a finalist for the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians Best Book Prize.  She is co-editor with Heike Raphael-Hernandez of Migrating the Black Body: Visual Culture and the African Diaspora (University of Washington Press, 2017) and with Renee Romano of The Civil Rights Movement in American Memory (University of Georgia Press, 2006).

Kori Newkirk 

Kori Newkirk received his MFA from the University of California, Irvine in 1997 and his BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1993. In addition to a monographic survey at The Studio Museum in Harlem (2008) and the Pasadena Museum of California Art (2008), Newkirk has had solo exhibitions at The Project, New York (2009, 2006), LAXART, Los Angeles (2008), MC, Los Angeles (2006), the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego (2005), and Locust Projects, Miami, Florida (2005). Group exhibitions include Blues for Smoke, MOCA, Los Angeles (2013), Meet Me Inside, Gagosian Gallery, Los Angeles (2010), Selections from the MCA Collection, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago (2010), the 2006 Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, DAK’ART: 7th Dakar Biennial, Dakar, Senegal (2006), Uncertain States of America, Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo, Norway (2005-6), the 2004 California Biennial, Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, California, and Freestyle at The Studio Museum of Harlem (2001).

Erin Christovale 

Erin Christovale is the co-founder of Black Radical Imagination and the Assistant Curator at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Black Radical Imagination, founded with Amir George, has screened both nationally and internationally in spaces such as MoMA PS1, MOCA Los Angeles, and the Museo Taller José Clemente Orozco. Exhibitions include a/wake in the water: Meditations on Disaster (2014) at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, Memoirs of A Watermelon Woman (2016) and A Subtle Likeness (2016) at the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, and S/Election: Democracy, Citizenship, Freedom (2016) at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery and baby boy (2017) at Transmission Glasgow. She recently curated the Los Angeles biennial, Made in L.A. 2018, with Anne Ellegood at the Hammer Museum.

Bridget R. Cooks 

Bridget R. Cooks fills a joint appointment in the Program in African American Studies and the Department of Art History at UCI. She is an Associate Professor within the School of Humanities and is also part of the Graduate Programs in Visual Studies and Culture and Theory. Cooks’ research focuses on African American art and culture, Black visual culture, museum criticism, film, feminist theory and post-colonial theory. In 2002 she earned her doctorate degree in the Visual and Cultural Studies Program at the University of Rochester. She has received a number of awards, grants and fellowships for her work including the prestigious James A. Porter & David C. Driskell Book Award in African American Art History, and the Henry Luce Dissertation Fellowship in American Art. She has also curated several exhibitions of African American art including “The Art of Richard Mayhew” at the Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, 2009-2010. Prior to her appointment at UCI, she taught in the Department of Art and Art History and the Program of Ethnic Studies at Santa Clara University. She also served as museum educator for the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Cooks is a UCI alumna. She received her B.A. from the School of Humanities in 1996.

Raissa Simpson’s PUSH Dance Company 

Raissa Simpson (Artistic Director/Founder of PUSH Dance Company) is an interdisciplinary choreographer whose Company has performed in over 50 venues across the United States. Her works have been presented Dance St. Louis, Links Hall in Chicago, Ferst Center for the Arts at Georgia Tech, Joyce SoHo in New York, and the Los Angeles Theater Center, to name a few. Simpson’s guest teaching includes American Conservatory Theater, Santa Clara University, UC Davis, Sacramento State, Stanford University, SF State University, Alonzo King Lines Dance Center, Ferst Presents, San Jose Dance Theatre, Marin School, and many others. PUSH’s upcoming season includes a performance residency at Bayview Opera House and the annual PUSHfest. This year, the Company will also make its performance debut in Carbondale, Co with Dance Initiative and at the Aspen Fringe Festival.   (Coding + Redlining) explores new media tools (motion capture, wireless sensory, projection mapping, etc.) to explore redlining, gentrification, the digital divide, and the real or perceived barriers between artists, technologists, and communities of color.


The brainchild of singer-songwriter Valerie TrouttMoonCandy is a soulful house ensemble that features the inspirational voices of some of the East Bay’s leading lights of jazz, soul, blues and gospel. MoonCandy is a church without walls . . . soulful, uplifting and fabulous!

Blackberry Soul Catering 

​Blackberry Soul Catering is owned and operated by Rene Johnson. Influenced by her wide array of international experiences and traditional southern techniques instilled in her from her childhood, Rene is upgrading the Southern soul food genre by using healthier & organic ingredients combined with gourmet accouterments. Her recipes cover an array of culinary cuisines and cultures, she has developed a love for making amazing vegetarian and vegan dishes without losing the soul.



Demetri Broxton (organizer) 

Demetri Broxton joined MoAD in January 2016 as the Senior Director of Education. This appointment marks Broxton’s second tenure with MoAD. He previously served as Education Program Manager at MoAD from 2007 through 2010. Outside of his role at MoAD, Demetri is an independent curator and a regularly exhibiting visual artist. In 2012, Broxton founded Demetri Broxton Studio, an independent curatorial service and has served as curator for the City of Berkeley’s Civic Arts galleries since 2013. His largest projects include Decoding Identity, which he co-curated at MoAD in 2009 and Past Forward, at the African American Art and Culture Complex (SF) in 2010. Demetri earned an M.A. in Museum Studies from San Francisco State University in 2010 and received his BFA from UC Berkeley in Art Practice in 2002.


This program is made possible by the generous support of Art Bridges, Yerba Buena Community Benefit District, and Zellerbach Family Foundation