Proud, provocative, and uncompromising poet and activist Essex Hemphill gave voice to the experiences of black gay men during the 1980s and 90s. He used verse and performance to inspire a generation of artists, activists, and readers, exploring the interplay of race, identity, and politics during the rise of AIDS. His collaboration with activist and writer Joseph Beam on the 1991 literary anthology Brother to Brother
continues to resonate today.
Several of today's leading artists, writers, and poets convene for an evening to pay tribute to Hemphill’s work and influence. First, writer Darnell L. Moore hosts a panel discussion featuring Timothy DuWhite, Michelle Parkerson and Ni’Ja Whitson, reflecting on how Hemphill’s work has reverberated across the decades and how his legacy has influenced activist artists from the 1980s through the present.
After a short break, we present a screening of Black Is…Black Ain’t
(1994), a study of the definitions of “blackness” that African-Americans impose on each other, and Anthem
(1991), a hip-hop-inflected experimental short. Both films feature Hemphill and were directed by his friend and collaborator Marlon Riggs
This program is presented as part of the PEN World Voices Festival. Hemphill’s work is also featured in Triptych (Eyes of One on Another)
, presented as part of the 2019 Winter/Spring Season