Last year, when I returned from my sabbatical I wrote how profoundly moved I was by seeing the acclaimed painter Jacob Lawrence’s “Migration Series” during a rare exhibition at MoMA. Profoundly moved because each painting was its own extraordinary combination of artistry and history. Rare because the collection of 60 paintings is actually in two pieces, owned by two different museums – MoMA in NYC and the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC. Never before had they been shown in their entirety.
As I walked the gallery, the struggle of the great migration of African Americas in this country unfolded before me. It was when I got to the panel illustrating race riots in East St. Louis in 1919 that I “got woke” as Robert Ross, the President of the California Endowment would say. It hadn’t yet been a year since the uprising in Ferguson. And here it was, 96 years later.
This exhibition began my journey to try and gain a deeper understanding of how racism continues to eat at so much good in our country. Many have heard slavery referred to as the original sin of our “more perfect union.” And I’ve heard from so many CNJG members that, as funders, you are frustrated by stymied efforts where change seems so close at hand. This month, we begin what we are calling a learning journey on Race, Racism and the Ramifications for Philanthropy. We are grateful to the support of The Fund for New Jersey to help underwrite some of this work. Over the next six months we will offer a range of programming that I hope many of you will find of value. This includes two cultural outings.
Next week, a group of CNJG members will travel to the Phillips Collection where the entire collection is being presented together for the last time. There is still time to sign up and join us. In February, we will have another “field trip” to George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick to see a new play “American Son” that will ignite many conversations on the racial divide and shattering events we continue to see across the country.
As we head into the season of light, I wish us all peace.
Nina Stack, President
Council of New Jersey Grantmakers