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Blink Your Eyes, Blessing the Boats (image: Amanda Brandl)^3466 Sekou Sundiata. Photo by Jana Leon.^3466 Blink Your Eyes, BRC Discussion (Image: Stephanie Meiling)^3466 Blink Your Eyes, Tongues of Fire (image: David Powell)^3466 Blink Your Eyes, Tongues of Fire (image: David Powell)^3466 Blink Your Eyes, Free Amplified Event (Image: Isabel Zimmerman)^3466 Blink Your Eyes, Free Amplified Event (Image: Isabel Zimmerman)^3466

Blink Your Eyes: Sekou Sundiata Revisited

September 5, 2012


$275,000 awarded in support of six-month series in New York City during 2013

New York, NY - MAPP International Productions, a New York City-based performing arts producing organization, announces the award of two major grants to support Blink Your Eyes: Sekou Sundiata Revisited, a six-month, citywide retrospective of the work and legacy of artist and lifelong New Yorker, Sekou Sundiata (1948-2007).

To curate and produce Blink Your Eyes, MAPP has been awarded a two-year, $175,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation New York City Cultural Innovation Fund, and a grant of $100,000 from the Surdna Foundation.

From April through October 2013, retrospective events across the city-in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Manhattan-will feature restagings of Sundiata's major theater and concert works: The Circle Unbroken Is A Hard Bop (1992), Tongues of Fire Choir (1996), blessing the boats (2002), and the 51st (dream) state (2006). Other events will feature readings of Sundiata's poetry; performances of poets and musicians featuring former band members and peer poets as well as a younger generation of artists inspired by Sundiata's aesthetic presence and voice. Connecting these major presentations will be ongoing humanities activities that reveal the breadth and significance of Sundiata's accomplishments and that enrich presentations of his artistic work throughout the city.

"Blink Your Eyes is a rare collaboration among a widespread group of New York City organizations around one influential artist's body of work," said MAPP's Executive Director, Ann Rosenthal. "It represents a new type of partnership that accesses each organization's mission to compose a full picture of this multi-faceted artist, educator and activist. We are deeply grateful to both the Surdna and Rockefeller Foundations for recognizing this innovative approach, and for providing such substantial resources to MAPP and its partners for this exciting project."

"Through Sekou Sundiata's poetry and music, we share meaning and truths about the human condition," commented Judilee Reed, Program Director for Thriving Cultures at The Surdna Foundation. "Surdna is grateful for the opportunity to support this tribute by so many important organizations to celebrate and sustain the living memory of this remarkable artist."

Joining MAPP in mounting the activities of Blink Your Eyes are twelve cultural organizations and educational institutions: 651 ARTS, The Apollo Theater, The Brotherhood/Sister Sol, Cave Canem, City Parks Foundation's SummerStage with programming at Central Park and Marcus Garvey Park, Harlem Stage, La Casita at Lincoln Center Out of Doors and Teatro Pregones, Lincoln Center Institute for Arts in Education, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Poets House, and The New School/Eugene Lang College.

"The Rockefeller Foundation is honored to support the presentation of the works of an artist who explored American identity in the face of inequity. We commend the array of cultural organizations that are coming together to share this cultural legacy with people throughout New York City," said Edwin Torres, Associate Director of the New York City Opportunities Fund at The Rockefeller Foundation.

Additional funding for planning and programming of Blink Your Eyes: Sekou Sundiata Revisited has been provided by the Ford Foundation, Leveraging Investments in Creativity, the Lambent Foundation, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.

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Sekou Sundiata (1948-2007)was internationally known as a poet who wrote for print, performance, music and theater; as an educator; and as an artist-activist. He was featured in the Bill Moyers' PBS series on poetry, The Language of Life, and as part of Russell Simmons' Def Poetry Jam on HBO. His highly acclaimed theater works were commissioned by leading venues, toured nationally, and received three AUDELCO Awards and a BESSIE Award. Mr. Sundiata was recipient of a Lambent Fellowship in the Arts, a Sundance Institute Screenwriting Fellow, a Columbia University Revson Fellow, a Master Artist-in-Residence at the Atlantic Center for the Arts (Florida), and the first Writer-in-Residence at the New School University in New York City, where he was a professor of writing at Eugene Lang College. He released two major recordings, the GRAMMY-nominated The Blue Oneness of Dreams (Mouth Almighty/Mercury), and its successor, longstoryshort (Righteous Babe Records). He toured internationally with his band; in 2001, they performed throughout the U.S. and Canada as part of Ani DiFranco's "Rhythm and News Tour."

MAPP International Productions is a nonprofit producing and touring organization dedicated to engaging audiences through contemporary performing arts projects and artistic experiences that offer fresh interpretations of social issues and forge connections between the artist and the community. Established in 1994 by Ann Rosenthal, and co-directed with Cathy Zimmerman since 1998, MAPP International is recognized for producing nontraditional artists who tackle complex subject matter, experiment with form and push the cultural conversation forward in society. Rosenthal and Zimmerman bring to the organization more than three decades of experience in the contemporary arts field, including substantial expertise in producing complex projects at the cutting edge of artistic creation.Since its founding MAPP International has produced 33 productions involving more than 300 artists in 42 U.S. states and 16 countries. MAPP international has also introduced the U.S. public to artists from 25 countries in Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia and the Caribbean. Current programs include New Works, Artist-Public Dialogues, MAPP on Tour, The America Project and The Africa Contemporary Art Consortium. MAPP International worked in close partnership with Sekou Sundiata as producer, project manager and tour representative on projects including Udu, blessing the boats, the Gift of Life Concert at the Apollo Theater, The America Project and the 51st (dream) state. www.mappinternational.org

The Rockefeller Foundation's mission to promote the well-being of people throughout the world has remained unchanged since its founding in 1913. Today, that mission is applied to an era of rapid globalization. Our vision is that this century will be one in which globalization's benefits are more widely shared and its challenges are more easily weathered. To realize this vision, the Foundation seeks to achieve two fundamental goals in our work. First, we seek to build resilience that enhances individual, community and institutional capacity to survive, adapt, and grow in the face of acute crises and chronic stresses. Second, we seek to promote growth with equity in which the poor and vulnerable have more access to opportunities that improve their lives. In order to achieve these goals, the Foundation constructs its work into time-bound initiatives that have defined objectives and strategies for impact. These initiatives address challenges that lie either within or at the intersections of five issue areas: basic survival safeguards, global health, environment and climate change, urbanization, and social and economic security. www.rockfound.org

The Surdna Foundation seeks to foster just and sustainable communities in the United States - communities guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy environments, strong local economies and thriving cultures. For five generations, since 1917, the Foundation has been governed largely by descendants of John Andrus and has developed a tradition of innovative service for those in need of help or opportunity. Now guided by a board of directors comprised of fourth- and fifth-generation family members and non-family members, the foundation has assets of approximately $800 million. The Surdna Foundation believes that cultural organizations, programs and projects often provide the opportunity for exploration of values and can act as catalysts for the building of just, sustainable communities. At their best, they contribute to fair access to social goods such as rights, opportunities and dignity. The Foundation's Thriving Cultures Program supports Teens' Artistic Advancement, Artists Engaging in Social Change, and Community Driven Design. www.surdna.org.