September 11, 2019

Art Against Racism Program Examines Social Justice Issues

“LIBERTY & JUSTICE FOR ALL”: This painting by Kimberly Lennon will be featured at an exhibit during Art Against Racism: Princeton Area and Beyond. To be held September 20-30, the program is designed to promote social justice, inclusion, equality, and anti-racist community-building.

By Anne Levin

Since putting together a 10-day program designed to promote social justice, inclusion, equality, and anti-racist community-building, to be held in Princeton September 20-30, its organizers have been bowled over by the public’s response.

Art Against Racism: Princeton Area and Beyond will bring talks, exhibits, readings, faith community conversations, and a drag show to Morven Museum & Garden, The Arts Council of Princeton, McCarter Theatre Center, the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice, and three local churches.

“We started on this in June,” said attorney, activist, and Princeton resident Rhinold Ponder, one of three people behind the series. “The response has been so great that I haven’t approached more than one-tenth of my resources. There has not been a ‘no.’ There are people and organizations that will wonder, ‘Why didn’t he call me?’ But it just became so big, so fast, that I had to put a limit to it.”

The program came together after Ponder received a call from a group called CREATE Core Courage, which was looking to develop art based around specific social justice issues. This is the second year that the organization has fostered these events. The mission of the inaugural Art Against Racism group show and related events “is to help people in the Princeton area consider and discuss racism locally, and beyond,” according to a press release.

Funds raised by the event will benefit the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice. Robt Seda-Schreiber, that organization’s chief activist; and Ruthann Traylor, local art curator, activist, and member of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Princeton, have been working with Ponder on the program.

“What we wanted to do was give an opportunity to artists, organizations, and individuals to express how we really have a collective vision for how this country and this world should function,” said Ponder. “It’s getting lost in all of these labels and in all of what’s happening on the national scene.”

The events begin Friday evening, September 20 with an opening reception and artists’ talk at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation. Interdenominational breakfasts are scheduled Sunday, September 22 at that location as well as the Princeton United Methodist Church and the First Baptist Church of Princeton.

Next on Monday evening, September 23, at Morven, Not in Our Town presents an exhibit of children’s expressions of the theme through art and poetry. A special performance of the play Gloria: A Life is Thursday evening, September 26, at McCarter, including a post-show discussion with feminist artist Tamara Torres. On Friday evening, September 27, a juried art show and literary poetry performance take place at the Arts Council. “Racism is a Drag” is Saturday evening, September 28 at the Bayard Rustin Center. The program concludes Monday, September 30 with a talk titled “Reparations,” at Princeton United Methodist Church.

“I wanted to give as many organizations as possible an opportunity to participate,” said Ponder. “We would have had more if we could have. The beautiful thing about art is that it helps create a vision — not necessarily one single vision, or ideology. But it helps people by creating a dialogue. For myself, I use art to help create languages that aren’t available to us through words. In this country, we don’t have a common language for discussing race, and art provides the perfect opportunity to open that up to discussion.”

Seda-Schreiber said the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice is happy to be a key organizer of the events. “Racism is so engrained in our collective consciousness, meaningful connections like this allow us to see how all our communities can come together in a creative and meaningful way to recognize and break down the institutional and foundational nature of it,” he said in the press release. “The intersectional aspect of this work is the very essence of our mission and of our being of service to the people.”

Traylor commented, “Art can be very powerful, in providing new thinking, creating dialogue across our differences and helping people see different perspectives. Our hope is we can also see ways to build bridges of community.”

Following this inaugural series, Ponder envisions creation of an organization focused on the event. “I’m not sure we have the bandwidth to do it annually, but it will be repeated,” he said. “Part of what we’re trying to do is reinforce a collective vision of a more humane, socially conscious, and just society. We need to see ourselves a lot differently. Because of the environment created by 45 [President Trump], we need to start to see ourselves as who we feel we really should be. We hope to elevate that collective vision.”

For a full schedule of events, locations, dates, and times, visit