Presidents’ Day 2018

19 Feb

I am a museum lover. Before the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the National Portrait Gallery was my favorite Smithsonian museum. It’s now my second museum. When Barack Obama won the 2008 election, I thought that he will be included in the pantheon of American Presidents.

President Obama’s portrait was unveiled last week.

Barack Obama - NPG

In an email, Obama wrote:

Today, Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald became the first black artists to create official, Smithsonian-commissioned portraits of a former President and First Lady.

And Michelle and I joined our distinguished predecessors and thousands of our fellow Americans on the walls of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.

To call this experience humbling would be an understatement.

That’s because, as a former president, when you choose an artist to describe your likeness, you have the opportunity to shape, quite literally, how someone sees the office of the American presidency. And how they might see themselves in that presidency.

[…]

The arts have always been central to the American experience. They provoke thought, challenge our assumptions, and shape how we define our narrative as a country.

Thanks to Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, generations of Americans — and young people from all around the world — will visit the National Portrait Gallery and see this country through a new lens. These works upend the notion that there are worlds where African Americans belong and worlds where we don’t. And that’s something Michelle and I hope we contributed to over the eight years we were so privileged to serve you from the White House.

Michelle Obama’s portrait will join the collection of First Ladies.

Michelle Obama - NPG

In case you missed it, check out “Obama Portrait Unveiling at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.”

Lena Horne Forever

29 Jan

On Tuesday, the U.S. Postal Service will issue the Lena Horne Forever stamp.

Lena Horne Forever2

The 41st issuance in the Black Heritage series honors the achievements of Lena Horne:

Horne began her career as a dancer at Harlem’s Cotton Club and later became a featured vocalist with touring orchestras. The rampant racial discrimination she encountered from audiences, hotel and venue managers and others was so disconcerting that she stopped touring, and in 1941, she made her move to Hollywood. A year later, she signed a contract with MGM — one of the first long-term contracts with a major Hollywood studio — with the stipulation that she would never be asked to take stereotypical roles then available to black actors. Her most famous movie roles were in “Cabin in the Sky” and “Stormy Weather,” both released in 1943.

During World War II, Horne entertained at camps for black servicemen, and after the war worked on behalf of Japanese Americans who were facing discriminatory housing policies. She worked with Eleanor Roosevelt in pressing for anti-lynching legislation. In the 1960s, Horne continued her high-profile work for civil rights, performing at rallies in the South, supporting the work of the National Council for Negro Women, and participating in the 1963 March on Washington.

On Horne’s passing in 2010, President Barack Obama said:

Over the years, she warmed the hearts of countless Americans with her beautiful voice and dramatic performances on screen. From the time her grandmother signed her up for an NAACP membership as a child, she worked tirelessly to further the cause of justice and equality. In 1940, she became the first African American performer to tour with an all white band. And while entertaining soldiers during World War II, she refused to perform for segregated audiences – a principled struggle she continued well after the troops returned home.

From sultry Selina Rogers in “Stormy Weather” …

… to sweet Georgia Brown in “Cabin in the Sky” …

… and Glinda, the Good Witch in “The Wiz,” the legendary performer entertained millions.

Horne’s activism and willingness to speak truth to power inspired millions, including the writer.

Lena Horne Collage2

The trailblazer and civil rights activist will be in the public’s memory forever.

Lena Horne Forever

The First Day of Issue Stamp Dedication Ceremony will be was held at Symphony Space in New York City. The Lena Horne Forever stamp is on sale nationwide at post offices and online at The Postal Store.

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