“Gather: Conversations Led by Black & Indigenous Changemakers” began in 2020 when Anthony Madonna of Guild Hall in East Hampton and Jeremy Dennis of Ma’s House & BIPOC Art Studio in the Shinnecock Indian Nation came together to create the series over Zoom. It has since grown to be an annual series of in-person events.
This year the series will begin with Joshua Whitehead and Joseph M. Pierce, discussing Whitehead’s Book, “Making Love with the Land,” on Friday, April 21, at 6 PM at BookHampton in East Hampton.
Whitehead is a Two-Spirit, Oji-nêhiyaw member of Peguis First Nation (Treaty 1). He is currently a Ph.D. candidate, lecturer, and Killam scholar at the University of Calgary where he studies Indigenous literatures and cultures with a focus on gender and sexuality. Pierce is Associate Professor in the Department of Hispanic Languages and Literature at Stony Brook University. His research focuses on the intersections of kinship, gender, sexuality, and race in Latin America, 19th century literature and culture, queer studies, Indigenous studies, and hemispheric approaches to citizenship and belonging.
The series will continue on Thursday, April 27, at Main Prospect in Southampton with a conversation with Jeremy Dennis, Candice Hopkins, and Wunetu Wequai Tarrant. Dennis is a contemporary fine art photographer and a tribal member of the Shinnecock Indian Nation in Southampton. In his work, he explores indigenous identity, culture, and assimilation.
Tarrant is a member of the Shinnecock Indian Nation. She has been inspired by her grandmother and matriarch of the ThunderBird clan, Elizabeth ‘Chee Chee’ ThunderBird Haile, to promote cultural preservation and education. Hopkins is a citizen of Carcross/Tagish First Nation and lives in Red Hook. Her writing and curatorial practice explore the intersections of history, contemporary art, and Indigeneity.
On Saturday, May 6, at 7 PM, the series continues with Kinstillatory Fire with Emily Johnson and IV Castellanos at Ma’s House.
Johnson is an artist who makes body-based work. She is a land and water protector and an activist for justice, sovereignty, and well-being. IV Castellanos is a Brooklyn-based abstract performance artist and sculptor.
We spoke with Jeremy Dennis to learn more about the series.
Tell us about “Gather: Conversations Led by Black & Indigenous Changemakers,” the concept, and how it started.
Anthony Madonna had reached out to me in the fall of 2020, a few months after the Ma’s House idea began and renovations were just getting started and wanted to support our renovation and art space by forming a partnership between Guild Hall and Ma’s House. With the pandemic raging on, the series was entirely on Zoom for the first year in early 2021. We launched the series by inviting various Indigenous and African American cultural leaders based in the area.
Talk a little about the partnership between Ma’s House and Guild Hall.
Launching the program with Anthony and Guild Hall was an incredible honor because we were a brand new up-and-coming communal art space, and Guild Hall has a long history as an art space and theater. It was refreshing to see support for new art spaces because often, competition over audiences, grants, and programming is an issue among regional institutions. The partnership was an acknowledgment of inclusion and sharing of resources. Guild Hall provided many resources and, at the same time, was very open to BIPOC leaders steering the programs in new and exciting formats both on Zoom and eventually in person.
I am especially excited because this has become an annual partnership that primarily supports BIPOC artists and institutions. Being a Shinnecock artist myself, we often get pigeonholed into only receiving opportunities during Native American History Month in November and then trying to supplement income during our four-day Labor Day Weekend Powwow, which narrows income sources for the rest of the year.
What do you hope guests will take away from the experience?
One significant issue we deal with within the Shinnecock community is the lack of acknowledgment and limited visibility. This is the result of many ways Native Americans are excluded and marginalized — yet Native artists continue to fight against narratives of our supposed disappearance. I hope attendees feel invited to learn and transform their understanding of Indigenous people, our art, and continue to support Indigenous art after attending the program.