In October 2019, the Lillian E. Smith Center hosted “Celebrating Lillian Smith,” a symposium commemorating the 75th anniversary of Strange Fruit. Last October, we hosted “Untangling Whiteness: Reflection and Action,” a virtual conference that explored the constructions of whiteness and ways for us to works towards a more equitable society for all. This coming Thursday, March 4, the Lillian E. Smith Center will host “Collaboration of the Dream,” the bi-annual symposium on arts and social change.

The title of this year’s symposium comes from Lillian Smith’s “Trembling Earth” where she talks about the interaction between the artist creator and the audience, the collaboration that occurs in the construction of a dream and the world. At the center, we made a video where Smith reads some of these sections from the essay.

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Here is our write up for the symposium.

“Collaboration of the Dream”

March 4, 2021 | 9:30 AM – 3 PM (Virtual)

Lillian E. Smith understood the importance of art, in its myriad forms, in bringing individuals together, collaborating with one another, as she put it in “Trembling Earth,” “in each other’s dreams.”  The Lillian E. Smith Center at Piedmont College hosts “Collaboration of the Dream,” a one-day symposium from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on March 4, 2021. The symposium will be available virtually.

The symposium will feature presentations by Chuck Brown, creator of Image Comics’ On the Stump and co-creator of the Eisner Award winning Image Comics’ series Bitter Root, Dr. Keri Leigh Merritt, historian, writer, and activist and author of the multiple award-winning Masterless Men: Poor Whites and Slavery in the Antebellum South, Marie Cochran, founding curator of the Affrilachian Artist Project and the 2020/2021 Lehman Brady Visiting Professor with the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University and the Department of American Studies at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, and Amisho Baraka, hip-hop artist and co-founder of Forth District and The And Campaign.

Smith knew the power of art in bringing about change and fostering within us empathy for those who inhabit the world alongside us. Smith wrote Now is the Time (1955) in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education. In it, she highlights the importance of art in society: “To grow good human beings is the people’s business: a job that must be done in the home, at church, in the school; goodness seeps into a child from the books he reads, the art he loves, his play, his talk, his dreams and ideals, his awareness of others and their needs.” Smith saw the artist and the audience in a collaborative network around the artistic product, speaking to one another about their shared humanity.

Smith’s home in Clayton, Georgia is now an educational center operated by Piedmont College and directed by Dr. Matthew Teutsch. “Collaboration of the Dream” brings together artist activists speaking about the intersections of art and social justice. “To enact change, we must work together,” said Teutsch. “Smith understood the role of art in creating and fostering unions among individuals in the fight against racism, oppression, and social injustice. She saw that art can serve as the connection bringing us together and moving us towards a better society.”

We hope that you can join us for “‘Collaboration of the Dream” a virtual symposium, on March 4, 2021

Registration: $10 Piedmont Students, faculty, and staff free and can attend the socially distanced event in Swanson Theater 9:30 AM to 3:00 PM 

Register Here (You will receive information about how to connect to the symposium via Zoom as we draw nearer to March 4.)

When I think about presenters to invite to speak at the symposiums, I constantly think about individuals whose work correlates, in myriad ways, with that of Smith. That is why I invite the speakers that I do to these events. Below is some more information about each of them.

Sho Baraka

Over the years, I’ve listened to Sho Baraka’s music and seen his work within the community. In connection with Smith, his art (in various forms) along with his co-founding of The Forth District and The And Campaign significantly correspond to Smith’s work and legacy, most notably her discussions of the ways religion, specifically Christianity, hinders social justice and the ways that Christianity and social justice activism relate. When I taught at Auburn, Baraka presented to my classes, and that experience, for them, was very informative and engaging.

Keri Leigh Merritt

Again, Merritt’s work correlates to Smith, most notably in her focus on the South and in her examination of poor whites in the Antebellum South. Smith argues that the wealthy and powerful sow divisions amongst poor whites and other groups, and Merritt points out how that occurred in the 1830s-1860s and how it continues today. As well, Merritt’s voice on public issues reminds me, in so many ways, of Smith’s voice and activism. I spoke with Merritt last year about Smith and Frank Yerby.

Marie Cochran

I got to know Cochran last year, and since then, we have talked about countless topics related to social justice and activism. Her work embodies this region, and her founding of the Affrilachian Artist Project serves as a counter to the prevailing narrative of Appalachia as simply a white region. Currently, some of her work is on exhibit at the Mason-Scharfenstein Museum of Art. As well, I spoke with her recently for the center’s podcast, and we talked about Martin Luther King, Jr., Lillian Smith, and Northeast Georgia.

Chuck Brown

I started reading Brown’s work in Bitter Root, the Eisner Award Winning comic series he co-created with David F. Walker and Sanford Greene. Since then, I’ve had the privilege to write essays for that series and for his new series On the Stump. Through his work, Brown explores various topics, specifically related to social justice, through the comics’ medium. His use of art to move us towards a more equitable society connects him, as it does all of the presenters, with Smith’s work. Like Cochran, I spoke with Brown about some of these topics for the Center’s podcast.

We look forward to you joining us this Thursday for “Collaboration of the Dream.”

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