’Til Victory Is Won: 400 Years of Making Revolution and Inventing Utopia is Brooklyn Public Library’s observation of the 400th anniversary of the arrival of enslaved Africans to the shores of North America at present-day Jamestown, Virginia. Taking its name from a key phrase in in "Lift Every Voice and Sing," James Weldon Johnson’s Negro National Anthem, BPL’s commemoration project explores how Americans can work together to create a more radical, inclusive, and racially just future for the United States and beyond.
An extended teach-in from 7:00pm until midnight, the observation will welcome participants on every floor of Brooklyn’s Central Library at Grand Army Plaza, aiming to fill in gaps and erasures that characterize the county’s primary and secondary education curriculum on slavery and its legacy and to inspire an urgency to learn more about the African American revolutionaries, radical thinkers, and cultural icons who helped forge the country.
Over the course of five hours, audience members can delve into American and trans-Atlantic history from 1619 to the present, engaging with fundamental facts and participating in interactive lectures, conversations, and historical readings that focus on important junctions of our history. Invited guest lecturers including Susan Burton, Greg Tate, and Robyn C. Spencer will speak about liberation policies, the Civil Rights movement, mass incarceration, utopia, poetry and art as a tool against dehumanization, and more.
One evening is not sufficient to cover the complex history of the African diaspora from enslavement to liberation to the urgency of the Black Lives Matter movement today. Instead, the program is designed to stir curiosity and inspire further learning. It will end with a crowdsourced statement finalized by ’Til Victory Is Won with guest editors pointing the way to further engagement.
Speakers will include Susan Burton (Founder, A New Way of Life and co-author, Becoming Ms. Burton: From Prison to Recovery to Leading the Fight for Incarcerated Women); journalist/cultural critic Greg Tate (author, Flyboy in the Buttermilk: Essays on Contemporary America); historian Robyn C. Spencer (The Revolution Has Come: Black Power, Gender, and the Black Panther Party In Oakland); NYU law professor Melissa Murray on Loving v. Virginia (presented in partnership with the ACLU); investigative journalist Sylvia A. Harvey; asha bandele (co-author, When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir); playwright/performer Liza Jessie Peterson (author, All Day: A Year of Love and Survival Teaching Incarcerated Kids at Rikers Island); SNCC veteran Charlie Cobb, Jr. (author, This Nonviolent Stuff'll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible); Ann Chinn, Executive Director of the Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project; Harvard historian Jonathan M. Square (curator, Fashioning the Self in Slavery and Freedom); Columbia University scholar Matt Sandler (author, The Black Romantic Revolution: Abolitionist Poetics in the Civil War Era and Beyond); Geri M. Augusto (Board Member, SNCC Legacy Project); Farah Tanis (Executive Director, Black Women's Blueprint); Broadway star and mezzo soprano Alicia Hall Moran; performance artist Sherman Fleming; flex dancer and choreographer Storyboard P; and The Dream Unfinished: An Activist Orchestra. The full program of speakers and performers will be announced in the coming weeks.
’Til Victory Is Won is co-curated by Brian Tate with cultural advisors from Weeksville Heritage Center; the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College; Kimberly Peeler-Allen, co-founder of Higher Heights, a national organization building the political power and leadership of Black women; Columbia University; Harvard University; and the 400 Years of Inequality Committee.