It is great when you can still be surprised by life. Ignorance is bliss; discovery is joy.
Last week, I was forwarded the early link to the upcoming documentary, "All Me: The Life and Times of Winfred Rembert." Until that moment, I had never heard of Winfred Rembert. I wish I had known about this remarkable artist many years earlier.
My mom comes from a little town in the South that now has a population of only 300 or so. On that level, Rembert's story, and his work at chronicling a world disappeared, resonates with me. I promised her that we would go back to our family land; I intend to keep that pledge.
On Dr. King's holiday we can celebrate the slaying of Jim and Jane Crow, but we must also be honest about how the two Great Migrations, and racial integration, helped to put a nail in the coffin of the Black Metropolises (and other vibrant African-American communities across this country).
Those times were not to be idealized--the nightmare years of racial supremacy, white violence, and segregation are not to be yearned for despite the Utopian dreaming of some black nationalists and others--but they are an epoch which black folks ought not to ashamed of. In all, Winfred Rembert is a great model of cultural resistance through art and the everyday, quotidian politics of black life.
Here is the description for the documentary on his life and work. The film will be released during Black History Month, but you should take time to enjoy this preview courtesy of the good folks at SnagFilms.
With his intensely autobiographical paintings depicting the day-to-day existence of African Americans in the segregated South, Winfred Rembert has preserved an important, if often disturbing, chapter of American history. His indelible images of toiling in the cotton fields, singing in church, dancing in juke joints, or working on a chain gang are especially powerful, not just because he lived every moment, but because he experienced so much of the injustice and bigotry they show as recently as the 1960s and 70s.
Now in his sixties, Rembert has developed a growing following among collectors and connoisseurs, and enjoyed a number of tributes and exhibitions of his work. In "ALL ME: The Life and Times of Winfred Rembert," the artist relives his turbulent life, abundantly visualized by his extensive paintings and, in a series of intimate reminiscences, shows us how even the most painful memories can be transformed into something meaningful and beautiful. A glowing portrait of how an artist—and his art—is made, "ALL ME" is also a triumphant saga of race in contemporary America.