Documentary Screening and Discussion of "Ashes to Ashes"
February 19, 2019
Room: Bernie Dallas Room
UMass Amherst Campus
"Ashes to Ashes" are the final words in typical African American funeral services. Many of those who were murdered by the Klan to maintain the reign of white supremacy never received their Ashes to Ashes.
In 2015, Dr. Shirley Jackson Whitaker embarked on a project to acknowledge and mourn the African Americans who were racially terrorized during the Jim Crow era after the Civil War and until this very day. Dr. Whitaker organized a funeral ceremony in April of 2016 to honor the thousands of African Americans who never received a proper burial. This documentary tells the story of this project.
The documentary screening will be followed by a panel discussion with Dr. Shirley Whitaker, along with artist and only known survivor of an attempting lynching, Winfred Rembert.
WARNING: This video preview and the film contain graphic and disturbing images of violence and lynchings.
About the Panelists
Dr. Whitaker is a kidney specialist who delivers her messages on health over the radio airways, at church functions, at public fundraising events and even through her own artwork. Growing up in South Georgia, she was taught early on, the importance of being sensitive and caring towards others.
Taking all of her experiences from her love of medicine, art and people she created the Ashes to Ashes program that provided a real memorial (funeral) service for the over 2 million lost during the Middle Passages, and the 3,999 documented lynchings that took place in America from 1877 – 1950.
Winfred Rembert was born on November 22nd, 1945 in Cuthbert, Georgia and spent much of his childhood laboring in the cotton fields in the pre-civil rights South. He earned 20 cents a day and was only able to attend school two days per week. Through his paintings, Winfred bears witness to the conditions during the 1950’s and 60’s in the segregated South. His work tells the grim stories of his near lynching, his years spent on a prison chain gang, but also his rich experiences with a strong family and a tight knit African American community filled with wonderful characters, music and magical childhood places.
Winfred is a self-taught painter. He hand-tools and paints with dye on leather canvases. He first learned about leather tooling while serving time in a Georgian prison. His powerful paintings made on large sheets of thick leather are characterized by his love of rhythmic patterning, physical and visual texture, strong color and contrast and narrative clarity.
His body of work has brought Rembert comparisons to noted African-American artists Hale Woodruff, Jacob Lawrence, Horace Pippin, and Romare Bearden. Winfred lives and works in New Haven, Connecticut. His paintings are represented in a number of important public and private collections, and were the subject of a major exhibition at the Yale University Art Gallery in 2000.