Of Manacles and Monuments


Of Manacles and Monuments

Of Manacles and Monuments was a three-part public programming series co-presented by the Center for Brooklyn History and More Art. The series was inspired by Fred Wilson’s public artwork Mind Forged Manacles/Manacle Forged Minds which was on view nearby in Columbus Park, Downtown Brooklyn.
Guest speakers
Multiple guests: Of Manacles and Monuments

May 9, 2023 – Act 1: History, Monuments, and Reframing the Narrative
With Mabel O. Wilson, Kendal Henry, Michelle Coffey, and Fred Wilson.

May 15, 2023 – Act 2: Gates, Barriers, and Confinement
With Fred Wilson, Pamela Newkirk, and Randall Horton.

May 22, 2023 – Act 3: Our National Healing and the Role of Art
With Fred Wilson,  Dread Scott, Nona Faustine, Salamishah Tillet, and Akiba Solomon.


The Center for Brooklyn History
128 Pierrepont St, Brooklyn, NY 11201

Randall Horton shares a reading during "Of Manacles and Monuments - Act 2: Gates, Barriers, and Confinement" a conversation series presented by More Art and the Center for Brooklyn History, 2023. Photo by Wenjun Chen.
  • Project description
  • About the artist
Fred Wilson guided attendees to his sculpture site at Columbus Park following "Of Manacles and Monuments Act 1: History, Monuments, and Reframing the Narrative," a conversation series presented by More Art and the Center for Brooklyn History, 2023. Photo by Wenjun Chen.

Of Manacles and Monuments was a three-part public programming series co-presented by the Center for Brooklyn History and More Art. The series was inspired by Fred Wilson’s public artwork Mind Forged Manacles/Manacle Forged Minds which is on view in Columbus Park, Downtown Brooklyn. This interdisciplinary discussion and performance series brought together a diverse group of artists, writers, performers, and thinkers to explore the rich poetic background and themes of Wilson’s work, in three acts:

Of Manacles and Monuments Act 1: History, Monuments, and Reframing the Narrative

This first program in the series looked at history and monuments and asked the questions, “Who tells our national story?” “What role do our monuments play in that telling?” “How are erased stories brought into the light?” and “How are false narratives seized and disrupted?”  Professor Mabel O. Wilson, and NYC Department of Cultural Affairs Assistant Commissioner of Public Art Kendal Henry unpack issues around race, archives, statue toppling, and the power of monuments in public space. Moderated by Lambent Foundation’s Michelle Coffey, with a response by Fred Wilson.

Following the discussion Fred Wilson will guided attendees to Columbus Park for a viewing of Mind Forged Manacles and to reflect on its siting near statues of Henry Ward Beecher, Christopher Columbus, and in front of the Kings County Supreme Court building.


Of Manacles and Monuments Act 2: Gates, Barriers, and Confinement

The second program in the series centered on a one-on-one moderated conversation between artist Fred Wilson and Pamela Newkirk, author of Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga. They explored ideas of confinement, how barriers are intangible as well as physical, and how they keep people out as well as in. The program continued with a reading by poet Randall Horton, whose work draws upon his own experience of incarceration.


Of Manacles and Monuments Act 3: Our National Healing and the Role of Art

The final program in the series brought practitioners of different art forms and academic disciplines together to explore how we’re to feel about our history in America, whether there is positive potential in shame, and the role that art plays. Featuring artists Fred Wilson, Nona Faustine, and Dread Scott, activist and scholar Salamishah Tillet, writer Akiba Solomon, who co-authored How We Fight White Supremacy: A Field Guide to Black Resistance, join this conversation.

Multiple guests: Of Manacles and Monuments

Act 1: History, Monuments, and Reframing the Narrative

With Mabel O. Wilson, Kendal Henry, Michelle Coffey, and Fred Wilson.

Mabel O. Wilson teaches Architecture and African American and African Diaspora Studies at Columbia University, where she also serves as the director of the Institute for Research in African American Studies. With her practice Studio&, she was a member of the design team that recently completed the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers at the University of Virginia.

Wilson has authored Begin with the Past: Building the National Museum of African American History and Culture (2016), Negro Building: Black Americans in the World of Fairs and Museums (2012), and co-edited the volume Race and Modern Architecture: From the Enlightenment to Today (2020). For the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, she was co-curator of the exhibition Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America (2021). Her installation (a)way station: The Architectural Spaces of Urban Migration is on exhibit at SFMoMA till May 2023.

Kendal Henry is an artist and curator who lives in New York City and specializes in the field of public art for over 30 years. He illustrates that public art can be used as a tool for social engagement, civic pride and economic development through the projects and programs he’s initiated in the US and internationally.

He’s currently the Assistant Commissioner of Public Art at the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs and an adjunct professor at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development. A guest lecturer at various universities and educational institutions including Rhode Island School of Design Senior Studio; and Pratt Institute’s Arts and Cultural Management Program. Kendal served as the Director of Culture and Economic Development for the City of Newburgh, NY where he created the region’s first Percent for Art Program. Prior to that post he was Manager of Arts Programs at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Arts for Transit for eleven years. During this time, he has overseen the commissioning, fabrication and installation of MTA’s permanent art projects, served as a member of the MTA’s in-house design team, and produced temporary exhibitions at Grand Central Terminal.

Kendal was also the Curator-at-large at the Museum of Contemporary African Diaspora Art (MoCADA) in Brooklyn, NY and was elected to serve two 3-year terms on the Americans for the Arts Public Art Network Council.

Michelle Coffey leads the strategy and drives the vision of Lambent Foundation while mindfully honoring complexity. By nurturing emergent ideas and welcoming uncertainty, Michelle works as an advocate and partner to imagine and build more just and equitable societies.

While working at the Walker Arts Center during the 1990s American culture wars, Michelle learned to fuse her work with her personal and political values and respect the interconnections between art, location, and community. Michelle has built on her background in human rights advocacy and philanthropy to develop Lambent’s approach. She served as Director of Starry Night Fund and Senior Philanthropic Advisor at Tides Foundation. Her portfolio spanned global human rights, women and girls, criminal justice reform, arts and culture, and HIV/AIDS. This challenging work alerted Michelle to the vital role of arts and culture in progressive movements. Michelle serves on several national boards, including Grantmakers in the Arts, Slought Foundation, and Creative Capital.

Fred Wilson is a conceptual artist whose work investigates museological, cultural and historical issues, which are largely overlooked or neglected by museums and cultural institutions. Since his groundbreaking exhibition Mining the Museum (1992) at the Maryland Historical Society, Wilson has been the subject of more than 40 solo exhibitions around the globe. His work has been exhibited extensively in museums including the Museum of Modern Art, NY; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Allen Memorial Museum at Oberlin College, Ohio; the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Institute of Jamaica, W.I.; the Museum of World Cultures, Sweden; the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College; the British Museum, and the Ian Potter Museum of Art at the University of Melbourne, Australia. His work can be found in several public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, NY, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Long Museum, Shanghai, the Tate Modern in London and National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia.

Wilson presented his exhibition Afro Kismet at the 2017 Istanbul Biennial, Turkey, which traveled to London, New York and Los Angeles. Since 2008 Wilson has been a member of the Board of Trustees at the Whitney Museum of American Art. He represented the U.S. at the Cairo Biennale (1992) and Venice Biennale (2003). His many accolades include the prestigious MacArthur Foundation’s “Genius” Grant (1999); the Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture (2006) the Ford Foundation’s Art of Change fellowship (2018) and Brandeis University’s Creative Arts Award (2019). Most recently Wilson unveiled "Mother", a large-scale installation commissioned by Delta Airlines for New York’s LaGuardia airport.

Act 2: Gates, Barriers, and Confinement

With Fred Wilson, Pamela Newkirk, and Randall Horton.

Randall Horton is the recipient of the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Award, the Bea Gonzalez Poetry Award, the Great Lakes College Association New Writers Award for Creative Nonfiction, and a National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship in Literature. He is a member of the experimental performance group Heroes Are Gang Leaders which recently received the 2018 American Book Award in Oral Literature and whose work The Baraka Sessions, was named best vocal jazz album by NPR in 2019.

Randall’s collection of poetry {#289-128} is published by the University of Kentucky (2020) and received the 2021 American Book Award. His new memoir Dead Weight: A Memoir in Essays is published by Northwestern University Press (2022). He is the co-creator of Radical Reversal, a poetry/music band dedicated to challenging systemic injustice in the American legal system through the installation of recording studios and creative/performance spaces as well as programing in Department of Correction facilities in the United States. Randall is a Professor of English at the University of New Haven.

Pamela Newkirk, PhD, is a journalist, professor, author, and multi-disciplinary scholar whose work examines contemporary and historical depictions of African Americans in popular culture. Prior to joining the faculty at New York University, she was a daily reporter at four news organizations including New York Newsday where she was part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting team.

She is the author of numerous books including Diversity Inc.: The Failed Promise of a Billion-Dollar Business, Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga, which was awarded the 2016 NAACP Image Award and was selected as a New York Times Editor’s Choice, and Within the Veil: Black Journalists, White Media which won the National Press Club Award for Media Criticism and was recently optioned for a feature film. She holds journalism degrees from Columbia and New York universities, and a PhD from Columbia University.

Act 3: Our National Healing and the Role of Art

With Fred Wilson, Nona Faustine, Dread Scott, Salamishah Tillet, and Akiba Solomon.

Nona Faustine (born 1977) is a photographer and visual artist born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She is a graduate of the School of Visual Arts and The International Center of Photography at Bard College’s MFA program. Her work focuses on history, identity, representation, and evoking a critical and emotional understanding of the past, and proposes a deeper examination of contemporary racial and gender stereotypes.

Faustine’s images have received worldwide acclaim and have been published in a variety of national and international media outlets such as Artforum, the New York Times, Huffington Post, Hyperallergic, The Guardian, New Yorker Magazine, and Los Angeles Times. Faustine’s work has been exhibited at Harvard University, the Studio Museum of Harlem, the African American Museum in Philadelphia, Schomburg Center for Black Research in Harlem, the International Center of Photography, Saint John the Divine Cathedral, and the Tomie Ohtake Institute in Sao Paulo, among other institutions. Her work is in the collections of the David C. Driskell Center at Maryland State University, the Studio Museum of Harlem, the Brooklyn Museum, and recently, the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 2019, Faustine was the recipient of the NYSCA/NYFA Fellowship, the Colene Brown Art Prize, the Anonymous Was A Woman grant and was a Finalist in the National Portrait Gallery's Outwin Boochever Competition. In January 2020, she participated in the inaugural class of Kehinde Wiley’s Black Rock Senegal Residency. Faustine's My Country silkscreen series, her first body of work published by Two Palms, was featured in an exhibition at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, PA in 2020.

Dread Scott is a visual artist whose works are exhibited across the US and internationally. In 1989, his art became the center of national controversy over its transgressive use of the American flag, while he was a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Dread became part of a landmark Supreme Court case when he and others defied a federal law outlawing his art by burning flags on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. He has presented at TED talk on this.

His work has been included in exhibitions at MoMA PS1, the Walker Art Center, Cristin Tierney Gallery and is in the collection of the Whitney Museum, The National Gallery of Art, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. He is a 2021 John Simon Guggenheim Fellow and has also received fellowships form Open Society Foundations and United States Artists as well as a Creative Capital grant.

In 2019 he presented Slave Rebellion Reenactment, a community engaged project that reenacted the largest rebellion of enslaved people in US history. The project was featured in Vanity Fair, The New York Times, Christiane Amanpour on CNN and highlighted by artnet.com as one of the most important artworks of the decade.

Akiba Solomon is a senior editor at The Marshall Project. She is an NABJ-Award winning journalist from West Philadelphia. The Howard University graduate has served as senior editorial director at Colorlines and has written about culture and the intersection between gender and race for Dissent, Essence, Glamour and POZ. Solomon has also been a health editor for Essence, a researcher for Glamour and a senior editor for the print versions of Vibe Vixen and The Source. She is the recipient of the 2021 Bart Richards Award for Media Criticism for The Language Project, a series about the terms journalists use to write about incarceration. She co-authored How We Fight White Supremacy: A Field Guide to Black Resistance (Bold Type Books, March 2019).

Salamishah Tillet is the Henry Rutgers professor of Africana Studies and Creative Writing at Rutgers University–Newark and a contributing critic-at-large for the New York Times. Her books are Sites of Slavery: Citizenship and Racial Democracy in the Post–Civil Rights Imagination (2012) and In Search of The Color Purple: The Story of an American Masterpiece (2021).

Salamishah is the executive director of Express Newark, a center for socially engaged art and design at Rutgers, and also the cofounder, along with her sister Scheherazade Tillet, of A Long Walk Home, a nonprofit that empowers young people to use art to end violence against all girls and women, and founding member of the Black Girl Freedom Fund. In 2021, she co-hosted the Webby award-winning podcast, Because of Anita, a thirty-year retrospective of the impact of Anita Hill’s testimony. Salamishah is currently co-curating Pulling Together, the first public art exhibit on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and completing a book on the civil rights musician Nina Simone. In 2022, she received the Pulitzer Prize in criticism.