Gayle Anderson was in Hollywood, where the L.A. Philharmonic honors the man described as the “Dean of African American Composer.” According to the Library of Congress, William Grant Still’s career was comprised of many “firsts.” He was the first African-American composer to have a symphony performed by a professional orchestra in the U.S., the Symphony no. 1 “Afro-American” (1930). It was premiered by Howard Hanson and the Rochester Philharmonic. The piece’s New York premiere was given by the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall in 1935. Also, he became the first African-American to conduct a major symphony orchestra in the United States when he led the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1936. In the world of opera, his Troubled Island was the first by an African-American to be performed by a major opera company (New York City Opera, 1949) and that same opera was the first by an African-American to be nationally televised. The L.A. Philharmonic’s SOUND/STAGE / LA PHIL, has a new online collection of concert films, and interviews, essays and artwork. The special production honors Still with Music Director and Conductor Gustavo Dudamel performance of Still’s “Afro-American Symphony No. 1 – Sorrow.”
The L.A. Department of Cultural Affairs has refurbished and named a 1926 fire station for the pioneering African American composer. The William Grant Still Arts Center is home to the longest-running display of Black dolls in Los Angeles. The 40th Annual Black Doll Show “All Dolled Up!” is online this year due to the pandemic. The show closes Saturday, February 20th, 2021.
The Black Doll Show at the William Grant Still Arts Center was started in the 1980s by the Friends of William Grant Still Arts Center, with contemporary artist/curator Cecil Fergerson (1931-2013) as its first curator.
The doll show was inspired by a doll test conducted by Mamie and Kenneth Clark in the 1940s. The tests concluded that due to social stigmas, many African-American children preferred white dolls over black dolls. This test went on to become evidence in civil rights lawsuits. The Clarks became expert witnesses in Brown vs. Board of Education, helping to create the landmark decision to desegregate schools. This doll test was conducted again in 2006 by 17-year-old filmmaker Kiri Davis, sadly with the same results.
The doll show features the work of more than two dozen doll artists (and doll collectors), among them the collectible work of black doll artist Patricia Shivers of Raggnation Dolls.
If you have questions (or complaints,) please feel free to contact Gayle Anderson at 1-323-460-5732 or email at Gayle.Anderson@KTLA.com
Gayle Anderson reports for the KTLA 5 News on February 15, 2021.