To celebrate the release of his new book, A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance, New York Times bestselling author Hanif Abdurraqib will be joined by artist & educator Dionne Custer Edwards, composer & educator Dr. Mark Lomax, II, and musician & sculptor Paisha Thomas on Zoom for a discussion about significant performances by Black artists in American history. Each speaker will reflect on a video, book, or song that is personally meaningful to them, followed by a Q&A at the end of the event.
Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio. His poetry has been published in Muzzle, Vinyl, PEN American, and various other journals. His essays and music criticism have been published in The FADER, Pitchfork, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. His first full length poetry collection, The Crown Ain't Worth Much, was released in June 2016 from Button Poetry. It was named a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book Prize, and was nominated for a Hurston-Wright Legacy Award. With Big Lucks, he released a limited edition chapbook, Vintage Sadness, in summer 2017 (you cannot get it anymore and he is very sorry.) His first collection of essays, They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us, was released in winter 2017 by Two Dollar Radio and was named a book of the year by Buzzfeed, Esquire, NPR, Oprah Magazine, Paste, CBC, The Los Angeles Review, Pitchfork, and The Chicago Tribune, among others. He released Go Ahead In The Rain: Notes To A Tribe Called Quest with University of Texas press in February 2019. The book became a New York Times Bestseller, was a finalist for the Kirkus Prize, and was longlisted for the National Book Award. His second collection of poems, A Fortune For Your Disaster, was released in 2019 by Tin House, and won the 2020 Lenore Marshall Prize. In 2021, he will release the book A Little Devil In America with Random House. He is a graduate of Beechcroft High School.
Dionne Custer Edwards is the Director of Learning and Public Practice at the Wexner Center for the Arts where she oversees education programming and has pioneered several groundbreaking education programs—including Pages, an art and writing program—serving hundreds of high school students a year from across central Ohio. Embedded in her art and education practices is Dionne’s commitment to work in diversity, equity, inclusion, and access. In partnership with Wex board member, Alex Shumate, Dionne helped to conceptualize and sustain the work of the Shumate Council—projects, programs, and initiatives committed to diversity, inclusion, and access to the arts. Dionne has received awards and fellowships for her work in the arts, including a 12-month fellowship with Americans for the Arts, and two nominations, for a Greater Columbus Arts Council Community Arts Partnership award. Dionne has presented and been a featured speaker at several national conferences on her work and research in arts education—including at the Indianapolis Museum of Art TEDx conference—where she spoke on 21st century learning.
While Dionne is an arts educator, arts administrator, and programmer—she is also a practicing artist. She has published critical and literary writing, internationally and nationally in Sanat Dünyamiz (“Our Art World”), Turkey, Journal GEARTE, Brazil, and in the University of Arizona’s Journal of Cultural Research in Art Education. Her poetry and nonfiction have appeared in 3Elements Review, Barren Magazine, Entropy Magazine, Flock, Gordon Square Review, Grist, Porter House Review, Storm Cellar, The Seventh Wave, Tahoma Literary Review, and others.
Dionne has a MA in Arts Education and Creative Writing, Antioch University and a BA in English, Ohio State University.
Dr. Mark Lomax, II, is a critically acclaimed composer, recording artist, drummer, activist, and educator. In one of the timeliest and unprecedented pieces of work of our history, Lomax released 400: An Afrikan Epic in January 2019. This magnum opus consists of a 12 album cycle, a curriculum, and a documentary that ambitiously tells the story of the Afrikan diaspora. Divided into thirds, the Epic and explores thousands of years of the history that is pre-colonial Afrika, the Ma’afa (400 years between 1619 and 2019), and Afro-futurism expressing a vision of what Blacks in America will heal toward in the next 400 years. Largely self funded, the 400 was supported by a residency at The Wexner Center for the Arts. Quoted in Columbus Monthly, Lane Czaplinski, Wexner performing arts director says, “Mark is an absolute experimentalist ... and this huge, deep project will look at the legacy of jazz from the past all the way to the future.” Lomax also calls 400: An Afrikan Epic, an opportunity to celebrate the resilience, brilliance, strength, genius, and creativity of a people who continue to endure while offering a transformative view of the future.
A highly sought-after lecturer, Lomax specializes in the socio-political, and spiritual aspects of African-American art music, race, and using the arts to build community. These ideas are documented in his TED Talk Activating The Transformative Power Of Trust, and his weekly COVID-inspired youtube show, Drumversations. Lomax adamantly declares that “there has never been a time in his life that music was not a part of me.” Heavily influenced by his father, a pastor, and mother, a composer of gospel music, Lomax was introduced to gospel and jazz at an early age. He continued his study of gospel music with Dr. Raymond Wise, founder of the Center for the Gospel Arts.
Lomax has toured with the Delfeayo Marsalis Sextet and worked with notable artists such as Clark Terry, Marlon Jordan, Azar Lawrence, Bennie Maupin, Billy Harper, Nicholas Payton, Ellis Marsalis, and Wessel Anderson, among others. Jazz Times says Lomax’s “forceful drumming would have made Elvin Jones proud.” He has also been a resident artist with the Cincinnati Symphony (2019), Denison University (2017), and has presented the 400 across the country at various colleges, universities, art and community organizations.
Dr. Lomax holds a Doctor of Music Arts degree in composition from The Ohio State University. His myriad experiences have allowed him to create a unique blend of styles in his music. Whether he’s interpreting the Negro Spiritual through jazz, arranging gospel music for a symphony orchestra, or performing his original works, his music is relevant, probing, and inspiring.
Paisha Thomas is a local artist, and advocate for justice. She is currently working on a contract with Faith in Public Life as Racial Justice Campaign Coordinator. In the summer of 2020, amid civil unrest, Paisha co-founded Say it Loud Columbus: Music for the movement. In addition to music, she creates ceramic pottery and sculptures.