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The '30 Americans' exhibit at the Albuquerque Museum showcases art from contemporary African American artists around the country that has been collected by the Rubell Museum in Miami, Florida, since the 1970s. 'Artists have always been social commentators who have helped us to process difficult information,' commented performer and activist Cathryn McGill.

The Albuquerque Museum has a long-standing tradition of hosting a community event with music on the third Thursday of the month.

Since the pandemic, it has partnered with Amp Concerts to provide these free events online. Tonight's event (Thursday, Nov. 19) highlights the museum's current exhibition of "30 Americans," which explores how artists help to illuminate issues related to racial, sexual and historical identity.

At 6 p.m. Hakim Bellamy, cultural services deputy director for Albuquerque Museum and Albuquerque's first poet laureate, will provide a prerecorded guided video tour of selected works from the "30 Americans" exhibition.

At 7 p.m. Cathryn McGill, founder and director of the New Mexico Black Leadership Council and the New Mexico Black History Organizing Committee, will be joined live by music director Joe Pigee of Las Vegas, Nevada, and New Mexico's Toni Morgan and Michael Herndon for an hour of music and musings about individualism, collectivism, racism, exceptionalism, humanitarianism, sexism, objectivism and other "isms."

To attend the event, visit cabq.gov/culturalservices/albuquerque-museum/events and navigate to "3rd Thursday Online: 30 Americans."

"30 Americans" is a traveling exhibit on view at the Albuquerque Museum through Jan. 3, 2021. The exhibit showcases art from contemporary African American artists around the country that has been collected by the Rubell Museum in Miami, Florida, since the 1970s. The art includes paintings, installations, sculptures and videos.

"When we bring in these national-level exhibits we always try to look for local partners that are doing similar kinds of programming," said Jessica Coyle, associate education curator for the Albuquerque Museum. "When I knew we were going to get '30 Americans' I approached Cathryn McGill about curating an evening, because she's somebody we've worked with before. She's wonderful to work with - she's a great performer, she knows a lot of other great performers, and she always puts together a great evening when we work with her. And, she has a lot of connections in the Albuquerque African American community through her work."

"I'm grateful that we're going to be able to do this at the museum and honor this great exhibit - '30 Americans,' " McGill said. "Inclusivity has been a theme in 2020. We've been talking about the fact that there are dual pandemics of racism and COVID-19 and people have been focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion. My feeling about that, and I've gone around a lot to talk about this, is that we need to go beyond diversity, equity and inclusion to humanism so that my interests are represented whether I'm in the room or not," said McGill.

"The surface attention that we pay to diversity, equity and inclusion as if to check boxes and have one of each doesn't get us to the real conversations. Artists have always been social commentators who have helped us to process difficult information," continued McGill. "Through the words of our songs we can understand what Nelson Mandela meant when he said, 'For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.' I think that message is more poignant now than ever."

In addition to commentary exploring "isms" and the "30 Americans" exhibit, McGill said the evening's repertoire will include songs by Ray Charles, the Isley Brothers, Stevie Wonder as well as some of her own songs. McGill grew up singing in church choirs in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and went on to become a singer, songwriter, actress and producer. Her music is deeply influenced by gospel music and she has shared stages with Bo Diddley, Grover Washington Jr. and Lyle Lovett.

McGill serves as the director of the New Mexico Black History Organizing Committee, which she founded in 2010 to produce an annual New Mexico Black History Month Festival, among other goals. Their mission is "to preserve the rich cultural heritage that African Americans have made to the state of New Mexico and the United States."

McGill is also the CEO and a founding member of the New Mexico Black Leadership Council, which "serves as a hub to create a viable and sustainable social profit sector designed to serve the Black community in the state of New Mexico."

Visit nmblackhistorymonth.com and nmblc.org to learn more.

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