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Art Sets the Record Straight, Shows ‘The True Story of African Americans’

Enbridge-supported Houston exhibit celebrates African American contributions to birth of the nation

Art Sets the Record Straight, Shows ‘The True Story of African Americans’

Enbridge-supported Houston exhibit celebrates African American contributions to birth of the nation

Published 03-01-24

Submitted by Enbridge Inc.

Solid bronze figures of pipers

The woman in the painting stares straight ahead, her bright eyes showing intelligence and strength.

Her emerald green dress is overlaid with words in metallic ink: steam engine, rolling pin, pencil sharpener, typewriter, traffic light. A quick internet search confirms it’s a list of inventions, each one designed by an African American.

It takes a moment to notice that the gold bracelets on the figure’s brown wrists are not jewellery at all; they are shackles—and they’ve been broken apart.

The piece is “Ancestor’s Torch,” an oil painting by Houston artist Ava Cosey and a favourite of Dr. Mia Wright, a trustee on the board of the Holocaust Museum Houston (HMH), where the piece is currently on display.

African American art like Cosey’s portrait seeks to reframe narratives and convey information that has been largely absent from history books, Dr. Wright explains.

“It’s critically important,” she continues. “You gain a lot of knowledge as you behold the beauty of art and artifacts. They show presence; they show contributions. They show the true story of African Americans.”

The painting is part of the Kinsey African American Art & History Collection, which is being exhibited at the HMH. While we celebrate Black History Month through the month of February, the Kinsey collection will be on display at the HMH through June 23, 2024.

Each piece in the collection—from historical documents and rare books to paintings and sculptures—has been curated to dispel false myths that African Americans and formerly enslaved people were absent or inactive in the development of the United States.

Together, the items— all from the personal collection of Shirley and Bernard Kinsey—tell the story of African Americans and the ways in which they shaped and continue to shape America.

Enbridge helped HMH bring this vibrant and vital body of work to Houston with a $10,000 Fueling Futures grant. In 2022, we funded another exhibit at HMH, a collection of iconic fashion collars cast in bronze to show the strength of powerful women in history.

As an employer and community partner, we take seriously our commitment to further equity, diversity and inclusion where we live and work. Art is a powerful way to bring about change—to spotlight lost narratives and help shift perspectives. We recognize the importance of exhibits such as these two at HMH as a way to reach people and inspire them to learn and grow, which in time we hope will lead to a more just society for everyone.

Whether through its permanent displays on the Holocaust and human rights or through travelling exhibits like the Kinsey collection, HMH shares stories of peoples who have had to fight for equity, diversity and inclusion. They’ve had to fight for it with their lives, and many are fighting still.

For Dr. Wright, the Kinsey collection helps set the record straight, as it shines a spotlight on narratives that have been covered up and ignored for too many years: “This is what happened in our nation, and this is how we have built our nation. This is who we are because of our history,” she explains.

“It's not just African American history; it is American history.”

(TOP PHOTO: The Pipers, 1984, bronze, Ed Dwight, courtesy of The Kinsey African American Art and History Collection.)

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