Whole Rest: Black History Month Florence IX (Part I) – Featuring Justin Thompson

Of all the platforms, Black History Month is the one where we really work on activating our network. Because we have all year to do our work and share what we do, but we want other institutions to be involved, to show what they’re doing. To connect with us. And so that’s really the moment of February for us and it’s the moment of maybe more visibility. It’s the moment of bringing a lot of people into our space that have never been here and to hear a lot of new conversations.” Justin Randolph Thompson

Early in the new year, I sat down with Justin Thompson at The Recovery Plan*, a research center, cultural repository, and multifunctional exhibition and performance space that fosters transnational exchange around Afrodescendent cultures and peoples using research, production and documentation in relation to cultural production as a means for examining the history and contemporary legacy of Blackness in a global context. The center is a space for critical thinking and recovery from historical inaccuracy and the recovery of histories that still await narration.

In this first part of our conversation, Justin and I talk about the birth of BHMF, the importance of the physical space that is The Recovery Plan, and what the 9th edition of Black History Month Florence looks like. Justin gives us some sneak peeks of the more than 50 events, characterized by complex and layered intersections, that are planned for February 2024 and beyond.

We also talk about recalibrating cultural and historical social values, shifting the tides, and the importance of collectivity. Tune in now to find out more about how the musical annotation, whole rest, which pulls you into a full stop forcing you to catch your breath, concentrate on what you need to be doing next, and listen to others, inspired and informed this edition of Black History Month.

* Apologies for saying, not once, but twice, The Recovery Project. I like to keep the podcasts as true to the original conversation as possible and choose not to edit it out.

Justin Randolph Thompson Biography

Justin Randolph Thompson is an artist, cultural facilitator and educator born in Peekskill, NY in ’79. Based between Italy and the US since 1999, Thompson is Co-Founder and Director of Black History Month Florence, a multi-faceted exploration of Black histories and cultures in the context of Italy founded in 2016. Having realized, coordinated, curated, facilitated and promoted over 300 events and with 8 ongoing research platforms, the initiative has been reframed as a Black cultural center called The Recovery Plan.

Thompson is a recipient of a 2022 Creative Capital Award, a 2020 Italian Council Research Fellowship, a Louis Comfort Tiffany Award, a Franklin Furnace Fund Award, a Visual Artist Grant from the Fundacion Marcelino Botin and an Emerging Artist Fellowship from Socrates Sculpture Park amongst others. His work and performances have been exhibited widely in institutions including The Whitney Museum of American Art, the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia and The American Academy in Rome and are part of numerous collections including The Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Museo MADRE. His life and work seek to deepen the discussions around sociocultural stratification and the arrogance of permanence by employing fleeting temporary communities as monuments and fostering projects that connect academic discourse, social activism and DIY networking strategies in annual and biennial gatherings, sharing and gestures of collectivity.

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