Monday, June 14, 2010

Lloyd Davis, First Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the MLK Center on Nonviolent Social Change

Lloyd Davis (1928-2007) was a proponent of equal opportunities, a civil rights activist, and a fair housing advocate. Davis served as the first vice president and chief operating officer of the Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, and was a longtime senior adviser for the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Lloyd Davis, undated photograph

After graduating from Chicago's Tilden Technical High School in 1946, Davis enlisted in the United States Army. He was assigned to the 6th Armed Division at Fort Leonard, Missouri, where he was responsible for the administration of five companies, the supervision of a staff of non-commissioned officers, and the administration of the first program of racial integration at Fort Leonard.

Shortly after graduating from De Paul University, Davis enrolled in graduate school at Loyola University of Chicago in 1958. After graduating from Loyola, he accepted a position as Assistant Director of the New Haven Redevelopment Agency. He also served as the Director of the Dixwell Redevelopment and Renewal Project; the project mission was to relocate 928 families and demolish and renovate 382 structures in New Haven, Connecticut. Davis began his career with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1965 as an Intergroup Relations Specialist. His primary duties included the selection and planning of urban renewal areas, as well as determining the impact of urban renewal projects on cities.

In 1979, Davis became the first vice president and chief operating officer of the Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, which had been founded by Coretta Scott King in 1968. In this capacity, Davis helped plan the building of the Martin Luther King Historic Site and lobbied Congress to establish the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday, which was celebrated for the first time in 1986. Davis also created a federal commission to promote, oversee, and raise money for the King Holiday.

The Amistad Research Center has started processing the Davis papers under a grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources. This collection reflects Davis’ work as a housing advocate and documents his tenure as the chief operating officer of the Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change. The papers include correspondence, photographs, programs, pamphlets, and biographical information.

Posted by Shannon Burrell

(Image from the Lloyd Davis Papers, Amistad Research Center. May not be reproduced without permission.)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Chuck Perkins Trio Music & Spoken Word

The Amistad Research Center in partnership with the New Orleans Museum of Art will present a music and spoken word performance by the Chris Perkins Trio.  This performance builds upon the current Beyond the Blues exhibition at NOMA.

Poet and performer Chuck Perkins has garnered a lot of attention in New Orleans and beyond with his blend of spoken word and music. In addition to a host of local musicians and poets, Chuck has performed with former Poet Laureate Mark Strand, Mark Smith (creator of the Poetry Slam) and Umar Bin Hassan of The Last Poets.

In early 2009, Chuck performed to a sell-out crowd at New York's Bowery Poetry Club backed by Antoine Drye, Donald Edwards, Kevin Ferrell, Lezlie Harrison and Brian Lynch. He followed this performance with his first international showing at the Banlieues Bleues Blues Festival in Paris.

He ended the year by opening New Orleans' 2nd annual Song Writers Festival. His poetry appears in the best selling anthology Spoken Word Revolution and in his 2008 book Voices of the Big Easy: A Love Song for NOLA. Chuck has performed with many of New Orleans top musicians, including Donald Harrison, Henry Butler, Bill Summers, Nicholas Payton, Herlin Riley, Glen David Andrews, Dave Torkanowsky, and Shannon Powell to name a few.

Chuck's recent performance at The Jazz Gallery in New York City on May 15th with New Orleans piano great Henry Butler can be viewed here. Come see Chuck's unique blend of words and music as the Amistad Research Center and the New Orleans Museum of Art continue to celebrate the Beyond the Blues exhibition.

Date: Sunday, June 13
Time: 2:30pm-4:00pm
Location: Stern Auditorium, New Orleans Museum of Art
One Collins C. Diboll Circle, City Park
* FREE with Museum Admission*

Louisiana Residents (with Photo ID)
Adults - $8; Seniors, Students, Military - $7; Children 3-17 - $4
Out-of-State Visitors
Adults - $10; Seniors, Students, Military - $9; Children 3-17 - $5

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

In Memoriam: Lesley Himes

We report the very sad news of the passing of Lesley Himes, expatriate journalist and librarian, wife of author Chester Himes, and longtime advocate for the Amistad Research Center. She died in Spain after enduring a lengthy illness.

Lesley met Chester in Paris in 1959.  The two were drawn to each other almost immediately.  When he suffered a stroke in 1962, she became his caretaker and nurtured him back to health.  After a lengthy engagement, the couple married in 1978, and for the next fourteen years lived in France, Italy, Germany, and Spain.  It was in Spain where both Chester and Lesley spent their final years.

In his second autobiography, My Life of Absurdity, Chester Himes describes his first impressions of his future wife, then Lesley Packard:

"I arrived in Paris about four o'clock the next morning and knocked at Lesley Packard's apartment and asked if she'd let me sleep there on the sofa the rest of the night. I had met Lesley before on one of my trips to Paris. She worked as a librarian and wrote a shopping column called 'Monica' for the Paris edition of the New York Herald Tribune. She was Irish-English with blue-gray eyes and was very good looking...." (p. 185)
Correspondence in the Chester Himes Papers, held at the Amistad Research Center, and transcribed in My Life of Absurdity characterizes the playful nature of their relationship and Lesley's seemingly endless capacity for patience and support:

"You should marry me, Lesley, or at least work toward it before some of these young French girls (lots of 'em) with a sharp eye for business grabs me; I don't suppose it will be too hard if one sets it as her goal. As a matter of fact, looking at it cold and clinically, the average girl couldn't lose. So I figure you ought to think about it too." (p. 297)

More information about Lesley and Chester Himes can be found in the Chester Himes Papers at the Amistad Research Center.

Posted by Andrew Salinas

(Images from the Chester Himes Papers, Amistad Research Center. May not be reproduced without permission.)