On September 23 the Apollo Theater is proud to present an in-depth conversation on the duty of the artist with John Legend and Salamishah Tillet. Scholar, writer, and activist, Salamishah is the Henry Rutgers Professor of African-American Studies at Rutgers University-Newark and a Contributing Critic-at-Large at the New York Times. Drawing inspiration from their mutual role model Nina Simone, she and John will discuss the roots of his activism, what he believes the responsibilities of artists are at this moment, and his vision for social change and racial justice.
The Apollo Theater has remained a beacon of Black creativity for over eight decades and a safe space for artists and audiences to thrive. As a non-profit organization, the Apollo Theater depends on generous funding from donors. If you are in the position to do so, please consider making a contribution to the Apollo in support of these free virtual programs presented all season long, keeping the Theater connected with communities around the world until our physical doors are able to reopen.
Recording artist, composer, activist, and philanthropist John Legend has been an outspoken champion of civil and human rights. He is involved in numerous social and charitable causes including serving on the board of the Harlem Village Academies, a progressive K-12 charter school network in Harlem, NY. Through his music, film and television production, and his own activism, he has emerged as one the most outspoken entertainers of his generation.
Salamishah Tillet received her Ph.D. in the History of American Civilization and A.M. in English from Harvard University and her M.A.T. from Brown University. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Pennsylvania where she received her B.A. in English and Afro-American Studies.
In 2010-11, she was the recipient of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation Fellow for Career Enhancement and served as a visiting fellow at the Center of African American Studies at Princeton University. In 2010, she was awarded the Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Award for Distinguished Teaching by an Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2013-14, she was a Scholar-in-Residence at Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
Her book Sites of Slavery: Citizenship and Racial Democracy in the Post-Civil Rights Imagination (Duke University Press, 2012) examines how contemporary African American artists, writers, and intellectuals remember antebellum slavery within post-Civil Rights America in order to challenge the ongoing exclusion of African Americans from America’s civic myths and to model a racially democratic future.
In 2010, she co-edited the Callaloo: A Journal of African Diaspora Arts and Letters Special Issue on Ethiopia and her work has appeared in American Literary History, American Quarterly, Callaloo, Novel, Research in African Literatures, Savoring the Salt: The Legacy of Toni Cade Bambara, Violence in the Lives of Black Women: Battered, Black, and Blue, and Women’s Review of Books. She is currently working on a book on the civil rights icon Nina Simone.
Salamishah has appeared on the BBC, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, TedxWomen, and written blogs and editorials for The Atlantic, The Chicago Tribune, The Guardian, The Nation, The New York Times, The Root, and Time. In 2010, she wrote the liner notes for John Legend and The Roots’ three-time Grammy award-winning album, Wake Up!. In 2013, she published Gloria Steinem: The Kindle Singles Interview for Amazon. She is the co-founder of A Long Walk Home, Inc., a non-profit organization that uses art to end violence against girls and women.