The Puffin Spotlight: Issue 05

June 24, 2021

The Movement for Black Lives

For Black Americans, the tradition of commemorating and celebrating Juneteenth dates back to 1866, but for many others, the holiday marking the end of chattel slavery in the US remained relatively unknown until recently. In this issue, in honor of Juneteenth and its recognition as a federal holiday, we would like to share with you some of the work that supports and advances the Movement for Black Lives and the Black Lives Matter network to which Puffin has contributed. This issue links to a lot of rich online material; we hope you will explore it!

Teaneck Black Lives Matter Mural

Left to Right- Shae Lewis, Javalda Powell, Gladys Miller-Rosenstein, Andrew Lee, Melissa Lynam, Kasai Sanchez, Willie Thornton, Scott Pleasants, and Natacha Pannell

In the summer of 2020, Black Lives Matter activists in Teaneck (where Puffin is based) began campaigning for a public street mural, along the lines of those created in cities across the US. Over 3000 people signed their petition. The original proposal called for the names of Black victims of police violence to be incorporated, including Teaneck resident Phillip Pannell, who was 16 when he was shot by a white police officer in 1990. The mural finally came to fruition in October of 2020, on land owned by the Township (and without any names). Although slated to be temporary, the Township finally ceded to public demands, voting in February of this year to make the mural permanent. Puffin was a major supporter of the mural, and on March 2nd we were delighted to accept from Teaneck BLM members a certificate of appreciation and a beautiful collage of images that commemorate the mural’s creation. See images and more on our website.

The Museum of the City of New York

The Museum of the City Of New York, which houses the Puffin Foundation Gallery, has been listening to and sharing the work of activists in the Movement for Black Lives within the context of the museum itself, through online offerings, and with regularly updated educational materials for educators. Their work both elucidates the history of Black activism and also documents the history that is being made now.

  • Visitors to the museum can view a newly updated case study on the Movement for Black Lives in the gallery with images and objects from 2012-2020, co-curated by historian Dr. Christopher Paul Harris, along with Puffin Foundation Curator of Social Activism Sarah Seidman. Dr. Harris recently sat down (virtually) with MCNY Educator Jelissa Caldway for a wide-ranging conversation that contextualizes the movement for Black Movement within the much longer struggle for emancipation, abolition, and justice.
  • Lesson plans are an important part of Puffin’s partnership with the Museum; those for the Movement for Black Lives exhibit can be found here.
  • Puffin funds also supported a series of talks moderated by Ashley Southall entitled “Envisioning Alternatives to Policing.” All 3 events in this series can be viewed here.
  • Project 8:46 is a very moving video that captures the thoughts and feelings of young New Yorkers as they reflect upon the murder of George Floyd and the protests that ensued, all against the backdrop of the pandemic.
  • In a fascinating new feature, Black Activists of 19th Century New York, the museum brings to light the work of four “hidden figures” from the 19th century who fought for emancipation and against discrimination, including “The 19th Century Rosa Parks,” school teacher Elizabeth Jennings Graham.

Puffin Grantees

Some of the projects described above, along with others not mentioned, are featured on a page of our website devoted to the Movement for Black Lives, where we also share some anti-racism resources. We invite you to read there about three extraordinary human beings who have received the Puffin Prize for Creative Citizenship: Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, Colin Kaepernick, and Bryan Stevenson. We are grateful for their work and inspired by their vision.

Puffin Cultural Forum

A Conversation with Kristal Brent Zook, Ph.D.

In July of 2020, Andrew Lee, the director of the Puffin Cultural Forum, spoke with journalist, commentator, and professor Kristal Brent Zook about the murders of Ahmed Arbey, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, and the subsequent nationwide protests. Her insightful analysis is worth a listen.

Poetry for Justice

Toney Jackson is a man of many talents: performance poet, educator, illustrator, activist, rapper, children’s book author. We consider ourselves lucky whenever he MCs an event for us or performs his own work. In July of 2020 he hosted a (virtual) evening of poetry for justice. Check out these fiery offerings!

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