Los Angeles – The William Grant Still Arts Center held an opening reception for its latest exhibit.

The title of the latest exhibit is 35th Annual Black Doll Show, Trench Art Retrospective: The War Against HIV/AIDS Women of the African Diaspora in the Trenches.

The exhibit will be on display for two months until February 13, 2016.

35th Annual Black Doll Show: Photo Courtesy, William Grant Still Arts Center

35th Annual Black Doll Show: Photo Courtesy, William Grant Still Arts Center

The exhibit of dolls, quilts and alters highlights the impact of HIV/AIDS pandemic domestically and globally on women of color.

The exhibit features works by renowned artists, doll artists, quilters, alter-makers and the National AIDS Memorial Quilt. The 35th Annual Black Doll Show, curated by Dr. Cynthia Davis, MPH, Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science’s (CDC) Assistant Professor.

Dr. Cynthia Davis: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson

Dr. Cynthia Davis: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson

Ramsess, Dr. Cynthia Davis, Dr. NaNotchka M. Chumley and Dr. Carole Jordan-Harris: Photo Credit, Ricky Rihcardson

Ramsess, Dr. Cynthia Davis, Dr. NaNotchka M. Chumley and Dr. Carole Jordan-Harris: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson

Royalty was also in attendance during the opening reception. Marty Barnett and Bobbie Campbell were part of 1st Annual Black Doll Show. According to Press material provided by William Grant Still Arts Center, The Black Doll Show at the Center was started in 1980 by the Friends of William Grant Still Arts Center, with artist Cecil Fergerson as its first curator. The show was inspired by the “Black Doll Test” in the 1940’s by pioneering psychologist Mamie and Kenneth Clark which concluded that many African-American children preferred playing with white dolls over black dolls. The Black Doll Show at the Center is the longest-running display of Black Dolls in Los Angeles, and is nationally noted.

Large crowds browse through the gallery and gathered on the outdoor patio for the exhibit Opening Program, December 12th, from 2-5PM, on a rather cool and windy afternoon.

The exhibit opened to the public at 2:00PM. Ami Motevalli, Director, William Grant Still Arts Center provided opening remarks to the large multi-cultural group. Ms. Danielle M. Campbell, MPH, Outreach Coordinator for the UCLA Eban II Program served as Mistress of Ceremony.

Ami Motevalli: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson

Ami Motevalli: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson

Danielle M. Campbell: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson

Danielle M. Campbell: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson

The crowd got an adrenaline rush during the energetic, electric entrance with S.H.I.N.E Drum Procession led by Rene Fisher. The ancestors were honored and paid respect as Mama Thelma poetically, lyrically and rhythmically recited The Libation, with Sister Nzingha Camara pouring The Libation blessing the gathering.

The program shifted into high gear during the segment featuring Gary Jones and the Yuppets. Gary Jones is an inter-disciplinary sculptor, puppet artist, doll maker, performer and writer. Mr. Jones is also the Founder of the Blackstreet USA Puppet Theater. He opened his program with one his Yuppets, cutting a rug with some fancy jazz dance moves to the tune of “Black Magic Women.” He brought out Ms. Ida another Yuppet to the tune “It’s Your Thing; Do What You Want to Do.” Mr. Jones conveyed an important message with his Yuppets utilizing humor and storytelling to practice safe sex.

Gary Jones and the Yuppets: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson

Gary Jones and the Yuppets: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson

Gary Jones and the Yuppets: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson

Gary Jones and the Yuppets: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson

The final segment of the Opening Reception featured several courageous women on stage discussing living with and coping with HIV/AIDS. A captivated audience listened as Natalia Marcus, Viviana Martinez, Lynnea Garbutt, Hydeis Broadbent, Bridget Gordon and Flor Monterrosa shared their empowering and uplifting story. The women were candid and frank with the audience. This openness and transparency will enable community members to proactively address the stigma, shame, isolation and fear regarding HIV/AIDS.

African-Americans represents approximately 13 percent of the U.S. population, they accounted for 44 percent of all new HIV diagnoses in 2014, according to the Center for Disease Control. Latino men and women accounted for 23 percent, while only representing 17 percent of the population. According to the CDC, there are more tools to effectively prevent HIV transmission and acquisition than ever before, which highlights the importance of increasing HIV testing, educational awareness and access to those tools. A Mobile HIV testing vehicle was also on site during the program.

Allyson Allen, Stormyweather Banks, Floyd Bell, Ofelia Esparza, Ingrid Humphrey, Bernard Stanley Hoyes, Gary Jones, Mary Kimbrough, Ramsess, Joey Terrill are the artists featured in the 35th Annual Black Doll Show.

This would be a great outing for locals as well as visiting family members and friends to Southern California for the Holiday season. In this season of giving, the public is invited to the William Grant Still Arts Center for several upcoming related events. You can help someone less fortunate during the Dolls of Hope Workshop. You can make a doll to donate to children and families affected with HIV/AIDS. The workshops will be held on Saturday, December 19th and January 23, 2016, at 2:00PM. A preview screening of Wilhelmina’s War, January 9, 2016, 3-5PM.

The billboard above the Church on the corner of Adams Blvd. and La Brea sums of the message people took away from the 35th Annual Black Doll Show “New LifeLA-Refreshing Love and Inspiring Hope.”

The William Grant Still Arts Center, 2520 S. West View Street, Los Angeles, CA. 90016. Gallery Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 12 noon-5PM. (323)734-1165 for more information.

Ricky Richardson is a Southern California based writer, music reviewer and photographer. Contact him via: [email protected]