Bits and Pieces

current news + topics

Collected by Leslie Nash

Harriet Tubman Monument Unveiled

In downtown Newark, NJ, a new monument honoring Harriet Tubman stands tall. The multisensory exhibit—created in partnership with Audible and the city of Newark—offers audio, visual, and tactile experiences. It replaces a statue of Christopher Columbus removed by the city in 2020. The artist, Nina Cooke John, chosen for the project after a nationwide search, created a work to be heard and touched, as well as seen.

Spearheaded by Arts and Cultural Affairs Director at the City of Newark, fayemi shakur, the abstract “Shadow of a Face” installation features a 25-foot-tall statue representing Tubman. Communitymade tiles decorate a learning wall of educational text with narrations from Newark citizens.

“People should be able to see themselves in the art around them. And most of our monuments, you know, are of white men or of times of war, very few women figures, very few Black people, people of color, and so this was an opportune time for us to think, really intentionally about how we could reimagine public art,” Shakur said.

According to legend, Tubman led runaway slaves along the Underground Railroad to nearby First Presbyterian Church, the oldest church still standing in Newark.

The One and Only Female Buffalo Soldier

You know about the Buffalo Soldiers, the all-Black units of soldiers sent out west to protect the western frontier after the Civil War. You may also have heard of Mulan as told by Disney, the fictitious Chinese woman who dressed as a man and went to war. But have you heard the story of a real, female, Buffalo Soldier?

Cathay Williams, formerly enslaved, changed her name, disguised herself, and dressed as a man enlisted in the U.S. Army. Now mind you, the year is 1866, 80 years before President Truman signed acts for integration of race and gender in the armed forces.

Using the name William Cathay, Williams served two years on the Missouri frontier before being discovered and discharged. In an interview she said, “Only two persons—a cousin and a particular friend—members of the regiment, knew that I was a woman. They never blowed on me. They were partly the cause of my joining the army. Another reason was I wanted to make my own living and not be dependent on relations or friends.”

This trailblazer should be remembered for her courage, determination, strength, and dignity.

The First Black Female Chef Instructor at Culinary Institute of America

The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) is widely recognized as the world’s premier culinary college. The Institute was started in 1946 by two women who shared a daring vision and built the first and only school of its kind in the United States for returning World War II veterans.

The PWI (predominately white institution) saw its first Black male chef instructor in 1970. But it would take another 50 years (2020) until the CIA hired its first Black female chef instructor. That chef is U.S. Army Veteran and Food Network Chopped Champion Roshara Sanders.

The 33-year-old CIA graduate and native of Bridgeport CT teaches culinary fundamentals, and is proud to be the “first” at CIA after 75 years. Her love of cooking began at home and in high school she chose culinary as her trade. After high school, she was accepted to the CIA, but was financially unable to attend. She entered the Army, serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The school reached out to her and offered a scholarship to attend in 2011. Although Sanders only had one Black male instructor as a student, she says she sees a change in the school’s efforts to be more diverse. The CIA will debut a semester-long bachelor’s degree concentration in the Cuisines of Africa and its Diaspora in the Americas in 2023.