On the morning of September 11, 2001, my friend Michael Richards was working in his studio on the 92nd floor of Tower 1 of the World Trade Center. He was a resident artist there as part of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council's World Views program. Michael was an incredibly gifted artist and sculptor whose work addressed tragic aspects of African-American history through a poignant, poetic, and ultimately transcendant use of iconography. Ironically, much of his work dealt with flight, and the history of the Tuskegee Airmen, as a theme.
Michael grew up in Kingston, Jamaica, and loved reggae. I originally met him through our mutual friend, the curator Franklin Sirmans, who knew that we would have this in common. Shortly after Michael's death, Franklin asked me to make a reggae mix to be played at a memorial gathering he was organizing at the Studio Museum of Harlem, where Michael was also an artist in residence, on September 23, 2001. Beginning with King Tubby's elegiac dub of The Aggrovators "I Shall Be Released" entitled "Release The Dub", the songs I gathered addressed the mood of mourning that we New Yorkers felt in the wake of the attacks, as well as the themes of love, war, struggle, hope, spirituality and release that are so beautifully expressed in Reggae music. This is the original recording of that mix.
I thought that today, 11 years from the attack that took his and many others lives, was a fitting day to share this small memorial for Michael. I hope you can take the time to explore his powerful work and rich legacy. I miss him.
Rest in PEACE Michael Richards, 8/2/1963 - 9/11/2001
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