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Meet the Artist-Activist Panelists

"In times of dread, artists must never remain silent. This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That’s how civilizations heal"

-Toni Morrison.

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RUEROB (moderator)

Robert D. Jackson also known as BABA RUEROB, is an actor, director, educational strategist, and producer that utilizes theater, film, television, and other live media experiences to push the boundaries of storytelling. 

 

Robert is a graduate of New York University where he received a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership, Politics, and Advocacy and a BFA in Drama from New Studio on Broadway at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. His passion for activism has led him to found and lead several organizations that aim at empowering low-income and marginalized populations. He is excited and honored to support The Black Arts Celebration and wants to continue to support the arts in Houston. 

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Gayle “Asali” Dickson

M. Gayle Dickson, also known as Asali, is a dedicated, community-spirited graphic artist, teacher, and ordained minister. During her late teens and early twenties, she worked for the Black Panther Party, where she was the only female graphic artist for The Black Panther, the Party newspaper, between 1972 and 1974.

Dickson was born in Berkeley, California. Her father, James Stowers, owned a dry cleaning business; her mother, Madeline Stowers, was a seamstress. When she was two years old, Dickson moved to Oakland with her mother and siblings after her parents divorced. From an early age, Dickson demonstrated an ability for drawing, a skill that was recognized and nurtured throughout her education.

After attending Oakland Public Schools and graduating from Fremont High School in 1966, Dickson studied painting at Oakland’s Laney Community College. In 1967, she transferred to Merritt College, also in Oakland, which was a hub for black student protest and was where Black Panther Party co-founders, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, met. While there, she joined the Black Student Union, became familiar with African cultural heritage, and participated in protests against police brutality.

Dickson used her artistic talents to the betterment of the communities in which she lived and, for a time, to further the goals of the Black Panther Party. She joined the Party in 1970 after marrying Melvin Dickson and moving to Seattle. She did some sign painting for the Sydney Miller Free Health Clinic while in Seattle and became involved in other community programs. In 1972, both Dickson and her husband moved back to Oakland to work at the Black Panther Party headquarters. She worked in the graphic arts department until 1976; her art focused on women and children, capitalism, and urban poverty. Consulting with artist, author, and Black Panther Minister of Culture Emory Douglas, Dickson incorporated political and social commentary into her images.

While in Oakland, Dickson also worked for the Oakland Community School, teaching art classes, designing letterhead, and performing other administrative duties. She left the Black Panther Party in 1976 and worked in various positions over the next ten years. In 1986, she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Holy Names University in Oakland, and accepted an office clerk position with the City of Berkeley two years later. Called to the ministry, Dickson enrolled at San Francisco Theological Seminary where she graduated with a Master of Divinity in 1998. She served as pastor of the South Berkeley Community Church from 1998 to 2006, using her art and preaching skills for the betterment of her faith community. She did this while holding a full-time position as Assistant Administrator for the Sister Thea Bowman Manor, Percy Abram, Jr. Senior Apartments.

Dickson retired in 2016. She currently resides in Richmond, California where she continues to paint and teach and is a popular public speaker.

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Dr. Keith Somerville

Dr. Keith L. Somerville is the husband of Mrs. Jessica Somerville. He is an Ordained Elder in the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church and serves as Senior Pastor of Riverside-Houston United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas.  

Dr. Keith is a widely sought preacher, teacher, coach, and counselor. His United Methodists Leadership roles include Ministry Specialist (Social and Racial Justice), Conference Finance and Administration, member of the Future Discernment Task Force, and District Committee on Finance board member.  

Previously, he served full-time as the Assistant Pastor at St. Johns Downtown UMC (Houston), Senior Pastor at Calvary United Methodist Church (Houston), and the Founding Pastor of One Life Church (Missouri City.)  

He is a graduate of Morehouse College, The Interdenominational Theological Center (Gammon Seminary), and a holds an earned Doctor of Ministry from The Candler School Of Theology at Emory University with a concentration in Biblical Interpretation and Proclamation. Dr. Keith’s final capstone at Emory University focused on Moral Leadership and the plausibility of moral preaching in times of racial crisis. He also holds a certification in Clinical Pastoral Education from St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital and Texas Children’s Hospital (Houston Medical Center.)  

Dr. Somerville is a published author of the devotional series “Today I Will” and “God’s Understudy,” and currently serves as the President of the Houston Area Caucus of Black Methodists For Church Renewal, is a member of the Institutional Review Board at the University of Houston Research Department, and a Life Member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated.   

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John "Bunchy" Crear

Born March 24th , 1952 in Houston Texas. Family moved to Los Angeles in 1961. Joined PEOPLES PARTY 2/BLACK PANTHER PARTY in 1971.Transfered to Central Headquarters, in Oakland, California in 1972. Organized a chapter in Las Vegas in 1977, remained in the Party until the end in 1981.

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Xavier Buck, Ph.D.

Dr. Buck earned his Ph.D. in history from the University of California Berkeley and B.A. in history from St. John’s University. As an undergraduate, he led the largest student movement in the history of the university which led to the hiring of more faculty of color and their first chief diversity officer, the establishment of an inclusivity counseling center, the introduction of a required course on microaggressions, and a legacy of strong black and brown leadership. Dr. Buck has always believed that what we learn in the classroom is applicable to sustaining movements for black lives and continues to blend his organizing and educational pursuits.

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Emory Douglas

The artist and activist Emory Douglas shaped the powerful graphic identity of the Black Panther Party through depictions of Black struggle and liberation. As minister of culture for the party and art director for the Panthers’ official newspaper, Douglas popularized the group’s message through illustrations and cartoons in the paper and in posters and pamphlets. His artworks would later be celebrated in major solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, in 2007 and the New Museum in New York in 2009, among other venues. Douglas was first introduced to graphic design as a teenager while incarcerated at a youth detention center. He went on to study graphic arts at San Francisco City College, where he was inspired by the work of artists like Charles White and other artists involved in the Black Arts Movement.  This early exposure to the artistic wing of the Black Power movement provided Douglas with a blueprint for combining art with activism.

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           Aaron Dixon

At the age of 13 years old Aaron Dixon met and marched with Reverend Martin Luther King.

The meeting would lead to Aaron joining the local civil rights movement and his participation in protest marches and demonstrations.

It would lead to Aaron becoming one of the first black students to volunteer to integrate the Seattle public schools.

At 18 Aaron along with other black students organized the first Black Student Union in the pacific northwest on the campus of the University of Washington.

In 1968 at the age of 19 Aaron was appointed as captain of the Seattle Chapter of the Black Panther Party which was the first Black Panther Party Chapter outside of the state of California.

In 1972 Aaron along with other Seattle panthers was relocated to Oakland California home of the party’s national headquarters.

In 1978 after 10 years and 2 assignation attempts on his life Aaron resigned his position in the BPP.

Aaron spent the next 25 years working with gang involved and at-risk youth and raising his 3 daughters as a single father.

In 2000 Aaron founded Central house a nonprofit organization providing transitional housing for young adults and a youth leadership program in the Seattle public schools.

In 2006 Aaron ran for US senate as a green party candidate.

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