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The Baptism

Presented in collaboration with Lincoln Center

Originally Aired: Friday, April 30, 2021


Baptism (of The Sharecropper’s Son & The Boy From Boonville) is a three-part poem by the award-winning poet and artist Carl Hancock Rux, now transformed into a short abstract film directed by artist Carrie Mae Weems

Tonight we present the first live performance by Meshell Ndegeocello of her score to Weems’s second iteration—The Baptism (rhetoric)—followed by a conversation with Ndegeocello and Carl Hancock Rux. Hosted by WNYC, the pair will discuss the legacies of the film’s central characters, civil rights leaders John Lewis and C.T. Vivian, as well as the implications of art-making in a time of heightened unrest and a deadly and exhaustive pandemic.

Meshell Ndegeocello will perform alongside longtime collaborator and guitarist Christopher Bruce. The Baptism and The Baptism (rhetoric) are a commission by Lincoln Center. John Schaefer of New Sounds hosts.

Baptism (of The Sharecropper’s Son & The Boy From Boonville) by award-winning poet and artist Carl Hancock Rux is a three-part poem and the artist’s tribute to the legacies of civil rights leaders John Lewis and C.T. Vivian. Written and performed by Rux, the Lincoln Center commission is also an 11-minute short abstract film in two iterations—The Baptism and The Baptism (rhetoric)—directed by artist Carrie Mae Weems.  

In The New York Times, Maya Phillips called the piece “a work that is freeing and radical in a way that Black art so often doesn’t get to be.” 

Recognizing the dynamic inspiration that artistic collaboration can foster, especially in a work fueled by activism and a spirit of resistance, project creator Carl Hancock Rux turned to fellow artists Carrie Mae Weems and Meshell Ndegeocello as collaborators. Weems directed the original cut of the film, The Baptism, as well as its successor, The Baptism (rhetoric). Ndegeocello wrote an original score for the latter. The collaborators offered fresh perspectives on the work of John Lewis and C.T. Vivian and brought new tones of the original text to life through expressive visual and sound compositions.


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