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Exploring Billie Holiday’s Art and Activism

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Tri-City Collective, in partnership with Tulsa Artist Fellowship and the Woody Guthrie Center, will present Strange Fruit: The Art and Activism of Billie Holiday, a live in-person and virtual discussion, on Saturday, December 16, 2:00-3:30 p.m. at the Woody Guthrie Center. The event, which is free and open to the public, coincides with the Woody Guthrie Center’s exhibition entitled Billie Holiday at Sugar Hill.

Art and Activism

Billie Holiday and Woody Guthrie were iconic figures in folk and jazz music who left an indelible mark on America. Their performances and shared commitment to fighting against racism and injustice cemented their legacies as influential voices of resistance. Moreover, Holiday’s rendition of the haunting anti-lynching song, Strange Fruit, became an emblematic protest against racism.

Through her soul-stirring performances, Holiday forced audiences to confront the horrors of racial violence and demand change. Hence, in 1946, Guthrie and Holiday joined forces in a momentous benefit concert held to raise awareness and support for the tragic case of Isaac Woodard.

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Woodard, an African-American World War II veteran, had been brutally blinded by police officers in South Carolina. Additionally, the event highlighted the deep-rooted racism and violence prevalent in American society. Guthrie and Holiday lent their voices to denounce this horrific injustice. 

Their participation in the benefit concert exemplified their dedication to using their artistic talents as a powerful tool for activism. Moreover, it also highlighted their commitment to raising awareness about discrimination in America.

Join host Quraysh Ali Lansana and a panel of Tulsa artists and activists to discuss Holiday’s enduring legacy and how Tulsans engage in art and social justice work today.

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