Artist John Rozelle talks with Kartemquin Films about Black-Jewish relations, his childhood dreams of becoming an architect, and his research-heavy artistic process.
1:17Copy video clip URL John Rozelle talks about his background knowledge of the Black–Jewish issue, recounting the religious nature of his upbringing and how “religious pride” always came before “Black pride.” “It was troubling to me then and, as I think about it, now still… [my mother] did not have any pride in people of African ancestry,” Rozelle admits.
6:14Copy video clip URL A member of the Kartemquin crew asks Rozelle about his childhood perception of the Bible, and the people presented in the Bible, to which Rozelle responds: “They were Jews, and my perception of them? They were White… and in some sense, much better. You know, that whole thing about the chosen people. Why weren’t we chosen? That was my question.”
7:57Copy video clip URL Rozelle elucidates his position in the Civil Rights movement as a student who was part of the transition from segregated to integrated schools.
8:20Copy video clip URL Rozelle talks about his career pursuits, revealing that he originally wanted to be an architect but never received the necessary support to follow his dream. He then goes on to talk more about the importance of architecture and architects.
13:07Copy video clip URL Rozelle talks about the role of knowledge in art, explaining how he does a great deal of research before making a piece.
16:10Copy video clip URL Rozelle introduces “The Middle Passage,” an ongoing project that he has been working on for three years focused on slavery and resistance. “I know that, as merchants and as business people, that Jewish people took advantage of that economic opportunity, that they were involved in trading slaves… I do make a comment about that in a couple of pieces,” says Rozelle. “The problem for me, personally, was just trying to keep it balanced, but also to really think about how I felt and to interject that into it.”
19:05Copy video clip URL Rozelle goes on to talk about the research he did for the Spertus show and the culminating pieces; one which deals with Jewish attorneys who participated in the Civil Rights movement and another which deals with the death of Eugene Williams during the Chicago race riots of 1919.