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MSU continues 'Slavery To Freedom' lecture series with speaker Brandan 'BMike' Odums

BMIKE Odums.png
MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine
Brandan "BMike" Odums is a visual artist from New Orleans known for his murals.

Editor’s Note:  You can register for Brandan "BMike" Odums' lecture here.

On Thursday, the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine presents the second of three speakers as part of the 2022 Dr. William G. Anderson Lecture Series, “Slavery To Freedom.”

Each lecture is being conducted virtually.

The next speaker is Brandan Odums.

He’s a visual artist from New Orleans who’s known to his fans as “BMike.”

Odums is best known for creating large murals depicting African-American life tinged with a message of social consciousness.

Dr. Marita Gilbert is the associate dean of diversity and campus inclusion at the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Like Odums, she’s also a native of New Orleans, and she spoke with WKAR’s Kevin Lavery about what “BMike’s” work means to the residents of the “Big Easy.”

Interview Highlights

On “BMike’s” Ability To Capture The Moment

Here is “BMike” in that moment…really inviting us, drawing us in, to help us to reflect on what's happening in the now and how should we be thinking on and acting in this moment to ensure that we are creating beautiful, joyful black futures.

On The Universality of Freedom

There’s something that resonates universally about breaking chains, metaphorically; about moving from places of marginalization to liberation. That’s something that resonates across the globe, and it resonates intergenerationally.

Interview Transcript

Dr. Marita Gilbert: There is something truly impactful in seeing the way that he tells the stories of our histories, our herstories and connects them to the possibilities for our future visually. If you've ever had a chance to go to Studio B in New Orleans, it is an ultimate experience. He reminds us of the icons of our early freedom movements, but also what is it that we are to be taking up now.

The last thing that I will tell you is that I marveled at BMike's ability post (Hurricane) Katrina, to go into a building which would have been abandoned, and turn that entire apartment building into a work of art.

Kevin Lavery: Well, at the risk of sounding cliche, we often hear about artists pulling from their own pain. And I'm sure that when Katrina hit in 2005 he was right there in the midst of it with everyone else, and was just as impacted as everyone else, and he still found it within himself to do something to uplift other people.

Gilbert: Yeah, I think part of his genius is being able to speak to the moment, right? So, he did that post Katrina. He's also been doing that (during), as I call it, the “twindemic.” We've had a global pandemic, but we've also been, again, engaged in this contemporary freedom movement, bringing light to speaking against the violence committed against Black and brown bodies. And yet again, here is BMike in that moment really inviting us, drawing us in, to help us to reflect on what's happening in the now and how should we be thinking on, how should we be acting in this moment, to again, ensure that we are creating beautiful, joyful Black futures.

And so, I just applaud his brilliance. I applaud his willingness to show up consistently. Certainly in New Orleans, but he's also created some murals in Detroit and in other parts of the country, and has partnered with even some other artists. Music artists, actors, even some of our biggest corporations to really kind of bring this same message about using the gifts that we have to speak to what is possible.

Lavery: He's also had some of his work displayed internationally in places like South Korea. I wonder if the Black experience resonates in a country like that; if there’s a chord that’s struck among the people who see that as well.

Gilbert: So that would be a question to ask him when he's here. I think there is a power however, there is something that resonates globally, universally, about breaking chains, metaphorically. About moving from places of marginalization to liberation. That is something that resonates across the globe, and it resonates intergenerationally. It's something that takes hold in many of us and so thinking about the power of his work, to share that message, you know, across continents, I think, yes, speaks to the power of art and artivism. But really, again, about the resonance, the timeliness, the significance of freedom movements.

Kevin Lavery is a general assignment reporter and occasional local host for Morning Edition and All Things considered.
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