Remarks at the 9/11 Memorial for Miguel Algarín
Miguel Algarín and I met in the early 1980s while working on Plexus co-operas designed by Sandro Dernini. At one of those events, he introduced me to Miky Piñero.
In 1988 when Miky died, Miguel and I decided to create an innovative homage to Miky that we titled, Homenaje a Miky Piñero. This event was a performance art ritual comprised of art, poetry, a parade, and a performance that honored Miky's wishes to have his ashes scattered throughout the Lower East Side.
In his “Lower East Side Poem” Miky ends by saying:
so please when I die…
don't take me far away
keep me near by
take my ashes and scatter them thru out
the Lower East Side…
The event began with me wrapping one of my polychrome wooden sculptures in a white fabric and setting it afire. Miguel invited poets from the Cafe to read an oríkí, a praise poem, to Miky. As an ebo, a ritual sacrifice, the poets burned their poems releasing the ashé, the life force, embedded in their poems into the spirit world to be with Miky. Following the directions in Miky's poem we spread his ashes throughout the Lower East Side.
The event was spectacular. That evening at a celebration party in Bob Holman's studio, Miguel turned to me and said, "Arturo, promise me that if I die before you, you will organize a similar sacrificial burning event like this for me." I looked at him and said, "…only if you promise the same for me." We shook hands, laughed, embraced, toasted each other and went back to partying.
For this event, I constructed a sculpture entitled Spirit Box for Miguel Algarín in my studio in Atlanta and brought it with me to the Nuyorican Poets Cafe to keep the promise I made to Miguel. Like the Homenaje a Miky Piñero performance, poets are asked to read a poem. In this case one of Miguel's poems. Those poems will be placed in a brass urn and burn until they become ashes. We will then visit locations in the neighborhood that were important to Miguel and spread his ashes there.
After this event, the remaining ashes will be placed in the Spirit Box for Miguel Algarín and located in a place of honor in the renovated Nuyorican Poets Cafe.
I thank Miguel's family, the board of directors of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and all the poets gathered here today; but, especially, I thank Rome Neal and Lois Griffith for allowing me to keep my promise to Miguel, my friend, colleague, and fellow artist.
September 11, 2021
Nuyorican Poets Cafe
Arturo Lindsay was born in Colón, Panama, and at age 12 his family migrated to Brooklyn, NY. Lindsay is an Atlanta/Panama-based artist/cultural investigator/educator whose work is informed by the research he conducts on African spiritual and aesthetic retentions in America. His research findings appear in works of art, essays, and lectures. In graduate school he met his mentor, Dr. Johnnetta Cole, who taught him to view contemporary art of the African diaspora through the lens of an ethnographer. Lindsay has exhibited in over 150 solo and group exhibitions. He has authored 20 essays on the art and aesthetics of the African diaspora and edited Santeria Aesthetics in Contemporary Latin American Art. Professor Emeritus and former Chair of the Department of Art and Art History at Spelman College, Dr. Lindsay holds a Doctor of Arts degree (DA) from NYU and received an MFA from UMass, Amherst.