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    A blend of art, music and conversation

    “Sowing” by William H. Johnson is part of the exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum.
    “Sowing” by William H. Johnson is part of the exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum.

    Art, race, and identity

    On Thursday evening at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, a new exhibit of African-American art will be enlivened with the sounds of music and a conversation about race and identity. Diggs Duke will perform compositions that reveal his take on jazz, rhythm and blues, and hip-hop, and writers Jerald Walker and Tisa Bryant, a member of the Boston-based Dark Room Collective, will talk about the visible and invisible power of race and privilege in America.

    Walker’s memoir, “Street Shadows: A Memoir of Race, Rebellion, and Redemption,” charts his trajectory from his life as a juvenile delinquent growing up in the poor neighborhoods of Chicago to the halls of academia. He is now chairman of the writing, literature, and publishing department at Emerson College.

    One subject that may come up during the conversation Thursday is stereotyping, an issue with which Walker himself has wrestled. In “Street Shadows,” Walker mentions that it was James Alan McPherson, the first African-American writer to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, who challenged Walker to move beyond stereotypes in his writing.


    The program is bound to riff on the artworks in the exhibit, “In Conversation: Modern African American Art.” Attendees will have an opportunity to view the more than 100 paintings, photographs, and sculpture that chart the progress of social change from the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s through the civil rights movement of the 1960s. It was organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum and includes pieces by Allan Rohan Crite, a longtime resident of the South End whose work tells the story of the African-American community in Boston, and Romare Bearden, best known for his gritty yet pretty collages of African-American life in New York.

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    The exhibit itself is a multimedia experience. Music, historical commentary, and atmospheric sounds accompany select works, such as Gordon Parks’s photograph “Ali Jumping Rope,” which portrays Muhammad Ali training in the gym. Viewers hear sounds of boxing, audio from Ali’s 1965 fight with Sonny Liston, and an interview with Ali.

    Thursday’s program, “Indivisible: We the People in Black, White and Gray,’’ from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., is presented by the Tannery Series, a community arts program in Newburyport. Admission is $10.

    Gaiman sells local

    Lucky Porter Square Books in Cambridge. Superstar Neil Gaiman selected his neighborhood bookstore as one of two outlets (the other is allowed to take orders for signed editions of his novel, “The Ocean at the End of the Lane,” being released Tuesday . (For details on the book, see Pick of the Week below.) The shop is poised to easily top 5,000 pre-orders.

    Gaiman and his wife, Amanda Palmer, are regulars at Café Zing, located in the bookstore. Porter Square Books is hosting Gaiman on July 13 as part of his national book tour. Ticket sales for that reading will start at 7 a.m. Tuesday.

    Coming out


     “The Sugar Detox: Lose Weight, Feel Great, and Look Years Younger” by Brooke Alpert and Patricia Farris (Da Capo)

     “The Heist” by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg (Bantam)

     “The Spy Who Loved” by Clare Mulley (St. Martin’s)

    Pick of the Week

    Constantine Haghighi of Brown University Bookstore in Providence recommends “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” by Neil Gaiman (Morrow): “Gaiman’s tale perfectly captures every aspect of our faded childhood memories. Sadness and terror, cleverness and wonder: All are writ large through the story of a 7-year-old boy who befriends a family as old as Time itself. By story’s end, we’ve been reminded that, once, we knew a duck pond could also be an ocean as vast as the universe itself.”

    Jan Gardner can be reached at