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There are a handful of Black male voices that are immediately identifiable. James Earl Jones, whether as Darth Vader or the voice of CNN News, is at the top of that list. But before James Earl Jones’ voice commanded our attention, those of us of a certain age – ahem, remember well the voice of the 7-Up "uncola" man, Geoffrey Holder.

Portrait of a Black man in a black sweater and red pants posing in front of his oil paintings
Portrait of Geoffrey Holder by Carl Van Vechten

Among all of his creative endeavors, including having directed the 1975 Tony-Award-winning Broadway production of The Wiz, Holder’s art came first. To finance his move from Trinidad to New York in 1953, Holder sold his paintings, and by 1956 he had been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.


A thick, deeply accented, and distinguished voice was but one of the numerous gifts that Holder brought to America. Holder was an incredible multi-disciplinary, multi-cultured actor, dancer, choreographer, director, costume designer, photographer, painter, collector, and author. And now, more attention is being paid to his vast artistic oeuvre thanks to a recent solo exhibit in Los Angeles at James Fuentes Gallery and a joint exhibition of Geoffrey and his brother's works, as well as project being taken on by a group of scholars to honor his oft-overlooked legacy.


GEOFFREY HOLDER: Prismatic Blackness, under the leadership of Erica Moiah James, PhD, is working to reintroduce and reassert Holder’s place in the pantheon of multi-disciplinary global artists. The project acknowledges that Holder defies placement in a single category, which in itself presents a conundrum in scholastic methodology. While reimagining the existing limitations, this archival project has the ability to craft new modalities for surveying broad capabilities such as those possessed by Holder.

For your enjoyment:


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