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Jamal Cyrus, Liberation Rotation (Ollie Towards a Metamorphosis), 2020, digital collage, dimensions variable.

When I was twenty in 2014, Jamal Cyrus invited me to join him as a mentee of sorts on a trip to the Houston Metropolitan Research Center. The subject of his inquiry was the 1967 police riot at Texas Southern University, where he teaches. Historical reports in local newspapers of the precipitating causes, events, and outcomes were predictably conflicting, even as the student demonstrations themselves were irreproachable. I found it difficult to reconcile the fact that some of the most principled, militant calls for community self-defense had been issued, it now seems likely, by agents provocateurs. Twentieth-century Black uprisings have been a focus of Cyrus’s work at least since We Did It For Love, a 2004 installation he made as a member of the artist collective Otabenga Jones & Associates; it comprised an overturned squad car, its radio playing police-scanner recordings from the

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