2nd Annual Donald V. Bentley Memorial Lecture

This event is now sold out!

Join a distinguished tribute to Black arts in Baltimore featuring playwright, actor, and educator Anna Deavere Smith.

The evening will feature a performance of Smith’s “Glimpses of Baltimore in Change,” a homage to growing up black in Baltimore that highlights the transformation from racial segregation to desegregation.

This free program is presented by the JHU Billie Holiday Center for Liberation Arts in partnership with the Baltimore Museum of Art and commemorates of the life of Donald V. Bentley.

Seating in the BMA Auditorium is limited. Registration is required.

Proof of vaccination required to attend. Should COVID-19 conditions warrant modification or cancellation of events, the BMA will make every effort to inform confirmed guests as quickly as possible.


Event Schedule


6 p.m. – Doors Open

6:30 p.m. – Welcome and “Glimpses of Baltimore in Change” performance

7:30-8 p.m. – Anna Deavere Smith and Dr. Lawrence Jackson in Conversation and Q&A


Anna Deavere Smith

Anna Deavere Smith is an actress, playwright, teacher, and author credited with having created a new form of theater. Best known for crafting more than 15 one-woman shows drawn from hundreds of interviews, Smith turns these conversations into scripts and transforms herself onstage into an astonishing number of characters. President Obama awarded Smith the National Humanities Medal in 2013, and in 2015 she was named the Jefferson Lecturer, the nation’s highest honor in the humanities. Additional honors include the prestigious MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship, The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize for achievement in the arts, the George Polk Career Award in Journalism, two Tony nominations, and several honorary degrees. She was runner up for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for her breakthrough play Fires in the Mirror. Her most recent play, Notes from the Field, looks at the school-to-prison pipeline and injustice and inequality in low-income communities. Time magazine named it one of the Top 10 Plays of 2017 and HBO created film adaptation in 2018. Smith’s play Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 was recently named one of the best plays of the last twenty-five years by The New York Times. Smith currently appears on ABC’s hit series Black-ish and the ABC legal drama For the People. Previously she appeared in Nurse Jackie and The West Wing. Films include The American President, Philadelphia, and Rachel Getting Married. She is a professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Lawrence Jackson

Baltimore native Lawrence Jackson is the author of the award-winning books Chester B. Himes: A Biography (W.W. Norton 2017) and The Indignant Generation: A Narrative History of African American Writers and Critics (Princeton 2010). He also published Ralph Ellison: Emergence of Genius, 1913-1952 (Wiley 2002) and has written memoirs on race and family history called My Father’s Name: A Black Virginia Family after the Civil War (Chicago 2012) and a new book, Shelter: A Black Tale of Homeland, Baltimore (Grey Wolf 2022). Dr. Jackson earned a PhD in English and American literature at Stanford University, and he is a 2019 Guggenheim Fellowship awardee. A Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of English and History at Johns Hopkins University (JHU), he founded the Billie Holiday Center for Liberation Arts to create opportunities for enhanced intellectual and artistic relations between JHU and Baltimore City, his hometown. The Billie Holiday Center serves a cultural purpose, hosting regular events to nurture such connections, as well as an archival one, protecting artifacts of African-American culture and politics.

Donald V. Bentley

Donald V. Bentley was a rising sophomore at Morehouse College in the summer of 1989 when he was shot during an armed robbery on Maryland Avenue. The murder remains unsolved to this day. A popular, charismatic young man, Donald had graduated from the Gilman School for boys, where he excelled at public speaking, track, and football. He was the son of Ellen and Robert Bentley, a schoolteacher and steel foundry foreman, respectively, and he grew up in a tight knit community on Wilvan Avenue in Northwest Baltimore. He and his family attended First Baptist Church on Liberty Heights Avenue. Donald’s inquisitive nature, his commitment to improving the fortunes of the downtrodden and his interest in Pan-Africanism have been memorialized in many different endeavors since his passing, but particularly in the Donald Bentley Food Pantry. He was an inspiration to everyone who knew him.

About The JHU Billie Holiday Center for Liberation Arts

The Billie Holiday Center for the Liberation Arts (BHCLA) is an initiative designed to foster organic links between Johns Hopkins University and the historic African American communities of Baltimore, celebrating the strengths and amazing potential of both.

The Details

Location BMA Main Campus Cost Sold Out

Dates & Times