Bernard and Shirley Kinsey, collectors of African art and historical documents, spoke about their collection and life experiences in an event sponsored by the USC Black Alumni Association, along with USC Spectrum on Thursday at Bovard Auditorium.
The event, An Evening of Art and Legacy, helped raise funds to contribute to scholarships for USC’s black students.
Bernard and Shirley Kinsey are a Los Angeles couple who have used their financial resources to contribute to philanthropy, art, history and education.
President C. L. Max Nikias spoke about the couple’s collection of African art in an opening statement for the event and said the exhibit helps individuals understand the history of African Americans.
“As a powerful cultural assembly, the Kinsey Collection tells us stories through things, but it also tells us things through stories,” Nikias said. “These pieces of African-Americana [track] a history of resilience over racism [and] dignity over despair.”
The event was established by the USC Black Alumni Association as a fundraiser for student scholarships. Shirley Kinsey said the event will help USC attract and support future and current black students.
“With the finances you all provided tonight, [the Black Alumni Association] will be able to add to their scholarship fund, so that USC can continue to attract and maintain some of America’s best and brightest black students,” Kinsey said. “The students who are recruited here will contribute to making USC a better place to call home.”
The couple’s collection began because of their extensive world travels and their interest in the cultures of the locations they visited, Shirley Kinsey said.
“We realized when we were traveling that we were always interested in indigenous cultures, and we always wanted to bring something back from those cultures,” she said. “We soon realized that we didn’t know enough about our own culture, and that’s when the collection started.”
Bernard Kinsey said the purpose of his collection is to give back to others by inspiring others to learn about their heritage.
“You can’t accept a blessing with a closed fist, and you’ve got to take the glove off and throw the ball back sometimes,” Kinsey said. “There are people that need [help] more and who can do more with it if you give it to them.”
Alicia Jewell, a freshman majoring in business administration, said the event demonstrated how people can make a difference through the collecting and embracing of art.
“It’s interesting to see how a couple can influence others to care more about their heritage through their own collection of art,” Jewell said. “It’s also inspiring to see people who care so deeply about the students at USC who need financial assistance by using their abilities to raise funds for [the students].”