Photographer Leni Sinclair, cofounder of the Detroit Artists Workshop and the White Panther Party.
“Leni Sinclair, born Magdalene Arndt, is an American photographer and radical political activist who lives in Detroit. She has photographed rock and jazz musicians since the early 1960s. She was the co-founder of the White Panther Party along with John Sinclair and Pun Plamondon. Magdalene Arndt was born on March 8, 1940, in Königsberg, Germany, later renamed Kaliningrad when it became territory of the Soviet Union. She grew up in the village of Vahldorf near Magdeburg in East Germany where she listened to American jazz artists such as Harry Belafonte, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald on Radio Luxemburg. She emigrated to the United States in 1959, living with relatives in Detroit while studying geography at Wayne State University. There, she was involved with a short-lived arts project called the Red Door Gallery. In 1964, she met poet and jazz critic John Sinclair, and with 14 other people, they founded the Detroit Artists Workshop on November 1, 1964. That group soon established a network of communal houses, and a performance space and print shop. Arndt began photographing jazz musicians performing in Detroit, including John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and Yusuf Lateef. She married John Sinclair in 1965 at the First Unitarian Church of Detroit on Cass Avenue. They had two children, Marion Sunny Sinclair, born in 1967, and Celia Sanchez Mao Sinclair, born in 1970. In October 1965, the Detroit Artists Workshop was raided by 25 police officers, and six people, including Sinclair’s husband John, were arrested on marijuana charges. John Sinclair, already on probation as a result of a previous marijuana arrest, was later sentenced to six months in jail. When he was released in August 1966, Leni organized a party and a rock and roll band called the MC5 performed. At first, the Sinclairs, who were jazz fans, disliked the MC5, but soon they recognized their creativity and became fans. John Sinclair became their manager, and Leni Sinclair started photographing their performances. Her photos of the band have been described as ‘iconic’. When the Grande Ballroom opened on October 6, 1966, Leni Sinclair teamed up with poster artist Gary Grimshaw and formed the Magic Veil Light Company to produce psychedelic light shows during rock and roll performances. On January 24, 1967, the Detroit Artists Workshop was again raided, along with several other locations. Both John and Leni Sinclair were arrested, as were 54 other people. …”
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