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Brooklyn Museum Celebrates Black Radical Women in New Art Exhibit

Late last month, a new exhibit opened on the fourth floor of the Brooklyn Museum, but it is unlike any exhibit often seen in this museum or any others. We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women 1965-85 exhibition features the artwork of mainly black female artists during the second wave of feminism. How did this idea come about? How will this affect a younger generation of black women? Sweenie Saint-Vil has the story.

SAINT-VIL: Catherine Morris is co-curator of We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women exhibit. She explained that the idea came after she and co-curator Rujeko Hockley discussed ways to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art.

MORRIS: We wanted to tell different stories or different narratives than the sort of typical mostly white and largely middle class kind of narratives. We were really interested in communities of color and African American women in particular.

SAINT-VIL: The exhibit is open to the public but Morris imagines that young black women will make up a large part of its audience.

MORRIS: Young women of color particularly wanting to know this history,wanting to see the people who came before them and found themselves in similar positions and how they made their fights, how they took their stands, how they made their work, how they made it in the world.

There’s the Homage to My Young Black Sisters which I just love thinking about the older artists who would have been in her 60s at the time setting out to make this work in support of a younger generation of women who she sees as wanting to change the world.

SAINT-VIL: Elizabeth Catlett is the artist. The work of art: It’s is a wooden sculpture in the shape of a woman’s body. The woman is holding her fist up in the air, kind of like the fist you imagine when you think of Angela Davis. This painting and all other artwork in the exhibit inspired and paved the way for young black women and young black artists.

Alexandria Smith is one of those artists. She visited the museum after months of having it marked on her calendar. She wanted to see it because an exhibit like this was out of the ordinary.

SMITH: In a museum an institution of this caliber to announce a show featuring black women artists…ha…that’s funny. The fact that that even happened, is oh yeah, this is definitely not something that happens often or has happened ever. I think this is the first time.

SAINT-VIL: Smith is excited to see that women of color were finally given a platform to express themselves and thinks it’s a fitting time since we are in the midst of  the Black Lives Matter movement.

SMITH: It’s an important time to highlight the achievements of black women because we’ve been at the forefront at every major historical movement that you can think of and a lot of times our involvement is erased or ignored and black men, and men in general are pushed to the forefront and given credit.

SAINT-VIL: She believes that the We Wanted a Revolution exhibition is mutually beneficial for viewers of the art and the artists themselves.

SMITH: A lot of legends that are in the show. Some of them are still alive. I think it’s really important to show them that we know the history and the work that you put in and we appreciate you. I think it’s important to see that and experience that just as it’s important for us to learn from because it’s not being taught or discussed in major colleges and universities.

SAINT-VIL: Danielle Rose went to Georgetown University for her undergrad years and recently graduated last fall from Morgan State University, a Historically Black College in Baltimore. Neither of the curriculums taught about black women.

ROSE: I can honestly say that in my studies on both campuses, I didn’t really get a lot of knowledge or talk a lot about black women a lot and the contributions that they made to America.

SAINT-VIL: The We Wanted a Revolution Black Radical Women Exhibit 1965-85 will be on display until September 17th of this year.

Sweenie Saint-Vil, Columbia Radio News


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