Founded in 2018, the Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery (MAAHMG) will reopen its doors on Tuesday, August 18th, with new exhibits created in response to the death of #GeorgeFloyd and subsequent #BlackLivesMatter protests. If you are in the Minnesota area, check them out. Visit the Museum’s website to get your tickets. Follow their Facebook page for updates, as well. Below is a list of new exhibitions:
“Gather In His Name: From Protests to Healing for George Floyd” a photography collection by John Steitz
“Un-Heard,” a video compilation of performing artists expressing the emotions of the movement
a documentary based on the first day of protests in Minneapolis created by Unicorn Riot
a plywood art mural created by DeSean Hollie
“A Reckoning: 100 Years after the Lynchings in Duluth,” an exhibition marking the 100th anniversary of the lynching of Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson, and Isaac McGhie in 1920. Produced in collaboration with In Black Ink.
Preservation in action! Today this group kicked off a Preservation Plan for the Georgia B. Williams Nursing Home in Camilla, Georgia! Here, Beatrice Borders, a third generation African-American midwife, operated a nursing home from 1941 to 1971, delivering over 6,000 babies! Providing an essential service through segregation and the Jim Crow era, Beatrice provided a safe place for expectant mothers, and “birthed a city.” #thisplacematters#PreservingHope@thegeorgiatrust#preservationplanning@visitblackhistory#grassroots#kickoff
The Charles Sumner School Museum & Archives is the official museum and archives dedicated to preserving the history of Public Education in Washington, DC. In a town full of museums, it’s also one of the most unknown. I met with the museum’s executive director, Kimberly Springle, for a tour and in-depth conversation about the museum’s mission.
The museum is located inside the same building that housed the original Charles Sumner School, which was one of the first public elementary schools for African-American children and also possibly an architectural first since there were few school buildings of similar design. The school opened in 1872 and held the first commencement for African American public high school students in 1877, with Frederick Douglass as the keynote speaker. Having recently celebrated 30 years, the museum holds archives and memorabilia dating back to 1804 which includes DC Public School (DCPS) Board of Education’s meeting minutes. Visitors will find everything from DCPS class pictures, yearbooks, newspaper clippings, trophies, budget reports, and staff/student registrars roughly between 1850 and World War II years.
One of the most impressive facts I learned about the museum is how much of an anomaly it is, possibly being the most comprehensive U.S. collection of one school district’s history. However, it was also surprising to learn how few people knew of the museum, especially former DCPS students. Kimberly and I discussed ways to get the current DCPS system involved with the museum and how to spread the word to former students and their kin.
Something the Charles Sumner School Museum & Archives has that many primary and secondary schools don’t are art galleries. Currently on view is Rhonisha D. Franklin’sProfile Noire photography exhibit. The award-winning photographer spent a year capturing images of 100 African American women to highlight their beauty, power, and regality. At first glance, the use of soft lighting and black background will make you think these images are paintings, which adds further depth to Rhonisha’s take on portraiture. If you’ll be in DC between now and January 18, 2020, I highly recommend adding the Charles Sumner School Museum & Archives and the Profile Noire exhibit to your “must-see” list.
On Wednesday, January 8, 2020, the High Museum of Art hosted Conversation: ATL Streetwear, which was part of the educational programming accompanying the Museum’s temporary exhibition, Virgil Abloh: “Figures of Speech.” The event’s emcee, Kenny Burns, expressed that streetwear derives from people with limited traditional fashion-world resources, who have the desire to create. Burns was joined by Marina Skye, Kwassi Byll-Cataria, and Renaldo Nehemiah. Together the four discussed several sub-topics, including the evolution of how streetwear is worn, the creative and small business economy that is supported by streetwear consumers, and Atlanta’s past, present, and future influence on streetwear culture.
In Elena Romero’s book title Free Stylin: How Hip Hop Changed the Fashion Industry, former Vibe Magazine editor-in-chief, Emil Wilbekin, recalls Hip-Hop’s early influence on fashion stating, “When the stars started becoming stars and needing more outfits, and the music videos became more important, they gave people something to emulate and something to copy.” Panelist and Wish ATL creative director, Renaldo Nehemiah, credited Goodie Mob founding member, Big Gipp, as one of his earliest fashion influences. Kenny Burns saluted his hometown brethren, DC-gogo band E.U., for wearing bucket hats designed by DC-based urban wear brand, Univeral Madness, in the group’s chart-topping music video, “Doin’ the Butt.” That is when streetwear began to garner his attention.
When self-taught streetwear designers entered the marketplace, they were able to exercise a bit of creative control over things like fabric selection, patterns, and garment cut; still, the consumer decided on the desired clothing fit. Just before Hip-Hop gained mainstream popularity, slim fit ankle cut jeans, rugby shirts, and polos were some of the fashion trends of the time. And as Hip-Hop artists began to take on a larger than life persona, so did their clothing. Old press and advertisement photos of 90s streetwear brands like Cross Colours, Karl Kani, and Sean John demonstrates an era of clothing being produced for and worn in a baggier fit. Then something began to shift.
In 2008, rappers Jay-Z and T.I. released “Swagga Like Us,” in which Jay-Z exclaimed, “Can’t wear skinny jeans, cause my knots don’t fit.” Subtly, Jay-Z was acknowledging a shift in Hip-Hop fashion – streetwear consumers were beginning to seek slimmer fitting clothes. According to public record, Atlanta menswear boutique Moda 404, was established in 2008. Panelist, Kwassi Byll-Cataria, is one of the store’s co-founders. Burns said one of the reasons he began frequenting Moda 404 is because Byll-Cataria selected and retailed clothes designed to fit Black men. Adding, “his clothes made you look less boxy…you know us black men have got butts.”
An audience member inquired about the probability of successful streetwear enterprises having a positive impact on Atlanta’s workforce. The panelists responded with a description of the talent pool that is needed to produce a streetwear brand. Manufacturers, printers, and graphic designers are a few examples of the professional service persons involved in getting a clothing brand to market. This is an opportunity for various professionals to get a piece of the streetwear production pie. Another audience member, Adia of Flr-Pln, sought distribution advice for streetwear designers that currently do not have a brick and mortar. Panelist, art, and set director, Marina Skye attested to the contemporary significance of Pop-Up shops like Clark Atlanta University’s Market Thursday, which provides an opportunity for brands to connect with consumers.
Renaldo Nehemiah shared that whenever he is on travel, he makes it a point to wear Atlanta streetwear brands. He wants interested passersby to see what Atlanta’s streetwear culture has to offer. Nehemiah believes that Virgil Abloh is aware of all that Atlanta has to offer. He finds it no coincidence that Atlanta was selected as the 2nd city to host Virgil Abloh’s “Figures of Speech” exhibit. The first city to host the traveling exhibition was Chicago, which is not too far from Abloh’s birthplace Rockford, Illinois.
Kwassi Byll-Cataria suggests buying fashion is similar to purchasing art. Furthermore, Byll-Cataria feels consumers today are moved to buy based on the person behind the brand. Some may find the “Figures of Speech” exhibit design demonstrates Byll-Cataria’s theory. A selection of works on view provides a glimpse into Abloh’s various creative endeavors that preceded his appointment as Louis Vuitton’s menswear artistic director. After viewing the exhibit and examining the depth of Abloh’s creative work, see if you feel compelled to purchase a High Museum of Art x Virgil Abloh t-shirt for your collection.
A discussion on Abloh’s recent streetwear will “die” in 2020 comment, seemed to yield a disconcerted reaction from the room. Kenny Burns felt Abloh’s comment was irresponsible since there remains a talent pool that is committed to not only sustaining but evolving streetwear culture. Burns expressed his disappointment to a packed house that appeared to be the perfect mix of consumers, designers, and distributors. If Wednesday night’s attendance is any indication of the interest in Atlanta streetwear culture, then I do not foresee the market going anywhere anytime soon.
Tickets are now on sale for a conversation on ATL Streetwear at the High Museum on January 8, moderated by Kenny Burns, and featuring Marina Skye, founder of Set by Skye; Renaldo Nehemiah, Creative Director at wish; and Kwassi Byll-Cataria, owner of Moda404 Men’s Boutique. Learn about the trajectory and trends of Atlanta streetwear and how @virgilabloh fits into the story.
Lake Charles, Louisiana is home to the Black Heritage Festival of Louisiana. It began in 1987 when Mrs. Cynthia May and Mrs. Virginia C. Riley combined a play written by Mrs. Riley with the activities of a festival for the community.
In 2001 the Black Heritage Festival of Louisiana opened the Black Heritage Gallery. Today, the Gallery continues to “lead a diverse audience in discovering African American artist and to nurture artists at all stages of their careers.”
On December 6, 2019 The Black Heritage Gallery will unveil a new exhibit “Remembering the Help, Celebrating their Service”. Curator, Stella Miller shared the exhibit will examine the history and cultural significance of mid 20th Century African American domestic workers.