Ava DuVernay Needs No Permission

During a discussion with rapper Q-Tip at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival, Ava DuVernay stated, “The mission of all my work, truly, is to magnify the magnificence of Black people.”  This mission shines through DuVernay’s work, from documentaries, to television and feature film. On the OWN series, Queen Sugar, created by DuVernay, and adapted from…

Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah: Writing and Profiling, Fearlessly

Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah writes about Black artists and their lives with the great care and depth they deserve. In an interview on the Buzzfeed podcast, Another Round with Heben & Tracy, she states that the ways in which Black artists are written into the canon are “abysmal.” She has made it her business to change…

Talk, Talk Back

Artists and thinkers invite us to immerse ourselves in the written and visual worlds they have built using multiple genres and kinds of media. When these visionaries enter into public conversations with each other, they provide fascinating insight into the thought processes that inform their work, and share tools with which we can engage with…

Bostonian Black Girl Magic

  Throughout her long career, Elma Lewis showed a commitment to celebrating Black life through the arts. She held a firm belief in the capacity of the arts to bring about radical social change, and was deeply engaged in passing on this ethos to her students, collaborators and the Boston community at large. Her spirit…

Writing, Curating, Doing

There is no such thing as an apolitical or neutral archive. In curating this syllabus, we have made very pointed choices; to specify Black women instead of women of color, to make sure that the works we include reflect the complex links and fractures of experience throughout the Black diaspora and to highlight works that…

Writing the Caribbean in Verse

Writing the Caribbean in Verse “Who is that woman, the one in us all fleeing from us all, fleeing her enigma and her long origin with an incredulous prayer on her lips, or singing a hymn after a battle always being refought? -Nancy Morejón, Persona (2000), Translated by David Frye   In the selection of…

In Search of Harlem Renaissance Women

Alice Walker’s extensive and careful recovery of Zora Neale Hurston’s legacy is more than just an easily recognizable entry into a discussion of Black women artists during the Harlem Renaissance. Walker’s work is a powerful manifestation of womanism in practice, in the ways in which she expresses love and appreciation for women and “women’s culture,…

“Hidden Figures” No More

Katherine Johnson was born in West Virginia in 1918, and was one of three Black students to integrate the state’s graduate schools. After graduating with highest honors in 1937, she taught at a Black public school in Virginia. In 1953, she started working in the Langley Laboratory at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), where she was supervised by…

Hidden Figures: A Misnomer?

I want to briefly complicate the notion of a hidden figure because I am not entirely comfortable with labeling Elma Lewis, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson and the many women of color in our history as hidden. While a catchy title for a book or Hollywood film, the idea of being hidden is centered…

Elma Lewis: Boston’s Hidden Figure?

Let’s take a poll…did you know about Elma Lewis before reading this blog post? Born in Boston on September 15, 1921 to parents from Barbados, Lewis was an accomplished woman for her generation. She graduated from Emerson College, class of 1943 and then completed graduate studies at Boston University. An institution builder for the city…