Examining Black Images

Mr. Soul helped to curate the exhibit Black Images at Kent State University.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been a part of a class at Kent State University entitled Black Images, taught by Dr. Asantewa Sunni-Ali through the Center of Pan-African Culture. Over these weeks, I attended class as a student, with the final goal of helping curate an art exhibit with the students centered around what they would learn in class.

We took a trip to Big Rapids, Michigan, to visit the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia (insightful, and disturbing), to Detroit to visit the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, and finished off at Hitsville USA (Motown, baby!). We laughed, cried, ate and sang together. It was an experience that brought home everything we had been learning, and how our resilience has continued to move and shape history. I’ve learned just as much as the students who were being exposed to some of the images and info for the first time.

For their final assignment, the students presented projects in a variety of artistic formats (poetry, video, photography, drawing, painting). They were stressed because they had to operate outside of their comfort zones. “I’m not an artist,” they’d say. “I’m not all that creative.” Or “I don’t know what to do.” Or “I’m nervous.” These are a few of the things I heard, but didn’t see, when it was showtime. I couldn’t have been more proud of how they created art centered around the lessons from the class.

I also curated the show, using existing art from my personal collection from the likes of @ArtByWak, @GoldiGold 45, @CFluxSing, as well as pieces I’ve received from Cleveland artists @DBlackOriginals, @AntwoineWashington, @MikeXArt and more. I selected these artists because their work already embodied the message and tone of what we’d been learning in class, and I wanted the students to have their work rest proudly amongst professionals who use art as their medium to tell our stories.

Last but not least, I have to give credit to Dr. Sunni-Ali for turning the initial idea into actionable items. I only had the vision, but she took the vision and incorporated it into her class. It was a very humbling experience! We are currently discussing how to make this a traveling exhibit so that others can embark upon the experience and expression shared by these brilliant students. For details on how you can play a part in manifesting that vision, email me: get@mistersoul 216.com.