The Importance of Blacktivism

Not long ago I attended the Blacktivism Conference on Intersectionality here on Emory's campus. The conference, created from the vision of senior Casidy Campbell (16C), consists of workshops designed to educate attendees on various topics that concern the black community. The part of the conference I looked forward to, and enjoyed, most was being able to choose and attend workshops on important areas of study that interested me. From religion in white spaces to gender within the Black Lives Matter movement, each workshop was vital in deconstructing anti-black thought while promoting the value in every black life. I personally attended the "Depressed While Black" workshop during the first half of the conference where Imade Nibokun presented her own experience with depression and its causation in the turmoil surrounding recent Black Lives Matter protests. There, I learned about the black origins of mental health, while also being taught about alternative protests and self-care techniques developed to combat dehumanizing trauma experienced within the movement. Understanding the importance of mental health is crucial in helping us deal with stressors and triggers that come with microaggressions, police brutality, and simply overextending ourselves.

After the lunch break, I went to my second workshop led by Dr. Maurice Hobson on the subject of Southern Afrofuturism. As a group, we heard about the history of Afrofuturistic practices in black culture while dissecting more modern approaches to Afrofuturism in rap music. Hobson then discussed the franchising of the city of Atlanta in preparation for the 1996 Olympics and the displacement of black natives in the city as a result of this rapid commercialization. Backlash from the black community in Atlanta inspired a popular reemergence of Afrofuturism in the rap music of the Dirty South, with allusions to the Nation of Islam and Nuwaubian theologies of Black Liberation.

Despite not being able to stay long enough to hear keynote speaker Jamilah Lemieux give her speech, I was thoroughly educated through the two workshops I attended that weekend. Not only was I taught something, but I left with something much more valuable. I learned facts about my people and culture in the conference that I had never heard before, and discovering this unknown history within my community asserted my beliefs in black excellence. I was affirmed from merely being present at Blacktivism, among all my other black friends and colleagues that wanted to learn just as much as I did. Through going to the Blacktivism Conference, I experienced a sense of solidarity with other Black students at Emory in working towards wholeness in our community here on campus and outside these collegiate walls which is something that I think I wouldn't be able to get anywhere else. 


Steffany Herndon, Staff Writer

Senoritis: What They Don't Tell You

Emory student, 1971

Emory student, 1971

It's senior year and you're excited to be just a few months away from graduating. All of your classes are easier and more interesting now that your major is complete, and you've even found yourself having a little free time within your schedule for once. You have more time with your friends and can actually go out; you even have a few more hours to sleep each night! Before you know it, you'll be free of this place called college and out in the real world on your own...except, do you really want that? Everyone is asking you the same million dollar question: Do you know what your plans after graduation will be? Some of us don't even have an answer and most of us feel like that answer is so far out of our reach.

See, no one tells you that your senior year is the most stressful time of your college life because you only have ten months to truly make sure you're set for life after school, while simultaneously keeping up with classes and extracurriculars that take up all of your time in school. The most trying moment of senior year is the quest for a job. No one wants to be broke and homeless after graduation. Notice how easy it is to be completely drained during this time. I myself can barely find the energy to keep going everyday. Self-care is one of the most helpful things you can do during senior year, especially in your spring semester. Whether that means spending more time relaxing alone instead of going out, cutting some extracurriculars out of your everyday schedule, or even making sure you eat three meals a day, it's imperative that seniors spend time caring for themselves instead of allowing the stress that comes their way to eat them alive. This is probably the last time we’ll be this youthful and free, so why not enjoy the moment while we still can? 


Steffany Herndon, Staff Writer 

Black Space: The Body as an Archive

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     (Image Source:   Chicago Mag     PHOTOGRAPHY: CHRIS STRONG  )

(Image Source: Chicago Mag PHOTOGRAPHY: CHRIS STRONG)

Commitment to an “imaginative reshaping” of space and defining the identity of community are consistent elements in the narrative of the African American experience(s). Creating a space where we can unapologetically project, thrive, and revel in our blackness is essential to our inherent being. In the contemporary political and cultural climate, both in the United States and beyond, Black spaces are being infringed upon and threatened by the neocolonial process of gentrification. While gentrification has its economic benefits—which is the archetypal justification for exploiting underserved communities—it is causing a modern day displacement and rejection of black authenticity. Theaster Gates, this past week’s Goodrich C. White lecturer and native Chicagoan artist, is changing this narrative through art and community engagement.

Combining art with social justice and cultural dialogue, Theaster Gates is the epitome of an artist. Trained as a potter, a serendipitous performance artist, and professor of visual arts at the University of Chicago, Theaster Gates completes artistic projects as diverse as installation art to  urban renewal projects. But instead of recounting a laundry list of all his accomplishments and visual projects, Mr. Gates started his talk on Wednesday night with a humble story about the aesthetics and symbolism of his neighborhood hardware store in the Southside of Chicago. This particular hardware store was owned by an Indian immigrant and served a predominantly Black neighborhood. As Gates so eloquently put it, the hardware store owner “built an entrepreneurial life of listening to Black people” and a way for people in the community to aggregate. The hardware store is the place that contains the stuff that keeps things in life together. Two of the major threads throughout the evening were the notion of archives and the idea of the preservation of rituals. Gates describe the hardware store as an archive of daily life and the mystical qualities of the daily rituals that occur in the store are also an archival element.

In exploring the themes of archives and rituals, Gates commented on the aesthetics of storefronts in Black communities stating that they are “an archive of Black space. The aggregate of storefronts, just by the simple nature of their proximity or adjacency to one another, “acts as an index of Black space. He kept recalling the need to preserve these records of Black life in a world that is constantly threatening to erase them completely from memory. The rituals and things of the everyday have the right to be talked about and teased out because “objects are a byproduct of a way of thinking.” In other words, “things in Black space should be grappled with and acknowledged.” He compares this acknowledgement of Black space to the idea of the body as an archive, which exists as a physical manifestation of memories. He argues that a link in the gentrification of Black space is the disappearance of Black bodies from that space and decrease in generational caring. Gates demands that we reinvest in these communities by sharing deep knowledge and advocating for their protection. As a rallying cry, “buying together until we buy ourselves out.” This opening of space creates a new dialogue and makes the conceptual frame bigger for the growth and maintenance of a community. The major task is to ask something of the individuals that move into these communities to bring something better. 

An evening with Theaster Gates planted a seed of thoughtfulness in how to make an impact in the community with the hope that “there might be a great cultural come-up for everyone.”

To hear his inspiring words of art and social engagement, listen to his TED Talk:[AG2] 


Charity Gates, Web Content Editor