Women in the Archives Resource List

Women, Archives & Self-Preservation

Please see the list below of women, primarily women of color, in the archives. We see this list as inclusive of diverse voices and critical perspectives to center marginalized voices. These are narratives not often included or highlighted in the history texts, and therefore are not part of the historical canon. We also want to acknowledge contemporary archives, to preserve the now, that are not without historical precedent. We will continue to add to this list. This list was compiled in collaboration with Museum Hue. Join us for our March 15 #Huesday Twitter chat, “Women, Archives & Self-Preservation.”

The Artist or the Developer, Which Came First?

Cities change and art changes with them.

I had actually meant to write this post some time ago. I had returned from a trip in Philadelphia in which I took a mural tour with the Mural Arts program for their “A Love Letter for You” train tour, a series of murals done by renown artist Stephen Powers that can be seen from street-level and rooftops. We got on the city metro and would get off at various stops to get a closer look at some of the works. The program prides itself on rallying street artists as part of the anti-graffiti initiative in the 80’s due to the graffiti “crisis” and instead commission them to do artwork and participate in programmatic initiatives throughout the city. See their website for more about what they do.

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I tend to cringe at these sorts of programs as I am well aware of the ways in which street art is co-opted by city and development interests to capitalize on what was once an organic form of artistic expression by local residents that is then sanitized for the purposes of branding and attracting visitors. I intentionally don’t use the term “authentic” in place of “organic,” which has a long tenuous history in regards to cultural heritage, as it is a term often wielded by city officials and developers to accomplish means of revitalization that primarily privileges gentrifiers.

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On Sunday, we were honored to be able to sit among artists, creatives, entrepreneurs and concerned citizens for a Gather On event hosted by Nomad Yard Collectiv at 411 New York Ave NE to discuss these very concepts. The small business incubator is up against the city, and their struggle speaks to a larger one occurring in many cities.

Nomad Yard Collectiv is a homey, vintage shop unlike any other I have frequented housed in the historic Union Arts building, one of the last artist communities of its kind in the city. The site holds space for visual artists, musicians, poets, and entrepreneurs who have all formed a constituency, an ecosystem. It wasn’t until February 1st at city hall when I sat in on a public hearing, that I realized the threat this ecosystem is under to be destroyed. See our open letter to the city here.

The Union Arts building was purchased by developers who intend to transform the space into a “boutique” hotel, along with the other hotels that will occupy New York Avenue in that area. The location is adjacent to Union Market. The area is being carved out to make space for gentrifiers who the city and developers claim want to see art.

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It really is a home of sorts, and I don’t have to say that for the purposes of this post. It’s impossible to spend less than 15 minutes in this shared arts space, whether it’s perusing vintage fashions, finding an archive of history or poetry, or simply chatting with the ladies who are always there to welcome you at the door. And my favorite aspect, the amount of Black girl magic in this space from owner Desiree Venn Frederic (the other DVF). It’s just that rare to find a business of this caliber and magnitude in the city owned by a young black entrepreneur.

My fear is that we, museum professional and other culture workers who capitalize in various respects on the production of artists, don’t realize the severity of what is occurring in our cities that is not just the problem of the artist versus the developers. We are witnessing the dwindling of space and care for those who are easily marginalized, and further pushed into the periphery. This is a housing issue. This is a humanities issue. This is an economic issue. If we really want social justice in museums we must protect the artists, whose craft gives us reason to be curators and educators. We are not naive to the almighty dollar or the inevitability of change but we have a duty to steer change toward a future that we all can aspire.

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It is why we continue to say, “We are here. We’ve always been here.” Being silenced does not mean we are not there.

Please join us tonight at Judiciary Square to hold space and show support. Sign up for the Union Arts DC email listserv.



Decolonizing Genders, Bodies, and Minds

Last week, I returned to one of my favorite museums and favorite events in DC for the Fresh Talk for Change series at National Museum of Women in the Arts. If you’re a longtime follower of the blog, you might recognize that series from previous posts, and this evening absolutely continued the dedication to conversation and change that #FreshTalk4Change and the NMWA are all about. Previous talks focused on female artists and creating spaces for diverse voices to be heard (a passion of ours here at BGMB too!), but in the most recent Fresh Talk, we gathered to consider an even more radical change: a new understanding of gender as it impacts design.


The Empty Seat Beside You

It is of no surprise that inclusion and diversity are hot topics, or that my inbox has been flooded with CFPs for conferences on the subject of revolution, protest, and social justice. #BlackLivesMatter has shaken up the Twitterverse and caused various institutions and disciplines to reevaluate modes of access to the field and the viability of  people of color.

Recently, the monthly #MuseumsRespondtoFerguson chat concerned itself with the use of diversity and inclusion as a theme for conferences or for individual sessions. Continue…

Painting Black Flesh into History

The first thing people do is pull out their phones or their cameras, without actually checking or asking first. So I feel like I’m on display. And it actually cheapens what I’ve been doing  because they’re not getting the real story…

David Ibata is a copyist at the National Gallery of Art. For 4 years he’s been attending the museum’s copyist program in which artists are permitted to illustrate classical works of art within the collection, an occupation not largely filled by Black artists. Museum Visitors are then able to witness as these works are redone. This experience is of course filled with awe of the artistic ability and its likeness to the original work of art, but David’s work is met with curiosity, confusion and contempt.

Exercising artistic license, he began to paint the figures with black flesh tones.

So what was happening was people were complaining to the guards… The security guards are black, they’re just statues. They see a guy like me and they’re like, “thank you.”

As we say in American Studies, “Lets unpack that.” The invisibility of African Americans as staff within the museum is not a new phenomenon, but the conversation is not complete without speaking to the large proportion of African Americans as security or in food services. Statues, that in this scenario, come to life in service to white patrons.


A conversation over coffee––from art to museums, movies to black culture, gentrification to police brutality––collided into the crux of our discussion: the hyperspecialization of difference. With the coming of the new Smithsonian entity on the horizon, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, it is something to consider. Believe you me, I am waiting in excitement for the reveal of what I think will be an amazing contribution to black history and culture. However, we can’t ignore the fact that the need for such dedicated spaces is reconstitution of our place outside of the American story in some sense. It is to exist outside of the realms of “normalcy,” that the prefix “hyper” draws attention. Despite the good work being done to reassert the narratives of minorities, that of Native Indians, LGBTQ, disability and so forth, within these spaces as an appreciation simultaneously reaffirms their locality on the periphery. So when it comes to the work of David Ibata who merely dips his brush and with incredible ability, ‘reimagines’ classical paintings, he often confounds many of the guest. And I am apprehensive to use the term “reimagine” because in some sense he is making black bodies visible  which isn’t an untruth although it’s often accompanied by a suspension of belief. It would be akin to having a black James Bond or the backlash that came with the latest version of “Annie” starring Quvenzhané Wallis. The ways in which black folk, and other marginalized groups, are expected without question to be able to relate to the mainstream, but films with majority black actors and actresses, for example, become niche; ineligible to wider audiences and incapable of relating to broader experiences.

David and I discussed the above image in detail, and I don’t think there is a better scene of what is the simultaneous erasure and disruption that is black skin. David, despite being at the forefront of the photo, is not the focus. And the high contrast of the photo renders him almost invisible. As he marks one of the figures in the painting with black skin, an onlooker, a white female, observes the painting in utter bafflement. Meanwhile, a rendition of the biblical tale of Daniel in the lions den ironically gestures to them both in the background. Never mind that Daniel, a story set in Africa despite how media chooses to depict Egypt (re: the film “Exodus: Gods and Kings”), is unquestionably  illustrated as white. Thankfully, David has been able to have what I like to call “teachable” moments, in which there are people who engage with his work, find inspiration and open themselves up to the possibilities of blackness.

After Eric Gardner died. After Mike Brown Died. I kept thinking to myself how is the museum going to respond to that. Nobody did anything…

Going to art shows was like business as usual. We’re at war right now, so painting the black skin was a way to exorcise the demons.

All of these frustrations, negotiations, and tensions, illuminate through the black flesh tones in David Ibata’s work. Don’t ask why he’s painting them black but begin to wonder why they weren’t there before. Consider what it means to be surrounded by whiteness and then be asked to reconfigure them as they are with so many options to do so. To rarely have the opportunity to paint blackness as royalty and in dignity, and not because they did not exist but that history is told by the winners. That to just imagine them in the narrative is a disruption of time.

There was a moment in the midst of our discussion in which David and I spoke about time-travel, the ways in which art galleries especially beckon us to imagine a different time period. It is a moment I am sure we each have had; to want to time hop to another era just to see what it was like. But our imaginations were halted by the realization of comedian Louis CK’s words.

“Black folk can’t f–– with time.”

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Planting Seeds, Finding Roots

Did you miss me?!…Back from Europe and I have so much on my mind––if only I could tip my head and dump it all out––so I apologize now if this post is longwinded. I made an expedition to Germany for 2 weeks to visit a cousin. The only things on my itinerary: see as many museums as possible and explore my surroundings. The rest would come as my trip unfolded. I started my trip in Frankfurt, Germany, where I would be staying in a wonderful hostel in Frankfurt’s Red Light District (yes, that district).


Making Bodies Legible

Last week I visited the Facing History exhibit of Shirin Neshat’s work at the Hirshhorn Museum (which I’m excited to share with you in an upcoming exhibit review) and was struck by the attention to physical bodies in her work. It’s no secret that attention to bodies as sites of violence is a key component of my academic work, but after seeing Neshat’s photography and short films, I spend the next few days thinking about the ways we can keep the role of the physical body legible in critiques of war and colonialism. My research (and some great tweets from my followers!) led me to Bodies of Violence: Theorizing Embodied Subjects in International Relations, by Lauren Wilcox, a book which cuts right to the heart of what I found most fascinating about Neshat’s art.

A recent symposium on this book was held at The Disorder of Things, but beneath the jump is a quick rundown of my own as well!


Austerity Myths and Darkening Detroit

On the heels of my conference presentation at the University of Brighton, where I spoke about international trade and Juarez femicide, I’m glad to be back for this week’s blog bite to talk about a similar issue of neoliberal violence in two articles: “Austerity Isn’t Irrational” by John Milios at Jacobin, and “Detroit: A Case Study of Oligarchs and Vigilantes Taking Over Public Safety in a Big City” by Patrick Sheehan at Naked Capitalism. Whether you’re following GREXIT and the European Union in the news lately, or staying focused on poverty and privatization in American communities, these two articles both speak to the myth of austerity practices that slash social services in the hopes of furthering economic growth.

Before we jump past the cut to break down these articles into the information you need to know, I have to begin my first official week back at the blog by thanking Ravon for her great work during the two weeks I was gone! If you missed her exhibit review of the George Washington University Museum and Textile Museum, add it to your reading list now.


The Journey for Regina: Deconstructing the Black Monolith

Meet the ladies of Nkem Life (pronounced en-khem meaning “my” or “my own”), a lifestyle blog that combines the artistry, culture, and intelligence of the Nigerian-American sister duo, Chidinma “Chi-Chi” Dureke and Chuckwunonso “Angel” Dureke. I had the opportunity of meeting them Saturday, June 27th, for their art showcase entitled “The Journey for Regina,” a visual conversation about blackness, culture, Africa and natural hair. The showcase was held in the ethnic apparel boutique Nubian Hueman within the Anacostia Arts Center, a center I plan to enjoy more of in the future.


The Road Well Travelled

As you may have heard, I recently returned from a Chicago trip. As I’ve made known, I’m from the area…well, technically. But if I’m really to speak in my truth, I grew up in the outer suburbs in which an actual Chicagoan would shun me for claiming the city. However, this trip was an opportunity for me to step out truly on my own and explore my home city, although, yes I have travelled alone, rode a plane, and have been abroad; THIS would be the first trip in which when I got off the plane I would not immediately be greeted by a familiar face or guided throughout my stay. For 5 days and 4 nights, I stayed in a room, before going on to visit family, that I booked via AirBnb (for the first time ever!) and had an itinerary for me to see as many museums, sites, and events as possible. Continue…