It’s Wednesday April 24th 2019. Myself and hundreds of other guests stood in a line that wrapped around The Baltimore Museum of Art. I believe we all showed up to be inspired and have a good time. Tonight, The Baltimore Museum of Art would be presenting their fourth installment of a public program series titled : The Necessity of Tomorrow(s), “a conversation series on art, race, social justice, and imagining the future(s) we want”.
Prior to tonight, Chris Bedford, BMA Director of two and a half years hosted this event with Artist Mark Bradford, Author and Journalist Te- Nihisi Coates, and Conceptual Artist Hank Willis Thomas. Tonight, we’d be hearing from Visual Artist Mickalene Thomas and Film Director, rapper and activist Boots Riley.
The Baltimore Museum of Art has never been this diverse when it comes to black artists. Not this many. There’s always one or two, to show that they’re including us, but this was a lot of black people. Outside of the nationally known artists they’d be conversing with this evening, they invited a list of local, growing black performers from Baltimore. The opening acts of the program were Randi Withani and Infinity Knives with David Jacober. Blaqstarr, Al Rogers, Cheyanne Zadia, Josh Stokes, Troy Long and Brandon Woody played a show after the conversation segment.
The reasons we showed up is because we all were there. Chris Bedford opened the conversation asking, “What are you trying to do to history with your work?”. Both Boots and Mickalene had similar responses, representation. Mickalene replies, “family and personal relationships play a huge part in my history’s and my history at the moment and living within the world that I navigate. I wasn’t seeing myself represented in a way that I knew the women in my life were, and wanting to really claim those spaces”.
I believe I speak for every black artist and creator sitting in the Meyerhoff auditorium, walking the heavily guarded halls of the Baltimore Museum of Art, we were there because black Art was so heavily represented. Before opening your mouth, it’s what we see.
As the night continued, I mingled through the rooms, greeting friends, looking at the art. Drinks were provided by Gertrude’s, along with an open buffet provided by BlackSauce Kitchen, a mobile food business based in Baltimore. The food was incredible. I ate so much fried kale and lamb fried rice and sipped on a rum punch that made me a flirty girl all evening. I found myself at a photo booth with no line. Like anyone in their right mind, I had a photo shoot. It was an awesome night.
I think it was a learning experience for us as well as the folks at The Baltimore Museum of Art. How we both can be in spaces together without the discomfort. I have hope that things will get better. I will leave off with this thought. I see a space for black artists, creators, and thinkers that isn’t tampered with. A space essential to all our tomorrows. One where we aren’t analyzed like science projects or being watched like wild animals or thieves. I ask this question to white folks and white institutions, what do you want from black people? Do you want to understand them? Or do you want to regulate what you can’t and simply won’t understand ?
Considering also, these spaces don’t have to have us and we don’t have to be there either. So it’s a huge leap, what the BMA is doing. I do hope they keep good intentions and continue to grow.
Below are some candid shots from my view.