In 2019, the Department of Africana Studies at Williams College (Williamstown, MA, USA) commemorated its fifty year campus presence. Demarcating the occasion required more than mere remembering. Rather, it was an undertaking that required incomparable vision, significant time and painstaking attention detail. Our ConjureGirlBlue Productions founder, Rhon Manigault-Bryant collaborated with a team of students, archivists, alumni and faculty and staff colleagues to conjure a broad visual, aural, and tactile experience of Black life and history at Williams.
The result was the curated exhibit, FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS: FIFTY YEARS OF AFRICANA STUDIES, 19690-2019, which recognized that, even in the rural hills of Berkshire County, Massachusetts, Black Lives have always and continue to matter.
To scroll through these images is to take an amended "virtual tour" through the exhibit, which was designed as a commemoration in 6 acts: Student Activism; The Department of Africana Studies; the academic interventions of the Sterling Allen Brown ‘22 Professorship and Gaius Charles Bolin Fellowship; the thirty-year presence of The Davis Center (formerly the Multicultural Center); the Ancestral Ties that bind us together through space and time; and considerations of Black Futurity, or the what will be-ness of Blackness. These acts are simultaneously linear and cyclical. These acts represent the ways that, as it is within Africana experience broadly, Blackness is beautiful, stark, suffering, joy, timed, timeless and elusive in its naming, embodiment, and complexity.
Structurally, the 6 acts were designated by specific colors (deep red, black, green, purple, golden yellow, and each act had a wall component and a corresponding case of archival materials. The exhibit was simultaneously linear and cyclical, and the cases and wall components were staged to reveal the interconnected, ongoing nature of Africana Studies.
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