A Virtual Reading Room to Extend the Shared Learning of Combahee’s Radical Call
As the public art series Combahee’s Radical Call: Black Feminisms (re)Awaken Boston, comes to the close, our collective learning can continue through Our Mothers’ Gardens, a virtual reading room created by Cierra Michele Peters. Comprised of over 110 links to formative texts, interviews and video clips organized into 15 collections, the site features luminaries’ contributions from the 1940s to the present.
Subjective themes reveal concerns shared by generations of renowned and lesser-known luminaries: For example, “Collection 13: Work” relates Marxist Claudia Jones’ 1949 essay from Political Affairs with Dr. Joy James’ 1994 account of Ella Baker’s activism and a 2018 NYTIMES.com film “While I Yet Live” on master quilters in Alabama. Likewise, “Collection 03: Beauty is a Method” features Cobahee River Collective Co-founder Barbara Smith’s 1977 text “Toward a Black Feminist Criticism” alongside artist Lorraine O’Grady’s groundbreaking 1992 essay “Olympia’s Maid” and artist Torkwase Dyson’s 2019 interview on “Black Compositional Thought.” Peters describes her hopes for this virtual space as:
“An alternative blueprint of the future–one that engenders a Black Feminist ethics of care in our rhetorical, archival, pedagogical, governmental and administrative bodies.”
The site is an experimental space that explores Black Feminist embodiment through the virtual, futurity through the archival, and discovery through search. Peters named her 21st-century anthology of links after Alice Walker’s 1972 essay In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens and her likewise named 1983 anthology of “womanist prose.” Walker introduces the anthology with definitions of “Womanist” that resonated with Peters as a layered embrace of curious, queer, loving and organic qualities–fertile ground for her own project:
“Womanist: 1. A black feminist or feminist of color… Wanting to know more and in greater depth than is considered ‘good’ for one…. 2. A woman who loves other women, sexually and/or nonsexually…. 3. Loves struggle. Loves the Folk. Loves herself. Regardless. 4. Womanist is to feminist as purple to lavender.” –Alice Walker (1983)
About The Featured Artist
Cierra Michele Peters is an artist, dj and organizer whose projects attempt to examine visual, spatial and sensory representations of Blackness. She is the co-founder of Print Ain’t Dead. She supports the revolution through her work with CreateWell and the Ujima Project. Follow Cierra @earthaclit and @print.aint.dead
Combahee’s Radical Call is a series of public installations that recenter the vital legacy of Black feminism(s), archives and the written word in Boston. Inspired by direct dialogue with Demita Frazier, co-founder of Boston’s Combahee River Collective, the project commissions Black Femme artists to occupy public spaces with visual installations, designed prints, and digital resources. From November 2020 through June 2021, their works will amplify the voices (and counter the erasure) of Black Femme cultural leaders across Boston’s neighborhoods.
Combahee’s Radical Call: Black Feminisms (re)Awaken Boston is organized by co-curators Arielle Gray, Cierra Peters and Jen Mergel. The project was made possible with funding by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ Public Art for Spatial Justice Program, with funding from The Barr Foundation. This project is also supported by grants from the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation and the Krupp Family Foundation funds to the Curatorial Network Accelerator of Boston. This program is funded in part by Mass Humanities, which receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.