Photo by Andrew Grimanis

Protect Your Seedlings

Public Installation for Combahee’s Radical Call: Black Feminisms (re)Awaken Boston

On view through Spring 2021

To kick off Combahee’s Radical Call: Black Feminisms (re)Awaken Boston — a series hosted by BCA through June 2021 —Boston artist Mithsuca Berry presents a new hand-painted installation across all windows of the Mills Gallery. Facing the public plaza along Tremont Street, the new work is inspired directly by Boston’s own Combahee River Collective, a group of Radical Socialist Black Feminists and Lesbians active in community organizing and publishing between 1974-80. Titled Protect Your Seedlings, Berry’s graphics and hand lettering fill eight windows at heights up to 8 feet to illustrate a line from the Combahee River Collective Statement (April 1977):

“If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.”

Among a number of finalists, Berry was selected as the artist to interpret this line for a new generation in 2020. Berry explains their decision to balance a vibrant palette and motifs of optimism with hints of caution in Protect Your Seedlings

“Black women mimic nature in the way they love. They heal generations by allowing others to make a home out of who they are. Oftentimes society takes that for granted and allows the black woman to suffer in silence–when they are consumed whole by those who seek to exploit their healing.” 

Berry’s contemporary outlook on Combahee’s Statement takes on significant meaning in this contemporary moment. As we grapple with ongoing political and cultural reckoning to abolish colonizing structures and acknowledge the work required for systemic change, it is a clarion call that the work is just beginning, and we must remain vigilant.

This public installation includes a digital link so that passersby may access this contextual attribution and the entire Combahee River Collective Statement HERE.

 

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. 


This project is supported by grants from the New England Foundation for the Arts, the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation, and the Krupp Family Foundation funds to the Curatorial Network Accelerator of Boston.

 

 

About the featured artist:

To Mithsuca Berry, creativity goes beyond technicality and into a way of living. At a young age, art was an extremely important tool in healing. Now, across mediums like illustration, mixed media, and radical art education, those stories can be told. “My goal as an artist is to take up as much space with black imagery as I can–fill it with images that couldn’t even exist in the constraints of our reality. I don’t have to make a world or time frame in which black bodies exist. They should exist anywhere our minds can take us.” Mithsuca is building this practice while based in Boston, MA.

Follow them at @mythsooka

 

About the Co-curators:

Arielle Gray is a Boston-based, queer Black writer and artist. She is currently the Arts Engagement Producer for The ARTery, the Arts and Culture team for Boston’s NPR news outlet, WBUR. Her freelance writing has appeared in VICE, Bustle, Huffington Post, Afropunk, Boston Art Review Magazine, and The Black Youth Project. She is the co-founder of Print Ain’t Dead, a radical literary platform centering the work of queer and trans Black femmes.

Follow Arielle @bonitafrobum and @print.aint.dead

 

Cierra Michele Peters is an artist, dj and organizer whose projects attempt to examine visual, spatial and sensory representations of Blackness. Under the moniker earthaclit, she uses electronic sound and spoken word to foster meaningful conversations around diasporic longings and cultural disruption. Her practice in video, installation, and durational performance has been hosted in residencies with BCA, ds4si, and most recently Queer.Archive.Work. She co-founded Print Ain’t Dead as well as Demo Radio, a sound archive and radio program. She supports the revolution through her work with CreateWell and the Ujima Project.

Follow Cierra @earthaclit and @print.aint.dead

 

Jen Mergel is a Boston-born-and-based curator who has organized more than 50 exhibitions. Working for decades at museums including the ICA Boston and MFA Boston, her recent projects include Fog x FLO: Fujiko Nakaya on the Emerald Necklace, the Boston Art Review: The Public Art Issue, Area Code Art Fair , and national workshops for Voices in Contemporary Art. Mergel is a 2017 Fellow of the Center for Curatorial Leadership, and continues her studies through the Racial Equity Institute and the Cultural Equity Learning Community.

Follow Jen @jenmergel and @curatorialnetworkaccelerator

 

Demita Frazier, who co-founded the Combahee River Collective with sisters Barbara and Beverly Smith, is the consulting adviser on Combahee’s Radical Call. Her experience with the Black Panthers of Chicago informed her organizing work upon moving to Boston, where she went on to secure her JD from Northeastern University. Still based in Massachusetts, she now has decades of experience in anti-racism curriculum development and facilitation for organizations across the country.

Learn more at demitafrazier.com

 

About the Photographer:

Tyahra Symone Angus equipped herself in 2015 with a camera in order to found Afrocentered Media as a archive for creating, collecting, and publishing photographs that increase representation of Black/Brown people in our media, particularly Black womxn, even more particularly Black Queer womxn like herself.