Arielle Gray, The Roots That Bind, 2021 (detail)

The Roots That Bind

The Roots That Bind

The banners in Boston Center for the Arts’ Mills Gallery windows are part of artist Arielle Gray’s Citywide Visual Call-and-Response Project The Roots That Bind. This series of hand-illustrated banners and posters inspired by key Black feminist texts was originally installed at sites across Greater Boston neighborhoods that are currently or historically significant to the Black Feminist movement. They are on view in the Mills Gallery windows through August 2021.

The three banners on the right are designed by Arielle Gray, and the one on the left is designed by artist Helena Machado in response to the Call to Action expressed in the project, which posed the question:
“How would you visualize this idea?”

Combahee’s Radical Call: Black Feminisms (re)Awaken Boston — a series hosted by BCA through June 2021 continues with “The Roots That Bind,” a series of hand-illustrated banners and posters created by Boston artist and writer Arielle Gray. This Call-and-Response project features key Black feminist texts to call forth our own expressive reactions to the lineage of Black feminist thinkers including June Jordan, Toni Cade Bambara and Audre Lorde.

The Mills Gallery will re-open in fall 2021.

Passersby can scan the QR code at the corner of the banner to access the readings relevant to the text. The current readings include: 

Audre Lorde, “Sister Outsider” (1984)

Toni Cade Bambara, “On The Issue of Roles” (1969)

June Jordan, “Many Rivers To Cross” (1981) and “Poem For South African Women” (1978)

The artist invites you to not only read the full texts but also to share responses to the banners in your own visual way. Share your reflections and reactions: What does Black feminism mean to you? How would you visualize the ideas from these texts? You may send your interpretation through an illustration or design of your own to All submissions will be reviewed and your design could be selected to be reproduced at sites across the city! Selected artists will receive a stipend. Creatives of all ages and abilities are encouraged to participate.

Inspired by the work of Black feminists and her growing love of mycology, Gray wrote of her inspiration for the project: 

“Mycelium are underground networks of filaments that connect nearly every ecosystem on this earth…. I see Black feminism in the same fashion. Expansive, boundless and without borders, Black feminism demands that we see our globe as our ecosystem, not just our cities, counties or countries.

Historically, information (and who has access to it) has been dictated by white supremacy. Black feminists innovated new ways of spreading information, starting up independent presses and printing pamphlets and hosting consciousness raisings. But even now, in our digital age, finding essential Black feminist texts is difficult and beyond that, many of these resources are held prisoner behind paywalls, a need for education credentials or an inability to access the archives. 

This project brings what we feel are essential Black feminist materials directly to our communities to contintue the never ending work of liberating information and knowledge from the chains of white supremacy.” 

Banners at the Mills Gallery

Find the Banners

Dorchester Art Project

Black Market Nubian

Haley House South End

School of the Museum of Fine Arts

Grove Hall | Boston Public Library

Women’s Lunch Place


BCA’s Mills Gallery

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. 

About The Featured Artist

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