COMBAHEE’S RADICAL CALL: BLACK FEMINISMS (RE)AWAKEN BOSTON
July 2020 through June 2021
Boston Center for the Arts presents Combahee’s Radical Call: Black Feminisms (re)Awaken Boston, a yearlong, multi-platform curatorial project co-curated by Arielle Gray, Cierra Peters, and Jen Mergel, and stewarded by the wisdom of original Combahee River Collective member Demita Frazier. The project takes the form of a series of public installations and programs that recenter the vital legacy of Black feminism(s), archives and the written word in Boston. Through June 2021, Combahee’s Radical Call: Black Feminisms (re)Awaken Boston invites audiences to engage with our histories, our present and visions for the future. Look out for:
- A Hand-Painted Installation across all windows of the Mills Gallery. Titled Protect Your Seedlings, artist Mithsuca Berry’s vibrant graphics and hand lettering fill the eight public facing gallery 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.”
- A Citywide Visual Call-and-Response Project: Titled The Roots that Bind, a series of hand-illustrated banners and posters inspired by key Black feminist texts will be installed at 15-20 sites across Greater Boston neighborhoods that are currently or historically significant to the Black Feminist movement. Designed by Arielle Gray, each work will also have a QR code in the corner, connecting the user to the essay or book in question, along with a call to action: “How would you visualize this idea?” and an invitation to submit responses via a BCA webpage.
- A Free Zine: In January 2021, a free Zine version, designed by Zoë Pulley, of the full Combahee River Collective’s influential 1977 statement, available on the BCA plaza as a powerful statement and beautiful takeaway.
- A Virtual Reading Room: In Spring/Summer 2021, a thematically curated virtual reading room designed to create space for shared learning and dialogue through various interfaces;
- Saturday Afternoon Public Program Series: Throughout – a series of online public programs taking place on Saturday afternoon, featuring participating artists and invited speakers, and offering engaging co-learning opportunities; and
- Additional Public Interventions are being collectively imagined.
Combahee’s Radical Call is inspired by and developed in direct dialogue with Demita Frazier, co-founder of Boston’s Combahee River Collective, a group of Radical, Socialist, Black Feminists and Lesbians active in community organizing and publishing in Boston between 1974-80. In that spirit, through June 2021, a broad range of Black Femme artists will be commissioned to occupy public spaces with installations, design, and digital resources. Their works will serve to amplify the voices (and counter the erasure) of Black Femme cultural leaders across Boston’s neighborhoods.
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.
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
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
Combahee’s Radical Call: Black Feminisms (re)Awaken Boston 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.