Taking place on the first day of Black History Month, three VCU student organizations, which included CPC (Creative Production Committee), BLK IN FASHION, and B.A.S.E (Black Art Student Empowerment), created a one-of-kind art exhibition called Black Fidelity, showcasing black student’s artwork at The Anderson Gallery.
“Black Fidelity was created to provide Black artists a platform to express themselves without bounds. It also was very important that it was for us and by us, so that our voices were truly amplified,” said Taya Coates, Founding Member and President of VCU BLK IN FASHION.
Varying in majors, from Communication Arts to Political Science, 10-15 students submitted a multitude of artwork ranging from short films and sculptures to graphic design, paintings, and fashion. Inspired by afro-realism and afrofuturism, their work explores different worlds beyond their imagination. In addition, they explore what it means to be black, and the meaning of Black Fidelity. To Elijiah Brown, the Founder of CPC, Black Fidelity means the truth of black history getting told.
“We are reclaiming the agency of black stories told by white power. It is questioning what we were taught to believe by the dominant social diaspora and finding a new sense of confidence in our people and our history. In doing this, we develop afro-futuristic thinking. We begin to visualize what our future will look like (science, arts, technology, aesthetics) through the experiences and perspectives of the African American Diaspora. Black history isn’t just pain and suffering, but, it does become that when you center white history,” Brown explained.
As the night progressed, parents, students, faculty, and Richmond natives supported these artists with laughter, warmth, and love. Under one roof, it was clear how this special event meant alot, not only for the organizations who produced it, but to many others as well. Over 250 people came to visit the art exhibition on opening night and the feeling of community consumed the fourth floor gallery space. As I walked into the gallery, and beautiful attendees talked passionately to another, I became fully immersed in every piece of artwork that was showcased. It was a wonderful feeling to see people supporting black students and wanting to see them prosper. This art exhibition is important for these organizations, who had a vision to uplift black creatives and wanted to make sure they are seen, heard, and create a space for them.
“I feel like for one there is not nearly enough representation of black artists and art at VCU. On top of that this was so important because it gave students the opportunity for similar visionaries to come together, and meet one another for the first time. It’s reassuring to see that you are not alienated and alone,” said Sydney Wilson, the President of B.A.S.E.
Leading up to the opening night of the art exhibition, these organizations had been planning since August. With success comes obstacles, but nonetheless, people within the organizations worked tirelessly to develop this event and other events that will be happening throughout the month of February.
In planning, there were lessons. For Elijiah Brown it was patience.
“We began creating this experience back in August, and there were so many moving parts. A lot of it was out of our control like waiting for responses. An obstacle we faced was the grant proposal we submitted to VCU. They continued pushing back the grant notification process, which left us uncertain. They eventually denied it, and it left us questioning why? Who really read the proposal dedicated to providing a platform for black creatives, and decided no? It was a little discouraging. There was a funny meme that said, ‘I was gonna fight for liberation but we didn’t get the grant.’ And it was so real. But, this was just another example of being resilient despite the no’s we face.” Brown explained.
For Taya, it was the lesson of collaboration.
“I was so honored to work with such an amazing team of people throughout this process. This was a lesson to me on how seamless collaborations can be when a team vision is so strong. Everyone in each of our organizations was so excited about this month, you could still feel that good energy flowing through the room on Wednesday.” Coates said.
Lastly for Wilson, it was having a solid team around you.
“If it wasn’t for the people around me in CPC, VCU BLK IN FASHION, and B.A.S.E, it would’ve been so difficult. Everyone was able to have a pivotal role in communicating, planning, cleaning, hanging work etc. [In terms of ] obstacles, it was just a matter of punctuality, but even then it was not that bad at all,” Wilson said.
To me as a black young woman, seeing black excellence in the form of art was refreshing and inspiring. The obstacles and difficulties that these organizations were met in trying to accomplish their goals is a testament to what black people have to go through on a daily basis. Having a vision, being rejected, and struggling to get the job done anyway. These organizations proved that with determination and resilience, we can do all things. Creating a vision where black students are well noticed is something that needs to be continued into the future at VCU and in the city of Richmond.
“I hope individuals, from all walks of life, walk away from this experience inspired and not afraid to continue the conversation. We have the power to create our futures. All you have to do is that – create. Even if you are hesitant, there is still a community there to support and uplift you. Especially for VCU, I want it to be another outlet for black creatives to feel seen and heard. As Taya Coates has said, “We can all remember that first time we were given a platform,” said Brown.
Please check out the Black Fidelity art exhibition at The Anderson Gallery from Feb 1st – 26th. And please follow @Blackfidelityvcu on Instagram to see information about the month long events!