As countless industries and sectors reckon with the aims articulated by the Movement for Black Lives and other aligned groups, the African American Design Nexus is on a mission to elevate the work and roles of Black designers. Founded in the wake of the GSD’s first Black in Design Conference in 2015, the Design Nexus is a collaboration between the school’s African American Student Union and the Frances Loeb Library. It’s a preeminent resource for those interested in the intersection of Blackness and design practices throughout the built environment as well as those represented in “public art, fashion, music, movies and other media.”
Now, its mission will be further animated by a new podcast featuring Black scholars, writers, designers, and educators. As hosts of The Nexus, GSD students Tara Oluwafemi and Caleb Negash aim to ensure that the podcast records and preserves the legacy of Black designers working today, and they plan to push the understandings of the boundaries of design in the most expansive ways possible. They anticipate that The Nexus will introduce listeners to designers who represent exciting interventions within the field, but who may not be household names yet. For Oluwafemi, for example, dream guests include Nigerian designer Mowalola Ogunlesi and acclaimed artists Toyin Ojih Odutola and Jacolby Satterwhite.
The Nexus’s inaugural episode features Boston-based architect, filmmaker, illustrator, and children’s book author Aisha Densmore-Bey. It is a conversation that ranges from what it means to be a polymath, to Densmore-Bey’s personal influences, to her relationship to art, joy, and beauty. The mood of this dialogue—an intimate, nuanced inquiry that critically traverses the geographies of design—is illustrative of what Oluwafemi and Negash seek to capture throughout the entire series. As the two continue to assemble a dynamic roster of interviewees, including Stephen Gray, De Nichols, and Bryan Lee Jr., they are looking forward to playing, experimenting, and sharpening their own skills as storytellers.
Ultimately, The Nexus will add to the broader intellectual ecology that is the African American Design Nexus and will contribute to the Loeb’s ongoing open access bibliography that makes available key texts related to “the intersection of race and design.” This effort of documentation, historicization, and preservation, as Oluwafemi and Negash explain to me, will be strengthened by the voices they plan to amplify and celebrate.