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Five design initiatives celebrating Black creativity, from host of The Nexus podcast

In February 2020, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the first Black History Month celebrations in the United States, the GSD’s African American Design Nexus (AADN) invited the community to recommend books that contribute to our collective conversation on race and design. Those submissions became “A Call To Explore: Design, Race, and the Built Environment,” an open-access bibliography aimed at uplifting “diverse voices and perspectives of the past and present while also inspiring a paradigm shift for the future of pedagogy and practice.” Learn how to submit a title for inclusion.

This Black History Month, we asked Tara Oluwafemi (MArch I ’22), host of The Nexus podcast and member of the team that established “A Call To Explore,” to expand the resource list by curating a series of various design-minded media centered on the work of Black creatives. Including exhibitions, events, podcasts, and more, this collection highlights a range of projects and initiatives that celebrate Black creativity all year round.

Black Reconstruction Collective

abstract image in blues and reds.
Emanuel Admassu. Vertical Tapestry (Mid-Atlantic Ridge). 2020. Jacquard tapestry, silk, wool and other threads. 7′ x 7′ (213.36 x 213.36 cm). Image courtesy of the artist. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Part of the upcoming exhibition Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America, February 27, 2021–May 31, 2021. Admassu led the option studio “After Property” in the fall of 2020.

The Black Reconstruction Collective (BRC) is a group of artists, designers, and scholars working to dismantle white supremacy through art, design, and academia. They are dedicated to engaging with the public by providing support for projects that are in line with their stated mission and through public events, publications, and exhibitions. As part of the Fall 2020 public program at the GSD, BRC presented “Ten Responses to One Question: What does it mean to imagine Black Reconstruction today?

Members of the BRC will be part of Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America, an exhibition that will be on view at the Museum of Modern Art from February 27, 2021–May 31, 2021.

Noname Book Club

Book club members sitting in a circle.
Image from the first book club meeting, August 2019. Courtesy Noname Book Club.

Founded by the Chicago rapper Noname, Noname Book Club selects two books each month written by writers of color to uplift the voices of people of color. The book club uses social media to make their materials and discussions widely available and accessible.

Through their community-supported prison program, the selected books are also sent to incarcerated individuals each month. Learn more about the program, including how to contribute, on the group's Patreon.

Black Art: In the Absence of Light

Movie poster with text "HBO presents Black Art in the absence of light"
Poster courtesy HBO.

In 1976, David Driskell’s Two Centuries of Black American Art—an exhibition foregrounding African American artists and their contributions to American visual culture—opened at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Fifty-five years later, the show served as inspiration for the HBO documentary Black Art: In the Absence of Light. The film traces the lasting impact of Driskell’s exhibition on contemporary Black artists including Kerry James Marshall, Theaster Gates, and Kara Walker.

In a recent Instagram post, Kehinde Wiley, who is featured in the documentary, describes it as “a testament to the indelible contributions of Black American artists in today’s contemporary art world.”

To continue the conversations in this documentary, HBO has created a curriculum and an appendix of art activities. They are available on the documentary’s webpage.

Revision Path

revision path logo
Logo courtesy of Revision Path.

Revision Path is a weekly podcast showcasing Black designers, developers, and creatives from across the world. Guests featured on the podcast span the world of design—from animators to web developers. There are currently almost 400 episodes to check out!

Revision Path made history as the first podcast with episodes added to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture permanent collection.

Black in Design

Every two years, beginning in 2015, the African American Student Union at the GSD has presented the Black in Design conference. Organized around a rotating central theme, the conference gathers designers whose practices focus on dismantling institutional barriers confronting members of the African diaspora and recognizes the historical contributions of this community.

Watch recordings of past programs on the Harvard GSD YouTube channel:

Black in Design 2019: Black Futurism: Creating a More Equitable Future

Black in Design 2017: Designing Resistance, Building Coalitions

Black in Design 2015