It was a shame I didn’t manage to return to the exhibition for a more in-depth nosey. But the vibe from the opening told me a lot about the intention, passion and urgency in creating this space. To piece together the stories of the Black Liberation Movement from the lives of Assata Shakur and comrades such as Fred Hampton and Sundiata Acoli.
This project firmly placed the history of the Black Liberation Movement within the medium of dialogue. This was grounded throughout the conversations between Weyland McKenzie-Witter (audio artist), family members of Black liberation activists and academics. As well as the audience posing questions and pondering on some of Weyland’s points.
During the evening, I felt so many strong emotions in response to what I was hearing. Such as Assata’s continued exile in Cuba, and remaining on the FBI’s most wanted list with an increased bounty on her head. Or Sundiata only being released in 2022 after serving decades in prison whilst repeatedly denied parole. I learnt so much about the Black Liberation Movement from oral testimonies of people driving or connected to this movement, mainly from an American perspective.
The walls of the cafe at the Roundhouse were adorned with a range of artworks, forging their own connections and conversations with the Black Liberation Movement. Touching on themes such as resistance, equity and enacting radical imagination into reality.
The care and attention paid to these dialogues recounting the histories tied to the Black Liberation Movement, speaks to the power of oral histories within the diasporic culture of Black communities globally. The intangibility of conversations presents so many opportunities for knowledge to be shared, between generations, across ponds and within different contexts.
I’m in awe of the artists who find authentic ways to invite people to lament on what histories mean to them — in their world and within society — through conversations. We all have lived experience which shapes how we view the world. Big s/o to Weyland, Lauren and the rest of the Nello team who held such an authentic space for these rich conversations to occur. Thank you for documenting these histories in this way.
You can start listening here. There’s also a handy timeline to help contextualise how the Black Liberation Movement came to be in America. It’s crucial to familiarise ourselves with this long history of intentional anti-Black racism, oppression and denials of agency. To begin understanding why the Black Liberation Movement was so influential in America and informed other global liberation struggles in the Caribbean, Europe and Africa – while learning from these movements too.