Racial Justice Rising Zoom program to shed light on Black artists


For the Recorder
Published: 5/20/2021 4:16:05 PM

GREENFIELD — Racial Justice Rising organizer Gloria Matlock says there’s little known about African American artists. That’s something the group, with help from Greenfield artist Whitney Robbins, hopes to remedy during an educational event that will introduce attendees to 15 Black contemporary artists.

The event, called “Upsetting Expectations: Looking at Black Contemporary Art,” will be held Saturday at 5:30 p.m. via Zoom. Robbins, herself a social justice advocate, plans to create a discussion surrounding a selection of artwork by Black artists and how art can serve as a visual language of the oppressed.

“I’m hoping that looking at Black contemporary artists can allow us to think symbolically and metaphorically about race and racism,” Robbins said. Her goal is to get the community thinking about the past and present, challenging stereotypes and being honest about what they see the moment they view this art.

“It’s about time that we shed light on these people who are, you know, artists, and who are African American,” Matlock added. “I think it’s just a shame we don’t learn much about them.”

Robbins’ project has been in the works since 2020, when Racial Justice Rising had originally planned for her to present the art. In the past, the organization has highlighted dance, music and other forms of artistry. Robbins said she held out with hope that the event would eventually be held in person, but she believes it’s important that she shares her intertwined passion for and knowledge of Black contemporary art and teaching with the community as opposed to waiting any longer.

According to event organizer Emily Greene, the focus of Saturday’s program is not just to highlight the racial injustice present in the pieces of art, but to provide an opportunity for the community to further understand and connect to Racial Justice Rising’s firm belief that Black Lives Matter. With funding from cultural councils in Franklin and Hampshire counties, the program became a reality.

“Here is a medium, which is through art, to help to highlight all of the things that we’re looking at that have created injustices,” Greene said. She hopes that Robbins’ presentation will “draw at the heart of what we’re trying to bring about — change so that everybody can live equally, including Black lives.”

Robbins said she wholly supports the organization’s message, has attended numerous Racial Justice Rising events and has a good friend involved with the group. The interest in putting together Saturday’s event was mutual.

“This just feels like a natural crossroads of my interests as an educator, as someone who’s striving to be as anti-racist as possible, as a leader in my community,” Robbins said.

She said this is as much an individual journey for her as it is a journey she desires to begin with her community.

“My eyes have been open, my heart has been open for a long time,” she said. “I’m hungry for images that are starting to change our narrative on our history. So much has been left out and so this is a time to be looking for those voices and that vision of truth.”

To register for “Upsetting Expectations: Looking at Black Contemporary Art,” visit bit.ly/3bHeReh.

An earlier version of this story contained an incorrect start time for Saturday’s program. “Upsetting Expectations: Looking at Black Contemporary Art” will start at 5:30 p.m.


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