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Dear BGC Friends,

Welcome back to 86th Street! 

Today we are bringing you a special edition of 86th Street Stories to celebrate Black History Month, an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in US history.

Please enjoy some readings, events, and local exhibitions to celebrate Black History Month! Also, keep an eye out for part two of the Black History Month newsletter coming mid-month. If you have any additions, please submit them here.

Your Co-Editors,

Nadia Rivers and Maggie Walter



Emily Lordi, The Meaning of Soul: Black Music and Resilience Since 1960 (Durham: Duke University Press, 2020)*

Greg Tate, Flyboy in the Buttermilk: Essays on Contemporary America (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992). *

Adrienne Brown, The Black Skyscraper: Architecture and the Perception of Race (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017). *

Saidiya Hartman, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women, and Queer Radicals (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2020). *

*Select readings from BGC’s course on African and African American Visual and Material Culture, courtesy of Drew Thompson

Black History Month 2022: BGC Library New Acquisitions
Check out Sebastian Moya’s annotated bibliography of the BGC Library’s new acquisitions.


NYC Exhibitions:

Winner Takes All: Group Show curated by Amoako Boafo and Larry Ossei-Mensah
Marianne Boesky Gallery
January 13–February 19, 2022

Marianne Boesky Gallery is pleased to present Winner Takes All, a group exhibition co-curated by visual artist Amoako Boafo and curator Larry Ossei-Mensah. Winner Takes All features new works by nine emerging painters whose practices contend with history and the complexity of identity through experimentation with figurative forms, including Sophia-Yemisi Adeyemo-Ross, Jessica Alazraki, Aplerh-Doku Borlabi, YoYo Lander, Anoushka Mirchandani, Zéh Palito, Adjei Tawiah, Nigatu Tsehay, and Didier Viodé. 

The NYC Parks Renaming Project: Celebrating Black Leaders
The Arsenal Gallery
January 21–February 28, 2022

In celebration of Black History Month, the NYC Parks’ Renaming Project: Celebrating Black Leaders highlights some of the parks and park features that the agency has recently renamed to honor the Black experience in New York City.

Moses Sumney: Blackalachia
Nicola Vassell Gallery
February 3–March 5, 2022

Nicola Vassell Gallery is pleased to present Moses Sumney: Blackalachia, a feature-length performance film and photographic series created by the artist in the North Carolina stretch of the Blue Ridge Mountains during the summer of 2020. Sumney’s auteurial debut highlights issues at the center of his interdisciplinary practice, including non-binary thinking, isolation, emotional introspection, and historical Black cultural influence.

Faith Ringgold: American People
New Museum
February 17–June 5, 2022

Artist, author, educator, and organizer, Faith Ringgold is one of the most influential cultural figures of her generation, with a career linking the multi-disciplinary practices of the Harlem Renaissance to the political art of young Black artists working today. Bringing together over sixty years of work, Faith Ringgold: American People provides the most comprehensive assessment to date of the artist’s impactful vision.

Before Yesterday We Could Fly: An Afrofuturist Period Room
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The title, Before Yesterday We Could Fly, is inspired by Virginia Hamilton’s legendary retellings of the Flying African tale, which celebrates enslaved peoples’ imagination, creative uses of flight, and the significance of spirituality and mysticism to Black communities in the midst of great uncertainty. Activated through vision, sound, and storytelling, and furnished with a kaleidoscope of works from the Met’s collection—from Bamileke beadwork and nineteenth-century American ceramics to contemporary art and design that celebrates rich and diverse traditions—the room foregrounds generations of African diasporic creativity. Before Yesterday We Could Fly also celebrates a number of new acquisitions made specifically for the project and is animated by exciting commissions from Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Fabiola Jean-Louis, and Jenn Nkiru.

Our Composite Nation: Frederick Douglass’s America
New-York Historical Society
February 11–Ongoing 

In the late 1860s—at a moment of great hope for the promise of equality under the law—the famed orator and once-enslaved abolitionist Frederick Douglass took his “Our Composite Nation” speech on the road to argue for a plural American democracy. The mission of this new nation, he declared, was to provide the world “a composite, perfect illustration of the unity of the human family.” For what was the US, he said, but “the most conspicuous example of composite nationality in the world?” Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by New-York Historical Society Scholar Trustee David Blight, this special installation features artifacts, images, and a theatrical design that bring Douglass’s compelling speech to life and explores his vision of freedom, citizenship, and equal rights that remains urgently relevant today, as a hopeful plea for America to live up to its founding ideals.



Urban Park Rangers: Seneca Village
81st Street and Central Park West in Central Park
Sunday, February 13
1–2 pm

Celebrate Black History Month with the Urban Park Rangers. Learn about the lives of Seneca Village’s residents in the 1800s and the community’s place in pre-Central Park.

Black Portraiture[s] VII: Play and Performance
Express Newark, Rutgers University—Newark, NJ
February 17–19, 2022 

The three-day conference explores the theme of play and performance in past and contemporary African diasporic art and will conclude with a series of groundbreaking keynote conversations for the 42nd Annual Marion Thompson Wright Lecture at the Newark Museum of Art.

Black Stories/Black Histories
Paris Theater
Through February 24, 2022

The Paris Theater is hosting a movie series that looks at the larger picture of race in America with stories that are deeply personal, focusing on individuals. “And these films do more than hold a mirror up to society; they change the picture and the conversation, affecting history through the act of storytelling,” the theater notes. The films include Bruised (directed by Halle Berry), Mudbound (dir. Dee Rees), Imitation of Life (1934 dir. John M. Stahl, 1959 dir. Douglas Sirk), The Harder They Fall (dir. Jeymes Samuel), Daughters of the Dust (dir. Julie Dash), Shadows (dir. John Cassavetes), Monster’s Ball (dir. Marc Forster), Creed (dir. Ryan Coogler), Concrete Cowboy (dir. Ricky Staub), Sergeant Rutledge (dir. John Ford) and Loving (dir. Jeff Nichols).

Afrofuturism, a festival at Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Hall
February 12–March 26, 2022

Take a journey to the world of Afrofuturism—an ever-expansive aesthetic and practice—where music, visual arts, science fiction, and technology intersect to imagine alternate realities and a liberated future viewed through the lens of Black cultures. Immerse yourself in Afrofuturism, Carnegie Hall’s 2022 citywide festival.

Shop Black: A Black History Month Pop-Up Shop!
New Women Space: Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Every Saturday in February, 1–7 pm

This Black History Month get out and support Black-owned local businesses including womxn-owned and queer vendors. At this BHM Shop, enjoy live music by various artists and shop for a bit of everything: sustainable skincare, beauty, haircare, candles, clothing, jewelry, unique finds, and so much more. Stop in, browse, grab a mimosa, get a mini-tarot card reading, and enjoy the vibe!


BGC Social Media Submissions
This Black History Month, we are paying tribute to and celebrating the vast contributions that Black women and men have made in the field of decorative arts, design history, and material culture. What curators, artists, craftspeople, academics, businesses, and creatives do you want to celebrate this month? Submit your thoughts for a social media post here! 

BGC’s Collaborative Resource List
Take a look, and contribute to BGC’s Collaborative Resource List to get involved, learn, and take action in the fight for social justice. Check out the Black History Month Resources section!