Disability and Black Civil Rights Exhibition
Curated by DisArt, Elizabeth VanArragon and Le’Andra LeSeur
Proposed for Summer 2021
This physical exhibition uses historical, documentary photography, contemporary art, and performance to identify and animate the intersectionality of race and disability, paying particular attention to shared legacies of oppression, activism, and art-making. Black and Disabled communities have been fueled by the same need and desire – to be known, understood, and respected. Contemporary life for the Black Disabled person presents a myriad of identifications, histories, and injustices to contend with including institutional and systemic racism and ableism.
The exhibition presents a rarely seen exchange between past, present, and future Black and Disabled voices, all of which point to the need for an expansion of the ways we know one another through art and activism.
The intended goals of Call and Response are to:
- Identify and animate parallels between Disability and Black Civil Rights Movements, paying close attention to the theories of change employed by each community;
- Educate people about the Disability Rights Movement;
- Offer a lens through which to gauge and understand the impact of the African-American/Black Civil Rights Movements on the Disability Rights Movement;
- Attempt to re-contextualize the spirit of protest and civil action at the intersections of race and disability;
- Put contemporary art and historical photography of protest from the Disability Rights Movement as documented by Tom Olin and Black Civil Rights Movement in conversation with one another.
The visual nucleus of this exhibition is the work of Disability Rights photographer Tom Olin. Like the photographs of the 1960s African American/Black Civil Rights movement, Olin’s images have been instrumental in documenting history and in shaping perceptions of the movement’s political character. The striking narrative told in these photographs will be enhanced by being hung next to 1960s African American/Black Civil Rights photography. The power of displaying these images side-by-side will demonstrate the connection between the documentation of rallies and protests as well as the extent to which the 1960s acts of resistance influenced the style and manner of the 1980s Disability Rights events. Olin’s work will in turn be a catalyst to conversation with contemporary artworks and performances by Black and Disabled artists specifically commissioned to respond to the images and issues embedded in the photography being exhibited. In addition to the curated components of the exhibition, local artists from the cities where the exhibition takes place will be invited to create art and workshops that speak to themes and experiences of access, marginalization, internalization.
Educational and/or charitable purposes:
The educational intent of this project is connected to its desire to give voice, value, and visibility to the lived experience of being Disabled and/or Black. Local communities will be invited to witness, explore and discuss the juxtaposition between the Disability Civil Rights and the Black Civil Rights movements of the 1980s and the 1960s, respectively. The inclusion of contemporary visual and performance artists to this exhibition will create inroads for discussing present realities and challenge assumptions made about the lived experience of being Black and/or Disabled in today’s social-political climate.