Chatter fills the fourth floor of the Global Center for Academic and Spiritual Life as people settle on couches around a wooden structure covered in light pink plastic blossoms. Curators refer to it as “the altar,” and it’s affixed with a poster reading, “I, Too, Am Divine,” the name of the exhibition celebrating black spiritualism.
The space was filled with laughter and music as people enjoyed authentic Cajun cuisine — home-cooked by one of the event curators — and Ethiopian dishes ordered in. The night began with speeches from two of the curators and a performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” otherwise known as the black national anthem.
The exhibition will run during the rest of spring semester and feature pieces by black artists at NYU, hand selected by the three curators, A’Nisa Megginson, Hunter Major and Harmony Hemmings-Pallay. The idea was to give black students a space to safely explore their spirituality and blackness through art and discussion.
“We’ve never seen a space on this campus that intentionally integrates both [blackness and spirituality] together,” Major said. “I think that blackness doesn’t fit into one religion or spiritual identity at all so we’re trying to create a space that’s not just a room but a movement and a connection between people.”
Over the course of the semester, the curators plan to host various events in the venue including discussions, teach-ins and tours. The physical space is accompanied by a digital campaign spanning across Instagram, Twitter and soon YouTube. The campaign will feature live streams, photos and interviews with black faculty on campus, as well as prominent black figures outside of the NYU community.
“I wanted to cater to conversations that had to be cut short because the event ends and the Kimmel building closes at 11 p.m.,” Major said. “Social media is a space where people can stay in touch and engage in a lot of different ways.”
One of the main hopes for the opening event and the exhibition as a whole is to provide a space for black students and faculty on campus to get to know each other. Tisch first-year Brittany Alexander, an artist that contributed to the exhibition, was especially looking forward to this aspect of the exhibition.
“[I’m excited for] meeting the other artists, seeing how they create their art and what inspires them,” Alexander said. “I’m really excited to talk about that and black spirituality and finally be able to relate to people in my own community about spirituality.”
The opening alone touched some of those in attendance, like Steinhardt senior Maya Mahmud.
“It was so beautiful; I remember singing [“Lift Every Voice and Sing”] in Kwanza,” Mahmud said. “I actually took the lyrics home to put them up. I’d never sung it in a such a public space with people I didn’t know.”
The curators are still accepting and encouraging submissions to the exhibition. The application can be found here:
Email Emily Mason at [email protected].