Juneteenth is here, and NIAD is celebrating.
As NIAD artist Dorrie Reid reminded us last week, this moment is not only to recognize an American history that includes great and ongoing harm, but on this day, the resilience and power of the Black heroes and historical figures whose legacies accompany us in this historic moment.
We recognize those who have passed, memorialized in artworks like Raven Harper’s pantheon of portraits of civil rights leaders and performing artists such as Martin Luther King, Jr, Rosa Parks, Aretha Franklin, and so many others.
And we recognize those whose passing has recently moved the world into an era of change: Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and many, many others – as we mourn the lives lost we hope they will guide our action.
We also celebrate those leaders who are living, including NIAD’s community members who have committed themselves to organizing work.
In our studio program, this includes Halisi Noel-Johnson, this week’s online exhibition selector, who has been one of several very active voices in creating the NIAD Artists Self Advocates group, in which artists support each other to develop independent voices and advocate for their own health, safety, and well-being.
NIAD’s legacy of Black leadership also includes many of our family members and care providers who have come together to support artists in this new digital environment, and who now meet weekly in a Family Meeting on Thursday afternoons.
And our legacy includes NIAD staff members present and past, all of whom are practicing artists, and many of whom have used their practices to define the language of this era of change we are experiencing. Lukaza Branfman-Verissimo, Dawline-Jane Oni-Eseleh, Nan Collymore, Danielle Wright, Shantanice Jones, and Terri Moore are leading through their creative practices, at NIAD and in the many communities in which they live, work, and shape our world.
NIAD celebrates the leadership of Black artists, community members, and educators in our studio and in our lives.
As we gather today in workshops, in conversation, in dance and in music, and in memory of those who have come before, we wish both rest and support for those community leaders who guide and define us, and readiness for al of us to show up for the work we will do together.