Living in Color’s showcase, BLK GRL SANCTUARY, gives a platform to student artists of color


Source: Jessica Ogwumike

A live mural from the first Living in Color artist showcase in 2015 — the artists made the piece during the event.

Janea Wilson, Reporter

In 2016, Northwestern President Morton Schapiro made a statement in support of safe spaces on campus. Still, many students feel like there is a lack of these spaces on campus. One student group working to address this is Living in Color.

They will host BLK GRL SANCTUARY on Sunday, May 5. The showcase is part of Living in Color’s mission to support art created by people “whose narratives and practices are marginalized in the predominately white art world.”

Along with poetry slams throughout the year, the group holds an annual themed showcase. This year’s event, which will offer food and tarot card readings, is set to feature visual and non-visual art, such as music and spoken word, from undergraduate and graduate students of color.

“We are aiming to enrich black girls, femmes and women to feel they’re at full capacity, to access vulnerability, to be creative, to be in community with other folk and do so in a way that it’s honoring their experience of black girlhood,” said Jessica Ogwumike, a Living in Color member and Weinberg senior.

Past showcase themes have ranged from resistance art to multilingualism, and Ogwumike said this year’s idea speaks to the healing intention of the space and the experiences the group is trying to give a platform to.

This year’s theme was inspired by events on campus that left black women feeling silenced, like the presence of researcher Satoshi Kanazawa and the recent discoveries of “It’s OK to be white” stickers across campus. She added the continuous mental health struggle churning in the background of these events hasn’t made this year any easier, and said she hopes Sunday’s showcase can be an uplifting experience for black women and female identifying people.

“I hope there’s a really authentic joy in the room so that even as people encounter the consistent violence of Northwestern’s campus, there’s a buffer in the way and more understanding of what it looks like to heal trauma,” Ogwumike said.

Communication sophomore Taylor Bolding, who is also a part of Living in Color, echoed that sentiment. She said the showcase is meant to be a space that celebrates black women and gives them an opportunity to heal.

Bolding said spaces like this are rare at Northwestern, and she wants people to gain something from the event.

“I hope that the black women, black femmes that come into the space feel welcome, feel recognized, feel like they are enough, feel like they are cared for by each other,” Bolding said.

Medill freshman Imani Harris also said she wants people to take something they need from the showcase. She said she thinks this event is a collective moment for black women to take a break from the constant campus stressors and focus on themselves.

Harris will sing a cover of “Solo” by Frank Ocean and “Escapism” from the Steven Universe soundtrack at the showcase. She said she responded to the open call for artists because she uses music as a way to alleviate stress and wanted to share that feeling with other people. Harris said she hopes to contribute to the atmosphere of the healing the event is meant to foster.

“At the University, we don’t have time to do that,” Harris said. “At least we have one day for a few hours where we have time to breathe and think about what we’re doing to support ourselves and each other.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @janeaAwilson