An exhibit dedicated entirely to celebrating Black women and girls — through pictures that show off our gravity-defying manes, old school hair dryers and wide tooth combs, beauty supply store wigs and doorknocker earrings — is running at a tiny gem of a museum in a Washington, D.C. suburb.
Art aficionados and Black women in search of their authentic selves on display will be thrilled to visit “Tell the Truth About Me,” a brilliant display in celebration of Black womanhood curated by artist Yaya Bey. The Prince George’s African American Museum and Cultural Center at North Brentwood, Inc. is currently showcasing two stunning exhibits under Yaya’s artistic direction: “This Hair Deserves a March” and “Like Blood from a Stone."
“The nucleus of the exhibit is giving Black women the opportunity to speak for themselves and tell their own stories because we’re the only ones who can,” Bey bravely tells ESSENCE.
The exhibit kicked-off its four-month showing — on display through January 31, 2018 — with a daylong festival that brought poets, artists and nonprofits, all geared towards serving and celebrating Black women specifically, in one area on an early October Saturday. The carefree Black girl spirit was on full display at Rated PG: Black Arts Festival, which was designed specifically to celebrate Black women and women-identifying artists throughout the Diaspora, with a focus on beauty standards, identity, multi-generational traditions and sisterhood, and breaking barriers, according to the museum.
“So many times people that are not Black women are telling Black women’s stories, and so then we get presented as monolithic and not dimensional and we don’t get the opportunities to speak about ourselves. That’s why people get so excited about like, Insecure or Queen Sugar, or like when there’s like some accuracy in a Black woman narrative in the mainstream, because there’s such a lack of it,” Bey further adds.
“So, the idea of it was to really give Black women a platform to tell their own stories, and so we did it in two parts. The first gallery is ‘This Hair Deserves a March’ and it’s about reclaiming the Black aesthetic. You’ll see like fingerwaves on the cover of Vogue, but like if a Black girl does it it’s like, ‘Oh my God that’s ghetto,’ and ghetto has this classist, negative connotation,” Bey notes in description of one of her two curations.
“The back gallery is “Like Blood from a Stone,” and that idea is really...I interviewed Black women and asked themselves how they viewed themselves as a child and like, how they see themselves in the world now. I gave them free range to say who are they, and what is missing from their narrative,” she concludes.
Bey was able to bring her vision to life through her network of artist friends from across the country, truly lifting from her community to bring Black Girl Magic to life.
“I believe in finding the value in what I have so I just went to my community,” she says of the artists featured in the exhibit.
Bey's calm confidence and artistic vision foreshadow that she’s a force to be reckoned with in the art world, and this curation serves as her springboard.