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Current Library Exhibit Celebrates (and Investigates) Black Culture

Contributed by Steve Kutay

The Oviatt Library is proud to host the spring 2016 exhibit, “Historicizin’ and Contemporizin’ the Black Aesthetic: Keeping the Legacy Alive.” Co-curated by Africana Studies professors Theresa White and Cedric Hackett, the exhibit is an inclusive look at African American and African culture from both past and present perspectives. The exhibition displays a variety of media that engage viewers, through the juxtaposition of history and contemporary social contexts. The exhibition is as topically varied as it is temporally expansive in its reflection of black culture through the lenses of fashion, scholarship, and journalism.

Jacket with Jazz Musician and Dancer that says French QuartersThe colorful centerpiece of the exhibit is “Art Meets Black History in Vintage Fashion”. Exhibit curator and reception moderator, Dr. Theresa White, selected African and African American inspired prints, patterns and accessories of the 1950s, 60s and 70s from clothing collections provided by collector Esther Ginsburg of Golyester Vintage Clothing in Los Angeles. “My effort to use black vintage fashion as a form of the black cultural aesthetic is to demonstrate that fashion is not something that exists in dresses only,” explains White. “But that it has to do with ideas, the way we live, and what is happening in our lives.” Many of the pieces draw from such cultural sign posts as human rights, art, dance and music. Collectively they convey the importance of African and African American culture on the whole of American history. “Fashion is a statement, a stylized form of expression, which displays and is part of what defines a person, a place, a class, a time, a culture, a society, a nation, and membership in global subcultures and communities,” says White.

Providing a contemporary counterpoint to black fashion history is the second installation, “Men of Color Enquiry & Student Research Posters,” which speaks to present day social issues and injustices affecting African and African American men today.  Among the featured topics are: racism in law enforcement, the corporate employment gap, manhood, fatherhood and black male musical expression. Professor and curator Dr. Cedric Hackett credits being inspired through his “desire to showcase student leadership and student research.” In keeping with the national theme for Black History Month, “‘Hallowed Grounds’ provides recognition of the various spaces that African Americans resided and made history as historical markers,” says Hackett. “CSUN, as a space, is a site where African Americans and other communities of color showed solidarity for the cause of inclusion in post-secondary education.” The posters extend the notion of solidarity by giving students space to express where we are today in light of where we have come.

Both the fashion and poster installations are augmented by hand-picked photographs from the collections of the Tom and Ethel Bradley Center. These photos from the 1950s through 1970s echo the richness and complexity of African American life as reflected by politicians, entertainers, models, athletes, civil rights leaders, entrepreneurs, workers and other black communities of mid-century Los Angeles. According to Hackett, these photographs were selected to “provide evidence of the contributions that African Americans made in Los Angeles County, while our fashion display is a part of the fabric of change as new and emerging identities called the Black Renaissance.”

Additional CSUN student contributions are represented in an installation of memorabilia and photographs from numerous black student groups. Among the participating organizations are the Black Alumni Association (BAA), the Black Student Union (BSU), NAACP Student Organization, the African Student Organization (ASO), Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, and Sigma Gamma Rho and Alpha Kappa Alpha sororities. The Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) offers a display referencing the turbulent history leading up to the founding of the program in 1969 and its important relationship to the creation of programs originally known as Black Studies and Mexican-American Studies at CSUN.

Shoes with Bob Marley and Jamaican ColorsRounding out the exhibit is a display of print issues and documents of “Nguzo Saba”, the first independent black student news publication on the CSUN campus. Published from 1990 to 1994, the name “Nguzo Saba” is inspired by the African American celebration Kwanzaa. Jointly sponsored by the National Association of Black Journalists’ student chapter (NABJ-SABC), and the Black Alumni Association at CSUN, “It was the first independent student publication that […] provided in-depth coverage of news relevant to the black population including [the] Black Student Union elections, the election of the first African-American woman AS president; community news like black entrepreneurship; and international news,” explained co-founder, editor and former NABJ-SABC President Shanté Morgan. In later years, the paper continued to be shaped by subsequent editors Sabrina Barnes, Carol Chastang, Valerie Watts and Spencer Brooks. Today, efforts to officially archive all the issues of “Nguzo Saba” are led in part by current NABJ-SABC President, Daisy Lightfoot.

The exhibit “Historicizin’ and Contemporizin’ the Black Aesthetic” is free and open to the public until May in the Library Exhibit Gallery located in the west wing on the second floor of the Oviatt Library. Additional information and a complete listing of events can be found on the Exhibitions and Events page on the Library website, or by calling (818) 677-2638. The Oviatt Library is located at the center of the California State University, Northridge campus at 18111 Nordhoff St. Parking is $6.00 and daily parking permits may be purchased at booths or online at The Permit Store.

Congratulations, you found the Freud! Freudian Sip Logo The password for Spring 2016 is Hallowed Grounds. The first 50 readers who find the Freud and bring the password to the Freudian Sip in the Oviatt Library will receive a free cookie with their purchase.