Now that February has ended and Black History Month has officially come to a close do we now relinquish our visibility as a people? Do we now go back to subjecting ourselves to the darkness mainstream media cast upon our perception of self, or do we continue to walk in the light? I like the way that Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man loves light, desires light, needs light. Light confirms my reality and gives birth to my form (Invisible Man, pp. 6). Yet unlike the invisible man we do not have to tragically accept our invisibility. We do not have to surround ourselves with artificial light in our “warm holes” for comfort. We can take it upon ourselves to define and project our own image so bright that it cannot be denied.
When I look at the murals of Bronzeville I see a community of artist whose work illuminates those who were made invisible. Each work is an attempt to proudly exhibit that Black humanity does exist and it is worth seeing. Each mural contributes to the effort of reclaiming and reconstructing the Black aesthetic in America. Each mural creates a new aesthetic that is no longer fodder for the oppressive dominant culture but now works in the interest of Black people. I’m always struck by the luscious use of color and allegory in these murals that weaves together the collective Black experience in America.
The murals of Bronzeville are not only a representation of a collective experience but also of a collective effort. Time to Unite (41st & Drexel) and the mural on the walls of the Carruther’s Center for Inner City (CCICS on Oakwood & Cottage Grove) are examples of this collective effort. Although there are specific artist credited for these works of art, the community came together to make these murals possible. In fact on the mural of CCICS if you look closely you will see the face of a Bronzeville native, our very own Dr. Zada Johnson. The murals of Bronzeville illuminate the faces, soul, and experience of the people who inspire it.