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Artists mark start of Black History Month at Center on Halsted
by Bronson Pettitt
2018-02-05

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Black artists gathered at the Center on Halsted on Feb. 1 to commemorate Black History Month with "Quiet Storm: The Art & Times of Black LGBTQ Life."

Chicago-based poet e. nina jay read from her book Body of Rooms, conveying how her various identities are like separate rooms in a house.

"Lesbian here, Black over here, woman over here. Every identity I owned or claimed lived in some separate room in this house that I am, that I've built over the years," she said.

jay also read The World Wants You to Believe, dedicated to her niece and nephew.

"You have a lot of reasons to believe in yourself. Your auntie believes in you. Every day of the year is your month, your Black History."

Dr. Johari Jabir, an African-American Studies professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, performed a piano medley of Nina Simone's music and the Black American national anthem, "Lift Every Voice and Sing."

"My music comes from a vibrant Black working-class community," said Jabir, whose music is influenced by southern gospel.

Lens-based artist Darryl DeAngelo Terrell had his tryptic photography on display, in which he turns his insecurities into strengths via alter ego Dion, "a gender non-binary Black, fat femme" who is "heavily desirable but does not give guys the time of day." In the tryptic, Dion wears a tulle tutu, perched on a wicker peacock chair.

Next to him are two men "who would be the most attractive in Black queer culture—nicely toned, nice skin complexion, nice butts, whatever," presenting Dion "as if they were leopards in front of a king or queen."

The event also had materials on exhibit from the Gerber/Hart Library and Archives' Black History Month display, including Black lesbian literature from the 1960s, cassettes and VHS tapes by Black artists and magazines celebrating Black Pride from decades past.

The Center on Halsted will continue Black History Month with a showing of the movie Kiki at 6 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 16, at the South Side YMCA and a panel discussion, "Activism Then and Now" on Wed., Feb. 21, at the DuSable Museum of African American History.


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