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Give Black Raleigh Her Flowers

In May 2022, Black Oak Society created our first art exhibition. 

Now it is available here on our website. Enjoy.


Curatorial Statement

To "give someone their flowers" is a phrase I remember hearing on the Black radio station growing up. The meaning is simple: it is the decision to honor, thank, and recognize those special to you while they are alive to experience your appreciation. The melancholy nature of this statement resonates within the Black community. Firstly, we simply don't live as long as other racialized groups. Secondly, our contributions are rarely celebrated until after we are gone. Americans walk around interacting with the incredible culture, innovations, and political progress wrought by its Black citizens every day, yet few think to honor the humans behind the work. "Give Black Raleigh Her Flowers" was first conceived in 2018. After witnessing the magnetic and assertive organizing power of some of the city's longtime women activists, I realized they were the secret to the greatness of this city. They were the ones who made sure families had a place to live, children were treated with respect in schools, and neighbors could find good jobs. They were fighting to preserve Raleigh's true history that went beyond Sir Walter and the New Year's Eve Acorn Drop. In the face of disrespect, erasure, and even death threats, Raleigh's Black women never abandoned their vision of a city that was good for all of its citizens. They are, in every way, queens. The eight queens photographed in this exhibition by five of the Triangle's most talented photographers represent all the ways that women contribute to the fabric of our community. From educators to journalists, artists to entrepreneurs, historians to organizers, there isn't a single space they have not impacted. All of the women featured have had a special impact on my life. They shared their stories with me. They gave me opportunities to find my voice. They deeply inspired me. As a Raleigh native who grew up outside its historic Black spaces, these women helped me find my way back home. Finally, they represent generational impact. Several women are descendants of great Black Raleighites who inspired them to follow in their footsteps. Others are shaping the next generation as mothers, instructors, and organizers. Symbolism runs deep in each portrait due to the choices of colors and attire and the locations of each photoshoot. Ultimately, the synergy of people, space, environment, and time are all to uplift the creative, generative, and nurturing power of Black women in Raleigh and all communities worldwide. From the moment we set foot on these shores, we have been the productive and reproductive engine behind the wealthiest country in the world, yet disdained beyond comprehension. With this exhibition, however, we pause time to give these phenomenal women, and all of us, our flowers.


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