To describe Blackness as viral during a viral pandemic that overwhelmingly affects the lives of Black people was a hard choice as the Women’s Center and African American Cultural Center began thinking about how to create an exhibit that centers around what it means to be Black at this moment as students, staff, faculty and alumni at NC State. We worried about potential participants being able to connect to the theme. It wasn’t until we looked up the synonyms of viral that it began to make sense, and we found that participants were able to take from our description and see themselves in the meaning of Viral* Blackness.
Viral* as in… flourishing, expanding, energetic, fervid, aggressive, growing, thriving, vigorous, zealous, amplifying, augmenting, budding, burgeoning, sprouting, growing, spreading, swept (if something is viral, it cannot be: contained, controlled, stunted, static).
The Viral Blackness Exhibit, which celebrates its first iteration and opening on Feb. 23, 2o21 is an emergent project which centers how Black students, staff and alumni engaged with themselves, their bodies, their lives, their joys and their fears over the course of 2020 and the 2020-2021 school year.
“Little girls must be seen and not be heard.” – Mother/Grandmother.
— I did not know it then, but my whole self was being silenced. Through the years I’ve learned how to be seen and not heard. How to be in the group and not the leader. How to be present and not shine. How to be in a doctoral classroom and not speak. Now I find myself breaking the rules of gendered social norms that no one agreed upon, not even my grandmother. I’m not sure where that idiom comes from. I also don’t care to know. To know opens the possibility to understand. Understand this… it is year 2020 and I – the Black woman, educator, self-advocate, lover of self and heard from platforms near you – will no longer live in the shadows. For what? For why? For who? For how?
Excerpt from Tiffany Dangleben’s
*Black is Fearless*
Tiffany Dangleben takes us on a journey through the use of viral phrases to describe her growth as a Black woman who is both seen and heard. Other participants provide artwork, photography and writings highlighting strength, vulnerability, passion and creativity.
To celebrate the opening of the exhibit, the Women’s Center and African American Cultural Center will host three events. More details and registration links: go.ncsu.edu/viralblackness.
- Feminist Friday/What’s on the Table Collaboration on Feb. 19, 2021, 2:30 – 4:30 p.m.
As a part of the Viral* Blackness Exhibit, Feminist Friday (hosted by Women’s Center) and What’s on the Table (hosted by African American Cultural Center) will come together to have a discussion centered around how we take claim over our work in online spaces. OH, AND THERE’S LUNCH! We will also have boxed lunch sandwiches, salad and wrap options for pickup before this collaboration on Feb. 19, 2021 from 12–2 p.m. in Talley Student Union, Room 3285. Limited quantities available.
- Opening Event Featuring Yaba Blay, Ph.D. on Feb. 23, 2021, 6–8 p.m.
Join the Women’s Center and the African American Cultural Center for the opening of the Viral* Blackness Exhibit and Zine opening, dedicated to all participants and those interested in what it means to be Black and experience Blackness in this new decade. Yaba Blay, scholar-activist, content creator and cultural consultant and the creative mind behind #PrettyPeriod and #ProfessionalBlackGirl will be joining us. Blay will talk about Black Joy as Resistance and how we can use her example and create Black Joy wherever we are and whenever we need it. We will also take a look at the submissions and hear discussions and readings from participants.
- Collective Consciousness: A Community Vision Board Session
Inspired by the NC State Women’s Center’s Viral* Blackness Exhibit, participants will create a mixed media collage filled with their vision of the future for Black life and culture in the U.S. Vision boards help individuals chart a path for their near future. Collectively, a group can create a visual that expresses shared goals and aspirations. Using images and other materials, participants will create a visionary assemblage composed of what they would like to personally add to the community or actions and ideas they would like to see in the community. Join us as we dream and vision together for 2021 and beyond. The Women’s Center will provide supplies to create your vision boards.
Chaniqua Simpson is a doctoral student in sociology and a graduate assistant in the Women’s Center.