Art exhibit hopes to bring communities together

Friction between Black and brown communities exists in many cities across the nation. Chicago is no different. In some neighboring areas, a median in the street is all that separates rival gangs. In some areas, there is no separation. Many schools on the

Friction between Black and brown communities exists in many cities across the nation.

Chicago is no different.

In some neighboring areas, a median in the street is all that separates rival gangs. In some areas, there is no separation. Many schools on the North, South and West Sides have diverse student populations, and sometimes the tension mounts.

What could help bridge that gap? An art exhibit.

The Better Boys Foundation on South Pulaski Road, as part of its Back to School campaign, is showcasing the African Presence in Mexico traveling exhibition to celebrate the cultural contributions of Mexicans of African descent from the 16th century through the present day.

“Art is a very good way for us to bring communities together and demonstrate the history between Africans and Mexicans. The art exhibit is one way to really share that,” said Angie Moreno, director of public relations for the National Museum of Mexican Art.

To help youth learn the history between Africans and Mexicans so they can go back to their communities and help heal any rifts between the Black and brown communities, the museum trained several high school students as tour guides for the exhibit.

The history of Africans in Mexico wasn’t something a high school junior thought she would learn, but the art exhibit opened her eyes and made her want to learn more and share the knowledge with others.

“Africans contributed so much to the Mexican society. The African battalions helped during the Mexican revolution. Africans also contributed their culture of music, dance and festivals to the Mexican society,” Demetrius, a 16-year-old student at Whitney Young High School told the Defender during a recent tour of the exhibit. The Illinois Dept. of Public Health, a co-sponsor of the NMMA’s local version of the traveling exhibit, said art and health go hand in hand.

“Art can help tell the story and bring the mind, body and spirit together. A combination of passion and compassion brings true art. When you look at the emotions of the people in the paintings, you can feel those emotions. They still resonate to this day. The paintings show that art was therapy for many then, and it’s used as therapy now. Art is a wonderful tool to help tell history because many of our history books were tainted, so many never fully understood the history (Africans in Mexico) of it all,” said Dr. Damon Arnold, the director of the IDPH.

The African Presence in Mexico exhibit, Better Boys Foundation, 1512 S. Pulaski Road, runs through November and is free and open to the public.

Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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