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Monumental Histories Workshop Boasts Success and Inspiration



Senior Landecker Fellow, Tsione Wolde-Michael, hosted a workshop called Monumental Histories: Black Archival Practice and the Interpretation of Racist Visual Culture. The event brought a multitude of activists, artists, heritage professionals (namely budding archaeologists) and community members invested in social justice work. They have learned about topics such as Black archival practices, how to use documentary films to challenge white supremacist monuments, and how to effectively create curatorial interpretations for exhibitions.

Tsione Wolde-Michael is a Curator of African American Social Justice History at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, where she also serves as director for the Center for Restorative History. Through the workshop, she invited five other speakers to create a space for Black people from various backgrounds and fields of work, such as budding archaeologists, community organizers, artists, and researchers. The participants benefited from challenging and complex conversations revolving around preserving Black stories, addressingwhite supremacy , interpreting racist visual culture for a wide audience, how to tackle current challenges of heritage work, and how to tell a compelling, genuine story through archival documents and artifacts about Black history.

In order to create transformative change we must reckon with our collective past. How we choose to remember that history, reproduce it, and/or contest it in public space matters.

Participants of the workshop raved that it was “rewarding,” “informative,” “inspiring,” and “truly phenomenal.”

Marcia Black, who was selected to take part, says, “The Monumental Histories workshop was an amazing experience. It was inspiring to be in a room with other Black folks who are passionate about preserving Black stories and doing it with a critical lens that acknowledges the societal structures that we confront when doing this work.”

Jarre Hamilton, who is an archaeologist in the process of writing a dissertation, reflects on the challenging questions posed by the workshop speakers, such as ‘How are we attentive to Black life and how do we do it justice?’ and responds, “I think the inspiring answer in part lies in moving beyond the institutional norms and practices of doing conventional community-engaged work.”

Gabrielle Miller, who experienced the challenge of beginning doctoral research right before COVID struck says, “Working in a shared virtual space reminded me that if time isn’t a barrier to this trans-temporal community engagement, neither is distance. I hope to pick this work up again with a fresh perspective, and a new community to walk with in tandem.”

To read more about the goals and vision of Tsione’s Monumental History project, click here.

Tsione is one of thirty 2020-2021 Landecker Democracy Fellows. This fellowship, a collaboration between the Alfred Landecker Foundation and Humanity in Action, was created to strengthen a new generation of leaders whose approaches to political and social challenges can become catalysts for democratic placemaking and community building. Read more about the fellowship here.