The Africa Center Is Commemorating the End of Slavery in the US With a Three-Story Black Lives Matter Installation on Its Façade

The installation marks the Juneteenth holiday.

The Black Lives Matter installation at the Africa Center. Photo by Anita Ng, courtesy of The Africa Center.
The Black Lives Matter installation at the Africa Center. Photo by Anita Ng, courtesy of the Africa Center.

The Africa Center in New York is celebrating Juneteenth, the holiday marking the end of slavery in the US, with a new 45-foot-tall window display proclaiming the message “Black Lives Matter.”

“It’s our desire to let the community and the wider world know that we stand in solidarity with Black people,” Uzodinma Iweala, the institution’s CEO, told Artnet News.

“We see this to be an extension of what we do every single day as the African Center, which is try to inform and transform narratives about Africans and the diaspora.”

The three-story installation grew out of a desire to address the protests that have spread across the US in recent weeks in response to the police killing of George Floyd, and the violent deaths of other Black people in America.

The Black Lives Matter installation at the Africa Center. Photo by Anita Ng, courtesy of The Africa Center.

The Black Lives Matter installation at the Africa Center. Photo by Anita Ng, courtesy of The Africa Center.

“We were thinking, if the institution isn’t open, how can you still be part of these conversations? What could we do with our building on our plaza that could be both safe and effective in sending a message?” Iweala said.

Before it was shut down to visitors, the Africa Center was two weeks away from opening “African/American: Making the Nation’s Table” in collaboration with the Museum of Food and Drink.

The Black Lives Matter installation at the Africa Center. Photo by Anita Ng, courtesy of The Africa Center.

The Black Lives Matter installation at the Africa Center. Photo by Anita Ng, courtesy of The Africa Center.

As part of its promotional campaign for the show, the museum had installed decals on the windows of its façade. Full Point Graphics, the company that installed the decals, then offered to put in the Black Lives Matter message for free.

“The population that surrounds us in Harlem is traditionally a Black community, and also a community full of Latinx and people of color,” Iweala said. “It’s really important to have a statement in solidarity with folks who live here and have experienced so many of the things that we see on the news these days. They were part of this conversation before it was something that everybody was interested in.”

The display, Iweala said, “is saying, ‘Look. We see you because we are you.'”

The Black Lives Matter installation at the Africa Center. Photo by Anita Ng, courtesy of The Africa Center.The Black Lives Matter installation at the Africa Center. Photo by Anita Ng, courtesy of The Africa Center.

The Black Lives Matter installation at the Africa Center. Photo by Anita Ng, courtesy of The Africa Center.

Founded in 1984, and formerly known as the Museum for African Art, the Africa Center is aiming to finish the long-delayed construction of its new 70,000-square-foot home next fall. “African/American” will be its inaugural exhibition.

Nigerian businessman Aliko Dangote’s foundation donated $20 million for the project last September. The entry hall, where the Black Lives Matter message will be displayed, is now named in his honor. (The naming rights to the building were once on offer for a $50 million donation.)

On hand for today’s unveiling of the new decal will be Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Cultural Affairs commissioner Gonzalo Casals, and hip-hop pioneer Fred “Fab 5 Freddy” Brathwaite.


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