Black/Inside

October 23rd- December 14th, 2012

Black/Inside: A History of Captivity and Confinement in the U.S.: A Community Curated Exhibition.  http://blackinside2012.wordpress.com/

Our flagship fall exhibition, Co-Sponsored with Project NIA, http://www.project-nia.org/with related programming produced by the Public Square, the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy, Jane Addams Hull House Museum, and the Social Justice Initiative at UIC.

“Necessary… Invaluable… Powerful, Painful, Truthful… Inspiring, Educational, Enlightening… WOW.” These were just a few of the words patrons used to describe Black/Inside: A History of Captivity & Confinement in the U.S. This community-curated, multi-media exhibit considered how a system of criminalizing and imprisoning Black men and women has been sustained from colonial times to the present. The interactive exhibition used multimedia, material objects, a life-size reconstruction of a jail cell, photographs, daguerreotypes, and other images to historicize “black life” by drawing parallels between the conditions of slavery and incarceration.

Black/Inside included a number of interactive public workshops that introduced spectators to the parameters of the prison industrial complex; a virtual exhibition and popular education guide; guided tours for Chicago Public School (CPS) students and community organizations; and a performance by Sisters Rising, a theatre company comprised entirely of formerly incarcerated women. Black/Inside was prominently featured in traditional media (NPR/WBEZ, WVON, The Chicago Tribune, CAN TV) and social media, covered by the UIC News, and tied to the CPS social science curricula. The project welcomed more than 650 visitors.

Black/Inside included a number of interactive public workshops that introduced spectators to the parameters of teachers, students, social workers, justice system professionals, ex-offenders, public and charter school students, members of faith-based organizations, artists and members of the general public. Mounted in conjunction with Project NIA, WHO ARE THEY? Black/Inside events complemented programs sponsored by the Jane Addams Hull House Museum, the UIC Social Justice Initiative, and the Public Square, and served as co-curricular programming for the Department of Sociology (Sociology 105, 220 and 225).

From comments recorded in our Visitor’s Book, it seems clear that the exhibit and concurrent programming educated, moved, and inspired visitors, many of whom had personal experiences with law enforcement. No one left with the same understanding of the criminal legal system, of the men, women and children who have been incarcerated, or of ordinary people’s ability to mobilize for social change: “Wow, where to begin… They accused blacks of everything… Racism is systemic and institutionalized… I learned so much, particularly about the role everyday people can play in creating change… I will be back.” Such was the support of the project, that when Black/Inside closed at UIC, it moved to an exhibition hall at Trinity United Church of Christ at 400 West 95th, where it was on display for several months.

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