(Black) Love Is In The Air

By Amina Lampkin

Celebrating black pride and romance, student organization The Lunch Table hosted an art show titled “Szn of Black Love” on Friday, Feb. 15. Highlighting students from Maryland and artists from the Washington area, the show also featured performances, spoken word, a five dollar paint-and-sip and music.

Emmanuel Massalee, sophomore international relations and human rights major and Arabic minor, is the vice president of The Lunch Table’s Maryland chapter. Massalee came up with the concept for the art show in Sept. 2018.

“RAW D.C. actually inspired me to do the art show.” Massalee said. RAW Artists is an independent art-showcasing organization that hosts shows in 70 cities across the world, one being Washington, D.C. “There were a lot of people of color there. I’ve never seen an art show like that before,” he said.

Focusing his lens on black people and fashion, Massalee wants to end the exploitative narrative that often comes with white people photographing black people and create stories that go deeper than surface level depictions of what it means to be black.

“I feel like there’s not a lot of publications and photographers shooting people of color, especially when people take pictures of black people and it’s coming from the lens of a white person,” Massalee said. “It’s like they’re saying ‘Oh, look at this black person in the hood doing this thing.’”

This concept of reclaiming the black narrative rang true for showcasing artist Boma Tende, junior information science and studio art double major. Tende’s displayed works, created with colored pencil, pastels or acrylic paint, focused on black women in defiance to white women being the beauty standard.

“I try to not make it look exactly the way they [black women] look with normal skin tones,” Tende said. “I try to use vibrant colors just to make them pop out more for an emotional sense and feel.”

Tende’s piece of a black woman with a purple afro and skin enthralled one attendee, Jayda Hackett, freshman food science major and historian for the Black Student Union Freshman Council.

Tende also commented about the lack of visibility for black artists: “As a child, I didn’t see black people as artists.” Supporting black art, for Tende, is about teaching different communities about the black art world.

Massalee wanted this art show to shine a special light on the talented and dedicated artists of color local to the Maryland community. He began contacting prospective artists in November, a task that didn’t come without some difficulty.

One of the big challenges with the artists was communication. Some were quick to get back to him and would keep him updated, others not so much.

“When people wouldn’t respond I had to ask like ‘Umm, are they still in the show?’ And I would end up having to cut them,” he said.

Another big challenge facing the art show was money. Massalee reached out to sponsors for money and venues, but some were unresponsive or said they would not take solicited offers, but would reach out to the shows they’re interested in. The Lunch Table is also too small of a student organization to receive Student Government Association funding.

Despite all of that, the art show’s GoFundMe page successfully raised $110. The dues that The Lunch Table members pay also helped fund the show, Massalee said.

The show was bustling with students from all over campus. Artists and attendees mingled, learning more about one another and exchanging contact information. In the front of the room, an audience listened to peers perform songs and spoken word pieces, while toward the back two tables were designated for attendees to paint and sip.

Hackett attended the show with the intent of supporting the artists. She purchased prints from Adwoa Andoh, sophomore English and psychology double major. Andoh’s piece with a short-haired woman resonated with Hackett as she sports a short cut herself.

Massalee hopes to hold the art show annually, expanding and improving upon it each year.

Featured Photo Credit: Boma Tende, junior information science and studio art major, presents her work at an art show hosted by The Lunch Table on Friday, Feb. 15 (Amina Lampkin/Bloc Reporter).

Amina Lampkin is a sophomore journalism and information science double major and can be reached at alampkin@terpmail.umd.edu.

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