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Review of “We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women”

Updated on March 11, 2018
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Besides writing, Prachi is also into choreography and web development. She currently speaks Hindi, English, Spanish and a little French.

In 1977, when the Combahee River Collective (a collective of black feminists to fight against the manifold and continuous oppressions faced by all women of color) gathered for the annual retreat, they decided to write a statement directed towards state of affairs. The response was promoted by the group of women of color from Lesbian Art and Artists. The statement talked in detail about the complete removal of Black Women in the Black Liberation and Women’s Movement. In short, the Combahee River Collective worked to increase the visibility of Black Women.
The collective explained that they spent so much time and a great amount of energy to explore the world of Black Women and the experiential and cultural nature of their oppression because none of these problems were ever noticed before. Further they added that their problems were always ignored and none of the officials ever cared to study the multi-layered texture of their lives.

Now, forty years later, the group of Black Women are still fighting for what they deserve. That’s the message initiated by “We wanted a revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965-85”. The exhibit is currently seen in the Brooklyn Museum. It is considered to be one of the last parts of the art exploring feminism. “We wanted a revolution” offers a twist in the feminism and the Black Women Movement. It serves as a historical map of the famous figures in the past.

It is an effort to make Black Women visible among the crowd. For example, Emma Amos, who was the only female member of Spiral (Spiral is a Black artists’ collective), is shown at the starting of the exhibit. Flower Sniffer, made in 1966, is Emma’s self-portrait. It shows her looking at a couple who are portrayed in a mid-embrace. She is surely in the photo, but clearly not in the world of acceptance. It is a clear example of how the women of color were designated during that time. They were considered to be invisible and always overlooked. The artist named Faith Ringgold is featured in the complete eight-panel exhibit. In the year 1970, she along with her daughter, Michelle Wallace, demanded the Whitney Museum of American Art to include the Black women artists in their Sculpture Annual. For the first time in that year, the two women artists Barbara Chase Riboud and Betye Saar were included in the Sculpture.
For this Rinngold was honoured by the Brooklyn Museum to mark her struggle for equality. The oil painting made by her shows an array of women at work, named For the Woman’s House (1971). Similar to this, there were many struggles held in the following year and lots of women were arrested, including Angela Davis.
The manner in which they (Black Women) fought for each other is a history and clearly shown in the exhibit. The exhibit includes the work of Carrie Mae Weems, which is a photo series of Family Pictures and Stories (1978-1984). It explains the situation of Black people, especially women who were held responsible for the massive destruction of their families. Besides this, the exhibit also features Liberation of Aunt Jemima: Cocktail (1973) created by Betye Saar. “We wanted a revolution” also covers Betye’s Colored Spade (1971), a painful and heart-touching video that shows group of Black people as an imagery of Black empowerment.

Interview of Faith Ringgold with Catherine Morris

There is also a huge collection of newspaper clippings and magazine covers, including 1971 NY Times Magazine article "What the Black Woman Thinks About Women's Lib", conversation of Audre Lorde with James Baldwin and a short biography of Shirley Chisholm, which depicts her journey of historic presidential run. The sole motive of the exhibit is to portray Black women as cultural deities, who deserve equal recognition and respect. They surely are not supposed to be invisible, when there is so much about them in the museums.
The exhibition like this must have took years in creating it, so over the course of so many years while producing the exhibition, the requirement and eternity of it have only increased. It straightforwardly urges to the people to think about the contributions made by Black women to their immense culture. In short, their contributions, undoubtedly, are respectful and immeasurable.

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