For the second time in less than a year, a 30-foot wall in South Madison will be a space on centering Blackness.
“(The Black Thought Wall) is about centering Blackness as a part of that shift for justice and liberation,” Gery Paredes Vásquez, YWCA Madison Race and Gender Equity Director, told Madison365. “It’s meant to be a restorative space for the Black community where people can experience a space that deliberately centered the Black experience, Black thought, Black sacredness and Black freedom dreaming in a way that is deliberately supported.”
An event to celebrate the Black Thought Wall will take Friday, June 18, 4-6 p.m. and will include community, snowcones and dancing. The Black community is welcome to the space to celebrate centering Blackness and write on the wall with chalk to express themselves, Paredes Vásquez said. There will be questions on the thought wall that will be unveiled that day about legacy, freedom and celebration. There will also be an altar where people in the Black community can express gratitude to people in their legacy with photos, flowers and token stones, Paredes Vásquez said.
During the first interaction of the art installation in October 2020, the questions on the Black Thought Wall were “What do you love about yourself?” “What does your healing look like” and “Imagine a world where all Black people are without any fear or limitation. Tell us about it.”
Paredes Vásquez said that the entire wall was covered from corner to corner.
Madison’s Black Thought Wall is the second in the nation after founder Alicia Walters started the Black Thought Project in Oakland, California. The healing-centered celebration is being co-created by various organizations and people including YWCA Madison, Ayomi Obuseh and Impact Demand, Freedom Inc., Isha Camara, Rob Dz, Semaj Sconiers, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, The Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness and Urban Triage.
At the event, there will be certified Black peer support specialist Tara Wilhelmi, DJ music by Vanessa McDowell, and a dance floor. Maia Pearson will guide a space for art as a way of expression, Amadou Kromaha will be there as an event photographer and El Chisme will provide snow cones.
Paredes Vásquez said the breadth of humanity, expression and experiences is something that struck her while reading the wall during the first iteration, in addition to a quote about what a world would look like where Black people can live without fear or limitation.
“There was these beautiful smaller contributions, that was the word ‘Endless Black Joy,'” she said.
She said later during the cleansing ritual of the wall after it was documented by YWCA staff she remembered this moment when they were honoring Black staff.
“I have this image of one of my Black colleagues here at the YWCA Madison, cleansing with water that part of the wall and then sensing that, that’s the only thing that she wanted to leave and not erase for the next iteration. So I have this lasting image of the Black Thought Wall and the wall being opened up and then just this guiding image of Endless Black Joy,” Paredes Vásquez said.
Paredes Vásquez hopes this second interaction will evoke some of the same emotions as in October. She witnessed pure joy, something that was not superficial happiness, she said.
“Even for a moment there is this space that is deliberately honoring Blackness that is deliberately protecting Black life in a way that feels non-performative and that it also feels in right relationship and an interconnectedness in a way,” she said.