Finding Black Strength In Art

By Joyeuse Muhorakeye, Democracy & Me intern

When I stepped into the gallery, the first thing that caught my attention was a giant Afro comb with a black fist handle. Right away, I knew the exhibition “All Things Being Equal…,” by Black artist Hank Willis Thomas, now at the Cincinnati Art Museum, was going to be a unique experience.

Joyeuse and friends at the Hank Willis Thomas exhibit at The Cincinnati Art Museum

From my perspective, Thomas’ artwork shows the different cultures we have in this country, and how our lives are totally different—for example, many Black people use the Afro pick, and caring for our hair can be a struggle compared to other people’s hair, but it’s also cool the way we style and braid our hair in different ways. So the Black Power comb just tells me how our struggle makes us strong and unique. 

You may ask, why was it important for me to go to this exhibit? Most teenagers don’t hang out in museums, especially not during a pandemic. But I needed to know and learn more about Black people’s history, their struggles, their pain, and the many more obstacles they face to this day. Experiencing this exhibition teaches me not to take what I have now for granted. Our Black ancestors didn’t have things like freedom, equal rights, or the ability to raise their voices. They were slaves, treated like animals. As Thomas’s artwork shows, they fought so hard, so that we don’t have to go through the same struggles. And yet, we’re still struggling.

Looking at some of my peers’ actions and attitudes, I wish today’s young generation had a better understanding of all this. Seeing Thomas’s art can help, because it shows there is a strong bond that we all share and that should make us strong. 

Check out this Democracy & Z vodcast with Joyeuse and two of her Aiken H.S. classmates at the Hank Willis Thomas exhibit. 

Have you seen the show? Tell us what you think!