Ravon and I are super excited to share an interview we did with Jamee A. Swift of xoNecole! We loved the questions she posed, and getting to share our mission with an even wider audience. Jamee wrote,
Although BGMB is only three years old, the organization has quickly become a go-to scholarly, professional, and community hub for the artistic curiosities, liberatory messages, progressive imaginations and praxis, and feminist entanglements of women of color artists across borders and boundaries.
Please go check out the final interview at the link above, or keep reading here for more content from our conversation.
You recently launched a project called “Brown Art Ink”, which is a “community-building project created to increase the arts ecosystem for artists and communities of color in the greater Washington-DC Baltimore area.” What I really like about this project is that it elevates artistic locality. What are the long term goals of this project? Why is it important that communities of color have safe spaces where they can support local artists but also catalyze collectivism and possibly activism?
Ravon: Long term, definitely to be a permanent fixture in the arts ecosystem of our communities, both cultural and local, and to provide avenues for artists of color and communities of color to see themselves in the art world. Art is approachable, and not far from them, whether in the streets or in galleries.
Amanda: My goal for this project is to build the scaffolding for local communities to support the artists who are already in their midst, economically, emotionally, socially. I want people to see exactly what they can do to build art ecosystems in their cities and how easy it is to take that action
Ravon: This is important because it doesn’t happen enough. When you take in enough images that negate your existence, it’s violence. And we want to help put a stop to that.
Amanda: Ravon is completely right. Just like we talk about food deserts, we could also talk about art deserts, where people have little to no access to art in their local area and it has a real effect. Just like people need grocery stores and affordable rent, they need space for community organizing around community needs, and art spaces provide that. A lot of this comes down to money, finding another way for people to spend their money in the community so it stays in the community.
Ravon: I also want to add to Amanda’s point about the food desert, part of the problem with that term is that it assumes the desert is natural. Some food activists instead us the phrase “food genocide”. The concept of a food desert has the ability to naturalize a condition that in actuality has been heavily acted upon––in regards to policy and so forth. It doesn’t acknowledge the fact that for a lot of the communities we are thinking about, they have been systematically barred access to museums and pubic art. This is our way of helping to remedy this cycle of exclusion.
The first program of “Brown Art Ink is on “Citation and Memory” which emphasizes the need to preserve and promote the artistic, cultural, academic and even political contributions of women of color –– in particular those who women of color who are visual artists. Why is it critical that the artistic, cultural and intellectual production of women artists of color is thoroughly attributed and recognized?
Amanda: The first step of any kind of work that’s attempting to undo problems of politics, capitalism, racism, sexism, etc. is to focus on the work done by women. Women’s work is often radical work, women are the ones who see the paths out of these systems. But when their work is successful and widely adopted, their names get erased and it’s hard to keep up the movement.
Ravon: I think Amanda put it perfectly. Women are the keepers of truth in our communities, of stories that get passed down from often from inimate moments of ritual––in the kitchen, or doing hair, these memories often reflect back to women in our lives. We are always making. However, when it is time to give attribution to the labor and intellect of women, then it is deemed natural, non-essential, or as craft.
As a thriving online platform and consulting agency, BGMB is a great example of an organization that can be created when there is a chronic void of inclusion in mainstream institutions. What advice would you give to women who want to create their own business?
Ravon: Stand firm in your idea, it came to you for a reason. Then, seek out resources––whether that’s a mentor, or local business seminars. In the beginning, something I appreciated that Amanda and I did was take our time in figuring out who we were together in our business, and what our project was for ourselves. As people were excited about us, they would apply labels to the kind of work we do. It became so important that we had defined our work for ourselves so that we weren’t restricted to the boxes others put around us. Even if that meant changing our website every week.
Amanda: Get a partner. I could not have done this by myself. Having each other to bounce ideas off of, keep each other accountable, and be supportive in a fledgling idea made all of this possible. I truly believe we work better together, in collaboration. And then say yes as much as you can, to opportunities, to new ideas, to changes in direction. Ravon and I were successful in part because we were willing to try out so many different things that came our way. We could do that because we had a clear idea ourselves of what we were, but we were willing to see how that could fit in with other people and their needs. Being flexible and having to do this work in a variety of settings really helped us to figure out what we were best at and what we most wanted to do.
What is in the future for BGMB?
Amanda: We can’t wait to find out along with everyone else!
Ravon: We hope that down the road we can continue and sustain ourselves, and do the same for others in the field. Stay tuned!