From Sunday, Feb. 26, to Saturday, Mar. 11, Lawrence University will host the first annual Black Feminist Fortnight event, a campus-wide, two-week celebration of the accomplishments of Black women, coinciding with the last week of Black History Month and the first week of Women’s History Month.
The Black Feminist Fortnight began as an idea of Affinity Groups Coordinator Helen Boyd Kramer. She feels that too often, the contributions of Black women go underappreciated, or unappreciated at all, during both Black and Women’s History Months. She wants to celebrate their intersectional identities through their accomplishments more in the Lawrence community.
“I think we owe a tremendous debt to [the] art, innovation, intelligence and insight of Black women and always have,” Kramer said. “As a white woman, I really wanted to make sure I found a way to uplift their work and make it more visible.”
Kramer said that they felt this year was the perfect time to debut the event, due to due to Ketanji Brown Jackson becoming the first Black woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court and Laurie Carter inaugurated as the first Black woman to serve as Lawrence University’s president during the previous academic year.
Kramer is collaborating with other departments to run the Fortnight. Beth Zinsli, Assistant Professor of Art History and Curator of the Wriston Art Galleries is hosting several events. For example, an exhibit highlighting the creations of Black women is set up in the galleries. This includes a work by Tyanna Buie, a Detroit-based artist that gave a “virtual artist talk,” as Zinsli described, on Tuesday, Feb. 28 at 4:30 p.m. in Wriston.
Zinsli explained that, while there will be a number of pieces on display for the Fortnight, she plans to not limit the galleries to studio art alone to celebrate many different forms of Black woman creations. She said that she is working to welcome other forms of Black woman creators, such as composers, poets, musicians and dancers, to Lawrence. She plans to accomplish this through setting up deep listening sessions, poetry readings and recordings of dance performances.
Kramer acknowledges that the Fortnight will extend into finals week and that some students may not be able to attend the events as such. In response, many displays outside of Wriston will be “passive,” as she put it, in the form of posters and other displays one can observe without going out of their way to attend an event.
While the official end of the Fortnight programs is Mar. 11, Zinsli said the studio art exhibit will be up until the end of Winter Term, Friday, Mar. 10, and will extend beyond that next year.
“Some of these events may extend beyond the Fortnight, but I think that’s fine,” Zinsli said. “We shouldn’t limit celebrating Black feminist excellence to [the Fortnight].”
This will be the first year that the Black Feminist Fortnight is conducted, and because of that, Zinsli said that she and Kramer are open to feedback from the Lawrence community.
Kramer hopes that the Black Feminist Fortnight will continue to grow in subsequent years and that it will become more widely recognized in the future. One day, they hope to see it become a month-long event from the middle of February to the middle of March.