Celebration of Brown vs. Board
It has been fifty years since the Brown vs. Board of Education decision and the University of Illinois has honorably commemorated this event. Our task from my Rhetoric 105 class was to go out and visit an event that commemorates the Brown vs. Board decision. The first event that attracted me was the exhibit at the Krannert Art Museum called “Social Studies: Eight Artists Address Brown v Board of Education.” The eight artists that contributed work to the exhibit were Dawoud Bey, Sanford Biggers and Jennifer Zackin, Brett Cook-Dizney, Virgil Marti, Gary Simmons, Pamela Vander Zwan, and Carrie Mae Weems.
As I walked into the exhibit, I felt almost privileged in a sense. The people around me seemed to be dressed nicely, well cut, and well groomed. Basically they appeared well off, as I strolled in with my scratched and wrinkled jeans and hoody sweater. I felt almost as if at any inopportune moment they would ask me to leave and come back when I had my ‘privileged’ clothes on. Nevertheless, I looked around as I found my way to the exhibit and found absolutely no African Americans, besides myself; which made me feel shame. Not for myself, but more of a “shame on you” for other African Americans that I felt should have been there. I felt like they are taking for granted something that they did not always have and It surprises me that the only people that I saw to celebrate the passing of fifty years of the Brown v Board decision were a child day care field trip, an old couple, and a few other adults; none of whom belonged to any minority group.
I felt eyes on my back through the calm vibes of the museum and because I am a minority this feeling often comes more than it is welcome, especially when I am the only minority around. In my experience the eyes either came from those expecting you to cause trouble, were fearful, wondering if you are ‘good’, or they could just be plain nosy. This time the eyes came from the elderly couple who seemed to be merely passing by. It did not take long to notice their stares. Staring back is the only way to find out what they think of you. I received a nervous ‘look-away’ from the elderly woman and the couple passed on to the next exhibit. What about me made her nervous, looking down at myself, I could not tell, but I decided to move on through the exhibit
The first piece I stumbled on was a collection of commemorating plates. Each plate had a dedication inscribed on it commemorating Brown v Board. The one that amused me the most stated “Plessy who challenged Ferguson’s separate but equal bull-shit.” This was by Carrie Mae Weems and maybe it was her ‘bull-shit’, but already I started to like her. The next plate said “Medger Evers, Malcolm X, and Muhammad Ali for providing the vision.” This brought a smile of appreciation to my face for those inspiring people.
As I looked around the room I could see that the day...