‘HerBlackHand: A Conversational Piece’ presents the black woman’s journey through poems and images | Culture


A new art exhibit at the African American Cultural Center (AACC), “HerBlackHand: a conversational play”, featuring poems by artist Alexis Lawson and works from a collection of local artists, will be open until October 10 at Witherspoon Student Center.

“HerBlackHand: A Conversational Piece” explores the things that people experience but never seem to talk about, whether it’s because of location, fear, or situation.

“It really is an exhibit that explores the casting, shaping and refinement of a black woman, which is me – the real conversation piece,” Lawson said.

Together with Isaiah Lucas, the AACC program coordinator, Lawson created a gallery that allows black students at NC State to connect with each other and come together through shared experiences.

“It’s another space for students to be shamelessly black,” Lucas said. “To learn about their blackness, to connect with people who are like them, who have similar experiences to them, and to celebrate black femininity.”

The conversational aspect is something everyone can relate to, even if they don’t realize it. The 13 poems in the exhibition reflect the idea that everything we say or do is a conversation, even if it’s not said out loud.

“You always leave something for someone,” Lawson said. “So that’s something I really wanted to get across.”

Lucas was immediately impressed with Lawson’s work because of his impact. Being an outside-the-box thinker himself, he knew he wanted to include his work in the next AACC gallery.

“You don’t always see poetry and art exhibits because some people will say poetry is art, but not art that can be shown in an exhibit,” Lucas said. “I wanted to challenge that notion.”

Each of these poems is accompanied by a corresponding work of art. Each piece was created by a local black artist, with some even being NC State students. Providing a platform for black artists to showcase their talent was important to Lawson and Lucas in creating the gallery.

“It was an opportunity for us to create spaces and create platforms for black artists to be featured,” Lucas said.

Lawson and Lucas are committed to showcasing black artists and their experiences with black femininity. For this reason, they were able to feature all the artists who submitted work.

“The AACC opens doors for people,” Lucas said. “It creates platforms for black creators, and we provide access to marginalized and minoritized groups who may not have had it before.”

One of the artists whose work is included in the exhibit is Lawson’s own brother. The image of a black anime character doesn’t necessarily match the poem next to it, but that’s the beauty of the art. The artists included were not influenced by Lawson’s poems and instead were able to submit creations specific to their lives as black artists.

“I didn’t want something that was dedicated to my story,” Lawson said. “I wanted people to really show work that was true to them.”

The freedom that artists enjoyed plays a huge role in both the art included and what people get out of the exhibit. Seeing his own experiences and relating them to yours gives new meaning to the pieces.

“I don’t want you to think that your life has to be exactly like mine, but I want you to know that we’re not that different — that we can’t identify through certain things,” Lawson said.

Having artworks from many walks of life and experiences, viewers of this exhibition can definitely find something to relate to. Whether it’s a piece of art or a poem, Lawson has worked to create raw art that will make you think. Due to its rawness, Lawson chose the poem “Collateral Damage” as his favorite piece.

Being very personal and about her own family dynamic, Lawson was hesitant to even include the piece in the gallery. The fear of hurting his family members through his art was something Lawson had to deal with when creating the exhibit.

“Not everyone is going to like everything I write and not everything is going to make everyone feel comfortable,” Lawson said. “As long as I live in my truth, that’s fine with me, so ‘Collateral Damage’ is my favorite poem.”

The honesty found in every part of the gallery is something that influences visitors’ experience with the art. Seeing the experiences of black artists can help people find answers to the questions they have.

“I want people to leave my gallery thinking or believing that their life has a bigger story than what they see,” Lawson said.

This kind of empowerment is what is valuable both for the artists involved and for the people who attend the exhibition. Young or old, the gallery will help you realize things about yourself that you didn’t know before.

“You deserve to take up space, and I think that’s something I’m constantly reminded of, especially with this gallery,” Lawson said.

Being exposed to things not usually talked about, asking questions about life, and making new realizations about your own life is exactly what you will experience when visiting this gallery. Stories about black femininity, black culture, and family dynamics will leave you with a new perspective, no matter where you are in life.

“HerBlackHand: A Conversational Piece” will be open at the African American Cultural Center from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Visit to discover the journey of a black woman’s life through poem and image.

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