A Night to Glorify Blackness

By Rayna Tamko

Over 40 artists and art enthusiasts gathered at Seven House Gallery in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, for the second annual Glorifying Blackness artist showcase on September 14.

Exornam Angela Tettey organized the showcase for artists from Africa and the diaspora to present their work. As an undergraduate at Ghanian University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Tettey was actively involved in campus life and organized many events for black students. “When I came back to New York after graduating, I missed putting together events and celebrating us, our people,” said Tettey.

After a difficult year in 2017, Tettey knew she had to heal so she created Glorifying Blackness. The first showcase in June 2018 was a success so Tettey wanted to keep the movement going. “Let’s write our own stories and unlearn all the trauma of anti-black violence,” she said.

The event featured 10 artists of various mediums including music, dance, and fashion. “I’m always surrounded by art, so when someone strikes something in me I think ‘I need you to be in Glorifying Blackness,’” said Tettey.

Drinks and African snacks such as puff-puff (deep fried dough) and suya (spicy grilled kebab) were served to guests while they socialized and waited for the presentations to start at 6:30 pm.

Valériane Louisy, a Martiniquan performance artist that relocated to New York from France, began the show. To Louisy, Glorifying Blackness is merging and celebrating her cultures through movement. For the last part of her routine, Louisy collaborated with Rapper YaYa Loves, who provided lyrics.

Next, models wearing African streetwear brand Eldior Sodeck presented the pieces as they danced and interacted with the crowd. The pieces ranged from floor-length gowns to sweatshirts screen printed with the brand’s logo. The collection had a consistent green theme which was an homage to the designer’s Nigerian roots. “This collection is my love letter to Nigeria, to my mom, to my culture,” said Marianne Sodogandji the Brooklyn-based designer at Eldior Sodeck.

Bahamian gospel singer Othello Pratt Jr. moved the crowd with his rendition of the hymn “Precious Lord Take My Hand” and gave an encore at the crowd’s request.

Trinidadian rapper and poet Messiah gave the final performance of the night. “Glorifying Blackness is so important because for so long we’ve been conditioned to not love ourselves so it’s great to have spaces like these and come together in solidarity,” said Messiah. The rapper engaged the audience with a call and response of his songs about black empowerment.

After the showcase, two raffle winners were announced and Tettey thanked everyone that helped make the event a success. “I couldn’t have done this without my village, that includes everyone in this room,” she said. For the rest of the night attendees were able to buy merchandise and listen and dance to Afrobeat music while they mingled with the artists.

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