Black Thought Wall Co-Creation
YWCA Madison in partnership with Black Thought Project is co-creating the interactive community art installation Black Thought Wall (BTW) as a restorative space that centers, celebrates, and stewards Black expression, thought, joy and sacredness. The construction of Black Thought Wall Madison is possible thanks to the work of Operation Fresh Start (OFS), the support of advocates, and co-conspirators within the Madison Arts Commission as well as, the City Development Agency. The experience of BTW is facilitated by Black artists and restorative practitioners trained by Alicia Walters, together with non-black restorative and racial justice practitioners as well as community members trained for this purpose. The interactive experience provides a live dimension to the conversations about centering Blackness which YW and partner organizations are currently engaging in and can be a source of continuous dialogue in the years ahead.
Vision + Purpose
What happens when we center Blackness? When we experience and define the world and our own lives through the complexity of the Black experience. What happens when we honor Blackness? When we respect the thoughts and experiences of a people who the world has coveted and feared—tried so desperately to emulate and so deliberately attempted to exterminate. What would it take to create a sacred public space and time in Madison in which Blackness is not threatened but guaranteed safety, refuge, and protection? Centering Blackness in this way does not just happen. It requires an intentional and consistent commitment from a community. To receive and witness this experience, one must understand it as an honor—a sacred ritual in which that which has been feared and suppressed is given reverence as wisdom for the world’s healing.
The Black Thought Project transforms public and private spaces into sanctuaries for the expression of Black thought. We envision communities where Black people are given safe spaces to reflect, are listened to, and honored for their experiences and perspectives. Our interactive art installations engage community members to actively honor Black thought as sacred and worthy of protection.
Originating in the context of Oakland, California, the Black Thought Project (BTP) creates sacred spaces for Black people to share their thoughts and feelings on various topics and invites those around to protect, witness, honor them and take action upon them. Once a city that birthed the most radical Black thoughts and actions of the 20th century, the tentacles of racism—from displacement to violence—threaten to erase and remove the people who live Oakland’s legacy and make it the leading edge of culture and revolution today. Black people in Oakland and cities across the country like Madison, have long endured a steady diminishment of our presence and yet an appropriation of our creations. The BTP reclaims public and private spaces—reinstating the voices and experiences of Black people as central to the community’s present-day story. Young Black people in Madison have a unique perspective to share that is often more silenced but is emerging powerfully at this moment. As their neighborhoods change and they only hear of a city that once had a vibrant Black community and culture, it is critical that their peers and community honor their thoughts and leadership. The building and maintaining of the structure itself also contribute to their sense of ownership and visible leadership within the greater community.