To kick off the start of Black History Month, the James L. Curtis Institute for Race and Belonging is highlighting Ebony Magazine through an exhibition set up in the living room of the Kellogg Center (KC). Following the conclusion of the MLK convocation, the college continues to honor the legacy and future of the Johnson Publishing Company, which is known for Black-owned and created publications like Ebony magazine.
Lining the main wall of the living room, any passersby can view Ebony Magazine covers between the 1940s to the 1990s. The editions feature an array of influential Black individuals and voices ranging from figures such as Billie Holiday, Martin Luther King Jr., Michael Jackson and Lauryn Hill.
The artist’s statement on one of the poster boards goes over the publications and magazines’ history reads: “First printed in 1945, this print and digital source pioneered narratives of Blackness beyond oppression for over 70 years.”
The overall statement of the exhibit states: “The James L. Curtis Institute of Race and Belonging invites you to step into the world of Ebony Magazine, one of the most globally-recognized Black American publications – made for Black people by Black people. This exhibit is a love letter to the Black students at Albion College.”
Ari McCaskill, executive director of special programs and director of the James L. Curtis Institute for Race and Belonging, and Kalli Onai, digital badge program manager and social media and content strategist, spearheaded the creation of the exhibit.
“The purpose of the exhibit is to highlight almost a century of Black excellence,” McCaskill said. “Like all Black journalism has done since its establishment.”
McCaskill said that there was a deep importance of journalism to Black history and how it influenced and motivated the Civil Rights movement. He added that Ebony magazine was created to inform Black individuals about Black people’s diverse experiences and about specific politics that directly and indirectly influenced their existence.
Johnson Publishing Company is an integral front-runner in sharing the Black experience and gave Martin Luther King Jr. an important, influential place to share his voice, McCaskill said.
He added that the publications were valuable both to the local public and to Black Americans who had left the American South, informing them of “what is going on at home.”
“Essentially, Johnson Publishing Company is telling the narratives that the mainstream media was not interested in telling,” McCaskill said. “There was a need to tell a fullness of stories, for all people.”
“I was raised on Ebony magazine,” Onai said. “They were integral in my understanding of Black identity being layered and not all looking the same.”
Onai said that Ebony magazine was an integral part of Black culture, a staple in a lot of Black households.
“Ari and I’s main goal in this installation is to show a diverse array of Black faces,” Onai said. “All of those different entanglements throughout history, different aspects of Black identity, helped to form who we are as both individuals and who we are collectively.”
Onai said she hopes that other students, both those who have and those who haven’t been exposed to the magazine, can find a similar connection to the publication.
This exhibit will remain in the living room of the KC throughout the entirety of Feb., McCaskill and Onai encourage all students to check it out.
McCaskill and Onai said students should also participate in the viewing of “Paris is Burning” at the Bobbitt Auditorium today at 8 p.m. and AC Drip’s KiKi Ball in the Science Atrium on Feb. 10 at 7:30 p.m. for the continuation of Albion College’s Black History Month celebration.