Since my childhood, I have watched downtown Oakland transform from a largely boarded up environment that emptied before dark into the vibrant shopping and nightlife destination it is today. In observing this transformation, it has been clear that the majority of the businesses that have moved in are not there to serve the black community. More, the newer businesses themselves are most frequently symbols of the displaced black communities that once lived throughout the area.
So I want to create nègre, a socially-engaged creative intervention that functions as a pop-up store, for the month of December. nègre is a black-walled boutique that sells black- and multi-colored clothing, jewelry, accessories, housewares, and other unique items that prominently feature the color black, all made by members of the African diaspora. nègre will also host one free community-oriented event per week, including a video screening, a dance performance, a one-night visual art event, and a closing party called The Blackest Friday.
The pop-up boutique at Dream Farm Commons—a new, artist-run space at 349 15th Street in Oakland that will need to be transformed into a retail store—will open to the public on December 4th and close on December 30th. The store will be open Tuesdays through Saturdays from noon to 7pm.
nègre is about using the boutique format to highlight blackness in a space where boutiques are potent symbols of the displacement of long-standing black communities. It's also about drawing attention to the ways in which blackness is (under)valued in our society by creating a space where blackness is hypervalued, both in form and in content. nègre, as implied above, is focused on supporting local black artisans by providing a space for the makers to generate income during the busy holiday season. It is also about showing that we are still here surviving and thriving in the face of all that’s happening to our communities.
Funded by San Francisco, CA (November 2018)