For this past week’s Artist Date, I took myself to the “Black Suburbia: From Levittown to Ferguson” exhibition at one of my favorite cultural institutions, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. I’m at the Schomburg at least twice a month because they have great programming (I’ve attended discussions there that involved everyone from George Clinton to Chimamanda Adichie to Ruby Dee), fascinating exhibitions and a glorious, world renowned archive of books, letters and other materials related to the African diaspora.
This particular exhibit highlighted the quantitative and qualitative experiences of black suburban life. There were videos, books, charts and pictures to peruse. As a former urban planner, I was interested to see how this exhibition would be put together and I am probably a harsh critic of such efforts given my background. One part that I feel could have been much better was the presentation of demographic data. For most people, maps and statistics are not the sexiest things in the world. Knowing that, great care should be given when presenting such information so that it is visually engaging without losing the value of the data. There were a few boring maps and data sets on display that looked like they belonged in a dissertation.
Nonetheless, the exhibition was informative and there were other more engaging bits of the exhibition such as the old footage of white residents being asked about their thoughts on their new black neighbors. I also appreciated that the curators included other cultural aspects of integrated and segregated life such as music. There was a nice multi-media display about Compton and the rap group NWA.
All in all, it was a good Artist Date and I’m glad I went. If you’re ever in Harlem, you should visit the Schomburg!