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Arts & Culture Seen Thought Leader

Remembrance As Resistance: Art Effecting Change in Changing Communities

Charmaine Minniefield

By visual artist, Charmaine Minniefield
An elder once told me, “Your existence is your resistance.”
I am an artist activist. My work ranges from acrylic on canvas to large scale murals in communities around the metro area. My public art intentionally pushes back against erasure, misrepresentation and marginalization. I work to preserve the Black narrative (both historical and contemporary) as a radical act of justice in the face of changing social landscapes. I produce creative projects and present public art as monuments to the African-American history in communities experiencing gentrification in hopes to effect change in these areas. In contrast to the intention of confederate monuments, I use my work to pay homage to freedom past, present and to a hopeful future. My work looks to the past to insure a just future.
To this end, I recently leveraged technology in a projection mapping site-specific installation on the exterior of the Auburn Avenue Research Library in the King Historic District.  The project was entitled, “Remembrance as Resistance: Digitally Mapping the Ring Shout.” It was presented as a part of a recent regional gathering of artists activists, hosted by Alternate ROOTS. The convening explored the practice of creative placemaking, paying special attention to how art can both drive and resist gentrification. The large-scale digital installation revisited the “Ring Shout”, a traditional African-American worship and gathering practice whose origins predate slavery out of West African ritual and ceremony, to examine the institution of place, identity and belonging.  

We shall not be moved

Like a tree planted by the waters

We shall not be moved

(Traditional African-American hymnal)

These words were incorporated into the moving images.
My most recent mural, sponsored by DoSomething.org, pays tribute to the missing history of actor, professor and activist Adrienne McNeil Herndon. The mural expands DoSomething.org’s national campaign, “Missing in History” which activated young people nationwide to fight misrepresentation and erasure by literally inserting inclusive and intersectional histories into their textbooks in the form of handmade bookmarks depicting historical facts and individuals that are not traditionally represented. The wall now stands on the Westside Trail of the Atlanta BeltLine in an area where residents are fighting to preserve the cultural identity of their changing community.
“After her death in 1910, Adrienne Herndon’s life is still relevant. Knowing Atlanta’s past is crucial in understanding its people and the lessons we can learn in societal and interpersonal dynamics as history repeats itself. In our current political environment, many people are again feeling marginalized; these are dynamics that were at play during Adrienne’s life, especially during the 1906 Atlanta Race Riots. Her example of breaking barriers, going beyond the conventional gender roles of her time to excel as a dramatic artist, educator, activist, and primary architect of The Herndon Home all bear witness to the vital role she played in her community. As a central part in the establishment of Atlanta’s Black Middle class, her legacy is an enduring example of black woman leadership.” – Writer & Historian, Kupenda Auset
I position Adrienne Herndon’s story as a timely reminder of the history within its changing landscape of its Historic Westside home. She reminds us to never forget our history as we forge a hopeful future, she inspires us to find the intersections of our cultural past and to be intentional about making meaningful connections here forward rather than requiring or participating in systems of erasure. This is my radical act of social justice in the face of progress. My remembrance is my resistance.
We shall not be moved.

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