Preserving the Black Family Archive
Written by Maya June Mansour
3 min read

The Black Family Archive Pop Up was a weekend-long activation in October 2021 by The Black Image Center, hosted by Community Build. It celebrated the Black legacy of LA’s Leimert Park neighborhood, and honored the power of memory, legacy, and family. Through one on one sessions with professional archivists, participants were invited to document their own family by bringing in photos to print and digitize images as a way to preserve the individual and collective Black visual archive.

The event held space for Black folks to study our familial visual languages, remember our ancestors, and learn how to become better stewards of our legacies. Questions like “What do your ancestors look like?” and “We are so displaced, but who is keeping track?” were posed to participants as they worked alongside professional Black archivists from The Gates Preserve to print and digitize images from their family archives.

Along with the archiving stations, there was live music by Summer Breeze, Satchy, Amindi, an artist talk by Adee Roberson, and a children’s class where kids were able to direct and photograph their own family portraits. In addition to the programming, the Black Image Center offered Black people free 35mm and 120mm film from their Community Film Fridge, and meal vouchers for Hot and Cool, a cafe down the street from Community Build. Facing the windows of the physical space were TV monitors with images from the family archives from the co-founders of the Black Image Center and the performers from the event. 

The Black Image Center is a collective based non-profit 501c3 organization founded by a group of young Black photographers. They aim to cultivate the imagination of Black image makers through events and access to equipment. Their goal is to offer free and low cost photography services to young artists who come from Black communities that are historically disenfranchised. This is a direct attempt to put the stories of the Black experience back into the hands of Black people because too many Black stories have been narrated by other people. This event was produced as a part of the Hear Her Here initiative through the support and encouragement of the teams at For Freedoms and Converse.

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