High Line Plinth Proposal 2020
Title: Freedom’s Stand
Artist: Faheem Majeed
We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us. Too long has the public been deceived by misrepresentations, in things which concern us dearly. - John Brown Russwurm, Founder of Freedom’s Journal
Freedom’s Stand pays homage to the role of black newspapers while drawing inspiration from other influential community driven work like Chicago’sWall of Respect and the CommunityMural Movement. Freedom’s Stand takes its name from the Freedom’s Journal. Founded inNew York City in 1827, it is credited as being the first black owned and operated newspaper. At the time, Freedom’s Journal provided a counter narrative to other New York newspapers that attacked African-Americans and encouraged slavery but it was also utilitarian as the founders wanted to help raise the literacy rate of free blacks across the United States.
While many black newspapers have suffered the same fate as other print media in the 21st century, there are still a number of black, community based newsletters and online media that present the news through a culturally specific lens and counter or supplement mainstream news.For me, it is the South Shore Current which highlights the depth and texture of South Shore, a predominately black neighborhood on Chicago’s south side. At the same time mainstream media continues to run headlines that paint the entirety of the south side of Chicago as one violent neighborhood.
Although South Shore is my story, that same story can be told in many minority communities across the United States. It remains important for people of color to tell their own stories in their own voice because it helps diverse communities contextualize and understand the impact of national and international events on them and their community.
Designed to be celebratory, reflective and exhortative, Freedom’s Stand draws on the aesthetics of older newsstands with their ever evolving locally curated billboard and retractable flaps held in place by metal poles. Additionally the sculpture incorporates traditional West African Dogon architecture. Dogon granaries, or mud pillboxes, have distinctive thatched roofs and incorporate triangular patterns designed to hold the owner’s possessions. Merging these two design aesthetics reflects on the magnitude of collections that have passed through and over black newsstands.
The sculpture will showcase collections of printed materials that will be installed over the life of the sculpture. My proposal includes hiring an archivist associated with New York’s Amsterdam News to identify 288 headlines, articles, and advertisements, and an assistant that will install these headlines using the wheat pasting process once a month in designated spaces on the sculpture.The flaps of the sculpture will be permanently fixed in the open position, providing shelter for the wheat pasted elements that will be layered over, rather than replaced, by additional curated material.
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