Friday, June 8, 2018
Extra Credit: The Black Experience (1970)
The Black Experience (1970) is a 10-foot-by-27-foot mural that was created in 1970 by a group of Black UCLA art students. The mural is located on the first floor of Ackerman Union and is located next to Panda Express. Prior to the course, I had no idea that the mural even existed and was also completely unaware of the fact that such a beautiful and historical piece of art was in close proximity to me. The mural is a testament to the way art remains relevant in today’s day in age, as well as the fact that it serves as a timeless piece documenting the interconnectedness of Black folks and allies since 1970.
Although the The Black Experience depicts achievements of Blacks and African-Americans within the United States, it also addresses issues of racial disparities with a visual representation of the history and experience of the community. One of the contributors to the mural underlined that the art piece was created in response to the “emotional turmoil” that took place at UCLA and other colleges throughout the United States in the aftermath of the Kent State University shootings. Furthermore, The Black Experience is also an embodiment of perseverance within this particular community, since the mural was obscured for 20 years by a false wall erected in front of it during building renovations in 1992. As a result, members of the Afrikan Student Union (ASU) fought for the uncovering of the mural.
One of the most captivating aspects about the mural is the fact that it serves as a timeline for Black and African-American excellence and figures up until 1970. Upon observing it, it is easy to pick up on the intricacy of the piece. The eight figures depicted on the mural are the accumulation of smaller, noteworthy individuals that have served as catalysts for the community. Overall, the mural gave me a better understanding of the importance of artistic initiatives within underrepresented communities. Shifting the paradigm to encapsulate a clear and valid representation of our community members is a matter that requires engagement through artistic processes. In doing so, marginalized communities are able to achieve the conceptualization of their own identities, memories, and histories.