New installation highlights African-American women in higher education


 

Image: Harriett JacobsA captivating new installation at Fairfield University will take visitors on the journeys of Black women in higher education to obtain education from girlhood through their present lives. The brainchild of Roxana Walker-Canton, an assistant professor of New Media, Film, Television and Radio at Fairfield, "Living Thinkers: Harriet Jacobs' Attic 2" uses video clips, photography, interviews and cultural artifacts to tell the first-person narratives she's gathered over the last four years.

The installation will run from Monday, February 6 to Monday, February 20 in Loyola Hall's Gallery 10 and The Experimental Gallery on the lower level with an opening reception on Tuesday, February 7 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. It is free and open to the public. Hours are Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Professor Walker-Canton has been interested in the personal experiences of African-American women in higher education since she was a student in graduate school. "I was aware of a lack of diversity in the courses I was taking," she said. "As an African American woman in film school, I was an anomaly at the time. My classes showed no films by, for, or about blacks. There were no models for us."

Professor Walker-Canton, who holds an M.A. in Black Studies and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the Ohio State University and an M.F.A. in Film and Media Arts from Temple University, wanted to delve into the subject. She began to ask other African-American women about their experiences as students.

The multimedia installation showcases video, interviews and other artifacts to tell a story that touches on race, class and gender. The title is inspired by Harriet Jacobs, an American writer who escaped from slavery and became an abolitionist speaker. Jacobs hid in her grandmother's attic for seven years before she was able to head North to freedom. Before escaping slavery, Jacobs learned to read and to write. Her literacy allowed her to later chronicle her story in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl and to provide a historical connection between Black women's literacy and the power to tell their own stories.

"This project is an exciting companion to Prof. Walker-Canton's full documentary film, which will be released later this spring," said Robbin Crabtree, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. "The multimedia presentation in our gallery is sure to be highly engaging and evocative for our students, whether they are studying film and media, history, education, sociology, etc. The event animates our celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy very well."

The associate production designers for the installation are filmmakers Tina Morton of Howard University and NaOme Richardson of Eastern University.

Professor Walker-Canton presented the media project at Emerson College during the University Film and Video Association conference. While every woman's experience in higher education is different, she said, "the story of one woman tells the story of all, but with degrees of experience. So there are places where everyone's experience crosses. This is a holistic view of a woman's journey to be educated."

 

Image: Dr. Delores Aldridge, the Grace Towns Hamilton Distinguished Professor of Sociology and African American Studies and associate director of the Program in Women's Health Research, School of Medicine, at Emory University in Atlanta shares her education narrative.

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Media Contact: Meredith Guinness, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2950, mguinness@fairfield.edu

Posted on January 24, 2012

Vol. 44, No. 164