The concept of “Black Excellence” has been widely celebrated, but a new multimedia exhibition seeks to shift the narrative by celebrating the beauty found in the ‘every day’ of Black life.

The exhibition, called “Black Being,” features the works of fifteen Black artists and explores the beauty found in the ordinary moments of Black life. From the simple act of getting a haircut in a neighborhood barbershop to communal gatherings around a card table, “Black Being” asserts that the everyday experiences of Black individuals are just as remarkable as any notion of “Black Excellence.”

One of the main objectives of “Black Being” is to start conversations about the dangers of Black exceptionalism, a trend that has sometimes overshadowed the inherent value of Black life. The exhibition offers a platform where Black individuals can simply “be” without their experiences being framed within the context of struggle and oppression.

The featured artists in this exhibition use their works to encapsulate the vibrant tapestry of Black existence. Through diverse mediums such as painting, sculpture, and performance art, they craft a visual narrative that takes viewers on a journey into the heart of the Black experience.

Kevin Hopkins Oil Painting
“Gossip Girls” by Kevin Hopkins Oil and oil pastel on canvas (image courtesy of the artist)

“Black Being” Featured Artists:

  • Abby Oyesam
  • Amani Lewis
  • Andre Ramos Woodard
  • Basil Kincaid
  • Brian Ellison
  • Dawn Okoro
  • Derrick Adams
  • Glyneisha
  • Kevin Hopkins
  • London Pierre Williams
  • Nehemiah Cisneros
  • Rachel J. Atakpa
  • Ronald Jackson
  • Tokie Rome Taylor
  • William Toney
Inkjet Painting by William Toney "Sagging"
“Sagging” inkjet print by William Toney (image courtesy of the artist)

Brian Ellison’s contribution to the exhibition, “Journey to Softness (The Barbershop Series),” is a performance on  Sat., Dec 9 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The audience will witness Ellison getting a haircut by a local barber in the gallery space, symbolizing the delicate care Black men receive in these spaces. Following his haircut, members of the community will have the opportunity to sit in the barber chair and receive the same service free of charge. This unique performance underscores the idea that seemingly mundane tasks within Black culture hold profound ritualistic significance.

“In the barber shop, Black men are handled with care,” Ellison explains. “In this sacred space, Black men get to be delicate.” 

Barber cutting hair
Brian Ellison, Barbershop Series, Inkjet print, (image courtesy of the artist)

Curated by Kaitlyn B. Jones, the “Black Being” exhibition celebrates the fullness of Black culture. From the faceless portrait in William Toney’s Sagging (Akademiks) to the painted “kiki” in Kevin Hopkins’ Gossip Girls, each artist has visual poetry that calls the viewers to gaze at the humanity of Black bodies.

Andre Ramos Woodard explores communal and personal identity through the lens of Black queer experience, while Nehemiah Cisneros’ larger-than-life painting serves as a visual metaphor for the space Blackness deserves to take up in historically White-dominated institutions. Whether artists are exploring Black feminist futures in the works of Amani Lewis, Dawn Okoro, Glyneisha, and Rae Atakpa, or searching for metaphor through memory in Basil Kincaid’s non-adhesive collages, Black Being is a testament to the multifacetedness of Black existence.

The Charlotte Street Foundation says that “Black Being” is not merely an exhibition; it is a celebration of Black life, devoid of the burdens of adversity. This showcase of art and performance promises to challenge preconceived notions, inviting visitors to explore and appreciate the beauty of Black existence in its unfiltered, everyday glory.

The exhibit runs from Nov. 10 through Jan 6, 2024, and also includes an artist’s talk with Brian Ellison Dec. 8 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. 

For more information about the exhibition, visit

“Black Being” Opening Reception 

When:  Fri., Nov. 10, from 6 to 9 p.m

Where:  Charlotte Street Gallery, 3333 Wyoming, Kansas City, MO

Prior to joining The Community Voice, he worked as a reporter & calendar editor with The Pitch, writing instructor with The Kansas City Public Library, and as a contributing food writer for Kansas...