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Library seeks to inspire, celebrate Black students through art exhibition

By: Nalia Oliver

In honor of Black History Month, the library created an exhibit highlighting 16 of the most admirable and inspirational black people throughout the years.

The exhibit consists of black legends like, Barack and Michelle Obama, Martin Luther King Jr., Tupac, and other people who helped shape our world and continue to inspire us every day with their talent, wisdom, and courage.

Tessie Holliday, a staff member at Upstate’s library, said the library was pleased with the enthusiastic reception the show received.

“John Barnett (the library’s dean) is the one responsible for acquiring and displaying these beautiful prints,” Holliday said.

Barnett said he uses the exhibits as a way to engage with the campus community and show that the library is a place for culture, as well as a place for study, research, and just hanging out.

“I wanted to offer an exhibit that would resonate with our students, especially our African American students, who make up a significant part of our student body. I try to be aware of representation, of seeing ourselves in public spaces and institutions, especially in libraries and universities, which are sometimes seen as lagging behind in diversity and can feel unwelcoming. So, I wanted to offer an exhibit that would make people feel welcome,” Barnett said.

The exhibit made some students who saw it feel grateful and proud.

“Seeing these pictures makes me feel appreciated and grateful for the people that supported the black movement,” China Clinton, a sophomore at USC Upstate, said. “Tupac really inspires me because he rapped a lot about black people coming and working together and taking care of each other.”

Barnett said he hoped the exhibit would make USC Upstate students, staff, and faculty feel welcome in the library and on campus.

“I hope our students of color feel seen, acknowledged, and celebrated. And if I may be so bold, I hope our students feel a little bit inspired,” Barnett said. “Maybe today we have well-known people on these posters but perhaps in the future we will see some of our own students, staff, and faculty in photos and on posters on the library's walls. We often see history and culture as full of ‘big events’ and ‘big people,’ but each one of us makes a contribution to the world, and that's something I hope the library can help celebrate.”

Portraits of Barack Obama (44th president of the US), Michelle Obama (Writer, and former first lady of the US), Rosa Parks (Civil rights activist), and Tupac Shakur (American rapper and actor)

“We hope to keep the portraits on display through the semester and perhaps beyond that. I have some ideas for other exhibits, too. I would welcome suggestions from students, staff, and faculty about what they would like to see on display, in our collections, and in our services and facilities,” Barnett said. “We can't always do everything asked of us, but the main thing is to get the conversation flowing so that we can move forward together.”

Barnett hopes to soon create a library advisory board with student representation and to hold some focus groups sessions to gather student opinions and ideas.

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