Images of Black resistance

Jalani Morgan, from the series Black Reckoning, April 4, 2016. Courtesy of the artist

On this week's episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Julie Crooks. She is an independent curator, an instructor at the University of Toronto, and a co-founder of Black Artists' Networks Dialogue (BAND). She speaks about the recent photography exhibition "No Justice, No Peace: From Ferguson to Toronto," and about photography as a tool for social change.

Since the invention in the 19th century of the first processes for capturing photographic images, such visual representations have come to take on an ever more important role in the ways we make and communicate meaning about the world. As with all other media, images provide not some sort of simple window into capital-"t" Truth, but rather a way for particular creators and institutions to make claims about what is real and imporant, and what is not. Photography can thus be a tool of oppression and exploitation and a weapon of the powerful; but it can also be a tool of liberation and a weapon in the hands of those struggling for justice.

Crooks co-curated the "No Justice, No Peace" exhibition, which was shown from February 2 to 26 at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto. This exhibition was one element in a larger season of exhibitions that is still ongoing, called "Power to the People: Photography and Video of Repression and Black Protest" (presented by the Ryerson Image Centre and BAND).

The broader season of exhibitions features a number of key figures, moments, and places in struggles -- particularly Black struggles -- in North America. One exhibition show images from the famous Attica prison uprising of 1971. Another commemorates the 1963 church bombing in Birmgingham, Alabama. Others feature images of Black radicals like Angela Davis, David Hilliard, and Kathleen Cleaver.

Crooks, however, talks mainly about the "No Justice, No Peace" exhibition, which had a focus on contemporary struggle and worked to position "photography at the forefront during an era of heightened global protests and systemic violence by police." It featured work from artists Zun Lee, Jalani Morgan, and Nation Cheong. Zun Lee's images were taken during the fateful protests in Ferguson, Missouri, in the aftermath of the police murder of Michael Brown -- protests that were an important early eruption in the Black Lives Matter movement. Jalani Morgan's work depicts some of the vital and powerful actions taken by Black Lives Matter - Toronto over the last few years. And Nation Cheong's images feature various other scenes of contemporary grassroots political activity in the Toronto context.

Crooks speaks with me about the "No Justice, No Peace" exhibition; about the contiuums of both anti-Black racism and Black resistance that are just as present in Canada as south of the border, and just as crucial today as in days gone by; and about the place of photography in struggles for justice and liberation today.

To learn more about "No Justice, No Peace: From Ferguson to Toronto" and "Power to the People: Photography and Video of Repression and Black Protest," which is still ongoing at the Ryerson Image Centre.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world.

Learn more about the show, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or contact scottneigh@talkingradical.ca to join our weekly email update list.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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Image: Jalani Morgan, from the series "Black Reckoning," April 4, 2016.

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