On Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022, the African American Cultural Center (AACC) hosted its first gallery opening of the semester: HerBlackHand – A Conversational Piece. This gallery was the first of its kind done by the AACC. The gallery differed from previous ones as it had works from multiple artists and used various mediums for the art. The artist also wrote a poem to go along with every piece of art.
The event began with Isaiah Lucas, the program coordinator for the AACC, greeting the guests and going over the rules for the night, the main one being that the audience should snap instead of clap for the night because they were in a “poetic space,” as he put it. Lucas then introduced Nick, who introduced the artist Alexis Lawson a.k.a HerBlackHand, with a poem that he wrote for her and the occasion.
Alexis Lawson is a 22-year-old poet, storyteller and daydreamer who authored “The Beauty in my Bare Bones” poetry collection. She was born in Cleveland, OH and currently lives in Raleigh, NC. With her writing, Lawson wants to break the trauma troupe in literature and reinforce Black joy in narratives. She is passionate about crafting stories that inspire others to become the people they read about. She feels that exchanging conversations with the artist opens up many opportunities.
Once HerBlackHand was introduced, she came up and began by saying that there is no need just to snap if you need to stand, clap, jump, shout, or dance to do so because it was a safe space. She then began her first poem of three, titled “A Conversational Piece.” After her first piece, she talked a little bit about her thought process behind creating the space and how this opportunity aligned with the goals she had set for herself this year. She then dedicated the gallery and space to herself because she “is the conversational piece.” She wants people to remember her with the things she left them with.
Her second poem, left untitled, was about her experience with her being a teacher when she was just 22 years old. She said that she would cherish that experience forever and that this poem was near and dear to her heart. Even though she is not a teacher in an institutional form anymore, she loves to teach others about art, herself and she loves sharing and listening to others. She then began her third and final poem, “I Hope You Still Love Me.”
After Lawson shared her poetry, Lucas moved into the event’s artist talk section, where he asked her various questions.
Isaiah Lucas: How does this whole experience feel?
Alexis Lawson: Unreal. I don’t know what I imagined, but most things that we imagined are never as big as they actually are and I think in this season of my life i am really learning how to sit in my moments, so this is one of those moments where I just trying to take in as see everybody’s faces so that if I see you again I’llI’ll remember you. …It also makes me feel empowered because a lot of the art is made by Black women, so empowered because I am surrounded by Black women, empowered because I have people who care enough to come out just to see me.
IL: In your bio, you mention giving people the key to 100 worlds. What does this mean and what do you hope people get from discovering these new worlds?
AL: I like to call myself a writer because I don’t just write poetry I write fiction, nonfiction and notes because I forget things, I write everything. Growing up I didn’t have enough representation of what literature could look like for a Blackwomen especially a young black woman navigating the world. We don’t get a lot of narratives. As a writer my main mission is that somebody feels seen, make sure somebody feels heard like their story has room.
Lucas then finished the artist’s talks by opening up the floor for questions from the audience. Once the artist’s talk was over, there were refreshments for the guests to have and they were given the opportunity to talk to each other about the event.
The gallery will be available for viewing in the second-floor gallery in Witherspoon Student Center until Oct. 10, 2022. For work from the artist, check out her blog via Medium and follow her on social media @HerBlackHand.