Questioning Mama, Myself and God: SAFE SPACE Artists Alivia Blade and Bri Heath Explore Black Girlhood through Prose and Photography
SAFE SPACE Artists, Alivia Blade and Bri Heath, were roommates their first year at Columbia College Chicago in the fall of 2015. They were both new to the city, and packed their questions along with their favorite momentos from home. As they were getting to know each other, they discovered that they had similar experiences. They were both from the South, grew up in middle class families, and were taught the staunch admonition of God.
They both knew the isolation and fear that comes with being voiceless--that comes with not being able to ask questions. They both knew what it meant to question oneself and being convinced not love oneself outside of society's expectations. When they met each other, they found understanding and formed a sisterhood built on affirmation, listening, and unconditional love. With the formation of SAFE SPACE in their second semester at Columbia, Liv and Bri felt moved to tell their stories with others in hopes of hearing other stories and widening the conversation on what blackness--particularly black girlhood--looks like. After a full semester and summer of writing and documenting their stories, they began development for a collaborative project--a book that included old journal entries, childhood photographs, poetry, notated choreography, and experimental photography that expressed their feelings and experiences as black girls. On the topic about what this book means to them, Alivia and Bri said: "We feel this book is an exploration of all of the times we were ever told to exist outside of how God sees us, and how we internalized those expectations. This process has shown us that we are not alone, and that we are not confined to how the world may perceive us. We are excited to share this exploration with other people in hopes of hearing others' stories and experiences."
The ladies' photography has garnered support from peers and mentors alike as it was nominated for the Hokin Honors Exhibition at Columbia College Chicago--a prestigious art exhibition at the school showcasing design, photography, and visual art work (among other mediums) from Columbia students. Their book is set to be released in Fall 2017 and will be the first edition in what they hope to be a longer project of collecting stories of black girls and boys everywhere.