Why “STAND”? Why Now? Reflections on A Visual Dialogue On Justice

These art pieces were a part of the STAND exhibition at ROOTS Weekend-Atlanta. L-R: Be American by Jamal Barber; Yomi My American series by Sheila Pree Bright. Photo: Melisa Cardona

Charmaine Minniefield, Exhibition Curator (Atlanta, GA) | January 29, 2018

“STAND” was presented by Alternate ROOTS as part of ROOTS Weekend-Atlanta in partnership with A3C at the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History from September 28 through October 15, 2017.

I am an artist activist. My work ranges from acrylic on canvas to 150 ft community murals. As of late, my work leverages technology to remember our ancestors. I seek to affect change by reclaiming and retelling those stories lost to time, gentrification, and erasure, past and present.

When given an opportunity to curate an exhibition in the King Historic District as a part of a regional gathering of artists to examine the same issues, I seized the chance to highlight the work of like-minded individuals. This exhibition includes artists who are working on the ground in communities as well as in galleries and museums – from nationally acclaimed to emerging.

The artists featured in this exhibition themselves stand as a multi-generational, multi-ethnic chorus of critical voices, addressing some of the most pressing issues of our time. From racial profiling and police brutality to environmental justice and capitalism; from missing, battered, or the silencing of women to questions of patriotic entitlement, place, and home, many of the works speak to questions of identity, belonging, and if in fact “this country is made for you and me.” While some works in the exhibition cast a critical lens on oppression, others speak to the hopefulness of unity and peace.

Why now? I answer this with the words of Dr. King by acknowledging the “fierce urgency of now.” As we are reminded daily of the divisiveness of persistent systems of oppression and racism, I believe that there is an equal and opposite force of justice rising. While we are as of late, too often reminded of hatred fueled by fear, we are also witnessing the next wave of change-makers taking a STAND against these systems. This exhibition raises the voices of artists in the southeast who are doing this work.

We are out here, tagging buildings with beautiful symbols of hopefulness. We are out here working in communities, gathering stories of our elders, marching with our banners for peace. We are disrupting landscapes and cityscapes with symbols of freedom. We are using our work to create community and to highlight intersectionality. We are calling out injustice and demanding change. We are questioning the status quo with our creativity. We are artist activists, standing on the shoulders of those who have come before us as we now take our own STAND today.


Visual artist Charmaine Minniefield seeks to preserve Black narratives as a radical act of social justice. As an artist-activist, her work intentionally pushes back against erasure, displacement, misrepresentation, and marginalization by reclaiming cultural histories in communities affected by gentrification. Her murals can be seen at numerous locations in Atlanta. Her recent public art projects include projection mapping and site-specific installation.  With over 20 years experience as a producer and arts administrator, Minniefield has worked with such organizations as the National Black Arts Festival, the High Museum of Art, and the Fulton County Department of Art and Culture. She has produced projects with such organizations as Alternate ROOTS, Points of Light, and Flux Projects and she currently serves as faculty for both Spelman College and Freedom University. To learn more about her work, visit www.CharmaineMinniefield.com.

Alternate ROOTS supports the creation and presentation of original art that is rooted in communities of place, tradition or spirit. We are a group of artists and cultural organizers based in the South creating a better world together. As Alternate ROOTS, we call for social and economic justice and are working to dismantle all forms of oppression—everywhere.