Blaxtravaganza celebrates Black excellence at UI


Daniel Zhou

Nekita Thomas, an assistant professor in Art and Design, speaks about crafting shared spaces based on given materials at a lecture on Tuesday.

By Koumae Adams, Staff Writer

The Blaxtravaganza was a series of lectures hosted in the Main Library that highlighted the research, creativity and brilliance of Black professors on campus. It was free to the public and anyone had access to participate.

On March 7, Nekita Thomas, assistant professor in FAA, hosted an interactive Black spatial imaginary workshop. 

Thomas highlighted the importance of The Blaxtravaganza and the gratitude she felt for the opportunity to use the library.

“There are some very powerful thinkers and makers and scholars on campus who are addressing Black studies from many different angles and there needs to be more visibility,” Thomas said. 

Thomas explained how lectures that are easily accessible for University students and staff are important for everyone to learn and grow more. 

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    “Even though we’re in a big university, we also need to be critical of our spaces too and how they inform our lived experience,” Thomas said.

    Thomas said shining light on something hidden and raising awareness is how a community could grow. 

    “It’s important to think about identities and people who have been historically marginalized in this space and how we can take the design of the space, not just physically and structurally through the built environment, but also the things that are unseen and unheard of often,” Thomas said. 

    Thomas said it is important to strategize creating a Black space that will promote liberty and spark conversation. She especially wanted to highlight viewpoints that may have not been given thought from people who do not identify as people of color.

    “I saw this as an opportunity to really think about other people who don’t identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) and to capture their experience,” Thomas said. “Also, the ways in which they enter these conversations about black affirming spaces or BIPOC affirming spaces.”

    Aniya Parker, freshman in FAA, claimed that her major and the diversity that the event promoted was what led to her attending the lecture.

    “For me personally, I want to learn more about the use of space,” Parker said. “It could be situations, it could be buildings or something like that. But, with me being in industrial design, it’s very important for me to understand it.”

    There was an interactive activity with box crates that resonated with attendees for its concept of being understandable.

    “Just the relatability, like when we talked about how the crates were something you sit down and do your hair,” Parker said. “It was just things that, for me personally, when I think of the crate, it was a thing where if you need to get your hair, you need to drag the crate out of the closet. So, it was something that really made me feel comfortable.” 

    The lecture inspired engaging feelings of self-improvement for the participants. 

    “It actually made me feel more empowered to step in. You don’t have to shy away from certain things, and you can also build connections,” Parker said.

    Parker said the workshop created a natural and comfortable space for everyone present. 

    Along with the implementation of comfort and openness that the lecture aimed for, the range of diversity in the audience pleased Thomas. 

    “I love the fact that even though the title of the talk and the workshop had the word Black in it, it’s under a series called Blaxtravaganza, there wasn’t only Black people,” Thomas said. 

    Thomas felt the diversity of the audience was a positive indicator that society is stepping closer to make sufficient space for everybody.

    “For me, that is a very good sign of the fact that we’re progressing towards a fuller, more equitable society,” Thomas said.


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