This Juneteenth, artist Nia Keturah Calhoun is calling for Black, queer celebration and reflection on what freedom truly means
WASHINGTON—Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization, announced a collaboration with Black, queer artist, Nia Keturah Calhoun (she/they). Together, HRC and Calhoun are unveiling a new art piece ahead of Juneteenth, the annual commemoration of the emancipation of enslaved Black people in the U.S. Calhoun is featured in a video that explores the significance of Juneteenth through their intersectional lens as a Black, queer person, and dives into their artistic process for the collaboration with HRC. The final artistic piece draws on the duality of beauty and pain associated with Juneteenth and the American Black experience—it will also be released on a T-shirt for a limited time.
Calhoun’s illustration includes imagery from their childhood and family to reflect the significance of generational growth and love. In contrast, the piece also includes images of the Mother Emanuel AME Church, the site of the 2015 white supremacist shooting of a Black church community, and the Tops Supermarket, the site of the recent white supremacist attack on a majority Black community in Buffalo. The dichotomy reminds the viewer of the ever-present feeling of not knowing if you are safe as a Black person in the U.S. Calhoun is a multidisciplinary artist whose work examines Black community maintenance, spiritual practices, joy throughout the diaspora, and offers commentary on Afro-Presentism and Afro-Futurism. Calhoun has exhibited in New York with the Smithsonian Asian American Center and in Johannesburg at the Ants Gallery. The Juneteenth art is available to be purchased here and all proceeds will go to Calhoun.
In 2020, HRC Foundation released a report ‘Black LGBTQ+ People and Compounding Discrimination.’ This report uses data from the 2020 Black LGBTQ+ Community Survey, a national survey of Black LGBTQ+ adults in the United States, and employs an intersectional statistical model to demonstrate the prevalence and impact of compunding discrimination in education, employment, healthcare, housing and public accommodations. The report found that 24% of Black LGBTQ+ adults experienced sexual orientation-based discrimination as a customer in a store, bar or restaurant in the three years prior to the survey. Additionally, 46% of Black transgender adults experienced gender identity-based discrimination as a customer in a store, bar or restaurant in the three years prior to the survey.
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