Brooklyn Museum commits to (Re)Colonizing African Art & Culture #freeafricanarts #decolonizebrooklynmuseum

Kristen Windmuller-Luna, new Curator of African Art Collection at Brooklyn Museum

Kristen Windmuller-Luna we say to you:

Show up as an ally. If you are really committed to African Arts and Culture, step aside and show up in support of a “QUALIFIED” African and or Black curator to do this work. END OF THE STORY.

Brooklyn Museum announced on Monday their new curator Kristen Windmuller-Luna will manage the museum’s African Art collections. Windmuller-Luna is a white woman who received her Ph.D. in African Art History from Princeton University, worked as an African Arts research specialist at Princeton’s art museum, and is a lecturer at Columbia University.

Brooklyn Museum’s choice to select Windmuller- Luna brings up a larger issue related to how the art world, specifically museums and cultural art institutions, continue to uphold old racist and bias structures and systems that benefit white people and whiteness. Museums and cultural art institutions continue to uphold these old white racist systems, perspectives, practices everytime they put a white curator in power to curate black and brown stories. Brooklyn Museum’s curatorial choice also brings up a large issue with the power dynamic in museums. “People of color represent 28 percent of staff at museums around the country, but most work as janitors and security guards. ”

Museums and cultural art institutions continue to give positions of power to white people to narrate African/Black arts. This outdated practice continues to be dangerous and is in direct opposition to the fight for black and African immigrant lives happening right now in this country. Anti-racism work with a white lens is inherently flawed. Art institutions, like Brooklyn Museum, continue to make flawed/racist decisions when they select white people to run African/Black art programs. The outcome of these decisions continues to filter blackness through a white lens, and white perspective. These decisions in art-spaces/public spaces continue to whitewash African/Black peoples’ truth, their access to radical imagination and their ability to fully see themselves and their history as liberated.

The larger question: Are museums and cultural art institutions really ready and willing to decolonize and/or dismantle their longstanding practice of whitewashing Black/African arts and culture?

‘African/Black arts and culture is political, and Brooklyn Museum’s curatorial choice politically upholds an old racist system and structure.’

In short — This article is calling Brooklyn Museum out, and demanding museums and cultural art institutions to denounce the ways in which they police blackness in the arts.

It is time to Decolonize the ARTS and let our PEOPLE, our HISTORY, our ART be FREE! In this political time — the fight for black liberation and the fight for citizenship for African and Black immigrants is real. The last thing we need to do is appoint a white curator to reimagine what blackness look like in contemporary form. In this political time, where Black immigrants’ citizenship and Black people lives are on the line -we need a curator that ancestrally understands, associates and relates to Africanism, Blackness and the contemporization of all that it represents. Brooklyn Museum we need a curator that is verse in the lived experiences of what it means to be black, and or African, and a person that is willing to advocate on African/Black peoples’ behalf. This is non-negotiable.

The importance of Afro-Futurism, Black/African Radical Tradition and Imagination, and our ability to create and see ourselves from our perspectives is contemporary. Any art institution that says that they are committed to diversity, inclusion and showing up for people of color -please note, anti-racist decisions should be your priority; along with hiring people that represents and reflects African and Black tradition. Brooklyn Museum your actions speak louder than words, you are institutionally committed to (re)colonizing African arts and culture at your museum.

Diversity at Brooklyn Museum:

I want us to take a look at what diversity currently looks like at Brooklyn Museum…

Brooklyn Museum’s commitment to diversity and equity is not displayed in their current curatorial staffing. What is equitable about their decision to hire a white woman to oversee/curate the African Arts collection and programming? I walk away from Brooklyn Museum’s decision with lots questions. What is the relationship between Brooklyn Museum’s decision and the rapid gentrification that is taking place in the area? What is the museums’ commitment to the Black and African communities that are being displaced because of gentrification? Has gentrification influenced this hiring process? [Editor’s note: my friend Annie Schoening encourages everyone to read Sarah Schulman’s “Gentrification of the Mind” and to direct quote her: “she will lend you her personal copy if you @ her.”]

I mean: after seeing their curatorial staff, and the people who hold positions of power, I realized they (Brooklyn Museum) were never committed to equitable inclusivity.

To the folks who are upset about Brooklyn Museum’s decision please follow the steps below it’s time to turn your anger into ACTION!

Call to Action:

The goal for this call to action is to influence the decision of Brooklyn Museum and/or hit them where it will hurt: monetarily.

Call and Email Brooklyn Museum:

Sharon Matt Atkins, Chief Curatorial Director — Sharon.Matt.Atkins@brooklynmuseum.org, 718–638–5000 ext. 269

Katherine Block, Board of Trustee Liaison- Katherine.Block@Brooklynmuseum.org, 718–638–5000 ext. 178

Once you have made your phone call, follow up with an email, and also share your concerns online via social media with the hashtag #decolonizebrooklynmuseum #freeafricanarts and make sure you @brooklynmuseum

Make a Commitment

  • Commit to not attending any Brooklyn Museum events for the next year and beyond. Make sure you share your commitment online and use #freeafricanarts #decolonizebrooklynmuseum @brooklynmuseum
  • Write an open letter and or social media post.Make it very clear that your stance for no longer supporting them is because their recent curatorial choice does not align with your values. Make a commitment to share your concerns online via social media use #freeafricanarts #decolonizebrooklynmuseum @brooklynmuseum

If you are a Brooklyn Museum Member:

  • Discontinue your membership + Write an open and honest letter on why you are choosing to end your membership. Make it very clear that your stance for no longer supporting them is because their curatorial choice does not align with your values. Once you have written the letter make sure you post it online and use #membershipdeactivated #decolonizebrooklynmuseum #freeafricanarts and @brooklynmuseum.

Sample Call Script:

Hi Sharon or Katherine, my name is [insert name], I am calling about your recent decision to hire Kristen Windmuller-Luna as the curator for African Arts Collections. I want to express my disappointment in Brooklyn Museum’s decision to hire a non-person of color for the African Arts curator position. This decision continues to uphold power dynamics that continue to disproportionally affect people of color in the museum field. [Insert any other concerns you may have].

Ask one of the following questions:

  • How does your decision to hire Windmuller-Luna reflect racial equity and Brooklyn Museum’s commitment to diversity and inclusion?
  • How does Brooklyn Museum curatorial decision play role in diversifying the power dynamic in their staffing?
  • How many people of color applied for the African Arts curatorial position?

Follow up with your commitment (choose any that apply):

  • I want to let you know that I have or will share my concerns via social media, and tag your organization today.
  • I want to let you know that I am canceling my Brooklyn Museum membership.
  • I will no longer attend any events at Brooklyn Museum

End the call with:

Thanking them for hearing my concerns and I hope Brooklyn Museum takes time to reflect on their decisions and make the appropriate changes.