Our Duty to Fight

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Gallery 400 Statement

“Something new is struggling to be born in this moment,” were the words of UIC historian and activist Barbara Ransby in a UIC community forum last Thursday. Radical imagination has lit a fire under many in our city and our country. As we mourn the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, and David McAtee, we dream of alternative possibilities. The call for a new future, the ongoing uprisings against anti-Blackness across Chicago and the U.S. are driven by this city’s and the country’s long history of injustice, systemic racism, and white supremacy. Black activists have been imagining that new future for decades and deserve credit for the frameworks today’s protestors are following.

I write to you today after a period of self-reflection and examination, of discussion among our staff and on our campus at UIC. Not only does Gallery 400 say Black Lives Matter; Gallery 400 recognizes that as part of a state university—the University of Illinois—we benefit from systems of institutionalized violence and harm against Black, Indigenous, POC, and LGBTQ members of our society. We, like most art and academic institutions, must commit in word and action, inside and outside our walls, to dismantling structural inequality. We must ask ourselves on a sustained basis:

  • How does a commitment to equity take shape in our programs and internal systems?
  • Who is centered in our work and with whom are we connecting?
  • How do we become more transparent and share leadership?
  • How do we maintain a focus on care and repair?
  • How do we use our resources to actively dismantle systemic racism?

Art has long imagined new worlds and has a long legacy here in Chicago of doing so in the cause of social justice. Gallery 400 commits to extending its dedication to social justice and community care. At Gallery 400 we have historically prioritized experimentation in art. There is no experimentation without risk and vulnerability. In fighting for a more just Chicago and world, Gallery 400 commits to the risky and vulnerable work of sustained change. As Angela Davis reminds us, “You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time.”

If you have thoughts or questions or want to join us in this transformative work, please email me at lorelei@uic.edu. Also, we have gathered a group of links to organizations to support, connect with, and learn from. That list is on our blog here.

—Lorelei Stewart, Director

our duty to fight is the title of the 2016 exhibition organized by Black Lives Matter-Chicago at Gallery 400. The title is excerpted from Assata Shakur’s text: “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”