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Howard University Students Host Annual ‘Negritude’ Event

Phillip Gragg and Jazmyn Ja’Net (pictured left to right) during the play at Negritude on March 26, 2022. Photo Courtesy of Natalie Courtney.

Howard University’s visual arts students hosted their annual “Negritude” event on March 26. The event included an art exhibition curated by Howard artists along with theater and music that connected past brilliance with today’s trends.

The special gathering took place in Dupont Underground, a former abandoned streetcar station under Dupont Circle, which has transformed into a 15,000 square foot platform for creatives and contemporary art in Washington, D.C. The Underground aims to connect local and international art communities, and highlight the voice of independent and upcoming talent in the area. 

The exhibition’s objective was to retrieve the excellence and bustle of the Black Broadway era, which was known for its rich African American history for art, culture, business and social change during the Jim Crow Era. The event also aimed to celebrate Howard’s Chadwick Boseman College of Arts, showcasing student artwork from the university’s visual arts majors. 

Lucrecia Laudi, co-founder of the Dupont Underground, spoke on the history of the historic location and how it became a go-to spot for underground artists to display their work.

“We decided to say ‘why not?’ Let’s start making a space where, because of its location, we can talk about the city itself. It’s a platform for culture in general,” Laudi said.

While walking down the Underground, the walls of the venue serve as a canvas for Black expression, projecting the artists’ work. The event for some artists was the first time their art had been displayed for the public to view. 

“One of our main objectives is to connect the Dupont Underground with the world and connect the world with the Dupont Underground, meaning D.C.,” Laudi added.

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Christopher White, a senior biology major who serves as the Disability and Illness coordinator and the lead graphic designer for the Howard University’s Student Association, talked about his journey with art and the importance of events like “Negritude.”

“I was one of those kids that started drawing pretty much as soon as I had a pencil in my hand and sketched what was inspiring me at the time,” White explained. 

“Getting the opportunity to submit my work in something like this now, even though it’s at the end of my Howard experience, has been monumental for getting comfortable with submitting my work and sharing what I have to the world. This is definitely a great space to curate and incubate artists who are up and coming and developing,” he added.

The mastermind behind the exhibition was Natalie Courtney, a senior electronic studio arts major. Originally wanting to do a photojournalism project on Black Broadway, the COVID-19 pandemic put her work to a halt. While trying to find her next craft, Natalie saw the opportunity to bridge the idea of Black Broadway and a student showcase due to a lack of opportunities for Howard artists as a result of the pandemic and lack of funding. She then substituted the name “Black Broadway” for “Negritude,” which highlighted the appreciation of Black art. 

Courtney talked about why she decided to jump start “Negritude” and its plans for the future.

“I just felt there weren’t enough opportunities for art students at the moment due to the pandemic. I’m just happy people are finally realizing how much talent we have in the Chadwick Boseman College of Arts,” Courtney said. “I would love for this to continue once a year. I feel this would be a great project for seniors and I would love to lead it with them. I feel like Negritude could be so much more.” 

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The exhibition ended with a play including a soundtrack, acting, poetry and wardrobe that resembled the nostalgic feeling of the Black Broadway era. The day ended with a round of applause from the audience. “Negritude” celebrated Howard artist while stunning its viewers.

Copy edited by Jasper Smith 

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