Who is Kesha? The Jacksonville Public Library and the Black Female Experience

#whoiskesha, Jax Makerspace, Jacksonville Public Library, photos by Hurley Winkler, ErinKendrick, Baby, Did You Hear That?
Baby, Did You Hear That? by Erin Kendrick

When she first conceived the idea for the Kesha exhibit, Jacksonville Public Library Arts and Culture Developer, Shawana Brooks recalls asking herself, “What would it take to showcase artists that lived here in Jacksonville and resource their abilities back to the community? What would it take to execute creative and collaborative art exhibitions that had a strong position on learning in all dimensions?”

Through her curation of 14 black female artists, Brooks developed Kesha as a representation of the black female experience attached to one female name. She strives to explore society’s consistent erasure of the black female through “high quality contemporary work from artists in our community.”

Brooks chose the Jacksonville artists that stuck out to her the most, whose work she felt was becoming “more intricate, dynamic, and vibrant” over time. The exhibition includes visual art by Rhonda Bristol, Glendia Cooper, Dania W. Frink, Jovita Harper, Marsha Hatcher, Mk Hollowell, Carla Jones, Erin Kendrick, Traci Mims, Princess Simpson Rashid, Crystal Rodriguez, Tiffany Rodriguez, Richlin Ryan, and Sosha Thumper.

Housed within the Main Library, the gallery exhibit includes displays of books relating to the exhibit. These displays include texts by Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and many other contemporary black female authors. Brooks encourages viewers to engage with the texts as well as the art.

The First Wednesday Art Walk opening included a Pan-African drum and dance performance by the Nan Nkama Ensemble and spoken word performances from Ebony Payne-English and Tonya Smart. University of North Florida sociology professor Dr. JeffriAnne Wilder introduced Brooks during the gallery’s opening remarks.

“Now, more than ever, we need her… the black feminist intellect, the soul, and the resistance that is the essence of black womanhoods.”

Photos by Hurley Winkler

“We are in the midst of times that require us to remember who we are and what we are made of,” says Dr. Wilder. “That is exactly why I’m so thankful for Kesha. Now, more than ever, we need her… the black feminist intellect, the soul, and the resistance that is the essence of black womanhoods.”

The Jax Makerspace will host supplemental programming for the Kesha exhibit throughout its run. Programs include an African movement dance class and a chance for attendees to write their own Kesha story. Program dates are available through the Jax Makerspace’s Facebook page.

“I am so humbled and so honored to know Kesha,” says Dr. Wilder, “because, personally, I am so humbled and so honored to be Kesha.”

Kesha: A Black Female Experience of Identity and Race shows at the Jax Makerspace Gallery through April 23. For more information, visit facebook.com/jaxmakerspace or explore the gallery on social media: #whoiskesha.

About Hurley Winkler