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The University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) hosted its second event in the “Feel Good Friday” series featuring spoken word, poetry and music on March 11. This event was the second in the series, which kicked off last month with a runway show celebrating diversity in fashion. 

In collaboration with the University’s Department of Afroamerican and African Studies (DAAS) and the African American Cultural and Historical Museum of Washtenaw County (AACHM), this installment of Feel Good Friday centered on the African diaspora and the history of African art.

UMMA Program Coordinator Jessica Allie described the significance of this Feel Good Friday for attendees and artists.

“This event specifically, we’re highlighting feel-good voices,” Allie said. “We’re really wanting to elevate spoken word (and) poetry, but also the act of remembering and honoring our mentors and folks who have really helped us become the people that we are today.”

DAAS Program Manager Elizabeth James spoke about the importance of this event for the department and for the U-M community. 

“I think whenever you have different groups come together, like the African American Culture and Historical Museum, our department, which services our students on campus, and then also UMMA, which is for our community and our campus community, it just is a beautiful mix,” James said. 

Among the featured works of art at this event were an ongoing UMMA exhibition titled “We Write To You About Africa” and a piece by the late Jon Onye Lockard, a founding faculty member of the University’s DAAS. The event also brought attention to UMMA’s exhibition on the ethics of museum-owned African art from the era of colonization with a project titled “Wish You Were Here” which invites patrons to view 11 works from unknown artists, as well as film, television clips and documents. 

Shira Washington, a recruitment coordinator for the College of Engineering, said she was excited to see the University supporting African art and artists. 

“I’ve never seen something this profound, yet concise, and concisely curated, to represent African art on this scale,” Washington said. “To see so many dynamic pieces from up-and-coming artists as well as well-established, classic artists … it really warmed my heart to see the University of Michigan dedicated to supporting something like this.”

The night featured a series of spoken word and poetry performances by local artists and U-M community members, many of which paid tribute to Lockard. Music, Theater & Dance senior Jacob Ward performed spoken word expressing how he sees himself and his emotions in Lockard’s work. 

“Here in front of me was the spirit of someone who, like me, needed to express their full range of emotions through something constructive and destructive at the same time,” Ward said in his piece.

In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Ward described feeling uplifted and moved by the art and artists around him that night.

“Being Black at UMich … it’s hard,” Ward said. “And it’s nights like this where I feel like I can do it. I don’t feel weighed down.” 

Daily Staff Reporter Samantha Rich can be reached at