Black Lives Matter Teach-In 2020

Black Lives Matter Pratt 2020 Teach-In: In/Visibility

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The BLM Pratt Teach-In is a daylong conference featuring a diversity of perspectives, ideas, and theories regarding Black Lives Matter’s mission and goals. We showcase talks, performances, papers, workshops and panels from some of the most creative and critically forward thinkers of our time. Black Lives Matter Pratt 2020 Teach-In will be held Friday, February 21, 2020. 

The theme for the BLM Pratt’s 2020 Teach-In is In/Visibility. How do Black people navigate the complex interplay between being hypervisible and simultaneously invisible? How does this paradox inform what it means to be Black on our campus, in the media, and in our lives more generally? How do race, gender, class, disability, and other factors impact how visibility is defined, perceived, worked around in the context of art and design? How do we reconcile the differences we cannot see with those we can?

BLM Pratt 2020 Teach-In Schedule

9:00 AM – 9:30 AM:

Registration and Breakfast

Location: Student Union

9:30 AM – 10:15 AM: 

Shaun Leonardo, I am an Invisible Man

Location: Student Union

Session Description: As an opening to the day’s events, artist and Pratt Visual Arts Fellow Shaun Leonardo will invite us to contemplate the question. “Can invisibility perform as a site of negotiation?” Guiding us through prompts central to both his drawing and performance practices, the artist will bring us to regard invisibility not as a conceptual space but as a lived experience—one with direct implications on our safety and humanity.

Speaker Information: Shaun Leonardo’s multidisciplinary work negotiates societal expectations of manhood, namely definitions surrounding black and brown masculinities, along with its notions of achievement, collective identity, and experience of failure. His performance practice, anchored by his work in Assembly – a diversion program for court-court-involved youth, is participatory in nature and invested in a process of embodiment.

Leonardo is a Brooklyn-based artist from Queens, New York City. He received his MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute, is a recipient of support from Creative Capital, Guggenheim Social Practice, Art for Justice and A Blade of Grass, and was recently profiled in the New York Times. His work has been featured at The Guggenheim Museum, the High Line, and New Museum, with solo exhibitions at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) and Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (MoCA). From fall 2018 through spring 2020, Leonardo enacted socially engaged projects at Pratt Institute as the School of Art, Visiting Fellow.

10:30 AM – 11:30 AM: 

Sekou Cooke, In/visibility of Blackness in Architecture

Location: Student Union

Session Description: Sekou Cooke will present his work on the emergent Hip-Hop Architecture movement and give brief insights on the state of Blackness in the architectural discipline and profession. Using hip-hop culture as his primary lens, he hopes to elevate the visibility of underrepresented professionals within a highly Eurocentric industry. The presentation will be followed by a conversation between Sekou and Scott Ruff, Visiting Associate Professor of the School of Architecture.

Speaker Bio: Sekou Cooke is an architectural practitioner and educator based in Syracuse, NY. He is currently Assistant Professor at Syracuse University’s School of Architecture where he teaches design studios and seminars that value breadth of exploration over formulaic production. Through his professional practice, Sekou Cooke STUDIO, he brings thoughtful processes and rigorous experimentation to a vast array of project types from commercial and residential works in New York, New Jersey, and North Carolina, to mixed-use projects and tenant improvements in California, and speculative developments in Liberia and his native Jamaica. 

Sekou’s current research centers on the emergent field of Hip-Hop Architecture, a theoretical movement reflecting the core tenets of hip-hop culture with the power to create a meaningful impact on the built environment and give voice to the marginalized and underrepresented within design practice. This work has been widely disseminate through his writings, lectures, and symposia, and will be the central focus of a recent exhibition entitled, Close to the Edge: The Birth of Hip-Hop Architecture, on view from October 1, 2018 to January 18, 2019 at the AIANY Center for Architecture, and from April 15 to June 15, 2019 at the SpringBOX space in St. Paul, MN. Through his research, practice, and other academic endeavors, Sekou hopes to leave an equally lasting impact on ivory towers and underserved communities.

Scott Ruff is concurrently a Visiting Associate Professor of Architecture at Pratt Institute and Visiting Faculty at New York Institute of Technology. Born in Buffalo, New York, Ruff, received his first professional Bachelors of Architecture degree from Cornell University and a Masters of Architecture II from Cornell University. In 2017 was honored to be selected as a Louis I. Kahn Visiting Assistant Professor at Yale School od Architecture. He has taught at Tulane University, Syracuse University and Hampton University, as an Assistant Professor and the State University of New York at Buffalo, and Cornell University as a Lecturer.

Scott Ruff is the principal of RuffWorks Studio, a research and design studio specializing in culturally informed projects and community engagement. Scott Ruff has served on the Arts Council of New Orleans as Chair of the Percent for Art Committee. He has been the Director of Membership for NOMA Louisiana. Professor Ruff has served as a Visiting Critic at Cornell University, Columbia University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Pennsylvania, University of Cincinnati, University of Michigan, University of Virginia and many other colleges across the country. Scott Ruff has been the recipient of a number of awards including a SEED Award of Merit for the Guaurdian’s Institute project and ACSA Diversity Award for Project Pipeline in New Orleans developed with NOMA Louisiana and most recently the recipient of a 2018 Graham Foundation Award for the publication of the forthcoming anthology “In Search of African American Space” co-edited with Jeffrey Hogrefe.


16mm Black Shorts

Location: Library Multimedia Basement (Pratt Library)

Session Description: Are you a Black film nerd who wants to see what Pratt Institute’s 16mm films collection has to offer? Stop by and take a look at Bernie Casey, Black Artist, Black Has Always Been Beautiful, Black Panthers, and Black Shadows on a Silver Screen, eat some popcorn and geek out!


12:00 PM – 1:00 PM:

Taja Lindley, Re-Membering is the Responsibility of the Living

Location: Student Union

Session Description: Can we grow gardens out of graves? How can we recycle the energy of protest, rage and grief into creating a world where indeed Black Lives Matter? What is the role of memory in our movement building work? And who will be responsible for this labor? These are the questions that haunt the work of visual and performance artist Taja Lindley.

As a memory worker, Lindley explores what has been abandoned, erased, silenced or distorted in our individual and collective consciousness. During her teach-in, she will screen her short film “This Ain’t A Eulogy: A Ritual for Re-Membering” and will discuss her most recent projects: “The Bag Lady Manifesta” and her artist residency with the City Health Department.

Keynote Bio: An 80’s baby born in New York and raised in the South, Taja Lindley currently lives in Brooklyn working as the Managing Member of Colored Girls Hustle.

Lindley is artist, activist, healer, and memory worker. Through iterative and interdisciplinary practices, she creates socially engaged artwork that transforms audiences, shifts culture, and moves people to action. She uses movement, text, installation, ritual, burlesque, and multi-media to create immersive works that are concerned with freedom, healing and pleasure.Since 2014 she has developed a body of work recycling and repurposing discarded materials. Her 2017 residency at Dixon Place Theater culminated in the world premiere of “The Bag Lady Manifesta”and it has been presented at museums, theaters, festivals, galleries and universities nationwide.

In addition to being an artist, Lindley is actively engaged in social movements as a writer, consultant, and facilitator. For over a decade she has worked with non-profits, research institutes and government on policies and programming that impact women and girls, communities of color, low/no/fixed-income families, queer people, youth, and immigrants. Most recently, she served as a Sexual and Reproductive Justice Consultant at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, co-facilitating a community driven process that created The New York City Standards for Respectful Care at Birth. She continues her work at the NYC Health Department as the current Public Artist in Residence, a program of the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs.Her writing has appeared in Rewire, YES! Magazine, Salon and EBONY.

1:30 PM – 3:00 PM: 

BlackSpace, “We See You”

Location: Student Union

Session Description:“We See You”, is a collaborative workshop to construct interphase – a tool, operation or lens for engagement – via the BlackSpace Manifesto. Drawing, model making and discussions will be employed to challenge the notion invisibility by making process for engagement apparent and accessible.

Organization and Speaker Information: BlackSpace is an interdisciplinary collective, seeking to bridge policy, people, and place, with a mission of equity and justice. We strive for environments that recognize, affirm, and amplify Black agency, discourse and thought.

Peter Robinson was born in Kingston, Jamaica and raised in both Kingston and New York City. He received a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Cornell University and a Masters of Science in Architecture and Urban Design from Columbia University. Peter has held teaching positions at Cornell University, Parsons School of Design at the New School, Syracuse University and Barnard College at Columbia University. His research focuses on cultural subjectivity and the city, broaching parallels and interferences among architectural/urban design, planning and cultural theories as a means to engage/inform social action.

Radical Black Librarianship: A Conversation with OlaRonke of Free Black Women’s Library

Moderated by Cyree Jarelle Johnson, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Librarian, Chair of BLM Pratt

Location: Alumni Reading Room (Pratt Library, 3rd floor)

Session Description: From segregated libraries to white supremacist stacks, the American library has rarely been a safe space to be black. Hear what black librarians are doing to make the library a safe place for everyone to learn at this conversation between OlaRonke, creator of the brilliant Free Black Women’s Library and Cyree Jarelle Johnson, Pratt Institute Libraries’ Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Librarian. The Free Black Women’s Library will also be available and active in the Brooklyn Campus Library’s Alumni Reading Room from 9:00 AM until 5:00 PM during the BLM Pratt Teach-In.

Speaker Biography: OlaRonke Akinmowo is a Brooklyn born interdisciplinary artist, set decorator, yoga teacher and single mom. She is also the Creator and Director of The Free Black Women’s Library, a literary social art project that features a collection of over two thousand books written by Black women. The mission of the library is to center and celebrate the brilliance, creativity and diversity of Black women, provide access to Black Women’s literature and radical spaces where it can be enjoyed, explored and discussed. OlaRonke is the recipient of the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Fellowship, The Laundromat Project Artist Fellowship and the Fellowship for Utopian Practice through Culture Push. Her work has appeared at MOCADA Museum, Studio Museum in Harlem and EFA Project Space. It has been written about in Teen Vogue, Hyperallergic, NY Times and Bust magazine. Follow her on Instagram @thefreeblackwomenslibrary for updates about the library’s locations and events.


3:30 PM – 5:00 PM:

Amplifying the Black Experience: In/Visibility in NYC’s Fashion Industry

Speakers: Adrienne Jones, Ibada Wadud, Sue Rock, Janet Rodriguez, Aliyah Jacobs

Location: Student Union

Session Description: This panel of Black leaders in NYC’s Fashion industry will discuss the invisibility and visibility of Black students, designers, industry leaders and brands in NYC’s fashion landscape. Black entrepreneurship and an equitable and diverse workforce is essential to growth, sustainability and innovation in the entire fashion ecosystem. The panelists will explore the Black experience in NYC’s fashion world from the classroom to entrepreneurship to the runway. This panel is a collaboration of Made in NYC and the Pratt Center for Community Development. Made in NYC is an initiative of the Pratt Center and supports thousands of NYC’s manufacturers and makers by giving them the tools to grow their companies. Made in NYC works with fashion companies producing garments and accessories in all five boroughs.

Speaker Information:

Adrienne Jones – Pratt Fashion Professor

Professor Adrienne Jones is the first Black woman to achieve tenured professor status at Pratt Institute. Jones has taught in the Department of Fashion at Pratt for over 25 years, and in the School of Continuing & Professional Studies, where she developed both the adult education and Pre-College programs in fashion.

Ibada Wadud – Owner of Lulah Bags

Ibada serves as Founder & Chief Executive Officer for LULAH, a leather bag manufacturer in New York City that trains and employs formerly incarcerated women. Ibada is an activist, writer, speaker and teacher focused on criminal justice reform, corporate responsibility, fashion, design thinking, social entrepreneurship, and women’s empowerment.

Sue Rock – Owner of Sue Rock Originals

Sue is Owner of Sue Rock Originals, a sustainable brand creating womenswear, accessories and home furnishings in New York City. Her products are made from upcycled reclaimed fabrics from NYC’s garment industry. 50% of every purchase goes to fund resources for survivors of domestic violence.

Janet Rodriguez – Director of SoHarlem

Janet is Founder & Executive Director of SoHarlem. She established SoHarlem in 2011 to ensure creative and local people participate in economic development in the Manhattanville Factory District in Harlem. SoHarlem supports racial equity and employment in Harlem by incubating fashion enterprises.

Aliyah Jacobs

Aliyah Jacobs is a designer and graduate of Pratt Institute with a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Fashion Design. Aliyah has proudly worked with the following brands: Michael Kors, Victoria’s Secret PINK, Lululemon, and DKNY. Since age 8, she developed her skill by studying art and design, to one day build a brand of her own. She is the Founder of Skinns a lingerie brand made in Brooklyn that focuses on intricate and rare silhouettes and the name Skinns evolved from the idea of a second layer of skin.


All Day:

Free Black Women’s Library Pop-Up

Location: Alumni Reading Room (Pratt Library, 3rd floor)


Wikipedia Edit-a-thon

Location: Pratt Manhattan Campus (4th floor)

Pratt Libraries will host a Wikipedia Edit-a-thon in honor of Black History Month at the Pratt Manhattan Campus library on the 4th floor from 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM. The event will feature a discussion with AfroCrowd and have a session from the BLM Pratt Teach-In live-streamed. Please register for the event at