Events

We Not New To This, We True To This
February 22, 2024 | 5-7PM



Symposium:

Join us as we launch “We Not New To This, We True To This,” a multi-year initiative curated by the Institute’s Associate Research Archivist Camille Lawrence that seeks to center, preserve, and celebrate the work of the Black archivists, memory workers, and artists who have been the diligent stewards and keepers of the culture for decades.

This multi-year collaboration, made possible by the ongoing support of the Mellon Foundation, will highlight archivists who are forging new methodologies, honor iconic artists who have contributed to the creation and tapestry of ballroom culture, and celebrate elders of African dance and beauty practitioners who continue to reaffirm that beauty is performance art.

Camille Lawrence
Archivist, Artist, Curator. Camille Lawrence's work as an archivist focuses on the art history, innovations, and diversity of artistic expression across the African Diaspora. She is most interested in exploring and archiving identity formation throughout the African diaspora and culture through three foundational principles: Oral, Physical, and Ritual. Lawrence's background as an art historian, artist, and beauty practitioner informs her approach to archival work. Her projects include the Black Beauty Archive and contributions to NYU Hemispheric Institute, Urban Bush Women, and BAM DanceAfrica.

On Juneteenth 2020, Camille founded Black Beauty Archive to document, preserve, and archive the history of Black Beauty culture. Camille's professional makeup artist experience includes publications in VOGUE, ESSENCE, Sophisticate's Black Hair Styles, The New York Times, PAPER, and TV/Film with Apple, CNBC, Disney, ESPN, Hallmark, and Netflix. [IMDB]

Black Beauty Archive has been featured in InStyle, Art Net News, Oprah Daily! and mentioned in CNN and The Hollywood Reporter. BBA's archival film premiered at Miami Art Basel 2022 in the exhibition "The Crown We Never Take Off' "in collaboration with RICHES on Amazon Prime.

Camille completed her BA in Art History with a minor in Global Black Studies from SUNY Purchase and Beauty Industry Essentials Certification from the Fashion Institute of Technology. She is completing her MLIS with a Certificate in Archives from CUNY Queens College.
Zakiya Collier
Zakiya is an Afro-Carolinian archivist and memory worker exploring the role of cooperative thought and improvisation in the preservation and sustainability of im/material cultural memory—particularly in African-diasporan, queer, and community-based organizations and cultural heritage institutions. She is passionate about uncovering ancestral memory-keeping traditions and developing archival practices that account for the material conditions of Black life. Zakiya is the Founder of The Black Memory Workers Group.
Syreeta Gates

Creative, art collector, and archivist. Syreeta Gates is the founder of The Gates Preserve, a multimedia experience company committed to archiving and preserving hip hop culture such that it lasts forever. Currently featured in and a producer on Netflix’s “Ladies First”. She produces “Yo Stay Hungry” -- a live culinary competition that bridges hip hop with food and beverage, and is co-owner of Most Incredible Studio which celebrates and commemorates the artists and moments that continue to elevate and define hip-hop culture - through LEGO. She was also on the United States Season 2 of LEGO Masters as the first Black woman. She has produced 4 short films and Gates' archival work includes research for” Ladies First”, “Black Pop”, “The Remix: Hip Hop X Fashion” and “A Ballerina's Tale.” Her feature documentary Shaping the Culture, is the history of hip-hop in print from copy machines to tweets.

Syreeta has been featured in Vogue, Forbes, RedBull, Black Enterprise, Refinery29, and many other outlets. Her work was lauded in Elena Romero and Elizabeth Way “Fresh Fly Fabulous: 50 Years of Hip Hop Style” (2023), Tony Wagner's, “Creating Innovators” (2015), and John Schlimm's book, “Stand Up!: 75 Young Activists Who Rock the World, And How You Can, Too!"; (2013) Gates was also highlighted in Adam Smiley Poswolsky's “The Quarter-Life Breakthrough: Invent Your Own Path, Find Meaningful Work.” (2016)

Syreeta holds a Bachelor’s degree in Urban Youth Culture from Hunter College and a Master’s degree in Moving Image Archiving and Preservation from New York University. A native New Yorker, Syreeta is from South Jamaica Queens. #QGTM

Steven De'Juan Booth

Steven De'Juan Booth (he/him) is an archivist, independent researcher, and member of the Blackivists, a collective of trained Black memory workers who provide expertise on archiving and preservation practices to communities in the Chicagoland area. His work and research interests include photographic materials, Black cultural heritage preservation, archival history, and digital humanities. He is currently Archive Manager of the Johnson Publishing Company Archive for the Getty Research Institute, where he leads a staff of seven archivists who dynamically contribute to the preservation, discovery, and activation of the collection.

From 2009-2021, Steven worked at the US National Archives and Records Administration for the Presidential Materials Division, Office of Presidential Libraries, and the Barack Obama Presidential Library. He has also held positions at Boston University's Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center and JPMorgan & Chase cataloging the archive of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Steven is an active member of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) having served on SAA Council from 2017-2020 and in 2022 was inducted as a Distinguished Fellow. He is currently a member of the Steering Committee for the Archives Leadership Institute at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

He has been an invited speaker at the Library of Congress, the Bentley Historical Library at University of Michigan, the Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage at Brown University, the 2021 Visual Resources Association Annual Conference, and the 2023 Project STAND residency program. In 2020, Steven co-edited with Stacie Williams Loss/Capture , a digital editorial project exploring the state of Black cultural archives in and beyond Chicago, presented by Sixty Inches From Center, a Chicago-based arts publication and archiving initiative.

He is currently working on a book project, under contract with SAA Publications, with Barrye Brown documenting the history and impact of the Archivists & Archives of Color member affinity group. He is also a co-PI on the Archival Revolutions Project, along with Brenda Gunn, funded by the SAA Foundation, which explores transitional shifts in the archival profession from 1980-2020. They will be publishing their research findings in 2024 as part of the CLIR Pocket Burgundy series.

Steven comes from a long lineage of Black cultural heritage professionals who have also matriculated from Morehouse College (BA in Music) and Simmons College (MS in Library Science).

Zainab Floyd

Zainab Floyd is a Haitian and Black American curator, archivist, and practicing artist based in New York. She was born in The Bronx but grew up in Mount Vernon, New York. She centers on Black women’s narratives as the focal point of her works. Floyd is interested in themes of Black feminism, and post-colonialism. She utilizes archives of the Caribbean as a tool for re-imagining history and spaces for resistance.

Zainab is the founder and creator of Caribbean Archive, a digital documentation of Black Caribbean women artists, educators, poets, dancers, anthropologists, and change-makers; all of whom have created a scholarship of work that is representative of agency and resistance. Under Caribbean Archive, Floyd curated “My Body as a Memory” which was on view at the White Plains Public Library. She has co-curated “Capturing the Echo” an exhibition under the Studio Museum in Harlem’s program Expanding the Walls. Outside of organizing exhibitions Zainab Floyd has screened films and exhibited photographic works in Paris, Toronto, and New York City. She has conducted research in Abidjan, Côte d’ Ivoire and Bahia, Brazil. For her research project in Abidjan, she explored African diasporic art productions, curatorial practices, and creative entrepreneurship particularly led by Black women and femmes in Abidjan that has continued a legacy for creating safe spaces for Black women and femmes. During her research in Bahia, Brazil she explored the ways Black women and gender-expansive people utilized African-based religions as a form of resistance.

She is also the co-founder of ZAZA Uptown, an artist collective founded by Angelica Calderon and Zainab Floyd in 2019, dedicated to the progress of Afro-Caribbean femmes, women, and GNC practicing artists in uptown New York. Floyd is an Assistant Curator in the Museum Education department at The Fashion Institute of Technology. She is passionate about working with Black women and Black gender-expansive artists and creatives in creating spaces where Black folks can engage with art. She is deeply invested in the histories and narratives of Black feminists.

Kevin Ultra Omni

Kevin Ultra Omni is an iconic pioneer of ballroom culture and an international ballroom historian. Burrus is also an assistant film director, human rights and community activist, and philanthropist. In 1979, Burrus co-founded one of the first Brooklyn ballroom houses—the worldwide pioneering House of Ultra Omni. While working on Wall Street, he became an icon in underground ballroom culture. At The House of Ultra Omni, Burrus built an art form and a personal legacy as a chosen father to his members. He continues to serve as a devoted House Father to hundreds of Ballroom children.

Burrus joins Hemi as Artist in Residence in 2024, the year which marks the 45th Anniversary of The House of Ultra Omni. This pioneering house has sustained the ballroom scene, spread ballroom and voguing culture globally, and remained a guardian of its history. As a Spring 2024 Mellon Artist in Residence at NYU’s Hemispheric Institute, Burrus will curate The House of Ultra Omni’s collection for the Hemispheric Institute Digital Video Library (HIDVL) with the collaboration of the Institute’s Associate Research Archivist Camille Lawrence. The House of Ultra Omni Collection will include historic documentation of balls and other events as well as a series of new interviews conducted by Kevin and Camille Lawrence.
Thando Kafele

Thando Kafele possesses a clarity of vision for natural hair well-suited to the high priests of the old African religions. Quite simply, he is a revolutionary, an artist who has been engaged in liberating natural hair for 25+ years. Clients do not sit for hair appointments with him; they sit for spiritual transformation, ancestral divination, and wholesome reparations for the scalp. He works magic, reimagining chair time as an opportunity to instill African magnificence in his clients.

A visible yet unassumed presence, Kafele projects an earthy majesty. He makes you feel at ease immediately with his broad grin and deep dimples, but you also sense quickly his sacred energy. His hands are fleshy and dense, well suited for untangling, weaving, locking, braiding, parting, organizing, and oiling tendrils, tresses, and scalps. His mantra "Natural hair is not just about style; it's about health" is a reflection of the ways in which his practice is a site for total healing. He follows the long tradition of West African spiritual practices that recognize the head and the crown as sources of the Divine. These spiritual practitioners knew well the significance of the crown; they saw hair as an adornment to the psychic and spiritual energies that protect and nurture the body, and, as such, hair required particular attention by anointed hands.

Kafele’s stylings are imbued with wisdom, meaning, and power; they are only legible to those who have been initiated into the visual politics of the Afro-centric. They are regal signifiers from the African past with messages of ethnic pride. They are meant to be donned unapologetically with dignity.

African lots, dreads, afros and cornrows had been prohibited in many corporate spaces as unacceptable corporate appearance; this is starting to change. With the expansion of NYC Human Rights Law and initiatives like The Crown Act, Black hairstyles are now protected because they are an inherent part of Black identity. The dismantling of this discriminatory practice in the largest city in the United States speaks to the revolutionary influences of natural hair style wizards like Kafele. As his clientele and artistry continues to grow, Kafele reminds us that the revolution will not be texturized

Kafele is the most decorated loctician in the world and has had his work featured on ESPN and published in Sports Illustrated, ESSENCE, EBONY, Black Beauty UK, New York Times, ELLE and more.

Shani Crowe
Shani Crowe is an interdisciplinary artist who received her BFA in film production from Howard University’s John H. Johnson School of Communications in 2011. Shani’s work is centered on traditional African coiffure, beauty ritual, and how African aesthetics can be re-contextualized to foster connectivity and unity among people of African descent. A life-long Braider, She most notably creates complex braided hairstyles and captures them as photographic portraits. Beyond her portraiture, Shani applies the materials and techniques of braiding to sculpture, performance, fibers, and installation art. Shani’s work and performances have been featured at the Broad in Los Angeles, on Saturday Night Live in collaboration with Solange Knowles, the Museum of Contemporary African and Diasporan Art (MoCADA), in Brooklyn, NY, the Urban Institute of Contemporary Art, in Grand Rapids, MI, the August Wilson African American Cultural Center, in Pittsburgh, PA, and at Miami Art Basel. Shani was part of the ensemble that represented the United States at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale. She lives and works on Chicago’s south side.
Mama Aissatou Bey Bara

Mama Aissatou Bey Bara is a creative and cultural warrior known for community activism, folkloric knowledge and iconic style! She lives in Harlem - 5 generations strong - and participates on many community boards, promoting and directing cultural programming.

Her passions include music, education, production and craft making. The daughter of an opera-singer hailing from Ohio, Mama Aissatou moved to Harlem in 1967. She attended Music & Art as a bass violinist and graduated from Harlem Prep in 1971. Currently she works at McKissack & McKissack as Director of Community Employment Programs & Initiatives.

Mama Aissatou has taught and spoken nationally and internationally, but her cultural journey began with Hati Ast Hasifa Abdur Rahman & Abdul Rahman in Harlem in the 1960’s. She was the dance caption for the Weusi Umoja Dancers & Drummers, guided by the Onyango family collective in Baltimore. That collective then joined with the African Heritage Dancers & Drummers under the direction of Brother Melvin Deal in Washington DC.

Mama Aissatou is a continuing member of Sabar Ak Ru Afriq African Dance Club with - Baba Obara Wali Rahman Ndiaye & the late Mama Andara Koumba Rahman Ndiaye. She has performed at Dance Africa twice with the company and continues to study with the Rahman family. She continues collaborative work around African and African American folklore with Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn Restoration and a variety of cultural institutions across the U.S.

Hemispheric Institute
20 Cooper Square
New York, NY 10011

Speakers

Kevin “Ultra Omni” Burrus (Mellon Artist in Residence Spring 2024), Thando Kafele (Mellon Artist in Residence Fall 2024), Shani Crowe (Mellon Artist in Residence 2025), Mama Aissatou Bey-Grecia (Folklorist in Residence 2025), Steven Booth (Founder of Blacktivists), Syreeta Gates (Founder of The Gates Preserve), Zainab Floyd (Founder of The Caribbean Archive), and Zakiya Collier (Founder of Black Memory Workers).

About this event series

The event will be in English.
This is an in-person event that requires registration. All non-NYU attendees must RSVP in advance. Video documentation will be made available on the Institute website following the event.