In June 2020, Facebook launched a new section of its app (currently only for US users), a platform titled Lift Black Voices that serves to highlight Black stories and share educational and fundraising resources. Six months on, the initiative has grown and recently invited its first external guest curators, Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham, to hold a virtual residency for three weeks. Drew and Wortham just published their anticipated first co-authored book Black Futures in December 2020, and their hand-picked collection of projects for Lift Black Voices continues the mission of that publication.
Black Futures started as a direct message exchange on Twitter, Drew and Wortham explain in a blog post about the Facebook collaboration, “and has evolved into a shared desire to archive a moment”. Drew is an influential art curator and writer, known as Instagram’s @museummammy and formerly of the Met; while Wortham is a well-known journalist and culture writer for The New York Times. The book is intended as “a dwelling place for our most precious cultural exports in a moment in which so much of the contributions of Black people – from memes to groundbreaking scientific discoveries – is still subject to erasure and co-option” they continue in their statement. In turn they hope to “record some of what the most dynamic artists, writers, thinkers and musicians of our time made during an unprecedented era of cultural, social, economic and ecological revolutions”.
Similarly, their co-curated collection for Lift Black Voices spotlights essays, videos, posts and portals from across Facebook, which they describe as a “visual feast of healers, artists, and abolitionists who have impacted us, online and off” that aims to provide an inspiring snippet of the “flourishing” world of Black creativity and art. These centre on themes of Systems of Care, Justice, Memory and Legacy, Ownership, and Joy.
“Lift Black Voices is a space on Facebook that evolves and responds to the needs and the conversations happening within the Black community,” Facebook’s Mari Meguizo tells It’s Nice That. “Kimberly and Jenna's notoriety in the arenas of art, culture, writing and social conversations around Black justice and their interconnected identities as queer Black women made them the perfect duo to kick-start our long-term goal of partnering directly with Black creators.”
Facebook creative director Toby Kaufman explains on the art direction that, with time and Covid restrictions against them, the best way forward was to buy existing portraits of the curators. These just so happen to be shot by two huge names in the creative community: photographers June Canedo De Souza and Naima Green. These portraits are cut out and collaged amidst metallic foil rainbow motion graphics, inspired by the Black Futures book cover design. “The mood and tone we aimed for was futuristic, empowering, bold and simple,” Kaufmann adds.
Drew and Wortham’s Lift Black Voices takeover lasts until the end of January for US-based Facebook users.