Obsidian started as a conversation among friends in the BADG community during the early days of the Coronavirus pandemic. In the Spring of 2020, BADG members Nina Cooke John and Leyden Lewis were musing on how they and their friends had been forced to re-imagine the spaces in their homes to accommodate all the activities that now had to take place under one roof. Not just all of the eating, sleeping and washing; but school, work, entertainment, exercise, and worship. Friends and family that used to gather in coffee shops, classrooms, offices, workout spaces, and restaurants, as well as each others’ homes, were now meeting virtually; while bedrooms, dining rooms, and living rooms were reconfigured to serve all of the many facets of living.
The challenges of this new form of living, as the weeks and months passed, gave rise to a different question: one of how the dual pandemics of Covid and institutional racism intersect at the site of home. How can creative practices – architecture, interior design, textile design, ceramics, and visual art among them – provide the means for Black families to thrive despite (or maybe because of) social conditions that hold us back?
Together, the twenty-three creators of Obsidian shared their visions for Black ancestral futures through the design of twenty-eight rooms in a virtual space that serves as a palette and platform for our collective dreams.
Obsidian is the volcanic rock that emerges from an act of destruction to signal protection and resilience, a deep black mirror that reflects past and future. It is this earthly matter that provides the ideal metaphor for BADG’s inaugural project to be birthed from the organization’s incubator. Born out of the disasters around us, the Virtual Concept House is the mirror we are holding up to our collective futures . As we designed the rooms, we re-wrote the narratives of space from the ground up, including renaming the rooms for their spiritual purposes. To that end, the living room became the “Soul Center,” bathrooms were re-named “The Room of Requirement” and bedrooms were realigned as “Oases.” As much as the design served to liberate our imaginations, the naming served to liberate our sense of purpose within the home. Spaces are what we need them to be in order to provide the means for thriving, and so we made rooms to gather, pause, lounge, commune, center, meditate, grieve, and cleanse.
The launch event on January 29 marks the next stage in the conversation, as BADG and the Obsidian project invite the public to experience Obsidian and share their own visions of Black family life.
As we launch our narrative of Black ancestral futures, we also hold space to honor the literal ancestral lands of the Muwekma Ohlone on whose native lands we constructed our virtual home. Our goal is not to displace or replace those who came before us, but to make space for our collective endeavors in the future.
We proudly congratulate all 23 creators for their work on Obsidian: BADG Founder Malene Barnett along with Linda Allen, Bernadette Berry, Marie Burgos, Everick Brown, BOA, Nina Cooke John, Danielle Fennoy, Kelly Finley, Penny Francis, Linda Hayslett, Laura Hodges, Ishka Designs, Lynai Jones, Nikki N. Klugh, Leyden Lewis, Sheryl T. McLean, Me and General, Kiyonda Powell, Erin Shakoor, Cheryl Riley, Lisa Turner, and Cheryl Umbles.