I recently became aware of Jayde Barton - artist, event curator, educator, and more. Her exhibit, "Let Black Folks Feel", which opened last night, caught my attention and is the main reason for this interview. As many of you know, I am an artist with a deep passion for talking about my mental health challenges and bringing this much needed conversation to the forefront in society.
Read my interview with Jayde below:
"Q: So Jayde, your "Let Black Folks Feel" exhibit opened last night. Tell us, how was opening night? How do you feel it went? Did it go as expected or better?
A: Opening night was transformative. I think I'm still trying to find the words to describe it because I'm still in shock. I think it went incredibly well. It was a space filled with beautiful Black people who were connecting over mental health and art. I would say it definitely went better than expected. I would have never anticipated that a vision I had could have manifested into that.
Q: What was your favorite part of the evening?
A: My favorite part of the evening was being able to hold space for Jordan Neely. When the idea for the exhibition was formulated, no one could have predicted the atrocious event. However, to be in a space dedicated to Black feeling and really name that Jordan Neely was a Black man that was murdered for feeling, I think the meaning of this exhibition really hit home. I wanted the space to have an impact on people, and I feel that goal was accomplished.
Q: What inspired you to curate this exhibition during mental health awareness month?
A: I wanted to create something memorable that would inspire Black people to start thinking about our relationship to our feelings. It's time to really discuss how the lack of connection we have to our own emotions is taking a toll on our mental health. So mental health awareness month felt like the perfect time to initiate that dialogue.
Q: What was the toughest part in bringing this exhibit into fruition?
A: The toughest part was securing a space! We had two venues fall through before we were able to secure Health Gallery. There's a quote that says "sometimes you may not get exactly what you wanted, because of hidden blessings you never saw coming." The two previous venues were not galleries. They were great spaces, but they weren't a gallery. It was truly incredible to see what was initially perceived as a setback turn into an upgrade. It has allowed me to frame "failure" in a whole new way.
Q: Tell us a little about how you connected with Heath Gallery to make this exhibit happen?
A: After the two failed venues, my partner, Jomani, just took a leap of faith and reached out to Heath Gallery. We did not think they'd agree to work with us, two unknowns, but they saw the vision and wanted to support. Initially, we had agreed to a week, and were pleasantly surprised to learn it was extended to a three week show. I'm still in shock.
Q: How important is collaboration to you?
A: Collaboration is incredibly important to me. This show could not have existed without community support. There are so many people who played a role in helping Let Black Folks Feel come alive, it was so much bigger than me. However, it was a moment that really deepened my belief in the importance of community. We can accomplish so much more together than we can apart. I hope that my experience with this exhibition can be a testament to that.
Q: What is something many don't know about you?
A: I'm a writer! That's a large part of why I wanted to incorporate art into my work. From a young age, writing has always been how I processed emotions I couldn't make sense of. I still deeply enjoy it, and I am working on finishing a children's book. I look forward to seeing it published in the next year!
Q: How can folks find you to support you and this exhibition?
The exhibition can be found at Heath Gallery in Harlem. Open days are Wed-Sunday 1pm-7pm
Q: Is there anything else you'd like our readers to know?
A: I'm a certified trauma-informed yoga instructor! I will be hosting my first community yoga event at Vita Wellness in Brooklyn. The date is Sunday, June 18th 11:30 am- 1:00 pm. The event is all around emotional release!"
Thank you Jayde for doing this interview. I am eagerly looking forward to checking out the exhibit in the coming days.
Keep up the great work and remember, as my brother John Johnson would say, "Be bold. Be courageous. Stand in your truth."
Together We Heal!
*If anyone needs immediate mental health support, please reach out to one of the following for 24/7 Mental Health Help*
NYS Hotline 1-844-863-9314