By John I. Kennedy Jr, MD

Well Be Wisdom

My favorite wellness activity from the past month was a trip to UAB’s Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts (AEIVA) to check out their current special exhibition, “Black is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite.” The collection displays Brathwaite’s images from the late 1950s and beyond. In that era, Brathwaite and his associates responded to how white concepts of beauty negatively affected Black women by popularizing a more expansive perspective using the tagline, “Black is Beautiful.” They also founded the Grandassa Models, a group of local women who appeared in fashion shows at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Images of the Grandassa Models, including Braithwaite’s wife Sikola, are a prominent component of the exhibit.

I recall the “Black is Beautiful” movement from my youth, and it was a delightful walk down memory lane to see these stunning photographs. The exhibit also acknowledges the importance of African-American musicians in the culture and beauty of our society. The visit was a poignant reminder for me of the major role that Black culture has played in shaping our perceptions of beauty and through its transformative contributions to music, including the creation of new genres such as jazz and hip hop.

Music is an integral component of this wonderful exhibit. The photographer and his son, Kwame S. Brathwaite, have a created a Spotify playlist, including tunes ranging from James Brown and Marvin Gaye to Alicia Keys and John Legend. There will also be an offering of live music paired with the images at Chamber Music @ AEIVA on Thursday, March 9. The concert will feature award-winning pianist, composer, and UAB graduate, Eric Mobley and Dr. Reginald Jackson, Director of the UAB Gospel Choir. This event will begin with a reception at 5:30 pm followed by the concert at 6:00 pm. I hope you will join me there for an evening of wellness.

The exhibit, “Black is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite,” will be on display at AEIVA through March 25.


March 3 2022