Saturday, October 15, 2:30 pm–4:30 pm
Sponsored by the Association of African and African American Folklorists
Chair: Diana Baird N’Diaye (Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage)
Ebony L. Bailey (Museum Researcher)
Camila R. Bryce-Laporte (American Folklore Society, retired)
Sloane Keller (Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage)
African Americans have played an important role as makers since the dawn of the American experiment. As primary makers in all areas of craft during slavery, their skills and knowledge have contributed tremendously to building this nation, even while, for the most part, receiving no compensation. Since emancipation, in the 19th through the 21st centuries, African American artisans have continued to produce, often with scant recognition of their participation or equal access to the craft establishment in the United States. The African American Craft Initiative (AACI), launched in 2020, is designed to expand the visibility of African American craft practitioners and ensure equitable access to resources. Established through a consultative process of dialogue with African American makers and organizations, as well as the mainstream craft sector in the United States, AACI outlines concrete actions for sustainable change. Through collaborative research, documentation, and public programming, the initiative seeks to amplify and support the efforts of African American makers to sustain their craft practice. Further, AACI facilitates networking, exchange, and outreach opportunities, advocates for equitable access to markets and resources, and improves the public’s understanding of the history, cultural background, and aesthetics of African American craft. In this forum, AACI organizers, artist/participants and interns share their reflections on the initiative and invite discussion on its impacts, problematics, and future potential.