Local artists, activists launch Black Thought Wall to highlight Black perspectives, stories

MADISON, Wis. — A group consisting of local Black artists, racial justice practitioners, and community leaders have created a new space for Black people in the community to share their perspectives and stories, extending the reach of the Black Thought Project.

The Black Thought Wall, which is set up behind a row of pillars outside of a building behind the Urban League’s South Park Street headquarters, serves as a space for Black people to share their perspectives and for non-Black people to “witness, protect and honor” those expressions.

The building above the Black Thought Wall

“With this project, we invite Black people to reflect and share publicly their perspectives on who we are, what we value and our visions for the whole of humanity,” a sign posted next to the wall reads. “We invite everyone to honor those perspectives and wisdom for our collective healing and the building of a just society. Witness your reactions, your insights, allow yourself to be changed.”

The Black Thought Wall was blessed during a ceremony on Monday, calling to mind the suffering of Black people past and present.

Leaders from the YWCA pursued the idea after hearing about the project’s origins in Oakland, California. According to YWCA CEO Vanessa McDowell, Madison is the first city outside of California to have its own Black Thought Wall.

“It’s intentional that we did it in South Madison,” McDowell said. “The Black community has been forced out of this neighborhood because we can no longer afford to live here. So this is sort of reclaiming this space, reclaiming this community.”

The project launched on Monday after months of planning from organizers. Construction of the wall took about a week, according to McDowell.

“We are ready for a change, we are all ready to get to this place of freedom, a true place of freedom and what that looks like,” she said. “Our very lives are in danger and we are in need of protection. So we are asking that this community come together to protect, witness and honor us as Black people.”

The entire community is welcome to visit the wall and read the messages written there, but writing messages on the wall is reserved for Black people in the community.