Arts

Artist Charmaine Minniefield Honors Unmarked African American Graves At Oakland Cemetery

Atlanta artist Charmaine Minniefield will present her virtual exhibit today through Flux Projects.
Atlanta artist Charmaine Minniefield will present her virtual exhibit today through Flux Projects.
Credit Scott Lowden Photography

For this Juneteenth’s observance, Flux Projects presents  “Remembrance as Resistance: Preserving Black Narratives” by Atlanta artist Charmaine Minniefield. The project honors recently discovered unmarked graves in Oakland Cemetery’s African American burial grounds. Due to COVID-19, the physical art installation had to be postponed to Juneteenth 2021, but she has decided to have virtual presentations throughout the day.

Last year, “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes spoke with Minniefield about working with the Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters, who served as a preview for the 2020 Oakland Cemetery installation.

“The Ring Shout is a traditional African American worship practice that was created during enslavement. And I’m saying as an act of resistance because it created and insured community. By gathering its community in a praise house, a small wooden structure, where they would stand in circle. Through call and response, they would sing and worship, but also move in a circle. The movement was the shout,” said Minniefield.

In 2017, the Historic Oakland Foundation began phased restoration of the cemetery’s three-and-a-half acre African American Burial Grounds.  Most of these plots did not have a headstone or a marker. COVID-19 has pushed back plans for the restoration.

“This Juneteenth 2020 was supposed to mark the completion of their restoration of the African American section of the cemetery. It comes after the research by Georgia State using a particular technology, found those graves in that section. Then the acknowledgment that those who were displaced from the original slave square when the cemetery was smaller were connected to those 800 names. I’m really grateful to Georgia State and to the cemetery, who has taken this approach to restoring the African American section and holding up these names and these stories,” said Minniefield.

Her virtual installation “Remembrance as Resistance: Preserving Black Narratives” will be online Friday at Flux Projects.org. Flux Projects will also present a live cypher with renowned rapper and writer, Toni Blackman on Friday at 2 p.m.

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