Brooke Obie Reviews New Exhibit Celebrating Black Joy in Travel
From On She Goes:
On the third floor of New York City’s Museum of Arts and Design (MAD), there’s a small refuge for Black travelers. Artist Derrick Adams’s first major NYC exhibit, Sanctuary, pays homage to The Negro Motorist Green Book, a publication that helped Black travelers find safe places to eat, sleep, use the restroom, and more. Published by New York postal worker Victor Hugo Green from 1936 to 1967, The Green Book served as a lighthouse to Black travelers at a time when crossing into the valley of the shadow of death was more than a metaphor. But, like The Green Book itself, Adams’s homage is hopeful and full of Black joy.
Though the undercurrent of Jim Crow terror is inherent in the exhibit and in the necessity of TheGreen Book itself—there are placards throughout describing what it still means to be Driving While Black—Adams’s eye is trained on the access to a fuller American life that the book gave to Black people.
Visitors enter the exhibit, on display until August 12, 2018, which is well-lit and buoyant, through wooden door frames and opened doors with welcome mats. On either side of the door frame is a highway with Poor Boy hats on wheels, a playful depiction of more Black motorists on the road as cars became more affordable and travel became more accessible due to The Green Book. The bright lighting and the playful hats on wheels seemed to express an excitement about the open road. And because Black travelers now had a nationwide directory of places where they could find safety and community, the open road was more than a terrifying place; it opened up a space for adventure.