Black Joy In spite of ... title graphic


When we consider the Black American experience, we often recall the pain and struggle associated with this history. In some ways, this pain has sustained Black people by callousing us so that we became “superhuman,” allowing many of us to move forward despite seemingly impossible circumstances. However, these “superhumans” were and still are human and are worthy of being seen embracing the American ideals of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” within our collective memory. As a socio-cultural historian, I’ve had the opportunity to examine the arc of the Black American experience beginning with enslavement and connect it to who and how Black Americans are today. Despite numerous hurdles and roadblocks, Black Americans have still managed to embody an intangible sense of joy and peace.

Black Joy, in Spite of . . . showcases photographs of the formerly enslaved and their descendants through time and throughout the three regions of Tennessee. Overall, this exhibition’s purpose is to show Black Tennesseans having the audacity to be happy amid and in the aftermath of a system that was designed to break them. Accompanying the images are new works by various Tennessee artists ranging from established figures to college students and recent graduates depicting their own personal interpretations of Black people resisting the social order and embarking on the eternal journey to Black joy.

—Brigette Janea Jones

About the guest curator

Brigette Janea Jones is the founder of Bridge Builders Historical Consulting LLC, a research and interpretive resource for museums and other nonprofit institutions that focuses on empathetic cultural remembrance, and the assistant executive director of the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Before she took on these roles, Jones served as director of equitable partnerships for Belle Meade Historic Site and Winery and curator of social history for the Tennessee State Museum. Her work has concentrated on the social histories of the diverse cultures that inhabit Tennessee, including those related to African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Middle Eastern Americans. She also studies the legacy and ongoing ramifications of enslavement in Tennessee and surrounding areas and the need for reparative action as it relates to American descendants of enslavement.

Jones was born and raised in Memphis and holds a bachelor of arts degree from Tennessee State University. In 2019, she gained certification through the National Association of Interpretation and the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of African American History and Culture to be an official interpreter of the African American experience.

About the jurors

Joseph Patrick

Photographer Joseph Patrick, born and raised in Nashville, is known for his meticulous approach to light and form in figure and editorial portraiture. Patrick holds a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from Tennessee State University, and he attributes his keen fascination with light to his educational background. This unique blend of technical understanding and artistic sensibility allows him to craft photographs that range from moody and dense to soft, emotional portraits.

Influenced by photographers Irving Penn, Herb Ritts, and Carrie Mae Weems, Patrick weaves levity, intrigue, and personal connection into his work to create timeless portraiture. His work has recently been showcased in notable solo exhibitions in Nashville including Damn Good Designer Genes at OZ Arts and a BODY Of WORK at NKA Gallery. Through these exhibitions, he continues to explore the intersection of creativity, human form, and psychology in his photographic narratives.


From the soulful city of Memphis, Tennessee, TC is an artist, fashion designer, and innovator who embarked on a creative journey that has become a powerful means of self-expression and healing. In their artistic practice, TC delves into the transformative power of collage to repair the wounds of childhood trauma. Through the intricate arrangement of disparate elements, they aim to unravel the tangled threads of their past, exploring the layers of emotion and memory that have shaped their life. By embracing the medium of collage, they aim to foster a sense of empathy and connection, shedding light on the universal human experience of healing and resilience.

In 2023, TC was the inaugural Art in the Atrium artist at the Frist Art Museum. Their work has also been featured at COOP Gallery, Three Brothers Coffee, the 2022 Art of the South exhibition, Rock Wall Gallery, and the Artville festival, among other venues. TC is currently an artist in residence at the Forge Nashville.

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