Just the sight of seeing a Black body at rest is radical, is liberating. It’s freedom.
-The Nap Ministry
The Black Rest Project at CBVC is a collaborative investigation into and activation of the power and practice of rest for Black people. It is a project inspired by the work of artist, theologist and activist Tricia Hersey, a.k.a. The Nap Bishop. Through the guidance of a Black Rest Advisory Council, and by cultivating strategic partnerships with visionary scholars, cultural workers, artists and community organizations, we seek to excavate, curate, and amplify visual narratives of Black rest and leisure.
What are the necessary disruptions and interventions in our institutions and artistic and scholarly praxis that must happen in order to make Black rest possible?
Join us in our experience of Black rest by attending our events and dipping into our growing archive.
Rest is Power
An Exhibition Curated by the Center for Black Visual Culture
September 7, 2023 – October 22, 2023
The 20 Cooper Square Gallery, New York, NY
This is the final week to see Rest is Power! We will be open on Sunday, October 22 from 12 – 5 for our closing day. Hope to see you there!
The 20 Cooper Square Gallery Hours:
Monday – Wednesday, 12 to 4
Thursday – Friday, 12 to 5:30
Saturday, 1 to 4
If you would like to attend outside of these hours, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to make an appointment.
Rest is Power is an exhibition that amplifies visual narratives of rest for global Black people. In a selection of artworks that span photography, painting and new media, the curators underscore Black rest as a radical act of resistance. In this exhibition, Dr. Joan Morgan, Kira Joy Williams and Dr. Deborah Willis explore rest as a healing modality for Black people.
Rest is Power provides an experience of liberation through visual repair. Depicted here is a small sample of the myriad ways Black people find rest while enduring the daily, multifaceted aggressions visited upon Black bodies. The exhibition is an invitation to disrupt toxic, lingering paradigms of work equaling worth, reminding us that the Black body’s value in the “new” world was originally assigned, not through the lens of mutual humanity, but solely by its capacity for physical, emotional and sexual labor. In these pieces, Black Rest resists, revives and replenishes. The artists in this exhibition create from a spring of inspiration that is deeply rooted in their own personal and artistic practices. Through various scenes––from domestic settings to landscapes––the more than twenty artists in Rest is Power both image and imagine Black Rest, engaging this construct uniquely through material culture, spiritual encounters, familial memory and nature.
The artists making connection to rest are: Kalila Ain, Zalika Azim, Daveed Baptiste, Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, Kennedi Carter, Renee Cox, Steven M. Cummings, Adama Delphine Fawundu, Lola Flash, Chris Friday, Cyd Fulton, Jamaica Gilmer, Allison Janae Hamilton, Chester Higgins, Deborah Jack, Savannah Faith Jackson, Lisa Leone, Tyler Mitchell, Stevia Ndoe, Gordon Parks, John Pinderhughes, Jeffrey Henson Scales, Jamel Shabazz, Cornelius Tulloch, Dae Tyas, Colette Veasey-Cullors, Adreinne Waheed, Carrie Mae Weems, D’Angelo Lovell Williams, Kira Joy Williams, and Dr. Deborah Willis.
This exhibition is an initiative of the Black Rest Project (BRP) at the Center for Black Visual Culture at NYU. The Black Rest Project was inspired by artist, theologist and activist Tricia Hersey, who created the liberating framework of Rest is Resistance.
More on the Black Rest Project
When Tricia Hersey launched The Nap Ministry in 2016 and created the liberating framework of “rest is resistance,” she did so with the intent of disrupting both capitalism and the “grind culture” embedded within it. In doing so, she did some revolutionary things:
The first was to acknowledge that Black people’s collective exhaustion was not an acceptable byproduct of Black life or Black struggle but rather a crisis of depletion that threatens every aspect of our goals and well-being – including social justice. The second was to offer up a deliberately embodied resistance strategy, one that instantly gave back more than it took. Rest not only replenishes us, it offers a tangible way forward to reparative justice and healing. The third was to issue a call to action through inaction: for Black folk to lay down and rest, and also to disentangle ourselves from the often-hidden values passed down to bodies who have historically, in the context of white supremacy, only been valued for how hard they labor and what they produce.
In short, Hersey asks us to stop confusing worth with work.
Almost two years into the intersection of a global pandemic and racial uprising, CBVC heard Hersey’s call as more pressing than ever. We knew that we were exhausted. We knew that we should rest. But what we were increasingly and acutely aware of was that most of us had no idea how. Through 2025, the Center for Black Visual Culture is committed to making Black rest visible by asking:
What does Black rest look like? And what will it take to get us there?
As America undergoes “The Great Resignation” and re-evaluates its relationship to work, we subject this moment to a deliberately Black, brown, diaspora and immigrant lens. We recognize that Black Rest must accompany a renegotiation with labor that accounts for the historical racial and gendered dynamics set into motion by the transatlantic slave trade. What possibilities open for Black Rest when our relationship to labor is contextualized through an emotional justice framework posited by the Armah Institute of Emotional Justice? How do we eradicate the lingering feelings of guilt, laziness, shame, worthlessness that often impede Black rest? How do we separate Black rest, from the individual and often neo-liberal industry of self-care and reposition it as a collective right?
Our model —partnering with scholars, artists, and cultural workers to produce events around Black Rest — was created specifically to push past the walls of academia and support healing and well-being in multiple, diverse spaces. The potential for this is unending, and the time is now.