The Black Joy Project wordmark on a mustard colored background

The Black Joy Project

  • Duration:Temporary
  • Location:Campbell Gallery

(date) 2/2/2024–12/1/2024

The Black Joy Project aims to make an unprecedented celebration of Black JOY visible in our communities and museum spaces. The project celebrates the beauty, joy, and resilience of Black women and girls and their lived experiences during COVID-19 and the social unrest after the brutal deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others. During 2024, public events will carry the project’s themes into performances, workshops, talks, and other programs with an exciting variety of artists and experts. The project will grow and build joy throughout the year.

Throughout the run of the project, the community can expect events that underscore resilience and healing through food, performance, crafting, music, and much more. Conversations around self-care and cooking lead into wellness activities and programs encouraging participants to add to the project’s museum display. Programs include a Black business expo (February) to connect local Black business owners with the community and to discuss ideas around growing Black wealth; a multi-day workshop (June) for community members to create their own Book of Life, inspired by PBS’s hit TV show Finding Your Roots; and a back to school evening (August) for students to learn about and receive materials to incorporate the Samaritan’s Eight Dimensions of Wellness (external link).

  • Two wooden canvases with portrais of Black women in three shades of purple
    Artwork by Keith Jacobs
  • Two wooden canvases with portrais of Black women in three shades of purple
  • Two wooden canvases with portrais of Black women in three shades of purple
    Artwork by Keith Jacobs


About the Curators

Dr. Ruby Mendenhall is a professor in Sociology and African American Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is the Associate Dean for Diversity and Democratization of Health Innovation of the Carle Illinois College of Medicine. Her research looks at how gun violence affects Black mothers’ mental and physical health. She is currently directing the Nobel Project, which provides students from marginalized groups unprecedented access to experiences and mentors in science, technology, engineering, art, and math. She recently trained close to 50 high school and young adults to be Community Health Workers and Citizen/Community Scientists. She is also developing Wellness Stores/Spaces in schools and other locations in communities.

Florence Adibu is a Research Scientist at Carle Illinois College of Medicine. She infuses her work with a deep understanding of intercultural learning, Afrofuturism, and community healing. She inspires students to become Global Ambassadors, passionately addressing the intersection of innovation, inequity, and knowledge. Florence is a vocal advocate for Black women and girls, leveraging oral storytelling to speak truth to power in her teaching and writing.

  • headshot of a Black woman wearing a black striped blazer outdoors
    Dr. Ruby Mendenhall
  • headshot of a Black woman with white striped blouse in a studio setting
    Florence Adibu

Supported by:

  • Dr. Allan C. and Marlene S. Campbell Endowment Fund
  • Richard J. and Barbara S. Faletti Gallery of African Cultures Fund
  • Donald W. and Dorothy Berkey White Endowment Fund
  • Norman E. Whitten Spurlock Graduate Assistant Fund
  • Spurlock Museum Educational Endowment Fund
  • Spurlock Museum Guild Museum Fund
  • Girls Like Me Inc.
  • Carle Illinois College of Medicine
  • President’s Initiative to Celebrate the Impact of the Arts and Humanities
  • National Science Foundation
  • Illinois Arts Council Agency