Black History Untold, created by award-winning journalist Sofiya Ballin, is an identity series that explores the importance of a comprehensive Black history education through personal essays. In a 2016 personal essay for Philly.com, Ballin said she created the project because:
"I learned the most about black history in whispered tones while my mother braided my hair, after school when my father listened to talk radio, as my grandmother grated coconut, and at the dinner table set with shades of brown and opinion. In those moments I learned of the rise and destruction of Black Wall Street, the inhumanity of the Tuskegee Experiment, the tales of Angola's Queen Nzinga, the triumph of Queen Nanny of the Jamaican Maroons, and the Haitian Revolution. I learned that black history crossed continents and spanned languages, creating dialects that sang. It left its traces in music, from the bachata to rock-and-roll. It birthed Moses a thousand times. And it is a history I share, where a knowing nod or smile can instantly connect me with the only other black person in the room."
The first year, February 2016, was an overall look at the untold stories in Black history and the second year focused in on the history and preseverance of Black joy. Some of the individuals featured in the last few installments have included actor/activist Jesse Williams, legendary MC Black Thought, professor and CNN commentator Marc Lamont Hill, Senator Cory Booker, Grammy nominated singer-songwriter Jazmine Sullivan, legendary poet Sonia Sanchez, Philadelphia Eagles' Malcolm Jenkins and youth activist Marley Dias.
In 2017, it won the National Association of Black Journalist (NABJ) Award for Best Feature: Series in 2017.
This year, the project transports readers to the future. Each participant was asked:
What does Blackness look like in the future? How did or do we get there? How does this propel you and your work? What are some historical or present-day events/figures we should be paying attention to, to inform that future?
It's a merging of the past, present and future that creates a time capsule of voices for generations to come.
Sofiya Ballin is an award-winning journalist, writer, and curator. The Philadelphia-based writer is the creator of the Black History Untold project.
She's written about trends such as cuffing season and the emergence of Black Twitter, covered major news events such as local Ferguson and Baltimore protests, photographed and produced digital fashion features, and contributed opinion pieces that speak to the Millennial soul. Ballin aims to humanize all walks of life through mentorship and her work, including being a Features Reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer. She’s interviewed everyone from Tyler Perry to Tamron Hall. Her written work has also been featured on Huffington Post, Okay Player and FADER. Her dedication to the craft has led her to honors that include being named the “2017 PABJ Journalist of the Year" and a “Caribbean American 30 Under Thirty Emerging Leader.”
“All my life, I’ve learned that there were stories untold and that not every legend was etched into bronze. My goal is to tell their stories.” The Temple graduate is a lover of culture and identity and takes every opportunity to interweave the elements of what makes us who we are into the fabric of her work.
Shawn Theodore is a multidisciplinary Philadelphia-based artist working in photography, video, and collage. His practice focuses on the fragmentation and manipulation of African American and African diasporan identities and otherness, while exploring concepts of spirituality, patriarchy, matriarchy and class structure within disappearing Black communities.
Theodore attended Tyler School of Art and received his BA in Journalism, Public Relations and Advertising from Temple University.
His solo exhibition highlights include: Church of Broken Pieces, 2017 at Richard Beavers Gallery NYC, 'Ctrl+P', A Selection of Church of Broken Pieces at Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicago, 2017. Future Antebellum, 2017 at Art Sanctuary, Philadelphia. Church of Broken Pieces 2017, African American Museum in Philadelphia.
His group exhibition highlights include: Prizm Art Fair, 2017 and 2016, Miami. 'InVision Photo Festival', 2017, Bethlehem, PA. 'We Are Stronger Together', 2017 at Rush Arts Philadelphia, in partnership with The Barnes Foundation. Other Articulations of the Real, 2017 at The Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College and OFF WHITE’, 2016 at MoCADA Museum, Brooklyn.