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A painting by Yashua Klos called Diagram of How She Hold it All Together.


Black chicagoland is…

Roderick E. Jackson and april l. graham-jackson

Worth Ryder Art Gallery | UC Berkeley

Exhibition Dates | August 30 – September 21, 2023

Exhibition Opening Reception | August 30, 2023 from 5:00pm-7:00pm

            Roderick E. Jackson, Homecoming, Vinyl Banner, 72×48”, 2017

“The biggest secret in Chicago is that Chicago was founded by a Black man.” –Lerone Bennett Jr. 

Inspired by Black life across Chicagoland, “Black chicagoland is…” emerges as a multi-sensory installation conceived by Roderick E. Jackson and april l. graham-jackson. “Black chicagoland is” brings together richly textured photography, the music and sounds of Black Chicagoland, and inner musings from Black Chicagoans to thicken how we understand Black Chicagoness within and beyond the city’s iconic South Side. The exhibit includes Still Sweatin,’ a curated room highlighting the placemaking practices of the Black House Music and Cultural Community of Chicago, and how they use house music, culture, and sound to claim space across Chicagoland.  The exhibit’s opening reception will feature Duane E. Powell, legendary DJ and Black House Kid, spinning Chicago house music on August 30th from 5:00PM-7:00PM.  Presented by the Black Studies Collaboratory and the Department of Art Practice at UC Berkeley, “Black chicagoland is…”, runs August 30-September 21, 2023 at the Worth Ryder Art Gallery at UC Berkeley.

Roderick E. Jackson, PhD student in the African American Studies Department and april l. graham-jackson, PhD candidate and Berkeley Black Geographies Fellow, have reimagined Black Chicago as Black Chicagoland to draw our attention to the places that are often hidden beneath the surface, the forgotten suburbs and towns hugging Chicago’s periphery, and spaces on the fringes where Black Chicagoness is and has always been present in all of its truths, contradictions, and expressions. The Jacksons invite us to engage Black life across this geography through its mythologized but often erased racial histories, deep cultural innovations, Black placemaking practices, and the shifting spatial boundaries that insist that there is more to be learned of what Richard Wright called “the known city.” Through years of listening, visualizing, mapping, and dreaming of Black Chicagoland, the Jacksons offer an evocative portrait of a distinct place and its people by peeling back the layers of a deeply historied Black geography that is familiar and still yet to be discovered. 

“Black chicagoland is” is curated by Dr. Leigh Raiford, Professor of African Diaspora Studies and Co-Director of the Black Studies Collaboratory at UC Berkeley in collaboration with Roderick E. Jackson and april l. graham-jackson. This exhibition was initiated by Greg Niemeyer, Professor of Art Practice at UC Berkeley, and has received intellectual and financial support from the Black Studies Collaboratory, the Department of Art Practice, and Berkeley Black Geographies housed in the Department of Geography at UC Berkeley, and the Black Midwest Initiative. 

The Worth Ryder Art Gallery is located in Room 116 of the Anthropology and Art Practice Building at UC Berkeley and open M, T, Th, Fri: 12:00PM-5:00PM, Wed: 1:00PM-7:00PM, and Sat: 12:00PM pm-3:00PM. You can find out more about the gallery at For more information, please visit and

Artist Bios

Roderick E. Jackson is a Black Chicagoan, photographer, and PhD student in the African-American Studies Department at UC Berkeley. His doctoral research explores how Black working-class men in the Calumet Region build community within spaces of socioeconomic marginalization in the wake of the Great Recession of 2008. As the principal photographer for “Black chicagoland is…,” Roderick utilizes visual ethnography through a multi-modal approach to thicken narrow media representations of Black life across the Chicago Metropolitan Area. He has worked as an event photographer for SFMOMA and is a Grammy awarded music producer and co-founder of the eclectic duo Tensei whose music has been featured on The South Side on HBO Max and The Blacklist on NBC. Roderick produced the Chicago hip hop classic, “Dennehy” by rapper Serengeti and works as a producer, writer, and composer for Sony | KPM. He graduated cum laude with a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. 

april l. graham-jackson is a Black Chicagoan, PhD Candidate, and Berkeley Black Geographies Fellow at UC Berkeley. Her research and creative work is shaped by the ways Black people define and (re)produce geographic Blackness and the everyday rhythms of Black urban and suburban life through music, sound, and auditory placemaking. She is also the chair of the Black Geosonicologies Research Group and the founder of the Black Geographies Graduate Student Conference. april’s research exploring the placemaking practices of the Black House Music and Cultural Community of Chicago through the formation of house music, house culture, and what she termed, “house geographies” is the basis for Still Sweatin’, a curated room within “Black chicagoland is…” Before returning to academia after a 17 year absence, she worked as a music journalist interviewing Aretha Franklin, Common, Outkast, and several other artists. april graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Mount Holyoke College with a A.B. in Black Geographies. 

About WRAG

The Worth Ryder Art Gallery (WRAG) is an educational art space that has served as a cultural and artistic resource and community center for undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, alumni, and the Bay Area community since 1960, and is a central social and artistic hub of the UC Berkeley Department of Art Practice. The gallery supports students in exhibiting their artwork in a professional gallery context, serves as an exhibition platform for emerging contemporary artistic strategies, and brings challenging and thought-provoking artwork to the UC Berkeley campus. It is named after painter and founding chair of the department, Worth Ryder. The Gallery is located at 116 Anthropology and Art Practice Building (first floor) on the UC Berkeley Campus, near the intersection of College Avenue and Bancroft Way. The Gallery is open, M, T, Th, F: 12-5 pm, W: 1- 7 pm, Sat. 12-3 Fall and Spring semesters, during exhibition periods, or by appointment. More information can be found at


Exhibit and opening reception are free and open to the public. 


Worth Ryder Art Gallery

116 Anthropology and Art Practice Building

UC Berkeley

(Near College Ave and Bancroft Way).


M, T, Th, F: 12-5 pm PST

W: 1-7 pm

Sat: 12-3 pm

Exhibit Run:

August 30-September 21, 2023

Opening Reception

Wednesday, August 30th 5:00PM-7:00PM