In the context of MICA’s unequivocal campus-wide commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and globalization (DEIG), MICA issues this statement to own and confront its racist past as the College continues to strive forward to fulfill its DEIG goals. A powerful and moving student exhibition, Blackives created by Deyane Moses (Photography ’19), provides a resonant occasion for this declaration.
MICA as an institution – represented by its president, vice presidents and board of trustees – apologizes for its historical denial of access to talented students for no other reason than the color of their skin, and for the hardships to those who were admitted but not supported for their success. With a multi-faceted, pan-institutional DEIG plan, we are working to ensure that our campus now and into the future welcomes, respects and supports equally students, faculty, staff, and public members of all backgrounds. MICA today values diversity as a foundational strength, and is committed to DEIG as a path to transform our educational offerings, the way we work with our communities, and the composition of people on campus in all areas and on all levels.
We recognize the distance that still exists between current campus reality and our envisioned DEIG future, the exigency of change, and the never-ending arc of the DEIG journey. We understand that lives have been harmed and some wounds cannot be forgotten or forgiven. Such awareness of past and persisting injustice fuels MICA’s institutional resolve to redouble our efforts towards change. Already incorporated into our mission and vision and being actively translated into institutional practice, DEIG is positioned at MICA as a set of guiding principles, as well as a catalyst, for community wellness, creativity, educational excellence, and responsible engagement.
In 1891, MICA admitted Harry T. Pratt, its first African American student who graduated successfully and achieved a remarkable life and legacy. Pratt’s enrollment, forced upon MICA as a legal appointment, was met with protests by the MICA board and led to reportedly 100 students dropping out (very significant for a much smaller MICA at the time). After Pratt graduated, the College adopted a color-line policy stating that only white students would be accepted going forward. This policy, consistent with the racist climate of the City of Baltimore and nation, was in place from 1895 until 1954 when the MICA board unanimously decided to open admission to all, regardless of race. MICA’s leadership now stands firm with the campus community to uphold our DEIG beliefs and actions. It is promising progress that the last four years have seen the most diverse student population in the history of the College.
While the above history has been published by MICA, Deyane Moses – through her Blackives exhibition and Maryland Institute Black Archives (MIBA), an online platform that continues to enrich its content – unearths and assembles richer aspects of that history. As a part of her senior thesis project, Deyane has worked closely with MICA’s Decker Library staff on the research for this extraordinarily thoughtful and beautifully installed exhibition. With Deyane’s cooperation, Blackives is extended beyond its original closing date and will be reinstalled in the Main Building, perhaps the most visible space on campus. It is essential viewing by everyone at MICA. (Please see exhibition information below.)
I was deeply stirred when I visited the Blackives exhibition and the MIBA website. While specifically celebrating the black students at MICA – past, present and future – they should resonate with all students who overcome obstacles with strength and determination to receive the best education they deserve. They remind me of MICA’s mandate to empower all of our talented students to thrive, to achieve and to impact positive change. Deyane and her project represent student agency at its best and underscore the power of art in pursuit of social justice.
As MICA looks towards our bicentennial in 2026, we will mindfully examine over the next years our history with today’s lens, in order for us to ensure a future that honors our mission and vision as articulated in Fall 2017. We look forward to partnering with Deyane, other students, faculty, staff, and alumni in understanding MICA, where we came from, who we are today, and who we want to become.