Freedom Square: The Black Girlhood Altar

Wednesday, Nov 1, 2023 – Mar 10, 2024

78 E. Washington
Chicago, IL 60602

Michigan Avenue Galleries, 1st Floor East


A Long Walk Home is a national art organization that empowers young people to end violence against girls and women. Since its inception in 2003, A Long Walk Home has built a powerful collective of artists, activists, healers, survivors, scholars, and women and girls of color leaders. We are committed to increasing resources and opportunities for society’s most vulnerable girls and women in the Chicago area -- low-income girls and women of color, those with disabilities, and LGBTQ-identified -- and those most impacted by violence.

During the uprising and global pandemic in 2021, A Long Walk Home's Chicago-based artists Scheherazade Tillet and Robert Narciso created The Black Girlhood Altar. The Black Girlhood Altar is a multimedia, artifact-based, video, and object-based artwork to create sacred spaces and honor the lives of Black girls and young Black women who have gone missing or been murdered. As a mode of urgent healing – weaving together commemoration and advocacy – the Black Girlhood Altar is built on years of engaged work in Chicago and taking on national prominence. This temporary monument traveled through various neighborhoods in Chicago before being exhibited at Chicago Cultural Center. Other installations were at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Project Row Houses in Houston, Project for Empty Space in Newark, and the Minnesota State Capitol in St Paul. As a vital cultural institution in the heart of Chicago, the Chicago Cultural Center represents the democratization of arts for public life.

This iteration Freedom Square: The Black Girlhood Altar is intended as a sacred site for missing and murdered Black girls and women. Assembled by A Long Walk Home’s artists Scheherazade Tillet and Robert Narcisco and Black girls in Chicago, the altar is a mixed-media, object-based installation initially created during the pandemic to transform public spaces from trauma sites to collective remembering and power.

The Black Girlhood Altar honors eight Black women and girls: Rekia Boyd, Latasha Harlins, Ma’Khia Bryant, “Hope”, “Harmony”, Marcie Gerald, Lyniah Bell, and Breonna Taylor, whose deaths or disappearances have galvanized A Long Walk Home’s Black girl leaders to be activists and artists. In many cases, injustice defines their afterlives while their stories remain untold, their legacies honored by only a few.

The exhibit is presented in three distinct gallery spaces - Ritual and Prayer; Rest and Recess: The Courtyard; and Call and Response – each introduced by a distinctly colored lightbox.

Freedom Square: The Black Girlhood Altar aims to bring awareness to the issue of missing and murdered women of color, promote community accountability, end gender-based violence, and increase visibility. The exhibition creates a space for artists, families, and community activists to engage in public conversation.