Welcome to the Black Lunch Table

Dear Black Lunch Table communities,

It is with excitement, albeit bittersweet, that we announce founders jina valentine and Heather Hart will be transitioning away from Executive Directorship, and are opening a search for a new Executive Director of Black Lunch Table (BLT).

Black Lunch Table began as a collaborative project between Heather and jina in 2005, and became a 501c3 in 2019. During their tenure as Co-Executive Directors of this nonprofit organization, jina and Heather have grown the seed of Black Lunch Table from an extension of their respective art practices to a burgeoning non-profit dedicated to disseminating, archiving, and historicizing the stories of Black creators.

The Board is grateful for their dedication. They depart leaving the organization in a strong position for continued growth as we move forward in our journey toward the BLT vision. We are confident that step will be an important one in taking Black Lunch Table to the next level with an experienced, inspiring new Executive Director. The board will oversee the process of permanently filling the position and you, our dedicated communities, can help by spreading the word. If you have any thoughts or questions, please feel free to contact board@blacklunchtable.com

We look forward to continuing our work together as jina and Heather join the Board of Directors in the Fall.

In solidarity,
Hasan M. Elahi, Lisa Dent, Anna Olujimi, and Alice Gray Stites
Black Lunch Table Board of Directors

In the past 17 years, Black Lunch Table has grown from an intervention in public space, to an artist project, to a nonprofit organization with a small and dedicated staff and board.  When we first sat down at that picnic table in Skowhegan, Maine, we never imagined that conversation would inspire the creation of dozens and dozens of community gatherings and rich discussions! Since that germinal event the project has grown so much–geographically, conceptually, technologically, and structurally. Black Lunch Table has always been about resource equity, which means equal access to knowledge, health, wealth, and social resources for everyone. We believe this is only possible with collective contributions to building a more comprehensive record of the cultural, intellectual, and social contributions of Black artists.

We have always cultivated Black Lunch Table with the intention of creating a legacy project–one that would outlive us, and foster discourse, fill holes in art historical canons, and inspire creative production beyond that which we could ever imagine. Seventeen years on from 2005, we reflect, with gratitude and humility, all that we have built with you. Our incredible and indefatigable staff are planning, hosting, and archiving events, and dreaming up new initiatives for BLT to pursue. We are excited to announce the much-anticipated soft-launch of our new website + archive portal this summer, which will avail you all of the many many hours of audio recorded at roundtable events, and new ways to interact with the archived materials. And we continue this work with the generous commitments of our individual donors, as well as our major funders, Mellon, Wikimedia, and Warhol Foundations. 

It is perhaps because it is so bittersweet to make this announcement that we’ve completely buried the lede (lead) here.  At this pivotal point in the growth of our organization, we have decided to begin a search for an Executive Director to steward BLT into its future, and to retire to the Board. Our decision to transition out of the shared role of Executive Directors was based largely on a critical assessment of, and deep commitment to, Black Lunch Table’s growth needs currently and in the coming years.  As the Black Lunch Table moves into a new phase in its life cycle, the skills and capacity required for effective stewardship also shift.  

We are excited for BLT to continue the work of disrupting the dominant historical narrative and the systemic othering of Black voices, and addressing historical omissions by empowering marginalized voices to record, transcribe, archive, and publish their stories. The project, the organization, we founded is in motion. It is doing the work towards repairing incomplete narratives, and collecting unaccounted histories. We are so very grateful for your continued support and enthusiasm for this work. And we hope you too are excited to see what is in store for the future of Black Lunch Table.

Thank you for all your support!

Heather Hart + jina valentine
Black Lunch Table Founders + current Executive Directors

Black Lunch Table’s (BLT) primary aim is the production of discursive sites, wherein artists and local community members engage in dialogue on a variety of critical issues. BLT mobilizes a democratic rewriting of contemporary cultural history by animating discourse around and among the people living it. First staged in 2005 at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture artist residency, the project has grown by way of contributions from and collaborations with artists, digital humanities researchers, and Wikipedians. BLT currently includes two roundtable series’, an online oral history archive, and a Wikipedia initiative. Much like its creation of physical spaces that foster community and generate critical dialogue, BLT creates a digital space for art, Black studies and social justice issues.