In honor of Black History Month, Galleria Dallas is hosting an incredibly impactful photo exhibit until the end of the month.
Titled "Black Is Beautiful," the exhibit pays homage to a movement started in the 1960s as an act of defiance and deep self-love while promoting Black culture.
After the killing of George Floyd in May 2020, a Dallas-based artist is helping to continue that movement through her photographs.
"To say that you are enough to celebrate, I think it’s a very strong message," Black is Beautiful photographer, Yesi Fortuna, told NBC 5.
She said it's her way of showing solidarity for the Black community, one she said deserves to be seen and represented during unprecedented times.
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“I am also a minority, I’m a Latina woman," Fortuna said. "You can be an ally for other cultures."
Following the death of George Floyd, Fortuna said she could sense the feeling of vulnerability and trauma across North Texas and the world. So in response, she opened up the doors of her production company, Fort Lion Studio, to Black men, women and children for free portraits.
“The public response to George Floyd’s murder last May left many Black people feeling vulnerable, unheard and, most importantly, traumatized, as they were forced to grieve with no comfort through justice,” Fortuna said. “I observed this reaction and felt inclined to nurture the souls of people experiencing this pain. I felt it was part of my duty as an ally.”
It served as an avenue of expression for pain, pride and perseverance.
"I think representation matters in ways we as humans can hardly articulate,” said Josette Archin, who was photographed for the series. “I know that visually we as Black folks are not represented as readily as the European standard of beauty, and the only way to dismantle it is for Black people to feel seen and be seen and celebrated in our many walks of embodiment."
In an effort to expand the outreach, Fort Lion Studio applied and qualified for a grant through the Dallas Office of Arts and Culture that allowed the studio to put the photos in three ad kiosks in Fair Park, Deep Ellum and West Village.
Now, the movement continues at Galleria Dallas for Black History Month, featuring more than 30 portraits from the sessions.
“If the whole community, the Black community, can pick themselves up come together and truly continue to find ways to reject the idea that perhaps Black is not beautiful? To reject that, then that gives me every strength to say, 'Wow that absolutely deserves to have some spotlight,'" Fortuna said.
The portraits are currently hanging on the Gallery Wall across from the Apple Store on level one of the Galleria. The exhibit will be up until the end of February.