"38.8%: Visualizing Racial Identity in Search of Selfhood and Others"

Please join the MSU Department of Art, Art History, and Design at The Union Art Gallery on Michigan State Universities' Campus for 38.8%: Visualizing Racial Identity in Search of Selfhood and Others, featuring the work of 2021-2022 Artist-in-Residence: Critical Race Studies, Dr. Elka Stevens. This exhibition is on view Monday, April 25 – Friday, June 10, 2022. In 38.8%, artist and designer Elka Stevens visually interrogated aspects of race, ethnicity, nationality, genetics, and their presentation as part of identity. Although many aspects of identity are out of people’s control and largely unseen, clothing allows individuals and groups to communicate messages about themselves, their cultures, activities, events, locations, and employment. Using textiles and clothing as a primary vehicle to present ideas about race, Stevens presented a mini-collection of stylized, wearable garments for women and selected artifacts that engage both the viewer and wearer in a dialogue about race and identity that explores how we wear our identities. Featured garments and accessories included dresses, a skirt, and a wrap. A quilt and blanket also narrated the social and physical attributes of race. The designs incorporated sewing techniques, such as embroidery, quilting, and applique. Surface design techniques displayed aspects of genealogy research into the collection. Archival research and imagery also contributes to the works, through motifs that include a family charts document and present wearable family histories. Color, along with other elements of design and their guiding principles, brought attention to an articulated genetic makeup. In sum, 38.8% was a re-presentation of a lived experience through worn and displayed objects.

Read the new interview, "Finding Herself Sqaurely in Afrofuturism" to learn more about the artist and her exhibition. It can be accessed here!

38.8% Music Playist

Enjoy the Spotify playlist that accompanies the show. Warning: Explicit content.

38.8% Reading List

If books are your preference, consider the following books and articles for reading pleasure:



Roots cover
(1976) by Alex Haley

Who's Black and Why?: A Hidden Chapter from the Eighteenth-Century

Who’s Black and Why?:
A Hidden Chapter from the Eighteenth-Century Invention of Race
(2022) by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Andrew S. Curran (eds.)

Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America
Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America
(2015) by Ayana Byrd and Lorie Tharps

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White Man’s Burden:
Historical Origins of Racism in the United States (1974) by Winthrop Jordan



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Parable of the Sower
by Octavia Butler


The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois : Du Bois, W.E.B.: Amazon.de:  Bücher
The Souls of Black Folk (1903)
by W. E. B. Dubois

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The Wretched of the Earth (1968) by Franz Fanon


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Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970) by Paulo Freire

The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors: Frances Cress Welsing
The Isis Papers (1982)
by Frances Cress Welsing

A person in a suit

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The 1619 Projec: A New origin Story (2021)
by Nikole Hannah-Jones, Caitlin Roper, Ilena Silverman, and Jake Silverstein (eds.)



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The Bluest Eye
by Toni Morrison


Cover of "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?"
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations about Race (2003) by Beverly Daniel Tatum


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Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings That Formed the Movement by Kimberlé Crenshaw, Neil Gotanda, Garry Peller, Kendall Thomas (Eds.)



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Ain't I A Woman?: Black Woman and Feminism (1987) by bell hooks)



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The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation After the Genome (2016) by Alondra Nelson


Black Designers in American Fashion cover
Black Designers in American Fashion (2021) by Elizabeth Way (ed.)


Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem by Daniel R. Day
Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem: A Memoir
(2021) by Daniel R. Day


Threads of Time, The Fabric of History: Profiles Of African American Dressmakers And DesignersThreads Of Time, The Fabric of History: Profiles of African American Dressmakers and Designers from 1850 To The Present (2007) by Rosemary Reed Miller

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Stephen Burrows: When Fashion Danced
(2013) by Daniela Morera and Stephen Burrows

Willi Smith: Street Couture – SHOP Cooper Hewitt
Willi Smith: Street Couture
(2020) by Alexandra Cunningham Cameron (ed.)




·         Coates, Ta-Nehisi. (2014). The Case for ReparationsThe Atlantic.

·         DiAngelo, Robin. (2017). Why It's So Hard to Talk to White People About RacismHuffington Post.

·         McIntosh, Peggy. (1989). White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible KnapsackPeace and Freedom.

·         Serwer, Adam. (2020). The Coronavirus Was an Emergency Until Trump Found Out Who Was DyingThe Atlantic.


More Resources:

·         Racial Justice, Racial Equity, and Anti-Racism Reading List

·         20 Books For 2020: A Reading List On Race In America

·         Critical Race Theory (CRT) Reading List

·         A Reading List On Race For Allies Who Want To Do Better

·         Critical Race Theory Books


Social Media

If you post from the show on social media, be certain to tag #38.8, #MSUuniongallery, @elkastevens! Thank you!