In the experimental video Structures of Identity, Allison Minto presents a past, present, and futural archive. Composed from familial, found, and new footage, the video traces a non-linear conception of Blackness through multiple iterations of unrealized Historically Black College and Universities (HBCUs), both in her personal life and in New Haven. HBCUs offered higher education to African Americans in the United States prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, ensuring that Black excellence flourished. Minto recalls the Black self-formation articulated by alumni of HBCUs, largely considered hallowed institutions, especially in communities from the South. Her footage of Black traditions of color guard and the sound of marching bands from New Haven James Hillhouse High School rehearsals, and found footage, photos, and her sister Diana’s recreated color guard uniform by designer Dwayne Moore, demonstrate observation from the periphery as she never attended an HBCU. Such footage contrasts with that of elegiac intersection of New Haven’s I-95 and I-91—the site of what would have been the United States’ first HBCU, proposed in 1831 at the First Annual Convention of the Free People of Color convened in Philadelphia. That same year, white property owners put pressure on the city of New Haven, which eventually voted against the college’s existence. And finally, ending meditative shots track speculative structures of identity she could have known through the intellectual and communal kinships forged at an HBCU.
Structures of Identity, 2022.
Rayon material uniform, designed in collaboration with Dwayne Moore of Neville Wisdom. Courtesy of the artist.