The first time, ever I saw your face

An exhibit about Colored Girlhood that transforms the gallery into a site of contemplation, healing and remembrance


Fields of Knowledge
  • Curatorial practice
  • Memory
  • Public culture
  • Social Justice

Organizing Institutions

The Colored Girls Museum, Slought


Michael Clemmons, Vashti DuBois, Ian Friday, Melina Gooray


TD Bank, Knight Foundation

Opens to public



4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19103

We are open to the general public by appointment only. Reserve a ticket today.

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Slought is pleased to announce the "The first time, ever I saw your face," an exhibition about Colored Girlhood that transforms the gallery into a site of contemplation, healing and remembrance, on display February 26, 2021 through June 22, 2021. Organized by and presented in partnership with The Colored Girls Museum (TCGM), the exhibition is, in effect, a one room school house that replicates the experience of being in the house museum. Joining painting, multimedia, and installation, it is centered by a portrait series, "The first time, ever I saw your face," which was commissioned by the museum and inspired by Roberta Flack's iconic 1972 rendition of the same name. The series features six paintings by Black female artists of Black girls ages 10-18. The artists and their muses include Misha McGlowen/Madison Proctor, Nile Livingston/Tyjanea Williams, Chanell Phillips/Christen Harvey, Serena Saunders/Myka Ollison, Aysha Ray Walker/Haley Ray, and Tara Pearson aka Misty Sol/Ayah Pearson.

Black girlhood is a site of great triumph and sometimes trauma. This portrait project focuses on their intersection in a visual narrative which takes a classic museum artifact, "the portrait," as its primary subject. Black Girls, while often looked at, are seldom seen. This project creates space to see black girls in their girlhood, and offers the portrait of the ordinary black girl as a monument. This portrait series, which is envisioned as a traveling experience, emphasizes the importance of black girls and black womxn expanding her boundaries and moving about the world while simultaneously highlighting the tension and danger inherent in her movement.

What are the personal psychic spiritual and economic costs of fully exercising our humanity as global citizens? What happens when the colored girl leaves home? How does The Colored Girl stay safe during a pandemic? "The first time, ever I saw your face" is the first exhibit designed by TCGM to leave the house museum and travel throughout Philadelphia and out of state. In so doing, this exhibition seeks to bring awareness to the stories of ordinary and extraordinary black girls, while simultaneously exploring the effects impact of Covid-19 and the collateral fallout.

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TCGM is a Black-women founded, collectively led house museum whose mission emerges out of our sincere duty to African Diasporic histories, cultural traditions, and political commitments.

Our intentions have always been to offer ourselves as a resource and sanctuary serving primarily black and brown women and girls who we know to be disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. The dramatic loss of life, rates of illness, historic unemployment, and health vulnerabilities experienced by essential workers in our neighborhoods ask that we be mindful of ensuring everyone has access to life affirming resources.

Research shows that as early as preschool, Black girls are treated as someone older than they are, are more likely to face harsher punishments, and are expected to take on levels of responsibility that exceed their years. TCGM feels a sense of urgency to offer support to black girls right now, as many are responding to pressures to focus on schoolworks amidst the continued trauma of these twin pandemic: they will assume additional responsibilities at home supporting households which are greatly stressed during these times. Some girls who really need distance from difficult/abusive family situations no longer have that option. "The first time, ever I saw your face," like the museum itself, offers a critical alternative space.

"The first time, ever I saw your face
I thought the sun rose in your eyes
And the moon and the stars
Were the gifts you gave
To the dark, and the endless skies
My Love"

— Performed by Roberta Flack (1972), lyrics by Ewan MacColl