Fashion Institute of Technology students on mission to shine light on influence of black culture during Black History Month

CHELSEA, Manhattan (WABC) -- Slavery and civil rights aren't the only stories to be told during Black History Month -- and a group of student at the Fashion Institute of Technology is on a mission to make that point.

The group wants more attention on the influence of black culture so they have created an exhibit called "Black in Time."

FIT students Kiara Williams and Awa Doumbia say they want Black History Month to be more about only the hardships.

"We can't erase our history and you know, being oppressed and being enslaved is always going to be in our books and a part of us, but we can show that the story goes on," Williams said.

The Black Student Union officers put together an exhibition that leads with fashion to explore the rich, cultural history of African Americans.

It features themed sections that explore everything from the African roots of black cultural history, the artists and innovators who influenced black style and glamour to the activists who changed black lives.

"This exhibit is to highlight everything that you don't traditionally hear within the classroom," Doumbia said.

While the downstairs gallery space is a celebration of black creativity and self-expression, upstairs is a jarring lesson in the political forces that have shaped black life in America -- designed to force visitors to pay attention.

"I want them to feel overwhelmed and uncomfortable, because the ideas of political and social justice are confronting you in 360 degrees, there is no escaping the ideas behind this room," curator Maeve Cahill said.

Mass incarceration, police brutality and the continuing struggle for civil rights are just some of the social justice issues still facing African Americans.

Reminders adorn the wall and floors of the exhibit.

"So the newspaper on the floor is designed to make you be very cautious of where you step because in today's day and age, we're not often forced to slow down," Cahill said.

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