Philly’s Colored Girls Museum prescribes the sanctuary of home for ‘A Good Night’s Sleep’

The future of health care; missing children; divine absurdities — these are just a few of the things keeping Vashti DuBois up at night. The installation “A Good Night’s Sleep” addresses DuBois’ insomnia and that of other colored girls prescriptively, in different rooms of The Colored Girls Museum in Northwest Philadelphia.

On the third-floor, the Triage Suite holds a fort of billowing pastel curtains dreamily inviting visitors to curl themselves into woven baskets for a nap meditation. In the Recovery Suite, dolls and quilts beg to be held invoking feelings of security.

Throughout the museum — also the home of DuBois, its director and founder — masks, vases, paintings, stained glass and cartoons reflect the experiences of colored girls. The objects are meant to be interacted with as artifacts. “They announce presence, but they also hold place, not just in the museum, but in the community,” said DuBois. The objects have all of the history of the mothers, the grandmothers, and the great grandmothers, she adds.

It was not a difficult decision for DuBois to open up her own home as a museum. “When black folks weren’t really allowed or able to afford other spaces, we really gathered in our home spaces, and home is really important right now as spaces of sanctuary,” she said.

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It’s an idea she’s developed since working with adjudicated delinquent girls between the ages of 14 and 17 at the Girls Center in Philadelphia years ago. She noticed a lack of spaces to take them where they could see themselves, so she paired girls with professional artists to turn the center into a home. 

DuBois, curator Michael Clemmons, and associate director Ian Friday financially support The Colored Girls Museum themselves, along with the artists. She says it might seem strange to some to have two black men in leadership roles, but the museum is for “anyone who is ready for a conscious revolution.”

“One of the things that we say here at the Colored Girls Museum, right, is that if you don’t know everybody’s story, you don’t know anybody’s story.”

The final spring preview showing of A Good Night’s Sleep Act Two: Urgent Care is Sunday, May 21. 

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