An exhibit celebrating Caribbean icon and singer Cheryl Byron, will debut at the Caribbean Literary and Cultural Center, displaying the items she once wore throughout her life and career from Dec. 6–Jan. 1.
“The Iconography Series: Celebrating the Female Spirit — Cheryl Byron” is celebrating the life of Cheryl Byron and the unique styles she incorporated into her identity. The exhibit is showcasing the costumes, accessories, and fabrics that belonged to the late singer and founder of Something Positive, who is organizing the display. Organizers of the exhibit are hosting the series honoring her style and who she was to show the importance of celebrating their Caribbean heroes.
“We designed a program celebrating women because the community needs to realize that people like us — Caribbean, blacks, and women — need to have positive role models,” said Shaun M. Rasmussen, exhibit curator and assistant director of Something Positive, a cultural arts organization that Byron founded some 30 years ago.
“When we are creating an icon, we are creating an idea they represent so you feel that something that you can be in accordance with.”
At the exhibit visitors will see the dresses, items, jewelry, and costumes once worn by the singer displayed on several mannequins. All of the pieces are items that came out of storage from preservations that Something Positive and Asake Bomani — Byron’s sister — maintained for more than a decade. Actor Danny Glover who was a close friend of Byron’s, partnered with Something Positive, to sponsor the exhibit.
Many of the items that will be on display are pieces that were designed specifically for Byron, and will also give guests an up close and personal look at her unique beliefs revealed for the first time, in her unique clothing, said Manswell.
“Cheryl always said her body needed to be a canvas, and when she got on stage she was a living moving canvas,” he said.
He also says ensuring the community learns about the figures that came before them is important because it is not often they will learn about them somewhere else.
“If you don’t know an icon exists or know your history because you don’t have the immediate tools — you’ll only use what’s available and often those are not the good things,” said Manswell. “In creating icons you create a certain kind of leadership, even if the person is no longer around,” said Michael Manswell. “One can create a value system based on something powerful, and empowering for a life down the road, and we really want people to understand that they can still hold on to something even if you didn’t know an icon exists.”
Rasmussen says knowing Byron and being able to share his knowledge of who she was and her impact into the community is part of their mission. And he also wants visitors to leave the exhibit with a sense of pride that there are icons similar to them that are celebrated.
“With everything that we do, education is the common denominator,” he said.
“Cheryl Byron always said kids are the finest resources. We want a young person who walks into the library to see that there are women who look like me and dress like this and embody something you can’t put into words — and that is iconic.”
“The Iconography Series: Celebrating the Female Spirit — Cheryl Byron” at Caribbean Literary and Cultural Center [22 Linden Blvd. between Flatbush and Bedford avenues in Prospect Lefferts-Gardens, www.somet