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Ashley Powell, creator of 'white only' and 'black only' signs, to speak in Burchfield Penney

Last September, University at Buffalo graduate student Ashley Powell sparked a local controversy with national implications when she posted a series of provocative signs on the university’s Amherst campus.

The signs, which displayed the words “black only” and “white only,” drew both ire and applause from observers, who clashed over whether the project was a sophomoric stunt that missed its mark or a searing commentary on white complicity in black American suffering.

On April 8 in the Burchfield Penney Art Center auditorium (1300 Elmwood Ave.), the debate will continue as Powell takes the stage for a panel discussion featuring UB professors Millie Chen, John Jennings and Ron R. Stewart and moderated by Buffalo artist Gary L. Wolfe.

In a release from the Burchfield Penney, Powell said the piece, titled “Our Compliance,” “was created to expose white privilege.”

“Our society still actively maintains racist structures that benefit one group of people, and oppress another,” Powell said in the statement. “This project makes forceful what has been easy for you to ignore. It is a delusion to believe that we can change society without first changing ourselves.”

The discussion is part of the Burchfield Penney’s monthly free First Fridays event, which also features a series of screenings, workshops and other events. Call 878-6011 or visit

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