"I thought that creating a gallery where you would be able to see these positive images would counteract the dehumanizing effects we've had over the past couple of centuries," she said. "It's a long process, but the legal system is also a long process. I thought with images, you could make an impact a little faster."
In Bambara, a language spoken in Mali, the word "yeelen," means "brightness." Ferguson chose the name for her gallery after seeing Souleymane Cissé's 1987 film of the same name.