Even before I knew of her own photography achievements, I knew that her work in this project was special and something that I had to own. I tracked down a hard copy at a fabulous black owned bookstore in Harlem called Sisters Uptown Bookstore and began my journey into a comprehensive history of black photography. I stumbled upon a Vice article about her and it quietly relit the flame under my own journey as a black woman carving out a space for herself in this white male dominated industry. As a 30+ year old digital photography student, it comes as no shock that most of the studied “greats” of this field look nothing like me and do not capture work that reflects my existence. Representation matters and Deborah Willis’ continued effort to share stories of our existence inspires storytellers like myself to soldier on and continue sharing our perspective. Check out the Vice article featuring Deborah Willis here and Reflections in Black can be purchased here.
I’m not exactly sure how to describe Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric, but I can say that I can’t put the book down. I’m a few pages away from finishing it (devoured it in 3 days) and it resonated deeply with my being as a black woman. Her combination of poetry, essays and what I would call think pieces weave together to form an intricate and important collection of timely work in a society undoubtedly fueled by race.
Claudia Rankine’s bold new book recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life and in the media. Some of these encounters are slights, seeming slips of the tongue, and some are intentional offensives in the classroom, at the supermarket, at home, on the tennis court with Serena Williams and the soccer field with Zinedine Zidane, online, on TV-everywhere, all the time. The accumulative stresses come to bear on a person’s ability to speak, perform, and stay alive. Our addressability is tied to the state of our belonging, Rankine argues, as are our assumptions and expectations of citizenship. In essay, image, and poetry, Citizen is a powerful testament to the individual and collective effects of racism in our contemporary, often named “post-race” society.
As we continue on through this journey of my past life as a radio host, I present to you my series within The B Side Show podcast “Respect Ya Elders”. This was my opportunity to use an entire show to play nothing but the classics. This edition revolved around 70’s and 80’s black cinema. The songs chosen were the musical background to classics such as Sparkle (the original), Fame (the original), Claudine and Super Fly. I also took the liberty of adding clips from other classic films such as The Education of Sonnie Carson, The Warriors and The Mack to fully round out the show. According to my labels, this episode premiered in December 2008 and I must say, IT STILL SOUNDS DAMN GOOD! Listen below and judge for yourself!
The B Side Show “Respect Ya Elders Pt. 4” Originally aired December 2008:
I recently took a late summer vacation and was able to fully digest the beautifully designed scripted 10 part audio drama “Bronzeville”. The cast is stellar: Laurence Fishburne, Larenz Tate, Tika Sumpter, Tracee Ellis Ross, Omari Hardwick, Wood Harris, Lahmard Tate, Cory Hardrick and more make up the characters that come to life in the series. “Bronzeville” brings to life 1940’s Chicago and the “policy” or numbers games that allowed this African American community to flourish. At the center of the drama we are introduced to members of the notorious Copeland family, including sister Lisa Copeland played by Tika sumpter, Jimmy Tillman played by Larnez Tate and Curtis Randolph played by Laurence Fishourne. Not only was I impressed with the sound design of the overall series, I couldn’t believe how quickly I was transformed to 1940’s Chicago via these auditory performances. It’s easy for me to binge a great tv series or fly through a good book but I’ve never been so engaged in a scripted audio series. I think a major reason why I was so invested and am supportive of the project is because it is not entirely a fictional project and a little know piece of American history. Bronzeville was an actual African American community in Chicago in the 1940’s whose money generated from the policy operation allowed the community to be self sufficient and produce schools, stores, banks and nightclubs. You can read a bit about its history and the policy operation here.
You can listen to all 10 episodes of season 1 here. Hopefully the cast is hard at work and gearing up for season 2!
A friend of mine put me onto “There Goes The Neighborhood” as they covered gentrification in East New York Brooklyn. Being from Brooklyn and witnessing its gentrification first hand, I was all in. The series talked to both local residents directly effected by new city plans and the infiltrating house flippers. I devoured every episode and eagerly awaited a new season to be posted. I had hoped the series would tackle another section of Brooklyn but they are instead taking the series to the West coast to discuss gentrification in Los Angeles. If the upcoming L.A. version is as good as the B.K. version, we’re all in for an eye opening treat.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…PRIDE! If you don’t know, I support the LGBTQ community to the fullest and since 2011 (WOW that feels like yesterday) I have walked in the NYC Pride Parade with my cousin and her wife. I captured some pretty epic footage the first year that we walked in the parade and decided to bring it back just in time for this year’s celebration. This is all raw footage of the day but it does a pretty good job of showing just how much fun the Pride Parade is. Enjoy!
That’s right. The good people over at Human Utility are sick of the shit and figured out a way for anyone with a little extra to give (and I do mean little, smallest donation can be $5) to help a family, elderly person or someone in need pay for something that should honestly be given free of charge in this land of milk and honey, water. Last year the city of Detroit resumed its practice of shutting off water to residents unable to pay their water bill. In case you missed it, Detroit was labeled the poorest big city in the U.S. in 2015 and it was recently reported that the poverty level among Michigan’s children is higher now than it was during the recession in 2008. Head over to the Human Utility website for more information and if you can, consider helping out someone in need of this basic necessity.
It’s here! My new photo book is live and can be viewed here. Enjoy!