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.
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!
Let me be honest, I did not like the film Moonlight. I KNOW, very unpopular opinion here but I didn’t. Not to take away from any of the actors or the production crew but I felt like it was a very skeletal piece. The film didn’t feel fully fleshed out and seemed very incomplete, but that’s just my opinion. This dance piece by the Alvin Ailey dancers set to the main score of the film however is a beautiful piece that almost, ALMOST makes me want to give the film a THIRD try (yes I watched it twice hoping I was missing what everyone else appears to get about this film…nope).
This is my favorite playlist to date! Music to inspire, make you dance and keep you going. Enjoy!
Optimistic – Sounds of Blackness
Ghetto Heaven – The Family Stand
Back II Life (However Do You Want Me) – Soul II Soul
Keep on Movin’ – Soul II Soul
The Power – SNAP!
Don’t Make Me Over – Sybil
Don’t Walk Away – Jade
If You Love Me – Brownstone
Tennessee – Arrested Development
Mr. Wendal – Arrested Development
Revolution – Arrested Development
Fight The Power – Public Enemy
Finally – CeCe Peniston
Keep on Walkin’ – CeCe Peniston
Sending My Love – Zhane
Hey Mr. DJ – Zhane
Tell Me – Groove Theory
All Around The World – Lisa Stansfield
I Will Survive – Chantay Savage
People Everyday (Metamorphosis Mix) – Arrested Development
A couple of months ago I had the opportunity to visit the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. and I must say, I’ve never been so overwhelmed in the most beautiful way possible. The sheer amount of information, history, culture and energy in the museum is astonishing. I managed to get a few iPhone photos (apologies if they are sideways, still can’t figure that out) and video to share but they do it no justice. If you can, stalk the museum’s website for timed passes and experience this gem in person.
If you’re going to an ugly Christmas sweater party this year, do it with purpose! Nas is selling his “Kneeling Santa” sweaters through his HSTRY clothing brand. According to the site:
“A portion of proceeds will go to The Center for Court Innovation, which seeks to help create a more effective and humane justice system, reducing both crime and incarceration.”
Spoiler alert: I purchased the red one.