Kara Walker’s Exhibit: What I Would Have Liked To See

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So a friend of mine was visiting my husband and I, when she showed us a You Tube video about the Kara Walker exhibit in Williamsburg Brooklyn that was supposed to spark controversial conversations amongst the races to bring about positive change. When I saw the exhibit I was immediately uneasy and appalled that a Black woman in 2014 would think that this creation would spark positive change. I came across this article: Indypendent-Kara Walker, about a reaction to the exhibit and I have to say I agree. I believe the controversial conversations idea, but positive change? I have to say that a part of me was not surprised. It seems that when we think of slavery while wanting to make people remember what our ancestors went through and the pain that we still feel today, it sometimes ends up perpetuating images and stereotypes that were forced upon us as a people. We should think instead of creating images that would strive to uplift us as a people and challenge these stereotypes by pushing people to think about what we had before slavery, what was stolen: FREEDOM, UNITY, POWER, RICHES, ROYALTY and how we can have them again. How can we make that happen? What needs to be done?

If I were the artist of this work let me tell you my BLACKTOPIAN dream for it. I would have built a huge sphinx of the same African black woman, but with a gold headdress from Egypt wearing a huge gold and jeweled necklace that covered the nipples of her bosom. She would be crouching like a lioness and the backside of her would have a tail. Her expression would be one of contentment, peace and majestic royalty. Jeweled earrings would hang from each ear. There would be a red carpet that rolled out from the entrance of the exhibit to the foot of the sphinx. Alongside the carpet would be little boys holding baskets of jewels and gold and some with fruit and nuts. All would be dressed in royal African clothing with expressions of confidence, power and inner peace. Bags filled with sugar would be ripped, torn, burned, soiled and desecrated all around the edges of the exhibit but far away from the beauty of the scene. Picture it with me. Feel the colors and the meaning behind the art. What would it be like to be black and walk into that kind of exhibit? What would it feel like to discuss it with others? How would you feel? Can you create the change you want to see? Will there be healing or will there be pain? What do you think?

P.S. After I wrote this I googled “Africans in Africa Pre Slavery.” It is amazing what you will find.

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The Media in the Subway

subway So a while ago I was on the train in New York City and I was looking around the crowded subway car studying the faces of the people. I have to preface what comes next with a statement about how I love movies, TV-shows, art, magazines and books. To love all of these things means to see myself as a Black woman underrepresented again and again in the mainstream media. The frustration and anger I feel about it does not destroy my love for the creative arts, but rather makes me want to write my own scripts that include stories where people of color experience love, joy, despair, hopelessness, and deep transcendent personal growth all alongside and with their white counterparts as it already happens in real life.

So, back to the people on the train; as I scanned the faces and body types of the people on the subway, I realized that if they were Caucasian I could match them with someone who looks like or has the same facial features and mannerisms as an actor or extra on television, in magazines or in the movies. I realized that there are so many representations of the day-to-day struggles, humor, joy, drama and pain of white people in the media that in real life, it is accepted that they are considered normal, multifaceted, complex, and free to express themselves in every aspect of the human experience. People who watch and take in these images, see, feel, and experience their emotions through Caucasian/white eyes. In a way, the media is saying to be Caucasian and/or white is to be good, normal and upstanding citizens.

I began to think about the way people of different races and particularly African Americans/Black people go through the same struggles, joy, drama, and pain as their white counterparts and many times alongside them, as their friends, confidantes, and relatives. However, as I scanned the train I was taken aback at how many shades of color, facial features, and mannerisms and normality of my race that I would never see regularly on a television in mainstream programming, movies, or televisions shows. I no longer want to see the one black funny sidekick, black assistant, maid or brief office acquaintance. Or the comedic movie where the black man/woman/young adult falls into all the stereotypes society projects onto him or her. I would also like to see black people in shows and movies outside of Black Entertainment Television (BET). What I would like to see in the movies, magazines and television shows is the end of racial segregation of the human experience. To deny whole groups of people the freedom to tell their normal everyday stories alongside your own is wrong. We are all human and therefore, the same. No matter what color we are. We all are experiencing similar themes of love, death, pain, joy, life transitions, friendships and war. When we realize that we are no longer separate and no longer unequal, then it will be so.

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Blacktopia

african-holocaust1.jpg I am a black woman living in New York. A few weeks ago I was thinking about all of the injustices that black people and people of color go through in not just the United States but in the world. I was speaking with friends and after a conversation of sadness, anger and frustration in regards to experiencing and witnessing pervasive institutional racism, that brings about prejudice, discrimination and segregation in all areas of life, like housing, education, employment, entertainment, and just basic social interactions in general; I thought to myself what would real change look like? What would be the result of a major societal turnaround, a longstanding, steadfast change in all systems and all people around what it means to be Black in America as well as the rest of the world? Because lets face it from the images portrayed by the media all races strive not to be labeled as black. Then the word BLACKTOPIA popped into my head. The first thing that I did was to Google it to see what the search results would be. I just couldn’t believe that no one had thought of this before. A word that defines the goal of everything that is Black is Perfect!

I felt like I had an epiphany, an ah-ha moment. I was thinking about all the things that I could write, but I did not know where to start. I had been thinking about writing a book for a long time but was not sure how. Then a dear friend of mine said for the a thousandth time along with my husband, please write a blog. I will read it and so will many others. So now I bring you a long awaited blog for myself and friends about things that myself and other black people may think but do not say along with many thoughts about what change would look like and my hope/struggle for us all to reach and strive for BLACKTOPIA.

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