People want to see love. But they are intrigued by pain.
I am finally creating a visual story with these images from our trip to Dakar. Very excited about that. The story of the images will, it turns out, not be limited to Dakar but will explore much more.
Hot Toddy Soiree.
Journalist Sofiyah Ballin was kind enough to interview me for her Black History Untold Project, with images shot by friend and colleage Shawn Theodore.
We talked about blackness in the future, and what I hope to see the culture develop more of.
Check out the interview here
The woman with the cherubic face prays fervently. I am not well versed enough to know if she is Igbo or Yoruba, but she channels the spirit of her home into these supplications. It is 8:37 in the morning, and the train is full of people at the beginning of days they do not look forward to. It is crowded. They are tired. And these are often the last moments of respite prior to an inundation of emails and feigned productivity.
With every inflection, her captive audience glances at her wearily as she fills the car with her pleas. She thinks of all of these souls, yet she does not look at their bodies. Her eyes are closed, and a single rivulet of sweat creeps down her brow. Drops as of blood. A young man next to her stares angrily, visibly adjusting his headphones. He is listening to Nas, Thief's Theme.
She is unmoved. She prays for him. She prays for all of them. She prays for those on their way to work. In Jesus name. She prays for the fruit of their labor. In Jesus name. She prays for their families and the ones left behind. In Jesus name. She prays for the strength of all the passengers. In Jesus name.
When she says her last of many Amen's, she thanks the car for the opportunity, as if she had received their blessing. She sits down, and the car breathes a sigh of relief. They can now resume their podcasts, their games, their travel to jobs. The faces return to disinterest.
She however, is the only only who has already done her work. She, is beaming.
A few thoughts on this photo.
In a way, this photo and the reactions to it are a sampling of America. Symbolism, vitriol, freedom, presumptions. Elements of each of these things, and perhaps more are evoked.
Visually, it is simple. A line of white children traverse a crosswalk. A portion of an adult is seen ahead of them, but at the head of the procession is a small boy, his left hand raised and outstretched, palm flat, fingers straight out ahead of him. At his side is a white girl.
Now to be fair, this child was not just walking down the street holding up a nazi salute and chanting "blood and soil". He was merely a little boy in a train of children who happened to swing his arm and be frozen in time. I'm fairly certain, in having seen him perform the movement as I took the picture, that he had no intention to reference a brutal regime who's followers still flourish in some circles. I think. But the real issue is not him, but rather what you as the viewer see in this image. Most have seen, and responded that children will be children. That this is merely an issue of timing and an image taken out of context. That this just like when a child first discovers that people laugh when they hold their middle finger up. But maybe, this assumption of an evenhanded response is not all the way true.
For instance, how different is this boys unintentional salute from Tamir Rice playing with a toy gun? In a way, this boy was un-American unintentionally, when Tamir was actually more American unintentionally. Guns and toy guys are as American as apple pie (see Christmas Story, etc). The only thing perhaps more American, is using those guns to defeat nazis, whether in war or jest (See WWII, Indiana Jones etc).
But isn't this indicative of something more? Children like this pictured get a chance to be called children. To rightly have the sins of their youth forgotten. Their lives are not placed in danger due to their childlike and human actions. History (and now video) has shown us that in the alternative, black children are tried as adults. I start to wonder just how quickly we are willing to wipe the slate clean? and who's slate becomes a priority?
Brothers put wings on backpacks to
alleviate the weight they've born since birth
"God bless you if it's good to you"
For her, from her, and from all of us, Farewell Obama.
Run Black Boy run. But don't run from your youth.