Perhaps the greatest act of resistance we can commit is the act of being no one other than ourselves. As I write this, I’m listening to Nina Simone’s essentials and ruminating on her legacy. She was boldly authentic in every aspect of herself. The personal was political with her and I truly admire her for that.
As I meditate on how I can improve my activism, my creative output, and my contribution to the world at large, I turn back to the basics: self-education and self-expression. As each day becomes more uncertain, I become more certain that art will no longer be just an escape and instead will become our oxygen mask.
Join me as I share my favorite finds from this week.
Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad revisits an elemental piece of American history. Through a fictional character named Cora, we are taken through horrific recounts of brutal oppression based on factual evidence. It is gut-wrenching, but it is an essential story. So often slavery is presented as ancient history when it was less than two centuries ago – which is not a sizeable amount of time in the grand scheme of things. Narrated by Clarke Peters of The Wire, the audiobook is intense, heartbreaking, and absolutely necessary all at once. Available only for 30 days, listen here.
Black men were omitted from the tradition of formal portraiture during its earliest conception because, well, racism. Photographer Erica Deeman ruminates on how black men are imagined through image – particularly through mugshots and physiognomy. Challenging the troubling rituals often associated with photographing black men, Deeman set out to cast men of the African Diaspora to be photographed with dignity in her latest project titled, “Brown.” Each photo is cast against a caramel color (a color that the biracial Deeman says represents her) with every man shirtless and shot from the shoulders up looking slightly off camera. A stark contrast to the formulaic ritual surrounding a mugshot (blue or black backdrop, flash, the same reoccurring context), each photo represents a beautiful man brimming with life, hope, and promise. View the exhibition IRL at Anthony Meier Fine Arts March 24th through April 28th.
Mahershala Ali is, in one word, captivating. His voice is smooth, deep, thoughtful. His face kind. His work remarkable. When reading his latest interview for Hollywood Reporter, I was struck by the brevity of his words. Written in first person, the feature isn’t really an interview and rather a personal essay about his life and journey to the present day penned by Mahershala himself. He speaks about his father and his father’s love for theatre. He remembers fond afternoons spent with his grandmother – she would take him to McDonald’s and shower him with affection, often repeating affirmations like, “You are handsome. You are talented.” He tells us of his faith and his identity as a Muslim living in America. Mahershala writes with a sort of intimacy that allows me to feel as if I were next to him, looking through an old family album with his grandmama, a sort of kinship that artists rarely grant us. Read it for yourself here.
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