James Baldwin in 1962(“And Then My Dungeons Shook”), Javon Johnson in 2013 (“cuz he’s black”), Ta-Nehisi Coates in 2015 (Between the World and Me) all visit the idea of maps—telling black boys how to navigate to protect themselves from the circumstance wrought of their blackness. Ultimately they come to a conclusion that is apparently timeless: that there is no map one can successfully navigate; no way to protect oneself against the abuses a black body will encounter by virtue of its existence. In Cartography I use mapping as a way of entering the Black Lives Matter moment, joining the continuum of these voices with an eye to the woman of color’s body as well.
Seen. is a series of photos and text taking their impetus from Toni Morrison. “Definitions” she writes, “belong to the definer, not the defined.”
In Jamaican patois, “seen” is to acknowledge and show an understanding of that which has been stated. To be seen, it points out, is not only a physical act of “being perceived with the eyes.” To be seen is to make real that which is seen, to give it definition. Like a tree falling in the forest, even if no one hears the thud, did the tree not fall and make the sound? Can a thing be a thing if it is not seen? The multimedia presentation explores characters who may not typically be “seen” ultimately making powerful statements about how being seen defines the viewer as much as their subject.
Breathing Lessons 101 is a multi-genre project examining the application of the “good girl” stereotype to women of color.
Where stereotypes typically applied to brown girls reveal them as sexual outliers (jezebel = hypersexual; mammie = asexual), the good girl, a sexual outlier herself, is a stereotype; indeed an identity, typically denied brown girls.
Using as a loose theoretical framework the final girl of horror flicks, the project uses photography, visual art, and text to explore how brown girls negotiate their virtual erasure and moreover their sexual agency in denying or ignoring their existence.
A limited edition coffee table book using photographs to illustrate the title poem is available for sale.
TROPISM: The Good Girl’s Journey is a collection of multimedia collages examines the journey of the “good girl,” especially “good girls” of color. Tropism is a biological phenomenon of growing in response to, specifically in the direction of, external stimuli. These multimedia collages continue the exploration of Breathing Lessons 101 as it also explores how females of color navigate the role of the “good girl” despite the title rarely being applied to them.
The exhibit had its first public viewing in January 2016 at the Richmond Public Library in the library’s 2nd floor gallery.
Often, the event represents the dead as the event of their death. This work attempts the reveal them as hopeful, willful, imperfect humans of their time and social and personal circumstance.
Poems from the manuscript have appeared in ITCH, the jonestown report, Connotations Press, and the Baltimore Review. The manuscript was a semi-finalist in the 2013 Crab Orchard Review First Book Award and is still seeking a publisher.
Money, Cash, Hoes is a presentation that argues that hip hop music is a performance of war and uses as examples the hypersexualization of women and the quest for and celebration of material excess.
In discussions of power, might is typically masculine whether the might comes from physical strength, financial wealth, or social status.
In war the mightiest—the victor—is masculinized through the feminization of the loser using at least one archetypal weapon of war—rape. In acts of rape of males, victimization is largely represented by perceived emasculation; the stripping away of malehood as represented by sex with another male.
Power is claimed by assuming the loser’s “property” including his malehood vis-à-vis sexual assault, his autonomy, and his women (who are sexually assaulted effectively eroding ownership). Power—the quest for it, the realization and boastful description of it—is central to hip hop. Such power reveals itself in the sexually and materially excessive lifestyles assumed by artists and lyrics that regale these lifestyles. They bask in the ownership achieved.
Hip-hop music, as a product of powerlessness, is necessarily located in the metaphor of war; is the constant assertion and reassertion of power. The victors’ spoils as identified in Jay Z’s “Money, Cash, Hoes,” show that females are as much object as cash and what it can buy. And not just for males. Disenfranchised females objectify themselves in service to their quests for power. Their sexualization sells their records; validates recordings of male rappers; or earns their position in the harem of fans patronized as groupies. Like males, they earn influence, cash; the Lox and Lil Kim’s “Money, Power, Respect.”
The performance of power in hip hop music is essentially military strategy, as identified in the language and guidance in The Prince and The Art of War. The war these artists fight is against powerlessness and the female body is a site of power as one of the spoils of victory.
How the Body Remembers is a series of poems and visual art about Alvin Ailey’s choreography in his seminal work Revelations. The project examines how the body performs its traumas.
Ailey performs them as art, something aesthetically pleasing, even in the hard stories it tells. I am interested in how we perform trauma in our daily movements, those not designed for aesthetic pleasure yet they tell the same hard stories with aesthetic awareness.
My ekphrasis on the dance is about this reciprocity. Each artifact requires the other to exist but even without the manipulation, ekphrasis seems a natural performance in which we daily participate, responding tangibly (albeit unconsciously) to circumstance and responding in a deliberate performance to reveal the essence of the the “thing,” as Plato defines ekphrasis. Our very movement through the world–our walk, gestures, etc. are all to some degree performances of our trauma and triumphs which is what Ailey attempts to reveal in the choreography of Revelations.
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