A Prescription for Double Consciousness - SBCAST Installation View
I aim to make the invisible, visible. Through film photography, abstract painting, poetry, and video, I bring the weight of blackness to the forefront of the viewer’s conscious. I view my art as both a social responsibility and weapon for change.
Inspired by the power of language, reshaping of identity, and the recontextualization of historical narratives, many of my abstract works contain text beneath multiple layers of paint, some visible and some completely hidden. I am interested in how aspects of our identity, including our language and histories, are both masked and developed in environments that do not nurture its growth. When language is hidden or indecipherable, it forces the viewer to engage deeper in order to find meaning, much like our personalities. One of my goals is to get viewers to understand that what is beneath is often more important than what is on the surface at first glance and furthermore, just because something is not visible, does not mean it is not worth searching for.
When our growth is stunted or not supported, what are the effects on one’s mental health? What are the outlets for individuals who have salient identities that are not nurtured by their environment? How does historical trauma and contemporary injustice and oppression add weight to individuals as they try to find themselves?
Street photography and portraiture serve as reminders of realities we face and possibilities of social transformation and transcendence we may achieve. The street view is the honest eye. Through photography, I want people to look beneath the surface and understand the ways in which everyday life informs our understanding of self and our environments. The more we understand about ourselves, the more we understand how to relate to and serve humanity. How are we using our relative power, privilege, and positions to take active roles in the empowerment of others in our communities and across the globe?
How Does It Feel To Be A Problem?
Between me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: unasked by some through feelings of delicacy; by others through the difficulty of rightly framing it. All, nevertheless, flutter round it. They approach me in a half-hesitant sort of way, eye me curiously or compassionately, and then, instead of saying directly, How does it feel to be a problem? they say, I know an excellent colored man in my town; or, I fought at Mechanicsville; or, Do not these Southern outrages make your blood boil? At these I smile, or am interested, or reduce the boiling to a simmer, as the occasion may require. To the real question, How does it feel to be a problem? I answer seldom a word.
A Peculiar Sensation
It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his twoness,--an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.
The History Of This Strife
The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife,--this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He would not Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He would not bleach his Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly in his face.
The Sum Of All Villainies
Away back in the days of bondage they thought to see in one divine event the end of all doubt and disappointment; few men ever worshipped Freedom with half such unquestioning faith as did the American Negro for two centuries. To him, so far as he thought and dreamed, slavery was indeed the sum of all villainies, the cause of all sorrow, the root of all prejudice; Emancipation was the key to a promised land of sweeter beauty than ever stretched before the eyes of wearied Israelites.
Beyond The Measure Of Their Strength
Merely a concrete test of the underlying principles of the great republic is the Negro Problem, and the spiritual striving of the freedmen's sons is the travail of souls whose burden is almost beyond the measure of their strength, but who bear it in the name of an historic race, in the name of this the land of their fathers' fathers, and in the name of human opportunity.
Text excerpts from W.E.B. DuBois “The Souls of Black Folk” - Read in full here.