"SEEMS LIKE I DONE HAD TO FIGHT MY WHOLE LIFE"
The following exhibition grew out of my having become a bit disillusioned with the same usual African-American Civil Rights suspects being honored over and over again in print, in film, and on award shows and believe me, it is not that I don’t think these people should be honored. It is just that I have started to question how many times? I began to wonder why we didn’t occasionally ask, “Have we left anyone out?”
It is my belief that by holding out the same people over and over again we are presenting and more importantly, marginalizing the truth about the people of the African diaspora. Many of whom often times found themselves literally having to fight for the right to be accepted as the American citizens they were.
Just as we do in modern day tragedies such as 911, I guess what I had been waiting for was the naming of the unrecognizable names of people, many of whom found themselves on the front line so that I could be treated as a true citizen of the United States of America. Sadly it never came and I began to suspect that those being honored had begun “Believing the hype.” There is an old saying that goes, “If you tell it to yourself long enough, you will start to believe it is true.” Fortunately, I knew better.
The Ritual –
As a young boy growing up, every Saturday morning at 9 am, my Uncle Joe would arrive like clockwork with newspaper in hand. My mother would make breakfast and put on a large pot of coffee. I would eat quickly and then crawl under the table and there I would lie listening to my mother, father, and Uncle Joe. I can still hear the texture and cadence of their voices, conjuring and transporting me into a world that seemed strange and beautiful and confusing all at the same time. This was my introduction to not only current events but also the rich oral history of African-American storytelling. Their dialogue would move from present to past and future in the course of eight hours. Geographically they seamlessly moved from north to south, Africa to Mars; their journey, peppered with Negroes, Caucasians, crackers, niggers and rednecks. Their discussion of life taught me at an early age, the importance of having different perspectives tell a singular story. It also helped me to understand that one could not judge a person solely on the color of their skin. There were indeed morally good and bad people intermingled within every race, which their life stories excitingly illuminated.
This exhibition of original press photographs does not attempt to tell the whole story. It simply attempts to illuminate the fact that there is sadly still a largely uneven yoke when it comes to the representation of people of Africa and the African diaspora in America and the world.
I am hopeful that this exhibition will encourage others to remember our obligation not just to our past, but to our future, by realizing the importance of telling accurate truths no matter how painful. For it is in these moments of uncertainty that we see the true spirit of the people, many of whom often times found themselves literally having to fight for the right to be accepted as the American citizens they were.
Sometimes walking quietly, sometimes having to push and shout, but always calling upon us to behave as true Americans and uphold that 1776 document that we hold so dearly: ‘The Declaration of Independence’ - “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” - Terence E. Jackson