After the Art and Dialogue opening October 24th I really wanted to take my nine and ten year old nephews to see the artwork, hear their response to the works and their perspective of race today.
They jump and slide through the exhibition doorway. Once in we begin our gaze at the work along the wall. I read portions of artist statements to them. One would ask questions and the other would loose attention and bop to another piece.
As we approached Tasnif’s work of the Drinking Fountain sign titled New Paint, Old Scars I ask my nephews if in their perspective, was the today’s Muslim struggle comparable to their knowledge of the Jim Crow laws in Black American history. After giving my comment a few seconds of though they said “No”.
As we move through the exhibition space the tone is light and playful. They would stop every now and then to read, ask questions, or comment. One would frequently complain ” Is this all there is? I thought there would be more…” Quickly the light moment changed as they danced past Titus Brooks Heagin’s hoodie or hooded photography seen here.
The younger one points to the black female in the brown hoodie with pink hearts “She from the hood” he says. I ask him “Why, how do you know?” “I can tell” he says. I say, “She could be in high society and just coming from the gym.” I point at the older White female in a pink hoodie, “What about her,” I ask? “No she’s not from the hood, but she is.” Referring to the initial image.
I honestly had not taken the time to contemplate my own initial perceptions or reactions to the imagery. What would I have said as a nine year old? One thing that I love about children is that they say what the adult world maybe or may not be thinking. As we grow up we often filter what really springs forth from our hearts, or minds.
To some degree to look at a person we judge a person. Like an impulse, our consciousness begins to evaluate before we are aware of the depths of our conclusions. Friend or foe, rich or poor, beautiful or unattractive.
So I pointed to the third photo a Black male with dreads, also in a hoodie. “What about him?” “Oh yes he is,” he says without hesitating. “How do you know.” “He looks like it. And he has dreads. Most people with dreads are bad people.” Stunned I said “Your brother has dreads! Is he a bad person!” “Noooo!” He replied and attempted to build a case for his comments. I turn to his brother, who has now made himself at home in the exhibition space and is rolling around part on a long cushioned bench and partly on the floor.
“Are you a bad person?” He pops his head up. “No!” “Are you from the hood?” He straightens up “NO!” “You sure you not from the hood?” I say teasing him. His answer was definitive “NO!”
I then begin to speak to them about perceptions, appearance, and even learning to listen to the voice of God. I tell them a recent story about how God directed our appearance that saved us from unneeded trouble overseas.
As we left the building, I walked away contemplative. Its one thing to talk about the social biases, skewed perceptions in colorism and it’s another thing to see it play out in people you know and love. The reality is that we all bear a personal social reality. Often which, parts are shaped by media, home life, and our culture at large. Is there a way to reprogram or heal our images of races, ethnicities, goods, and evils without an overhaul of our American culture and it’s systems?
We must be aware of how deep the scars go.
Because of the vast complexities in our world, in the choice to love or hate, one must determine within themselves how they will respond and respect others before tension arise. We cannot control a persons perceptions. But we can cultivate a culture of unity and love. Even in the face of adversity unto death, Christ chose to love and to pray for His persecutors. May we have the grace to do the same.
Stay tuned, for our next creative adventure. Join us on FB
Catch all information on the exhibition that will be open until October 11th HERE
Krystal J F Hart