Letter to NY Daily News Re: Alton Sterling Cover

Mr. Mortimer Zuckerman,

Are there any limits to the images NY Daily will publish? Your agency, being the fourth-most widely circulated tabloid in the U.S., I find it hard to believe that it would be acceptable to publish the blood soaked images of officers slain in Dallas, so why Alton Sterling? Or maybe that is a level of trauma and dehumanization reserved only for civilians of Afrikan descent? I’m deeply troubled by your lack of concern. Even the 1928 cover of Ruth Snyder’s execution was more dignified than Mr. Sterling. SHAME! SHAME! SHAME!

It reminds me of how my life as a woman of Afrikan descent is not in my hands. And how we are all hard-wired to endure, overcome, hold on a little longer when our bodies are left alone to die with cameras trained on us like guns. And publishers like you dissect and sell our pain for profit. Llike it’s “sport” to kill Afrikan bodies the same way it is to kill Afrikan wildlife, for trophies? Our existence is a catalyst to the indifferences we face EVERY TIME racial disparities happen. And you express no moral sorrow and publish it anyway.

We are all #micahxavierjohnson. The pain that caused the reaction. When we’ve had enough. When our silence no longer comforts. When our pain suffocates us & we become brave enough. AND I DON’T HATE WHITE PEOPLE, OR WANT TO KILL THEM. I WANT me and my loved ones to live. We NEED to survive encounters with the police. We NEED to survive their judgements about us before we open our mouths. We NEED hugs, mental, and emotional sensitivity. We NEED white publishers like you to look at your own humanity, know when you’ve gone too far and fix it!

Concerned,
Gracie Berry
Huntsville AL 35810

We Are All Micah Xavier Johnson

“Micah Johnson’s tactics are not my own, yet I’m all too familiar with his pain. I’m black. I’m alive while black today, yet my future is uncertain. My future does not seem to be in my own hands. I can’t help, but to feel his pain. And NO I don’t hate white people or want to kill them! I want to live. I need my family and fellow friends of Afrikan descent to live. I need us to survive encounters with police. I don’t want our bodies riddled with bullets when compliant. I don’t want us to be judged before we open our mouths. I want questions asked first, a safe return. I want an excuse offered to the state of our mental and emotional health. I don’t want our bodies riddled with bullets or chokeholds, blood. I want our bodies to be our own. I don’t want us struggling to be black. To struggle to exist. I want the world to know that we do and on purpose. I want them to accept that we do and let us live like we do. In some ways we are all #micahxavierjohnson, when we’ve had enough. When our silence no longer comforts. When our pain suffocates us & we become brave enough.”

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Micah Xavier Johnson

My second point is, FUCK false supremacy! Yes. I said, False Supremacy. Perley Cooper taught me that. The “white” is to incite inferiority. They don’t have any more power over us than we do, its an illusion tactic to overpower us to feel inferior. They plaster all things white all over the world, ALL over as to account for what is “normal” “acceptable”, “respectable”, or the “standard” for all living creatures. But they are not. They try to confuse us, chip away at our humanity, our images, our very lives. They try to evoke in us a feeling of less-than who and what we know we are. WE ARE RICH WITH MELANIN! We must change what we feel to believe what we KNOW. WE ARE AFRIKANS-THE MOST POWERFUL SPIRITS ON THE PLANET! AUCTOCHTHONOUS-THE FIRST PEOPLE, JUST LOOK AT EGYPT AND NIGERIA AND MARS. Don’t ever forget that.

Thirdly, to all of my friends and family of Afrikan descent who are parents don’t fret you’re doing just fine. Continue to guide those babies just as you always have strong, loving, black, proud. Don’t let fear override the great work you’ve done. Love is our freedom. Teach them the ways of our people, so that even if they decided one day to be an officer of the law, they will NEVER compromise themselves or our people. They will always know their truth and honor that no matter what. We can’t shelter our babies from the realities of racism and injustice in the world, but we can teach them and nurture them in the way they grow, teach the their power, that we as Afrikan people indeed have POWER! Believe in their ability to choose. BELIEVE IN THEM!

Love is and always has been BLACK-who we are. Love is in our DNA. Just look at how resilient and accepting, and forgiving sometimes to our own demise because thats where we come from, the home from where we come. We have to believe that. We must believe in our own abilities. Our people are winning in spite of ourselves and aside from all of the death and destruction plaguing our communities. Many will die to free our people, but they will never be forgotten, their deaths can never be in vain. Their struggle is ours to wage, and we must stay in it. We are limitless in our abilities. We can truly be and do anything. Grow them seeds and they will give us more fruit. One love to the people! Afrikan people, I don’t need to know you to love you to tears.

#TAG #TheeAmazingGrace #Girlrillavintage

FOR THE LOVE OF BLACK PINUPS: HONORING THE ORIGINAL HANG HER ON THE WALL GIRL

1383991_367781190022898_986335139_n-3.jpgMy black pinup collectible series is the art I’m most proud. I first discovered that our legacy surpassed the obvious like Josephine Baker and Dorothy Dandridge about 5-years ago. I attended an event at the Art Scape festival in Baltimore Maryland. My best friend and I went to a “fetish” themed, interactive art performance. There was so much going on that it took us nearly all night to get around to everything. Towards the end of the performance there was a scene on pinup queens and burlesque. All of the pinup performers were white. The film they showed starred a white woman. The magazines, calendars, jewelry, tees, and art they sold were plastered with white women. My best friend and I shared a brief glance, a glance filled with unspoken sorrow and disappointment that we didn’t exist there, how black women in history could literally be glossed over in the 21st century without a thought. There was a void that only black women can understand.

IMG_1825.JPGI asked the curator and one of the artists of the show where the black pinup models like Josephine Baker were. I assumed that there was more to the performance. She told me that she had never heard of any black pinup models before and that she really wouldn’t put Josephine Baker in the category of a “real” pinup model. I was hurt-it was written all  over my expression. I couldn’t shake the feeling of how even a seemingly free thinking, college educated, white, female artist from a metropolitan area had no clue about any black pinup models, even just by chance during one of her college courses or something. I vowed to myself and my best friend that I would get to the bottom of all of this. It took me sometime, but I finally did my own research. I was down on myself thinking why I hadn’t thought of it sooner. It took me several weeks to find viable and honest resources about black pinup queens of the time, but I found about 100 images.

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Aside from the images I was shocked to learn that there was no representation of art online or otherwise featuring vintage black pinups. I felt isolated about the whole thing, so I started generating conversations about it with family and friends. And after discussing the topic with several women I realized that I was no longer alone and that other women of color had similar convictions. I was moved by the excitement and curiosity in the conversations I was having, the spark that was lit in all of us. Something that I had tapped into, filled something in us all, stirring something much deeper than a mere moment. There were so many concerns from the women I conversed with for example, feeling tired of being underrepresented in media and history books, being subjected to white pinup models like #marilynmonroe #bettiepage and #bettegrable as if they represented the standard of beauty in all women, and lastly the sadness of seeing young black girls wearing teeshirts and other fashion trends that mimicked white women-how so many young black girls despised their own bodies so much to change their very own images, altering their Afrikan heritage, a rich and ambitious heritage all its own.

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As a trendsetter in my community, lover of vintage errrydamnthang (well maybe not everything), but basically as a creative person I was disappointed that my search revealed nothing. Naythan reflecting vintage black pinup models online. ZERO Y’all! The lack thereof set forth in me a spiritual motion. I decided to be the first, but certainly not the last to create such art the way I envisioned it. I knew that my vision was not going to be like anyone else’s, so I went for it. My goal was to create wearable vintage art for people of color to be proud-to identify with. I thought of how dope it would be start a movement, a revolution, an awakening of something we know so little about. My earlier pinups were “buttons/pins” comprised of personalized sonnets and some adorned with  mixed media materials. I gifted them to the women in my life. I did that to guesstimate how many would actually be brave enough to wear them. I know “brave” is suggestive, but you’d be surprised of how many of us black women feel shame and ridicule about our bodies. I was proud of the folks that willingly engaged my art, a topic that is otherwise taboo and unheard of.

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Over the years, I began to transform my pinup button collection into other forms of wearable art like earrings and necklaces. My creative process with the pinups has been one of #spiritual fortitude. Freeing with an abundance of creative energy. And while I’ve added my own creative twist to the collectibles I wouldn’t be able to do any of it without them. The women’s images themselves-women that posed for a myriad of reasons. Brave birds. I always thank them. I always ask them to find me. I always tell them how I wish to honor them, never overpowering or overshadowing their stories, their beauty because they’re enough. I always ask them for guidance. Our relationship is similar to the way I view my ancestors and the alter I worship them on. I view each pinup as her own alter that will be a blessing to the lovely person that is called to her.

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Sadly, the majority of the magazines and news spreads graced by black women were disproportionate, often hyper-sexualized, and lewd. Unlike #white pinup models of the time, praised for their #beauty, black pinup models were #fetishized for their #sexual prowess and curvaceous attributes. #Blackgirls who weren’t cherished by soldiers overseas, pinned on walls, or lockers, but were hidden under mattresses, beneath floor boards, cloaked in secrecy, fetishized in private, disposed of and belittled in public. Black pinup girls were not idealized versions of what was thought of as #beautiful or attractive. And despite the fact that #josephinebaker #dorothydandrige #lenahorn & #earthakitt were all categorized as #burlesque or #pinups of the time, black pinup models in general weren’t as widely distributed or paid as white women of the same time period.

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I felt a sense of pride, the bravery it took to be a black woman, sexually free, an exhibitionist during a time of racial disparity and civil unrest, a time when hate crimes against black bodies-Afrikan bodies born in America-born in different parts of the world was as natural as breathing air. To the ones exploited, demeaned, and murdered I lift you up! Your stories deserve to be told. And although we weren’t acknoweledged by our names more so by our frames we were never insignificant and we exist for every reason. We deserve to be upheld triumphantly, free to be sexually empowered and beautiful-valued just as the white women were. How the single encounter at an art show some years back ignited so much more inside of me than simply creating art.

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This collection is to honor, not overshadow those black women before me like mama #SartjeBaartman taken from #Afrika to #England and placed in a freak show because of her “disproportionate” body parts. To those that took risks and loved it. To those that loved art and #selfexpression. To the women in these images I thank you for letting me find you. I thank you for giving me cosmic permission to #honor you this way. Through #blackart from my #brown #black hands and beating #heart! To all black women learning of black pinup queen honey bees for the first time know that we were there! We are here now! And we are in the future-#INLIVINGCOLOR!

Art heals,

Thee Amazing Grace

Coal-tar Black is Beautiful

Remembering a night out in Lancaster at ‪#‎JoeCapps‬. I remember raving about how beautiful this woman’s dark-melaninated skin was. I recall the moment she scowled at me insisting she wasn’t ‪#‎Afrikan‬. She rejected everything I had to say about it. Time was still as we stood in the middle of the bar with drinks in hand. I couldn’t believe it. The self hate was so strong, apparently taught to her and she was so old. I almost cried. Shout out to those! And shout out to Perley Cooper for teaching me about such an awesome phrase that he came up with “Cole-tar Black. ‪#‎MelaninMatters‬ #TheeAmazingGrace Screen Shot 2016-01-08 at 2.33.44 AM

Cotton Naga-NUBIAN

I began what seemed like the most tedious task. I picked out the seeds with no EN(GIN)E. It took me a little over 25-minutes to pick 12 seeds from the tiny bit of cotton I gathered. I prayed to my ancestors right then. I begged for their forgiveness. I begged for them to rest in eternal peace. I asked them to dwell inside of me, so that we will always work things out together. I demanded them to feel power from where they are. I conjured the spirit of the Nagas-the Nubians to heal inside us all of the days of our lives.-Thee Amazing Grace

Source: Cotton Naga-NUBIAN