Ancestor Tones Art for Social Justice

Gracie Berry
Ancestor Tones, February 2021 
Mixed-media on cardboard, 7×7

I was commissioned by Music for Everyone to create original artwork that will be paired inside the sleeve of a record that will feature a speech by Frederick Douglass titled, The Hypocrisy of American Slavery, for their Songs for Justice project.

Thoughts on the speech: I interpret Frederick Douglass’ speech, The Hypocrisy of American Slavery, as a battle roar that ironically mirrors too many experiences faced on a global level by Black communities today. However, the biggest lie taught in our worlds history that must be unlearned is the delusion of white superiority and being afraid of the dark. These times may be many things, but certainly not dark.

About the piece: I named the piece, Ancestor Tones because I want to pay homage to melanin. All shades of Black skin are vibrant, biological reflections of nature and the universe. In fact, the very cosmology of enslaved Afrikan people and their descendants is a form of universal wealth. It’s an unspoken truth and inherent birth right, no matter how one was born into it. Ancestor Tones explores themes of Afro-futurism connecting past, present and future. I think of Frederick Douglass as an Afro-futurist because he paved the way as a community educator and revolutionary for the Black people of his time. Not to mention he was the most photographed human-being of the era. He embodied what reimagining a Black future looked like by the way he controlled the narrative of his Afro-diasporic experience of the day. And continues to inspire generations in modern times. Take Amanda Gorman for instance, the youngest Black inaugural poet in American history. She credits Frederick Douglass with teaching her how to use technology for social justice. She reminds us of how intentional he was about capturing a counter-image to the Black American stereotypes at the time and how important that message is in her own work. You’ll notice hints of red and gold, a symbol for Amanda Gorman on Inauguration Day. The glow of her young, gifted and Black spirit, shining so much bigger than her body. Center to deep, Black, shadowy cowrie shells, wool and cotton, symbols of the million and one ancestral spirits surrounding her, journeying with her as she reclaims her humanity. 

—TheeAmazingGrace ♥️

Healing is the greatest come up

Healing ourself is the greatest come up. @lii.zka captured me back in March, the month of my birth and the same month the world paused. Giving thanks for countless opportunities to gain and grieve. Becoming someone longer lasting is requiring me to return to my source, to heal and rebirth my self over and over. To lean on the patience of ancestors even when it feels like I’m making no strides at all.

Me captured by Elizabeth Levkovich March 2020.
Me captured by Elizabeth Levkovich March 2020.
Me captured by Elizabeth Levkovich March 2020.
Me captured by Elizabeth Levkovich March 2020.
Me captured by Elizabeth Levkovich March 2020.

—TheeAmazingGrace ♥️

afrikanface #ancestralhealing #evolving #girlrillavintage #griefandloss #healingfrominsideout #hibernation #marsretrograde #reenergize #shadowkeepersandroothealers #smudgetalk #thatslove #theeamazinggrace #westafrikan

Watermelon LIVE

I wrote this after George Floyd was taken from here. All his motherly ancestors channeled me to write. All the mothers conjured up through. Cause even in death he called on his mother. The power in wailing her name was battle cry that had to be answered by every motherly energy that ever was. Thank God for his breath, his last words stained into the fabric of the universe. He didn’t give those cowards the power they were seeking. And that’s why I always say we don’t have to acquiesce, even in death. Watermelon is a poem to my people for my people. Break dem gotdamn curses. And stay in the struggle.

Ase—O 🖤🍉

—TheeAmazingGrace ♥️

🙏🏾 @pavaagallery crew
🎥 @marioncococoleman
🎶 @gerrimccrittycreations @teetosmusic

afrikanface #ancestorsspeak #blackpoems #blacklivesmatter #blackpeopleareancient #eternallove #girlrillavintage #griot #healblack #lancasteramtrak #shadowkeepersandroothealers #shadowkeepersandroothealerstheoriginalogs #smudgetalk #ripgeorgefloyd #theeamazinggrace #truthspeaker #watermelon #watermelonRedBlackandGreen #watermelonworthlesswithouttheblackseeds #watermelonpoem #westafrican

Buy Back Black Debt Via Sonya Renee Taylor

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#BuyBackBlackDebt is a project of interracial spiritual and economic relationship building. The goal is not simply to pay off the random debt of Black folks but to re-establish the possibility of human connections and relationship through disrupting active institutions of white supremacist delusion in Black lives. This project is a local, family and community organized process that benefits the lives of Black folks in your proximity.

***KEY NOTE: THIS PROJECT IS NOT A GIFT! You are not gifting or donating or any other language steeped in white saviorism. You are seeking a relationship in which you would like to clear up some of YOUR spiritual debt by doing your part to mitigate the harm your people have done to Black people via institutions of white supremacist delusion. And that you desire to be in an authentic reparative relationship.***

I totally signed up to have my student loan debt cleared. That seems to be the one thing holding me back from being a homeowner. As a black woman, having grown up in abject poverty and broken circumstances, I never got to experience what stability looks like in a home environment. I never got to experience generational wealth or anything close to it. Having my debt cleared would give me a fighting chance, an opportunity to have success I never experienced before, and  the ability to pass down some form of economical wealth to my family.

—TheeAmazingGrace ♥️🙏🏾♥️

#afrikanface #blacklivesmatter #buybackblackdebt #calltowhitewealth #girlrillavintage #sonyareneetaylor  #thisisnotadonation #thisisnotagift #thisworkisrelational

And ode to Three (Tree)

I love truth seekers and beautiful souls. My beautiful soulfriend @tinyandbrave your tshirt arriving today means so much to me 🙏🏾♥️.⁣

This day marks the ninth year since my son Three pronounced Tree became an ancestor. And although he didn’t live in this world, he lived inside me. I remember when me and your father heard your djembe heartbeat-LOUD AND STRONG. How your father held me up. The laboring pain I experienced both emotionally and physically from your departure is mine.

Read my lips, I’m Three’s mother and I birth nations. Rest well my sweet boy. Gonna write about you tonight. In the meantime this photo shoot love is for you!

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#afrikanface #ancestorsspeak #blackmothersmatter #childlessmother #girlrillavintage #hewouldbe8 #mychildisbiggerthanme #onceamotheralwaysamother #readmylipsibirthnations #three #tinyandbrave #tree

New poem alert! Watermelon coming soon

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NEW POEM ALERT🍉⁣
Watermelon poem coming soon. Super excited to be writing this! ⁣And most to share it with you.

#afrikanface #blackwriters #blackwords #girlrillavintage #poems #theeamazinggrace #watermelon #watermelongrace #watermelonpoem #writingformylife #writingistherapy ⁣

“She Can’t Breathe” 2018⁣⁣

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Repost @ozmynoree ⁣⁣
“She Can’t Breathe” 2018⁣⁣
from ongoing series “I’m Still Black” ⁣⁣
⁣⁣
“I took this photo roughly two years ago, and it’s crazy to me how it relates to current events now. I had no idea the impact her gesture would have in today’s climate. I wonder if some force was reaching out to me sub-consciously trying to tell me what was coming through my photography. It’s almost creepy.”

#africandance #artistsoflanc #blackphotographersmatter #blackphotographer #717creative #girlrillavintage #imstillblack #osmynoree #shadowkeeper #roothealer #theeamazinggrace ⁣

What has protesting accomplished?

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List via @msreid27 on Instagram. 🙏🏾

(Fact checked links in my bio)

👉🏾Within 10 days of sustained protests:⁣⁣⁣ Minneapolis bans use of choke holds.⁣⁣⁣

👉🏾Charges are upgraded against Officer Chauvin, and his accomplices are arrested and charged.⁣⁣⁣

👉🏾Dallas adopts a “duty to intervene” rule that requires officers to stop other cops who are engaging in inappropriate use of force.⁣⁣⁣

👉🏾New Jersey’s attorney general said the state will update its use-of-force guidelines for the first time in two decades.⁣⁣⁣

👉🏾In Maryland, a bipartisan work group of state lawmakers announced a police reform work group.⁣⁣⁣

👉🏾Los Angeles City Council introduces motion to reduce LAPD’s $1.8 billion operating budget.⁣⁣⁣

👉🏾New York Governor Andrew Cuomo urging state lawmakers to enact 911 “Amy Cooper” False Accusation Bill.⁣⁣⁣

👉🏾NYC Mayor announcement to defund police and to reallocate those funds to community programs and social services.⁣⁣⁣

👉🏾 Minneapolis City Council announced they were seeking to dismantle the city’s police department.⁣⁣⁣

👉🏾 New York is seeking to reform Civil Rights Law 50-a-disclosure of police personnel performance & disciplinary records⁣⁣⁣

👉🏾Police brutality captured on cameras leads to near-immediate suspensions and firings of officers in several cities (i.e., Buffalo, Ft. Lauderdale).⁣⁣⁣

👉🏾 Denver Colorado banned the use of chokeholds. Officers will also have to report to a supervisor any time they intentionally point a fire on at someone while on the job.⁣⁣⁣

👉🏾Monuments celebrating confederates are removed in (Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, New Orleans, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia). ⁣⁣⁣

👉🏾Mayor of Washington D.C. renamed the street outside the White House “Black Lives Matter Plaza.”⁣⁣⁣

👉🏾Military forces begin to withdraw from D.C.⁣⁣⁣

👉🏾 American companies have donated millions into the advancement of black communities.⁣⁣⁣

⁣⁣⁣Not to mention…⁣⁣⁣

💓 Difficult public and private conversations that are happening about race and privilege.⁣⁣⁣

💓Realizations that some white people are coming to about racism and the role of policing in this country.⁣⁣ ⁣

Fact check sources:

https://apnews.com/ce3c4c56b683ae47d26bec1045a35fb7

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.cnn.com/cnn/2020/06/03/us/george-floyd-officers-charges/index.html

https://www.npr.org/sections/live-updates-protests-for-racial-justice/2020/06/05/870414038/dallas-police-adopts-duty-to-intervene-policy-to-prevent-abuse

https://www.officer.com/command-hq/news/21140879/new-jersey-to-license-police-officers-update-useofforce-policy

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.baltimoresun.com/politics/bs-md-pol-police-accountability-group-20200530-vllpk32dznh4rewovasncz3rda-story.html%3foutputType=amp

https://www.google.com/amp/s/deadline.com/2020/06/lapd-funding-city-council-reduce-operating-budget-1202950507/amp/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/people.com/politics/new-york-gov-andrew-cuomo-backs-amy-cooper-false-reporting-bill/%3famp=true

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.cnn.com/cnn/2020/06/07/us/new-york-city-police-funding-social-services/index.html

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.cnn.com/cnn/2020/06/07/us/george-floyd-protests-sunday/index.html

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/ny-new-york-lawmakers-to-pass-package-of-police-reforms-albany-20200608-dlegw6gj5ngrjlffi2dj5tp2ny-story.html%3foutputType=amp

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.vox.com/platform/amp/2020/6/6/21282412/protests-viral-videos-police-violence-disciplinary-action-suspension-firing

https://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/local-news/denver-police-update-policies-to-ban-chokeholds-require-body-cam-use-for-swat-more-reporting-for-officers

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Removal_of_Confederate_monuments_and_memorials#

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_E._Lee_Monument_(New_Orleans,_Louisiana)

https://www.google.com/amp/s/indianexpress.com/article/trending/trending-globally/black-lives-matter-plaza-dc-mayor-viral-videos-photos-reactions-6445528/lite/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nytimes.com/2020/06/07/us/politics/trump-military-troops-protests.amp.html

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.forbes.com/sites/isabeltogoh/2020/06/01/corporate-donations-tracker-here-are-the-companies-giving-millions-to-anti-racism-efforts/amp/

⁣⁣⁣#afrikanface #blacklivesmatter #girlrillavintage #therewillbejustice #therewillbepeace #whathasprotestingaccomplished