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 ♥️

My Love Fit: A Lost Poem

I wasted enough time. Time trying to be better. Time trying to be better than myself. As if being better could stop my heart where it beat. As if the weight wasn’t imposing. As if sanctimony didn’t collapse me to my knees shattering the bones, every time. So long I struggled to stand on my own. Shrunk in my truth. I used to crawl to only where I fit. Fit. Fit. Fit. Fit. Only to start bursting at the seems. I liberated so many skirts that way. Truth is truth had grown too big, too fast. Truth needed permission to spread like love, but better played tricks like fear does.

Disenfranchised my privilege to think. Had me convinced I would die there until the hour I rescued my love. She was all petrified in a fetal position tucked way at the base of my spine. I coaxed the brittle fragments, the ones that were sharp from fusing together, the ones that protected, the ones that would cut long, deep and wide.

My love sought refuge, snuggled up against my collarbones. My love rebuilt herself from the lies. My love welcomed that wich was not fully recovered, nor healed, scarred, injured, cold, shamed. My love knew the truth of our oneness. My love learned to BE all in the gratitude of our darkness. Cause our glow is the dark.

A poem I wrote this day in 2015. 👂🏾to the love in my voice. 🥰

Spent time in the woods again today. Enjoying this app paring sounds and movement. 🙏🏾 for your time.

—TheeAmazingGrace ♥️

Day well spent.

afrikanface #analogueinadigital #ancestorsallaround #black #fbmemories #girlrillavintage #greatoutdoors #igtv #movementismedicine #mylovefit #protectyourpeace #natureisamazing #onelove #TheeAmazingGrace

Fruit in the Roots

Mixed media cover art by Gracie Berry. Digital art by Darice Pollard. Circa 2020.

Always managed to write my life, but never imagined I could illustrate it too lol! If 2020 taught us anything, it is resilience in it’s most unbridled form. Romanticized the idea of writing several styles of books for the last 20-yrs, but never did. Collaborating as illustrator on Zetta’s newest novella, showed me that I can do it too. I’m no longer willing to put my dreams on hold just because I don’t know how or where to start. This project taught me to start somewhere. Thank you so much for this opportunity @zettaelliott! Trusting it will reach all those that need it’s fruit.

—TheeAmazingGrace 🧡

Original. Mixed media cover art by Gracie Berry. Digital art by Darice Pollard. Circa 2020.
Original. Interior mixed media collage by Gracie Berry.

afrikanface #afrikanheritage #ancestorsspeak #blackhistoryisworldhistory #fruitsintheroots #girlrillavintage #mixedmediaillustration #rosettapress #rootsrundeep #zettaelliott

Bundle Up Black Joy!

Bundle up, BLACK JOY and grand Winter Solstice to you! Never forget that our blood memory is our superpower. Our very inception is supernatural and worthy to be praised. One love. ❄️❄️❄️

afrikanface #africandna #ancestralhealing #blackjoy #blacklove #breakgenerationalcurses #girlrillavintage #perspective #renegotiatethenarrative #saturnjupiterconjunction #theeamazinggrace #wintersolstice

Concrete Cowboys

Cousin Leon (M) and cousin Ron (R) at West Philly Stables early 1990’s.

Can’t wait to see, Concrete Cowboy, a Netflix movie that highlights the Fletcher Street Stables in North Philly. Such an important story to be told for the Black urban horse community in Philly.

My cousins Ron R.I.P (Right) & Leon (Middle) were part of that scene in West Philly back in the 90’s. I remember them riding ponys in the middle of the hood on Markoe Street where my aunt lived. It was unbelievable to a kid my age who had never seen a horse in person. It was definitely one way to keep young Black boys off the street and nurturing something else.

—TheeAmazingGrace 🖤🤎❤️

afrikanface #blackcowboys #concretecowboy #fbf #girlrillavintage #fletcherststable #netflixmovie #smudgetalk #urbancowboys #westphillycowboys #westphillystables

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

Be your own bucket list experience

This day 7 years ago I got to connect with a thriving young gifted and black photographer @ozmynoree as his first Black nude model! At the time, having lost a child 2 years before and 3 years into my 30’s was a beautiful confidence booster and milestone to reach. This is the first I’m sharing these publicly, so enjoy. I want to encourage more Black people to honor their bodies this way at least once in their life. Be your own bucket list experience and you’ll have a photo to remember it. ❤️

Nov 6, 2013. Church St House. Photographed by Osmyn J Oree.
Nov 6, 2013. Church St House. Photographed by Osmyn J Oree.
Nov 6, 2013. Church St House. Photographed by Osmyn J Oree.
Nov 6, 2013. Church St House. Photographed by Osmyn J Oree.

afrikanface #beyourownbucketlistexperience #blackbodiesarebeautiful #blacknudemodels #blackmuse #blackphotographersmatter #censoringnipplesisrediculous #girlrillavintage #osmynoree #selflovejourney #smudgetalk #theeamazinggrace #younggiftedandblack

This Woman’s Work

Between it being less sunlight, the cold air, and memories of my loved ones who transitioned into the ethers around now, I know at least for me, this time of year is a lil harder than usual.

And with that I want to share that my brother David visited me in a dream this morning. It was a fun dream, almost like I was back in college at a lecture and I was walking towards him to introduce him to a friend, but the strangest feeling came over me like I was introducing my friend to myself, literally lol! I could see me doing the introduction, but I also felt me standing where my brother was. Needless to say he grabbed me by both arms and hugged me deeply. He knew that I was surprised to see him, so he started rolling his eyes in the back of his head then laughed that irking laugh showing all teeth before playing the song, “This Woman’s Work” the Maxwell version. He had on the DOPEST RBG, mostly black sweatsuit and his face looked brighter, fuller than I ever remember before. MARVELOUS when ancestors visit like that.

I woke up crying because I miss him. But I think it was his way of reminding me that we are more deeply connected than my earthly mind can imagine. He let me know that we still have access to each other. Although sometimes we forget our ancestors grace when we are sad.

Remember the goodness, remember your loved ones, remember the moments you ever felt grateful for anything, remember that you’re here now and have a life’s work to do no matter how long or short you’re here. Remember your sunshine. Those things count. They count so much more than you’ll ever know.

—TheeAmazingGrace ♥️🙏🏾

afrikanface #ancestorsspeak #church #girlrillavintage #imsunflowerssista #love #mybrotherskeeper #shadowkeepersandroothealers #sunflowerseeds #theeamazinggrace

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