NYU Black Renaissance Noire Fall 2013 - Page 125

Lxxxx, we are all on life’s preverbal hook, being reeled in constantly by society’s constructions. I mentioned your son, my nieces, the next generation counting on us to prepare a place much better than we inhabit, and I know we have not succeeded. As a matter of fact—we have failed—failed, miserably. We war ourselves, we border ourselves. We kill ourselves. We are Latina, Black, Asian, White…etc, and because of history, we never truly relinquish identity, and so identity propels the narrative. I ask you to consider the evidence: a two-year old baby boy in an apartment eight blocks from the detonation that killed four little girls in the basement of a church. All the girls wanted to do was sang and somebody stole their hallelujah. The picture of white-baby Jesus knocked off the hook, the apartment shaking from a stick of dynamite’s echo. I heard and felt that echo, two-year old baby boy being constructed to understand black and white, to choose a side. I was a constructed before I came of age. For so long all I could think about was vanishing from prison, not even realizing I was imprisoned before incarceration, and I still languish behind invisible bars. I keep asking myself if this is the totality of my life? True, I am on the outside, but my inside is all tangled up, still. If life is the sum of history, then how can I ever hope to escape this box? Whether I choose to acknowledge it or not, other people will and there is no escaping this distinction. In other words, if you allow me to refer to Sartre for minute, who says, and I quote loosely here: that once man uttered the word free, man was no longer free because his need to be identified as free proved he was chained. I say that I am free everyday but really, how free am I? 123 One of the reasons color has consumed me is because of the artist/painter Margret Bowland. I sat down and talked with Margret in February on the lower eastside of Manhattan to interview her for the literary magazine Tidal Basin Review of which I am one of the editors. We were doing a feature on her paintings of an African American girl called J. What makes the work stunning and remarkable is that the model has a light shadow of white as if in whiteface, hinting at the concept DuBois coined towards the 20th century—double consciousness, chained to a way of seeing—a twoness that haunts the beholder. The models are often depicted with cotton braided through their hair. At first glance, there is a beauty in what the artist captures; however, as one becomes drawn to J’s eyes, the cultural pain and trauma, coupled with the sadness of this little girl never being able to live up to the image that we as Americans have placed upon her, becomes an anvil around her heart. We revel in the beauty while drowning in the damaging commentary that is our nation’s narration. We began to talk about flesh and how there is no rationalization for painting flesh—it is an illogical concept based on how light illuminates over the surface and helps to project the image. After leaving our interview, I began to think deeply about my own imprisonment in flesh, which I equate to color. When I was in prison I never thought about being in a prison within a prison, and I wonder have you ever thought about time in this manner? As for myself, I am constantly snapped back to the carcass I was, being eaten alive by the vulture time is. Until recently, I never thought about how I swallowed the idea of color, hook, line and sinker. BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE There is almost always a beginning, like the moment humans began to differentiate based on how much or how little melanin covered the flesh. I would love to have been there to stop this insanity before it be ?[???] ?H?Y\??[?H?\??\??Y??B?H???H[?\?^Y\???Z[XY?[?H[???????^H?????[?[Y[????B??\? H]?H?Y[??][?H?YK[??H??????X?]\???[?H[?B????[???[?H?[[?HH?^?^K]?[?[??\????[]?[Z[X\?]K??????Q?S L? L?[?? L???K?L??L? L??SB??