NYU Black Renaissance Noire Volume 18 Issue 3 - Fall 2018 - Page 56

My recent project is titled Mugshot Portraits: Women of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which was exhibited at Rena Bransten Gallery in San Francisco from September 8 to October 27th. It’s a series of portraits drawn in graphite and Conté pencil that are based on mug shots of women who were indicted under Alabama’s anti-boycott law, two months after Rosa Parks was arrested for not giving up her seat to a White passenger on a segregated Montgomery Bus. The women were arrested with other boycott leaders, including Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. I did most of my research through texts and scholarship related to the Civil Rights Movement. I’m indebted to Jo Ann Robinson’s memoir, The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It, for the context and background that stemmed from her firsthand experience as a boycott organizer. Also, Belinda Robnett’s How Long? How Long? African-American Women in the Struggle for Civil Rights; The Civil Rights Movement in American Memory, edited by Renee C. Romano and Leigh Raiford; and Annelise Orleck’s Rethinking American Women’s Activism were some of the texts that informed the project. Rosa Parks, 2018 Graphite and conté pencil on paper 33 1/4” by 47” Several events transpired that caused me to look more closely at women and their contributions to the Civil Rights Movement as subjects for commemorative portraiture: A visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture shortly after it opened, where the first sentence of the plaque “Women and the Movement” reads: “The critical role played by women in the Civil Rights Movement has not received enough recognition.” The racist and misogynist rhetoric coming out of the 2016 presidential campaign and the subsequent outpouring of women’s resistance the day after the presidential inauguration; a visit to Mother Emanuel Church in South Carolina, the weekend after the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, NC ; the ongoing controversy around the removal of Confederate monuments, and the current climate of social and racial divisiveness in this country and around the globe. Each of these events and experiences would take a much longer conversation. I’ll have to leave that for another interview, I suppose. n o Also, please talk about the current body of work that’s being published in BRN : how you came about it and where it’s going to be shown; how you did your research, and how long it took you to get the photographs of the women protestors. I just completed two major exhibitions in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I’m in the discussion phase of other projects that I can’t really talk about yet, so stay tuned. I was fortunate that the Montgomery County Archives responded promptly to my inquiry about the images. Acquiring the permissions to use the photographs as source material didn’t take long, and I’m grateful that the Archivist there was receptive to my request. What’s new on the horizon for you and your work? Exhibitions, etc.