A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by someone who saw my artwork online. She invited me to send some of my work for “The Black Heritage Annual Exhibition.” This is in conjunction with the “Savannah Black Heritage Festival” which starts 15 hours and 29 minutes from now. (There is a Countdown Clock on their website).
I was surprised by the invite. I have never tried to be a part of Black Heritage Festival (though I am an African-American). Growing up, graduating from a predominantly black high school, I did not fit in. Quite a few people implied that I was trying to be “white.” I didn’t listen to much of the same music; I didn’t dress the same or talk in the same way that quite a few others did. In gym class, instead of playing basketball with the other guys, I sat on the bleachers writing short stories and poetry in my notebook. I was active, but not competitive in that way.
When it came to artwork, my work still is quite different, stylistically, from much of the art I see from African-American artists. I don’t have a clear cut message focusing on my race. In my mind, I don’t need to. I want to create work that “everyone” can relate and aspire to. My own personality resonates in the style that the work is created in and that’s enough for me.
With this in mind, I sent two (rather small) 8×10-inch framed prints of my favorite works from the series, Stasis:
Floated in glass, no matting, I tried to pack them well enough that they wouldn’t break on the way there. I agreed to have my work in the show before I knew I would be able to. I became sick in the process, which put me behind schedule. Then, I had the most difficult time getting the photographs printed. (My order could not be found in the system). Afterwards, it took me longer than expected to prepare the pieces for mailing, so I arrived at the Post Office after the mail had already been picked up for the day. (It’s been a long week).
I emailed the Curator with the unfortunate news that my work probably would not reach them in time for display at tomorrow’s Opening Reception. The deadline was 3pm yesterday. I had given up hope as I looked up the tracking number well after mindnight “early” this morning. I didn’t want to see the bad news.
But I didn’t see any bad news; I saw good news! My artwork had arrived 2 hours and 11 minutes before the 3pm deadline. All I could cheer was “Thank You, God, Thank You!” I was too tired to run around the room in circles. After exhausting my budget to get my work there, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity for others to see my work. I wish I could be there to see people’s reactions and get feedback, even if the work doesn’t sell.
I do understand the significance of “Black History Month” and Festivals like this. Still, something irks my nerves. Does it really matter if it’s black, white, spanish, japanese, etc. etc.? We’re all people. It’s all history. The same history on the same planet. It’s nice to bring up in the proper context. I just feel like we start putting people in these stereotypical boxes that everyone needs to fit into.
I know, this is my soapbox. For example, in the United States, we have to NAACP, which stands for the “National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.” I am not colored. I can’t stand it. We have whole colleges for only black people. Films featuring only or predominantly black people. Magazines and businesses employing only or predominantly black people.
If we celebrate people like Martin Luther King, Jr., who wanted equality and desegregation between all races, why do some in the African-American community feel the need to have these pockets of segregation? I know. I didn’t grow up in that time period. My grandmother was a slave..in South Carolina originally, before moving down here to Florida. I don’t know how I would have handled it if I grew up back then. It’s much easier for me to say, “Move forward.” But, we have to for the sake our present and future condition. ECJ