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I know the anger that lies inside me like I know the beat of my heart and the taste of my spit. It is easier to be angry than to hurt / Anger is what I do best. It is easier to be furious than yearning / easier to crucify myself and you / than to take on the threatening universe of whiteness by admitting we are worth wanting each other. Tongues Untied | Marlon Riggs, 1989
black./womyn.:conversations with lesbians of African descent
black./womyn.:conversations… features interviews with close to 50 out, Black lesbians including Poet/Author Cheryl Clarke, Filmmaker/Activist Aishah Shahidah Simmons, Poet/Author Staceyann Chin, Filmmaker Michelle Parkerson, Artist Hanifah Walidah, Hip-Hop Duo KIN, and Author Fiona Zedde. This film encourages progressive dialogue about images of Black lesbians and the stereotypes resulting from their portrayal in media and society at large. The director’s goal was to create conversation among Black lesbians of differing age groups.
Performance with inflated paper bags. A meditation on skin, objecthood, and liminality, through the historical lens of the paper bag as an implement of colorism. Performed in relation to my sculptural installation titled Domestic Exchange.
First image taken by myself. Subsequent images by Matt Dunn / courtesy Conner Contemporary Art.
Bumming Cigarettes is a short film about a brief and intimate meeting between a young Black lesbian woman who is in the process of taking an HIV test and a middle aged Black Gay HIV Positive man. Coming off of the devastation of a bad breakup with a girlfriend, Vee musters up the courage to go and take an HIV test to put her worst fears to rest. What she experiences during her trip to a local clinic is much more than she expects while sharing a cigarette with a stranger, Jimmy, during the 10 minutes that she awaits her test results.
Alia Hatch makes a strong debut in this short film, as a young Black lesbian woman looking to discover her status. This is a breakthrough performance for James Tolbert, a native Philadelphian and professional actor living with HIV for 21 years. Alia and James deliver a moving performance in this film that explores complex issues surrounding the HIV/AIDS epidemic including the loss of intimacy and stigma that persons living with HIV/AIDS may encounter, while also encouraging awareness around HIV/AIDS testing and the way we treat persons living with the disease.
Meet: Augusta Savage, a sculptor who overcame the objections of her father (a Methodist minister opposed to graven images), lack of funding, and racism to become a central figure in the Harlem Renaissance, the founder of several art schools and an educator of many students including Jacob Lawrence.
“The photographs that I made [in Chicago] … were things that I was trying to express in a social conscious way. I’d become sort of involved in things that were happening to people. No matter what color they be, whether they be Indians, or Negroes, the poor white person or anyone who was I thought more or less getting a bad shake. I, you know, thought I had the instinct toward championing the cause.”
Meet Ellis Wilson: born in Mayfield, Kentucky, in a black neighborhood known as “the Bottom,” studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, and won a Guggenheim Fellowship which allowed him to travel through the South painting portrayals of African Americans in their daily lives. Children of the ’80s may recognize his painting The Funeral Procession because it hung in the Huxtables’ living room on The Cosby Show.
“The one thing I think that must be guarded against … in our efforts to create a black image and to assert our quality, our character, our blackness, our beauty, and all that, the art form must remain one of high level. I think of Ralph Ellison who always said, ‘I want to be the right arm, the themes of my people, but I want to be a great writer regardless.’”
Artist Hale Woodruff bolsters his argument with a quote from Ralph Ellison, who would have turned 100 today.