Saturday, June 10, 2017

Deborah Willis's Black, Notes #1

We've been reading, discussing, and writing about images from Deborah Willis's Black: A Celebration of Culture. Here are a few of our notations on images from the book so far.

[Related: Deborah Willis's Black: A Celebration of Culture, Notes #2]

Roland Freeman, Saturday Night at the Top Shelf Lounge, West Philidelphia, PA, 1989, pg. 198
The bar at the Top Shelf Lounge is packed, the patrons enjoying the band on stage—a lil’ jazz with their liquor. The singer is crouched low in her heels, her hand tight around the microphone, her eyes closed and moth open wide as she reaches for that note with her whole body. “Baby,” I say, “who’s got you belting those blues?”
Chelsea Irvin
Pg. 201
A girl sits at a bar, she looks to be a bar tender, three older men stare in her direction, on looks to be telling a story, another is looking her directly in the eyes and smiling as if wanted attention or affection. The last gentlemen seem to be in the conversation but looks blank his expression flat as the the man telling the story leans on his shoulder. What is the conversation about, are you honestly interested and engaged in the conversation? Do you think they care about your thoughts or is your captivation temporary- terminal?
Emily Hemmitt

White and Black Christianity (p. 230 My Aunt Leslie Outside of Church)
The black woman dressed in all black contrasts the white North Penn Baptist Church behind her. The contrast brings to mind the contradictions and complexities that exist between black Americans and Christianity: many white Christian slave owners forced Christianity onto black slaves, erasing any native religious views and Christianity has often been used to justify colonization. How can we, as black Americans, create a form of religion or spirituality that is separate from white Christianity?
Jena Roberston

Unidentified photographer, The Grape Vine Swing, ca. 1895
In a forest of thick trunks, there are two Black children, dark skinned and dressed in white smocks and shirts (one older boy and younger girl). They have the largest smiles, the boy pushing the girl on the grape vine swing. Dear beautiful children: thirty years after that momentous year, did the vine whisper any promise of a lasting freedom, or were you praying on it to be a slingshot?
Samantha L. Adams

Eli Reed’s Sunday Morning
In Eli Reed’s Sunday Morning, a black couple is walking together. They share each other’s company gracefully aging together on a blessed Sunday morning while the traces of their endearment is recorded in the lines of the highlighted sidewalk. Tell me, what’s it like to leave your mark in Harlem’s streets?
Tarzra Jones

pg. 116
Surlock Studio, Courtesy of the National Museum of American History, features a young, shimmering ballerina upon a wooden floor. Perhaps most intriguing is her reflection, containing both her full face in one panel, and only her body in another. What does the separation of face and body say about the perspective of the black woman’s body from both the individual and societal view?
Lindsey Norward


AALCI 2017


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