Over the past few weeks, I’ve posted about my day trip to Salem. Strolling around the city during the holiday season and enjoying a local cafe.
The reason for the trip was to see the photography exhibit, As We Rise, before it left the Peabody Essex Museum. It was wonderful and I’m so glad that I got to see it before it ended on December 31st. The description of the exhibit on the website truly intrigued me.
“Explore Black identity through a compelling compilation of photographs from African diasporic culture. Drawn from Dr. Kenneth Montague’s Wedge Collection in Toronto, a Black-owned collection dedicated to artists of African descent, As We Rise looks at the myriad experiences of Black life through the lenses of community, identity and power.
Organized by Aperture, New York, the exhibition features more than 100 works by Black artists from Canada, the Caribbean, Great Britain, the United States and South America, as well as throughout the African continent. Black subjects depicted by Black photographers are presented as they wish to be seen , recognizing the complex strength, beauty and vulnerability of Black life.”
The exhibit shows ordinary Black people living their lives and reminded me of my own family photos. The exhibit acknowledges the importance of these pictures. Yes, we as a people have been through a lot. There has been struggle. And the struggle continues.
But we are just like any other people. We live our daily lives and have families and friends. We take pride in our work.
We enjoy the simple things and glamour. We are bold and beautiful.
It feels wonderful to see these people just being themselves and living their lives, just like me. It means something to see oneself, depicted in this way. It means something to see oneself portrayed at all. To show that we existed and continue to exist. And that we will exist.
I remember as a kid watching TV shows like Star Trek and being happy that there were Black people in the future. To a certain extent, it’s silly. It wasn’t real. Even so, it mattered.
The text in the picture above, “Identity as Seeing Ourselves” resonates with me in a similar way.
“These photographs are not only about seeing ourselves and our place in the world, but also picturing where we are going.”
This picture above, which represents refusal, is quite interesting. Not something I would display at home. But I like the idea of us as a people being able to have control over whether we are seen or not and how we choose to be seen.
And last, but not least, As We Rise shows Black people at rest and leisure. I loved this portion so much! What’s the point of life if not to enjoy ourselves and relax at least some of the time? Have we not toiled enough?!
An Instagram post by The Nap Ministry for the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. says it best.
“The teachings of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. have been a North Star in my life since I was in elementary school and obsessively wrote every paper for any class on him until college. I’ve read everything he has written and his work grounds my ethos as a Black Liberation Theologian. As the country honors his legacy and celebrates his birthday, I am deep in meditation about leisure for Black People.
Leisure and the right to simply exist without the constant weight of having to be a tool for production is something Black people have been denied for centuries. It is our divine right to simply be and embody leisure as a human right. These photos of MLK, Jr. on vacation in Jamaica in 1965 are a balm and deep breathing. Radical inspiration for our rest practices. We Will Rest!!”