Thursday, September 2, 2010


This entry isn't really untitled. It has many titles. I couldn't decide on just one.
Here are but a few:
Tell 'em why You Mad Son...
or, No/bodies, Some/bodies...
or, For Real MoMa? You're Kidding, Right...
or, Where is Lorna?

I feverishly typed most of this entry on my Blackberry while sitting on the top floor of the Museum of Metropolitan Art. I had not been to the new location (which isn't so new anymore) and I was excited to get out and be inspired. Instead I felt like my life/breath was being choked out of me. Here is my story:

As I traveled up yet another escalator, I realized that I paid twenty bucks to get mad. I could feel the heat rising in my body like steam coming out from a NYC manhole cover. I could have gotten mad for free (like I did in the Bolton's fitting room earlier), but no, I paid to be angered.

I should have expected it. I should have known better. But I walked in blindly and got smacked upside the head pretty hard. I felt like Wily Coyote getting hit by a ton of Acme bricks. What hit me? It was the reality that many are still content with ignoring the bodies and the bodies of work of African-American women.

Let me begin with our bodies. I am no small girl. In fact, I was reminded of this in the fitting room of Bolton's earlier today. I may not be tall, but I am certainly not lacking presence. Except, of course, in places where white folks and a few others aren't expecting my presence. I was bumped and brushed one too many times for my taste. It was like I wasn't there. It was like they didn't see me. I am grateful that I have been set aside for Christian ministry because there is no telling what I may have otherwise said and done. What happens when your body has become so devalued in society that folks treat you like you have no body at all? No body. Nobody.

As for the bodies of work of African-American women artists, MoMa gets the gas face. Minutes before going to the women in photography exhibit, I snapped this picture and sent it to a friend. She and I had just been talking about the Guerilla Girls.

My delight by the inclusion of work by the Geurilla girls, and their creative commentary on African-American/Black woman artists, was dampened by the exclusion of African-American women photographers in an exhibit that "encompassed the vitality and richness of photography's many creative traditions and demonstrates the medium's accessibility to women from its inception."
Accessible? To whom? By whom? What women? How could MoMa have an exhibition of women photographers that contains only one Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe print? Where is Lorna? Where is Clarissa? Where is Deborah? Where is Adrian? Where?

MoMa, what are you saying? Are we nobodies with no bodies of work?

In an act of resistance I slipped quietly in the corner on the sixth floor of MoMa, slipped my iPod out of my purple bag, slipped on my headphones and listened to Jill Scott's "I'm Still Here," and then I left.

I am a boisterous river
I am a mountains story
I am a quiet feeling
I am a fragrant flower
I am a moonlit evening
I am a peaceful night
I am a writers thinking
I am a wealth unfathomed
And if you don’t recognize my presence, I am here
And if you don’t recognize me, I am here

I am a source of power
I am excited journey
I am the rock of patience
I am a whisper singing
I am unbridled freedom
I am the thought from thinking
I am a love unshattered
I am the great orgasm

And if you don’t recognize my presence, I am here
And if you don’t recognize my presence, I am here

And even if you don’t recognize me, I‘m still here
And even if you don’t recognize me

And even if you don’t recognize me, I‘m still here
And even if you don’t recognize me, I am, oh, I’m still here

Even if you don’t recognize me, I’m here, I’m here, I’m here

To add insult to injury, I walked past (and doubled back to) a painted image in the window of the really swanky bar, Modern, that is doors down from MoMa. Here is a detail. There was too much of a glare to get the entire display. What you don't see in this image are the other two women and the ways in which their bodies are postured, layered on each other, baring flesh.

Here were black women's bodies. On display. In a window. They were teasing, titillating, tempting. I felt like I was at the intersection of a slave auction block and Q-Tip's video for Vivrant Thang instead of at 53rd Street and 5th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan.

It is acceptable for our bodies bodies to be sexual, used to invoke or evoke pleasure for others. It is alright for our bodies to be used in service to others, laboring for the well being of others whether as a domestic worker, nanny, or factory worker. But folks don't know what to do with our bodies when we are just being. Though I haven't talked about Erykah Badu's video for "Window Seat" on the blog, I think that is precisely the issue. What do we do with the body of a black woman when she isn't shaking her a**?

Black women have strong bodies. Black women have beautiful bodies. Black women have intelligent bodies. Black women have resilient bodies. Sadly, Black women have bodies that are only recognized when we are sexual or working.

I don't know how to end this blog. Truth is, I am still angry. I thought writing would help. Maybe it did a little. There is more to be done to right these wrongs...

1 comment:

  1. YES!!!!!

    I have so much to say. I believe it warrants a phone call. But write on sista!