Posted on Leave a comment

Barbershop Theology

Rebutting Black Men on the Woman King

It’s disappointing & infuriating to see Black Women constantly attacked by black men. The common theme is: a strong Black Woman erases the Black Man. i.e. there’s no need for a man if a woman can live in her own strength & purpose. This line of thought usually leads to what a woman’s role and place are (spoiler: obedient & beneath a man).

One IG poster started in on Wakanda Forever. He was outraged by all the powerful Black Women in the trailer. Where are the Black Men, he screamed! I would rather they replace Chadwick Boseman than put a woman in the panther suit, even though that’s how it happened in the comic book!” Ok, bruh. He went from outrage with Wakanda Forever (we all know it hasn’t even been released yet), to outrage with Woman King. He loves Viola, of course he does, but how dare she call herself a king! His Woman King post is at the end of my video commentary. Pause/screenshot it to read.

Part 1: Rebutting Black Men on the Woman King https://youtu.be/PwKgb5PDAL4

For those who have seen the movie, what are your thoughts?

For those who don’t want to see the movie, what are your reservations?

Threat of Equal Partnership

I was able to verbally rebut this idiocy in a barbershop. The loud and wrong men called me sexist for insisting that Black Men are not the only ones in danger. “Why you gotta keep bringing up Black Women,” they yelled. They called me a bougie Christian for saying I want an equal partner in marriage. “What, you think you’re white? Talking about a partner… why don’t you want a HUSBAND or do you mean you’re a lesbian,” they laughed uproariously. They kept repeating in different ways that men and women are not equal as something ordained by God. I asked for scripture, they had none.

The thing that choked me into a stutter was that each of them claimed they were good men. Truly stunning to me. Nothing they said represented goodness. How can you be a good man when you don’t even see the goodness you’re claiming for yourself in the woman God created? What’s good about inferiority? You think women are less than – how is that honorable? How is that praiseworthy?

Part 2: Equal Partners

#womanking #thewomanking #ruler #advisor #vision #leader #violadavis #hollywood #men #women #gender #politics #moviereview #igtv #reels

Posted on Leave a comment

Print Series: Juneteenth 2022

Background

On June 19, 1865, a Union Army general rode into Galveston, TX with General Order #3 to inform the African American enslaved population, and their enslavers, that they were free and had been so since the signing of Proclamation 95 and presidential executive order dated January 1, 1863. Two years, four months and 18 days earlier. Nearly six months after Congress passed the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery on January 31, 1865. And a couple months after the Civil War ended on April 9, 1865.

The general also advised the people who were just informed of their freedom that they should remain on the plantations they had been enslaved on and wait for wages from their former masters who were now deemed their employers with whom they had just been granted equal rights under the law. Yada, yada, yada. We can all see how this played out over the last 157 years.

Ironically, the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified on December 6, 1865, was presented as confirmation that slavery was abolished in the United States. Yet the very law that abolished slavery in plain sight, made it legal out of sight. The 13th Amendment allows for slavery and involuntary servitude for those convicted of crimes.

AMENDMENT XIII

Section 1.

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation

On June 19, 1866, Juneteenth was observed for the first time as the end of slavery in America. [Technically forced prison labor and human trafficking are forms of slavery still thriving in America today, but the unvarnished truth is nothing to celebrate.]

Juneteenth becomes a Federal Holiday

On February 25, 2021, Senator Edward Markey sponsored Juneteenth National Independence Day as a legal public holiday in Congress. The act was signed into law on June 17, 2021. On June 19, 2021, everyone in America enjoyed a new federal holiday – many of whom had no idea of the roots or significance.

For the 156th Juneteenth aka Emancipation Day, and the second Juneteenth National Independence Day, I observed in the silence of my creative space. I chose to edit three pieces from my catalog that speak to me about the foundation of exploitation in the United States of America and the continued impact of capitalist malfeasance on our existence today.

Though my most recent work focuses on Black Women, the harm is felt throughout all of society.

As much as people want to think that the least valued and unappreciated people don’t matter in the larger picture, the history of the world shows that what a society accepts for the least of their members will become the norm for all.

We are all the same in differ ways.

The Juneteenth Print Series

It may seem late for #Juneteenth, but #freedom is actually late.

The prints in my Juneteenth 2022 Print Series are titled:

The Crossing: Blood in the Water
Built on Cotton
Black Women Stand Alone

Each image is available as 5×7 & 11×14 print on silk paper. They can be ordered on this site and via my Square Store.

The Juneteenth 2022 Print Series: Built on Cotton depicts Lady Liberty walking towards mainland USA across New York Harbor as a sea of cotton.

The New York Slavery Records of the City University of New York dates slavery in New York back to 1525. They cite the 1830 census as recording 75 enslaved Africans in the state, despite an 1817 law emancipating the enslaved in the state.

The Crossing: Blood in the Water depicts a mother & daughter holding hands across the Atlantic. There’s blood enveloping a ship-like structure behind them that stretches from the African continent to the USA.

Between 1500 and 1900, it’s estimated that approximately 15 million Africans from across the continent were taken by European enslavers. There are no exact numbers as no one kept detailed records. Approximately 10.5 million enslaved Africans arrived in the Americas and the Caribbean. Some estimate that close to 2 million are buried in the Atlantic Ocean with the remainder dying in Africa during their transport to the coast.

Black Women Stand Alone depicts a lone Black Woman sitting in front of the White House as a police officer approaches her. Barricades with signs reading *Do Not Enter* are barring her entry to the seat of power.”

State violence against Black Women happens in many forms and infiltrates every level and theatre of society. Black women are treated as inferior humans, wives, mothers, employees. They are neglected in education, healthcare, business, government and society. They are targeted by men, women, science, police, and government programs. There are truly no safe spaces at any level for Black Women.

Posted on Leave a comment

Juneteenth: General Order 3

General Order 3 was read to the enslaved African American population and their enslavers in Galveston, TX on June 19, 1865 by Union Major General Gordon Granger.

General Order No. 3 states: 

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”

The proclamation he’s referring to is Proclamation 95 which is commonly known as the Emancipation Proclamation dated January 1, 1863.

He didn’t tell them they had been legally free for two years, four months and eighteen days. Or that the Civil War had ended two and a half months earlier which codified their freedom. There was no offer of income, or other funds to allow them to move about freely. No employment offers. No suggestions on where the free could live freely. He didn’t even tell them that their former enslavers would be compensated by the government for the loss of their forced laborers. However, he made sure to tell them to return freely to the plantations they were just freed from and expect wages from their new employers/former masters. He made sure to tell them not to bother approaching the military for any assistance. And he clearly told them they would not be supported anywhere.

This is how the last of the enslaved African American population was informed of their freedom in the failed experiment that is the United States of America. No grace. No urgency. No mercy. Even from the side that wants to be celebrated as emancipators.

Posted on Leave a comment

What I Know about Coaching

Coaching is a build-up process.

If someone is tearing you down or making you feel less-than, they are not coaching you. They are attempting to deconstruct you to better acclimate you to their nature and tolerances.

What I Know About Coaching

Criticism is not coaching

Last week, I was pulled into an impromptu meeting at 8:30am by my manager. He called it a “coaching” session, yet began by telling me I had gotten into a full-on argument with a client on the phone and was condescending, combative, and argumentative. I interjected with, “I did not argue with anyone.” He then told me I was being defensive and he wasn’t going to battle back and forth with me.

I’m rarely in the mood to be called names, but nonsense at 8:30am before coffee by someone who had none of my respect due to their lack of management skills made for a very succinct and direct rebuttal.

I didn’t appreciate having my character, personality and tone mischaracterized. Most definitely not in words commonly used to stereotype, demonize and dismiss Black Women. And absolutely not by the only Black Male manager on the open floor he was dressing me down on.

He didn’t appreciate me speaking up for myself. He actually said he was stunned at my response. Meaning he was stunned that I didn’t quietly accept what he called “criticism.”

He claimed that the caller had called back to complain. He said he had listened to the call and heard me sounding argumentative, condescending, combative and defensive. Because he seemed so surprised that my voice was calm throughout the call when he played it back for us both, I concluded that one of the white women sitting near to me flagged the call time because they took offense at my confidence (the caller had hung up while I was transferring her to a colleague). I did make comments about the call with the person I was transferring to after I realized the caller had hung up.

While the manager listened to the call for what seemed to be his first time, he said with surprise, “I agree with everything you’re saying. It’s clear she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.” However, he eventually clung to my drawling the word, “Yes.” As a very condescending inflection.

He kept asking me, “You don’t think you’re being condescending?”

I kept replying adamantly, “No, I don’t.”

I’ve been in customer service for 30 years. Birthed and bred in McDonald’s customer care where the customer is always right and when they’re not, we refer back to rule #1, smiles are free and listed as such on the menu. I matured on executive floors with extremely entitled personalities and received compliments on my professionalism, discretion and diplomacy throughout every level of service.

The only people in all these years to ever call me “defensive” are who were set on diminishing and silencing me. Managers and teachers who didn’t want to be questioned or corrected. Those who didn’t want any standouts or freethinkers in their ranks. 

The 8:30am critical “coaching” session is now viewed as a marker in my life.

Building Self

One of my favorite self-esteem boosting quotes in high school and college was, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” by Eleanor Roosevelt.

One of my favorite affirmations when I began Bible Study years ago was, “This is my Bible. I am who it says I am.”

There have been many times where I have simply bit my tongue to allow a conversation to end with no fuel from me. Most of those times I would ruminate on what was being said and come back the next day with a calm measured rebuttal or follow-up questions. The time I took to think was also a cool down period. For most of the last twenty years, I’ve had managers I’ve highly respected… with a job I loved at a company I wanted to stay with. It may go without saying, but I’ll say it: my former managers did not call me names. If they needed to correct behavior, they spoke their mind plainly – told me what the issue was, what my actions were and what they should have been for their desired outcome.  

If I go further back in life, there were very few points during my formative years when I spoke up for myself. I looked to my parents and elders hoping they would speak on my behalf. At an early adolescent age, I realized my parents were not interested in defending me with their words. They didn’t really value words as defense or guidance. Mostly because they stayed in scrappy survival mode.

In my early teens, I began to actively reject words people tried to forced into me. My way of rejecting at the time was telling myself I was not what they were calling me. I would then tell myself who and what I was. It was an internal process.

Back to now. Here I am in my late forties, finally speaking up in the moment, telling someone they can keep their negative words about me. All while he’s basically begging me to agree with him that I’m a difficult and unpleasant person.

Honestly, as unpleasant as the experience was, it is an absolutely amazing illustration of how the enemy cannot destroy us without our complicity. What is someone trying to get you to agree to that is counter to who you are?

He pseudo-manager fired me. Of course, he didn’t tell me directly. I got a call from my agency thirty minutes before the end of my shift. He told them the reason was because I couldn’t handle criticism. I told the rep, “That’s a lie. I literally just finished an hour of coaching with another manager who knows how to speak to people and got a good amount of guidance from him.”

That being said, I don’t think there’s been anywhere God has allowed me to stay that did not benefit my spirit. If a place is turning me dark, He cuts the cord. I always think I can hold on for my material goals, but my goals have never held any weight with His will and plan.   

Good coaching makes all-stars out of novices

I ran track and trained in field sports throughout my youth. I played basketball throughout high school and into college. I understand teams and individual performance. I appreciate coaching and training.

I started playing basketball at the age of fourteen. Prior to trying out for the freshmen squad, I had never held a basketball. I was made to feel very awkward in my skin. I was tall, skinny and often tripped over my long limbs. My family called me clumsy and uncoordinated. I believed them.

During the first two years of high school I lived with an aunt. During freshmen year, shortly after I joined the basketball team, she attended one practice game. Afterwards she told me she wasn’t going to bother coming again since I couldn’t play anyway. She never saw me improve. She never witnessed the athlete I developed into. She wasn’t a coach.

My coach didn’t believe what my aunt said I was.

My three coaches turned me into an all-star by junior year. Senior year I was co-captain of the Girls Varsity Basketball Team.

I know what good coaching will produce. Good coaching creates results previously unimaginable.

Praise God always. We don’t have to know or see anything as long as He is in charge of our lives. Give thanks and be blessed as you go.

#allihavetosay #thankyoulord #morningreflection #fired #job #woes #toxicworkplace #keepmovingforward #harvestlifer #harvestlife #joycomesinthemorning #love #peace #joy #nofucksgiven #zerofucks #unshakeable

Posted on Leave a comment

Poem: Bury Me in a Free Land by Frances Harper

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Make me a grave where’er you will,
In a lowly plain, or a lofty hill;
Make it among earth’s humblest graves,
But not in a land where men are slaves.

I could not rest if around my grave
I heard the steps of a trembling slave;
His shadow above my silent tomb
Would make it a place of fearful gloom.

I could not rest if I heard the tread
Of a coffle gang to the shambles led,
And the mother’s shriek of wild despair
Rise like a curse on the trembling air.

I could not sleep if I saw the lash
Drinking her blood at each fearful gash,
And I saw her babes torn from her breast,
Like trembling doves from their parent nest.

I’d shudder and start if I heard the bay
Of bloodhounds seizing their human prey,
And I heard the captive plead in vain
As they bound afresh his galling chain.

If I saw young girls from their mother’s arms
Bartered and sold for their youthful charms,
My eye would flash with a mournful flame,
My death-paled cheek grow red with shame.

I would sleep, dear friends, where bloated might
Can rob no man of his dearest right;
My rest shall be calm in any grave
Where none can call his brother a slave.

I ask no monument, proud and high,
To arrest the gaze of the passers-by;
All that my yearning spirit craves,
Is bury me not in a land of slaves.

Posted on 1 Comment

I AM WOMAN: An Introduction

Looking Back to Move Forward

In February 2018, I quit my corporate job with a determination to work and live as a writer and photographer. A few months later, several interests coalesced into a photo essay book idea that has become I AM WOMAN: Expressions of Black Womanhood in America.

I AM WOMAN comes from a desire to give women a platform to say who they are and express their womanhood with no strings or ulterior motives.

Everyday something has tried to kill me

A prime catalyst for launching this project was the state-sanctioned assault by police officers on Chikesia Clemons at a restaurant in Saraland, Alabama. In the video of the assault, two male police officers are seen yanking on her arms to pull her out of her seat and throw her to the dirty floor of the Waffle House she was eating in. They sat on her, threatened to break her arm, choked her, exposed her breasts (she was wearing a halter top), then flipped her around by her neck and belt to put her face down on the ground. A third officer stood over Chikesia and her assailants the whole time. Somehow more disturbing is the fact that the restaurant was full and patrons continued to eat without pause. Without looking. Without objecting. Without demanding the police officers treat the young woman humanely or with a modicum of respect.

Police had been called because Chikesia had asked about a fifty cent charge on her receipt for utensils to eat the food she had purchased. The server took exception to the question and an argument ensued. Chikesia asked for upper management contact information but the police were called instead. Waffle House stood by the actions of their employee and the police violence against Chikesia.

Despite society being inundated with videos of egregious violence against black bodies, seeing male patrons in the background continue eating as if a dehumanizing racial, physical, and sexual assault was not taking place in their presence was beyond infuriating. There is no way I can imagine men of any race sitting so calmly as a white woman is similarly brutalized in their presence. There’s absolutely no precedent for such a visual. Yet it’s so common for Black Girls and Women to be brutalized, a live viewing doesn’t even interrupt a meal.

The only person who tried to help Chikesia was her friend, Canita Adams, another young woman, who helplessly filmed the assault.

Throughout my life, there has certainly been a build-up of understanding as to how little the world values me. The assault on Chikesia came after several years of me trying to break out of an administrative support role at a global bank. I even went back to school for a Master’s degree to make my internal applications more attractive. My high-ranking female manager had the opinion that I should be happy to have a job. I was in a respected support role working for a respected senior executive in a top firm. What more could I possibly want? Certainly not a role that challenged me or working with people I could learn from and grow with. She was not concerned about me leaving because I couldn’t possibly make as much money as I was making working for her. Hearing that was pretty much the nail in the coffin of my corporate career. Realizing my dedication, experience, performance, and education weren’t enough for me to be considered for promotion within a company I had been with for a decade was enough for me to finally walk away. It was made clear my upward mobility was solely dependent on the whim of one person and that person wasn’t me. It was someone who considered my only value to be the service I provided her.

It became painfully evident that there is no environment in which Black Women are seen, respected, or valued as human beings with enough intelligence to form plans for their lives. We are treated as if we have no right to our bodies, our feelings, our thoughts, or our future. We are disregarded as if the past never happened and the present wasn’t created for us. We are constantly told who we are, who we aren’t, who we should be, what’s expected of us, what we can and can’t do, and what’s enough for us. Yet at no point are we able to just be who we are as we want to be.

What’s in a name and a word?

Isabella Baumfree, born into slavery in a Dutch-speaking household in Ulster County, New York, changed her name to Sojourner Truth after converting to Christianity. She said of the change, “Sojourner because I was to travel up and down the land showing people their sins and being a sign to them, and Truth because I was to declare the truth unto the people.” In 1851 she gave the speech she is most famous for, commonly referred to as, “Ain’t I A Woman?” at the Woman’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio. More than a hundred years later her words, “Ain’t I A Woman” morphed into a more declarative statement, “I AM A MAN” for Civil Rights campaign signs in 1968. The speech and the sign are clear inspirations for I AM WOMAN: Expressions of Black Womanhood in America.

Overall, in the larger Sisterhood of Womanhood, I know the struggle is universal. Across the United States, no matter what demographic groups we fall into, Women are essentially telling the same story. We aren’t seen. We aren’t valued. We are not respected. We have to fight for any measure approaching equality to a standard set by men. We may have different starting points, but for the most part, we are all chasing the same goals: love, acceptance, appreciation, and respect for our individual wholeness.

I want my work to combat the visceral hyper-sexualization and objectification of womanhood, girlhood and the feminine form everywhere. Closer to home, Black Women and Girls are hyper-sexualized, objectified, used, abused, and discarded without even the acknowledgment or defense of our humanity. On one hand, we’re lauded and imitated as sexual icons, on the other hand we’re reviled for our fertility and physical versatility with no respect for our sacred femininity. It’s such a destructive dichotomy that we can do great harm to ourselves simply trying to figure out how to navigate society for survival.

Societal and media messages destroy us before we can appreciate the need to protect our self-image. Sometimes we’re stunted by our closest family and friends feeding us what they chose to believe from the negative things they were exposed to. Stereotypes, curses, expectations, misunderstandings, traditions, and ignorance are the foundation of many stories that are told about women who rarely have the opportunity to share their point of view. I AM WOMAN is the antithesis to all of that.

My overall goal with I AM WOMAN: Expressions of Black Womanhood in America is to honor Black Women collectively and individually. The perspectives of women who live in a society that is hostile to their existence is necessary to improve life for everyone within that society. It’s exhausting being exposed to what the world thinks of Black Women. What do Black Women think of themselves?

With this on my heart, I narrowed my project focus to my primary audience: Black Women. I set out with a list of questions.

  • Are you always fully present in your womanhood or do you hold back to move forward?
  • How do you navigate in or through different spaces?
  • What does your womanhood mean to you?
  • Where or how do you find your joy?
  • How do you nurture your spirit?
  • Do you use your voice to call out, improve or destroy?

After a few conversations in the field, these questions consolidated to: “What word would you use to describe yourself?”

I AM _______________

This collection belongs to every life it touches. I wanted to produce a book that readers can see themselves in and insert their stories into. To accomplish this, there are pages where the book owner can write themselves into the overarching story.

A call for poetry and essays was met with some very poignant submissions. Several women contributed poems and essays sharing insight into their experiences of womanhood. The intimacy of their sharing led to me adding a storyline collection of my poems which span thirty years.

Though the initial call for written submissions targeted content from Black Women, the complimentary portrait sessions were open to women of all ethnicities. I spent my 2018 summer photographing nearly sixty women in Chicago, Gary, New York City, Milwaukee, Monument Valley, and Phoenix.

The women’s assignment was to represent the word they identify themselves with within their images. Their declarative prompt was, “I AM WOMAN. I am _________________.” Of the written descriptors I received, I’m happy to report “sexy” was never mentioned. The most common words were Strong, Powerful, and Love. They answered with questions, statements, and monologues. Most endearingly, the women answered with their presence and personality. Some of their declarations are preserved on video, but all are sealed in my heart with gratitude.

421 Years of Black Women Using Their Words

It’s incredibly humbling to be able to weave together words from African Women in America throughout the last four centuries. Our struggles, unfortunately, have not changed much through the years. There is no period in which we simply accepted the yoke the world shackles us to. Black Women have never been silent. We have never been inactive in our communities. Despite the abuse, neglect, habitual sexual violence, human trafficking, and a stifling minimum of economic opportunities, we have continued to elevate ourselves and move forward. Even from disadvantaged and unsupported positions, we speak up for ourselves, our communities, and against injustice wherever we see it.

To support what I know in my bones, I began searching for historic instances of Black Women in America speaking up for themselves – using their voices to answer accusations and oppression. Documents, poems, and speeches about, and from, several women who were bold and outspoken in defiance of the time and space they occupied are also shared. This collection serves to amplify how strong and resilient Black Women have always been and continue to be.

Researching documented historical material authored by Black Women was a test of endurance. Fortunately, I was able to locate chronologies of African Americans in general and African American men specifically. Searching for experience-based content by Black Women consumed a good portion of my development focus, but it’s a necessary part of the continuing story of our roots and trajectories, our struggles, and our joys. The way we make do and make better no matter our starting point. We, Black Women, are magnificent in all our statuses, throughout any affliction or oppression, we not only continue to rise, but we also shine. We illuminate our surroundings, and provide routes of escape for others to follow.

A Timeline and A Book List

As I began adding historical figures to this book, it became apparent that we’ve done far too much to cover within the scope of this project. So I created a timeline to acknowledge their lives and their work. The varied richness of their short biography lines is both humbling and encouraging. The timeline is full of authors, poets, abolitionists, singers, educators, organizers, politicians, and leaders. It’s by no means a full list of creative works or published/recorded documents by Black

Women in America, but it is a praise-worthy highlight reel of significant historical works, most of which are in the public domain. Some of the women were prolific writers with multiple publications which are not listed within this work.

Looking Back to Move Forward

I AM WOMAN began as a declaration of my womanhood. It began as a reflection of who I am in conjunction with the awareness of what the world would have me be. As I explored what my womanhood means to me, my internal questions returned me to memories of my mother.

Though she left the physical world nearly twenty-five years ago, my mother’s spirit has never left me. She has remained a consistent guide and teacher in all things love & light. Looking back, I marvel at how she maintained grace, character, and patience throughout a life filled with adversity and hardship. We were a working poor family but we never felt poor because she provided absolutely everything we needed: love, shelter, food & clothes.

Terry Ann was the purest representative of life, love, and nurture. The ultimate provider and doer. A pragmatist who did not allow the flaming arrows flying at her to pin her down She laid the groundwork for a non-judgmental outlook and forgiving spirit to develop within me. She bequeathed me her hard-working, do-what-needs-to-be-done attitude. She instilled a confidence in my inherent value that the world has yet to rob me of. I am who I am, and am becoming who I will be, because of her. She is my most incredible blessing, yet I only knew her from one angle.

Throughout the making of this book, I’ve wondered how my Mom saw herself. For me, womanhood has been a struggle. Learning to view my Mom as a person independent of any labels or identities has helped me become comfortable in the totality of me. Truly looking back to move forward without restraint or apology. This break-through allowed me to show up in different ways to sculpt out the work before me.

Influences during the process

As part of my preparation, I asked to tag-along to events by other creators who were courting Black Women. This allowed space and opportunity to practice my portrait photography and test my concept. These events were awesome and are embedded in this work.

In March 2018, The New School hosted Inequality: An Observance for a Just Future 1619-2019. It was a day-long symposium focused on reflection, connection, workshopping, seeding, and networking. My first version of I Am From… was a workshop activity shared within a group of attendees. A blank template of the poem is included so readers can be contributors also.

A few days later, Medgar Evers College hosted The National Black Writers Conference in Brooklyn. The theme was “Gathering at the Waters: Healing, Legacy, and Activism in Black Literature.” What can I say? The desire to incorporate historic texts was most likely seeded within that space.

In June 2018, Women in the Black hosted their Who’s the Boss Conference in Harlem. In between sessions, I approached women to ask if I could photograph them for my project. This was the beginning of the portrait sessions. A couple of weeks later, I saw Renata del Carmen’s ad about a photoshoot she was hosting in Brooklyn for her Bold, Black Beautiful project. The intention was to create positive stock images of Black Women for multi-media use. I asked if I could shadow her photographer and possibly use some of the images for my project. She, the ladies and the photographer were okay with my request. This group of vibrant women made the book cover.

In September 2018, Black Women’s Blueprint’s March for Black Women took place in Lower Manhattan. I marched and photographed the participants. One of my favorite sign images from that day simply says:

Respect Black Women was taken during the March for Black Women in Brooklyn, NY in 2018 (LaShawnda Jones for Harvest Life Photography).

  • RESPECT BLACK WOMEN
  • PROTECT BLACK WOMEN
  • ELECT BLACK WOMEN

I’m grateful for all the inspiration and collaboration that has propelled me forward with this heart work. The indomitable spirit of Ancient Black Womanhood prevails in every status we have throughout the world. Whether we are called slaves, servants, employees, women, or leaders, we are aware of our inherent role as birthers, nurturers, and protectors of all humanity. We may have been captured and subjugated, but we’ve never been conquered.

I hope this collection enriches you as much as it has enriched me.

Continued blessings, LaShawnda Jones

Click to purchase your copy of I AM WOMAN: Expressions of Black Womanhood in America.

I AM WOMAN: Expressions of Black Womanhood in America Front Cover
Cover photography and design by LaShawnda Jones.

Posted on Leave a comment

I AM WOMAN Covers

I have a release date for the I AM WOMAN: Expressions of Black Womanhood in America! It will be available for purchase on June19, 2021 via Amazon. YAY!

The low pre-order price is available until the release date. All pre-orders will be shipped from me so they can be signed copies if you wish.

I’m pretty psyched finally seeing this project come together! The photography and design are my work. Stay tuned for more posts throughout the week.

What do you think of the covers? Any critique on the back cover blurb?

Click to purchase your copy of I AM WOMAN: Expressions of Black Womanhood in America. 

Posted on Leave a comment

POEM: I Am from…

I am LaShawnda, sister of Kim and Nicolette.
We are daughters of Terry Ann, the daughter of Bessie Mae,
The daughter of Lizzie, the daughter of Mae Emma, the daughter of
Many Unknowns.

I am from coconut oil and bergamot grease
From pinto beans and bananas.
I am from the light.
From home-cooked meals and shadowy corners,
From Thanksgiving feasts are for week-long leftovers.
I am from the iris;
The majestic maple tree,
Whose thick trunk I remember climbing and falling from.

I am from nowhere and everywhere.
From many mothers and no real fathers.
From silence, violence, solitude and perseverance
From hard work tempered with spots of joy.

I am from share-croppers and life-long toilers,
Farmers, gardeners, strong women, and providers.
I’ve been formed through the oppression of my ancestors
The generational resilience of my grandmothers and
The unruffled pragmatism of my Mama.

I am from lies and “keep it in the family”
And God is trying to tell me something
and do unto others as you… well, just do as I say.
I am from stardust and grace, refined in the fire of supernovas.

I am from Gary, Indiana by way of Mississippi and Arkansas
By way of Virginia, South Carolina and Louisiana
By way of Cameroon, Nigeria, West Guinea, and Britain
By way of One Africa seeding the World.

I am from the beginning and the end.
From all that is and all there will ever be.
From salvation and damnation, prophecy and legacy
I am from abundance and sufficiency. I am existence.

~ LaShawnda Jones
from I AM WOMAN: Expressions of Black Womanhood in America

Posted on Leave a comment

I AM WOMAN: A Book List from the Timeline

421 Years of Black Women Using Their Words

This book list is derived from the African American Women Using Our Words Timeline I developed for I AM WOMAN: Expressions of Black Womanhood in America. As with most creative projects, I had no idea where the timeline would lead.

This is by no means a full list of creative works or published/recorded documents by Black Women in America. More accurately, it’s a highlight reel of some of the historical works in the public domain. Some of the women were/are prolific writers and have multiple publications which are not listed within my timeline.

Begin With A Seed

The I AM WOMAN Project began with the idea that resistance and speaking up for ourselves are not a new concepts for Black Women. Lo and behold, a bit of digging reveals Black Women have been speaking, shouting, fighting, and resisting being controlled and abused since before our words were written down.

Discover a Forest

The Timeline in I AM WOMAN: Expressions of Black Womanhood in America includes 421 years of documented words by African descended Women in the United States of America proclaiming who they are and telling their stories in their own words. The Book List spans 421 years of Black Women in America advocating for themselves, their families, their communities and their people while exhibiting an impressive breadth of accomplishments throughout the centuries.

Black Women in America have a long and truly empowering history. Our truth cannot be hidden forever. Neither will freedom elude us forever. We are our most loyal encouragers. We are our own best defenders. Black Women have always been their own most worthy heroes.

Everything before 1924 is public domain and can be downloaded for free. May the readings liberate your mind, heart and soul. May your vision and understanding be infinitely expanded. Asè.

Book List, 1600-2021

1600 Isabel de Olvera Affidavit
1746 Lucy Terry Prince Bars Fight, August 28, 1746
1773 Phillis Wheatley Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral
1849 Jarena Lee Religious Experience and Journal of Mrs. Jarena Lee
1854 Francis Ellen Watkins Harper Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects
1850 Sojourner Truth The Narrative of Sojourner Truth
1859 Harriet Wilson Our Nig; or Sketches from the Life of a Free Black, In A Two-Story White House, North
1861 Harriet Jacobs (aka Linda Brent) Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
1863 Old Elizabeth Memoir of Old Elizabeth a Coloured Woman
1863 Susie King Taylor Reminiscences of My Life in Camp
1865 Charlotte Louise Bridges Forten Life on the Sea Islands
1868 Elizabeth Keckley Behind the Scenes; or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House
1890 Octavia R. Albert The House of Bondage
1891 Lucy Ann Delaney From the Darkness Cometh the Light; or Struggles for Freedom
1892 Anna Julia Cooper A Voice from the South: By a Black Woman of the South
1892

1895

Ida B. Wells Southern Horrors: Lynch Law and in All Its Phases

A Red Record: Tabulated Statistics and Alleged Causes of Lynchings in the United States

1893 Amanda Smith An Autobiography: The Story of the Lord’s Dealings with Mrs. Amanda Smith, the Colored Evangelist: Containing an Account of Her Life Work of Faith, and Her Travels in America, England, Ireland, Scotland, India, and Africa as an Independent Missionary.
1896 Gertrude Mossell The Work of the Afro-American Woman
1898 Kate Drumgoold A Slave Girl’s Story: Being An Autobiography of Kate Drumgoold
1926 Hallie Brown Homespun Heroines and Other Women of Distinction
1904 Virginia Broughton Women’s Work, as Gleaned from the Women of the Bible
1919 NAACP Thirty Years of Lynching in the United States: 1898-1918
1942 Margaret Walker For My People (poem reading)
1950 Gwendolyn Brooks Annie Allen
1953 Katherine Johnson Determination of Azimuth Angle at Burnout for Placing a Satellite Over a Selected Earth Position.
1959 Lorraine Hansberry Raisin in the Sun
1968 Audre Lorde The First Cities
1969 Maya Angelou I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
1970 Shirley Chisholm Unbossed and Unbought
1983 Alice Walker The Color Purple
1988 Toni Morison Beloved
1986 Rita Dove Thomas and Beulah
2001 Mae Jamison Find Where the Wind Goes: Moments From My Life
2001 Condoleezza Rice Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family
Condoleezza Rice: A Memoir of My Extraordinary, Ordinary Family and Me.
2008 Kamala Harris Smart on Crime: A Career Prosecutor’s Plan to Make Us Safer
2009 LaShawnda Jones My God and Me: Listening, Learning and Growing on My Journey
2010 Carole Simpson NewsLady
2015 Amanda Gorman The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough
2018 Stacey Abram Lead from the Outside: How to Build Your Future and Make Real Change
2018 Michelle Obama Becoming
2019 Valerie Jarrett My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward
2019 Susan Rice Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For.

 

Posted on 1 Comment

I AM WOMAN: A Timeline

African Women In America: Using Our Voices

A Timeline: 1500 -2000’s

This has been quite an undertaking for I AM WOMAN: Expressions of Black Womanhood in America!

At first I assumed there had to be chronologies of African Women in America and our contributions or achievements throughout the centuries. But there really weren’t any. I was able to source a chronology of enslaved African American Women. I was able to locate chronologies of African Americans in general and African American men specifically. But nothing that told a broader history of Black Women in this land. This has consumed a great portion of my development time on the I AM WOMAN project, but I think it’s a necessary part of the continuing story I’m trying to show and tell about our roots and our trajectories. Our struggles and our joys. The way we make do and make better no matter our starting points. We, Black Women, are magnificent in all our statuses, throughout any affliction or oppression, we not only continue to rise, we shine, we illuminate our surroundings and provide routes of escape for others to follow.

I’m so humbled and encouraged by the varied richness of the short bio lines of the women in the I AM WOMAN Timeline. To aid Women and Girls to see themselves as part of the overall story, I’ve added a space for them to add themselves to the timeline.

Have you pre-ordered your copy yet? If not, you can do so here!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  Download PDF: Timeline. African Women Using Our Words.sm

Related Posts

I AM WOMAN I AM WOMAN Contributors I AM WOMAN: Expressions of Black Womanhood in America

40 Famous Black and African American Women Who Are Leaving Their Mark on History

#words #women #history #africanamerican #chronology #timeline #ancestors #blackhistory #blackhistorymonth #365black #america #americanhistory #womenshis #womenshistorymonth #womanhood #books #bookstagram #harvestlife #indie #publisher #michelleobama #kamalaharris #amandagorman #lashawndajones