Thursday, November 13, 2014

By any other name...

I must have said a mouthful at a recent late lunch with a couple of friends, when I tripped over multiple euphemisms in describing my people within the same sentence. My friend, Renaldo Barnette, said blankly, "I can't use all those terms...I just prefer to say Black." Although I use that term as well, along with many of the other interchangeable ones, it struck me that my willingness to jump between them came with qualifiers, that required an "in the moment" mental calculus.

Unlike other racial groups, as Black people we have to continually address how we want to be referred to. This seemingly age old discussion remains unrelenting among ourselves. That is different from how we want to be described, which is fraught with its own challenges because of the range of looks that are encapsulated in the "Black" community and the historic sensitivities some terms continue to have. Add to that the options that are the result of national, ethnic and religious variations, and a plethora of terms abound. Where someone is from, how they look or language they spoke would determine whether they were Black, Negro, colored, a person of color, African American, African, Caribbean, Latino, light-skinned, dark-skinned, fair-skinned, mulatto, and the N-word notwithstanding.

I prefer having the choice of terminology to make, but, wonder if they add to a lack of cohesion as a people, or, does it provide us with a greater expanse. Unlike "white people" who universally gather under the singular term, by willing default, to describe themselves, but with a slight scratch of the surface could be found to have a plethora of extractions that remain hidden unless asked, we have been known to repeatedly search for an acceptable universal moniker. No other people deal with this ongoing challenge that unwittingly speaks to a history that is equally unique.

As a nod to how our friends influence us on these decisions, I find myself using the more encompassing and broadly descriptive term of "Black" when I speak of my people now...that is until something better comes along.
The range of Blackness

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Drawing on Style

Two drawings, I had done when very young, seemed to rise up last night—in unison with some of the greatest fashion artists of that time, at the he highly celebrated exhibition, “Drawing On Style” in London—to illuminate the story of a time of grace, elegance and unfathomable skill in the world of fashion.  The overwhelming crush of admirers, fashionistas and collectors filled the space to capture a moment in time when the deftness of a line told immeasurable stories of style, movement and panache.  The elbow-to-elbow crowd, assembled beneath these testaments of fashion creativity to revere the dynamic yet subtle art of fashion illustration.  Having participated in such exhibitions in the U.S. before, I’d not seen a media frenzy of this magnitude preceding a show.

My works, prominently displayed in the line up of illustrations in the main room, could be seen from outside the front window as we arrived. The glitterati in attendance included British fashion icons Zandra Rhodes and Bruce Oldfield, both of whom I encountered on my very first visit to London in the 70’s.

Also in the mix were several of the great artists from the 40’s through the 70’s, there to see the work and meet the hands that influenced our own work so many years ago. Stories of professional encounters, rhapsodies of stylistic nuances and finely detailed awareness of what it took to achieve these master works were shared lusciously by this select breed of artist.

If the current appreciation for this collection of vintage fashion drawings is any indication, the future holds a bright light for this unique expression of beauty.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The candidate arrives in Claverack

Standing in the cold with Cyndy Hall, our Columbia County Democratic Chair, we eagerly awaited the arrival of Sean Eldridge, the Democratic congressional candidate, outside the Post Office on Saturday afternoon. Though the temperature had climbed into the 30’s, we retreated into Claverack Food Mart’s homely backroom cafe for the comfort of coffee and warmth. Our cast of political activists was familiar, if not expected, leading the charge for early momentum in the next election. As we waited, strategies for increased Democratic registration and getting out the vote were discussed, along with concerns ranging from power lines to airport expansion issues.  Periodic updates on Sean’s location fed our anticipation and served to hold us patiently enthralled of his arrival.

He suddenly appears, with his Superman good looks and energy level, along with his marriage partner, Chris, and his campaign manager, Michael. After a brief greeting, he launched into a passionate discussion of the issues he sees challenging our local community, as well as, national political concerns. He made for a stark contrast in positions and solutions with the current Republican incumbent, Chris Gibson. His succinct yet encompassing review left me encouraged by how internalized these positions have become for him and his desire to work on them. He asked us to voice our own thoughts, regarding both local and national issues in a brief around the room temperature check. The discussion ranged from the involvement of youth in the campaign to broadband coverage throughout the county. The small group had wide support within the community and is known for their efforts to improve circumstances for all. Joe Steele, Enid Futterman, Marty Davidson, Peggy Lampman and Ian Nitschke has been among the strongest voices for change and were among those there to conduct the “candidate’s door knocking caravan” throughout the hamlet.

It didn’t escape the attention of many that our Democratic meeting was being held under the Fox News station blaring overhead, as a counterpoint reminder of the challenges we have ahead. With a smile from the proprietary sentry, a delicious pizza was shared amongst the entire group, with recognition that an army travels best on a full stomach. The petition to include Sean Eldridge on the upcoming November 4 ballot needs the signature of every Democratic voter possible. Please contact Enid, Cyndy and Vicki to sign the petition.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The scent of love

In the quiet of night he silently turns, automatically, into my awaiting arms, filling that space that seems designed only for him. The moment is loaded with recognition and gratitude as his scent fills my heart and his body fills my soul. There is no way to describe his smell or how he achieves it, but I know it is only his and would be found by me where ever it is.  The preceding silence is now full of a momentary rapture…a perfect fit…an alignment confirming the rightness of my life, at least in this segment and in this moment.   His hair brushes against my face like a thousand flowers, inhaling my spirit in its unruly thrall, lashing my cheeks with permanence and peace.

The comfort I feel in this moment has been built of many intimate moments that were anything but intimate. I could collapse in his arms, like an awaiting hammock because of his everyday thoughtfulness, his daily considerations, his love eruptions. Though he takes care of himself, he always seems to have me in the forefront of his mind, in the supportive caring way that mothers have with their children. Yet not in the same protective inequality of a parent to child but in a cooperating expectation of like responses, that fills each day with gifts of support.

For some, being together for so long implies acquiescing to a rut of coexistence, a limit of options, a resignation of sameness, but to me it is the opportunity to explore the wonders of the gift of love, the ever-unfolding source of eternal bliss, built on many unexpected moments.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

A snowy mission at dawn

I struggled to get the flashlight to work, as we trogged into the increasing darkness of the predawn trek...just twenty feet from our garage and the outdoor lights had faded into a memory of the warmth inside. As we struggled to remain upright in the pristine snow that grazed our knees, while balancing four large pieces of luggage from side to side - one trudging step after the other...following the memory of where the driveway once was - the fear of unanticipated issues of strain wore on me as my heart raced.  The intermittent light of the chilled flashlight sporadically guided our steps around the bend of the drive and down the hill to the main thoroughfare, where friends waited to whisk Joe off to the airport. The predawn slog through the snow became necessary the night before, when our snow plow driver broke down at the base of our long driveway, clearing little snow at all. 

As we finally descended the dark precipitous hill and rallied past the plow truck, mired in a snow bank, the fear of collapsing from a heart attack was replaced by actual exhaustion and the thought of immediately retreading that path became unbearable. So, I took the ride to Albany airport with Joe, to gain some rest and restore my energy before wading my way back up the snow bound hill.  He made his flight, I climbed the hill and am now snug in my snowily imposed retreat. From this vantage point, I remain undisturbed, by any and all, who would think twice about visiting.