1001 Black Men #917

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At the same time as the Kehinde Wiley show,  the Brooklyn Museum was also presenting an exhibition of the notebooks of Jean-Michel Basquiat, in a different gallery.  I spotted this young museumgoer at the entrance of the Basquiat show. Though you cannot necessarily tell from this portrait, he carried himself with the poise of Beyoncé Knowles, and the self-possession of Maya Angelou; and his confidence was inspiring.

Even in progressive Brooklyn, his lace top and his carefully chosen accessories stood out among even the other LGBTQ Black people at the museum that day; and looking at him made me very aware of all the ways my appearance doesn’t draw the attention of others. As edgy and stylish as I might think I am, the world sees me a just another middle-aged Black woman in a v-neck sweater, perhaps a bit under-accessorized, but otherwise unremarkable.

It may seem strange to commend someone simply for dressing their body as they please; but that is the world in which we live. I admired this young person’s absolute refusal not to be himself.

Ajuan Mance

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