I crossed paths with this brother at Farmer Joe’s Market, where he was narrating his way through the produce section. He wasn’t talking to himself; he was sharing his opinion on the price, the quality, and the uses of all the fruits and vegetables with whoever seemed willing to listen. I smiled and nodded politely as he picked up a large red bell pepper and said to me, “Now that’s what I call a vegetable!” Around the corner, I saw him waving a bundle of lemongrass at an elderly couple, saying, ” This is good with everything. You wouldn’t think so, but it is.” As I moved into the dairy section, I could still hear him behind me, telling someone that he’d always thought cauliflower looked like brains.
One of the best parts of living in the San Francisco Bay Area has been the opportunity to connect with so many other artists of color. This drawing is a portrait of William Rhodes, a local sculptor, and mixed-media artist whose work is included in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture, in Washington, DC. In this drawing, he’s dressed as I saw him at the opening of the Making a Scene exhibition at SOMArts, in San Francisco. Click on his name (above) to view some of his amazing work.
At the “Making a Scene” exhibit opening, SOMArts, San Francisco, summer 2015.
At the “Making a Scene Opening,” SOMArts, summer 2015.
SOMArts really knows how to throw an opening. From “Glitterbomb” and “Making a Scene” (both in the summer of 2015) to “The Black Woman Is God” (in the summer of 2016), SOMArts openings have drawn huge crowds of art lovers from across the Bay Area. I think it’s because SOMArts group shows include a diversity of artists, each of whom draws their own community of friends and family. Even those openings that have been overwhelmingly Black or LGBTQ draw on a richly diverse array of identities within those respective communities. There’s something about these events that feels so Bay Area. As much as I whine about missing my beloved Northeast, the art community in the Bay always reminds me of why, since coming to Oakland in 1999, I’ve decided to stay put.
In line at Starbucks, MacArthur Blvd., San Leandro, California.
At the American Museum of Natural History, in the Hall of Primitive Mammals, New York, NY.
It’s election night, and things aren’t going quite as I’d hoped. So, I’ll take a page out of President Barack Obama’s book, and dedicate this post to celebrating the good things about life in the U.S. that will remain the same, no matter who wins the presidency.
This is but another of the drawings I did of the Black men I saw at the Kehinde Wiley exhibit, at the Brooklyn Museum. That exhibit was more powerful than I could ever have imagined, and I say this as someone who was a Wiley fan for years before I ever saw the Brooklyn Museum show.
Tomorrow morning, no matter who is president, Kehinde Wiley will continue to create beautiful art that resists the dehumanizing stereotypes applied to men of African descent. Tomorrow morning, technological innovations will continue to place the means of production and the means of distribution in the hands of the masses, so that people of African descent can continue to create media that reflects our understandings and experiences of the world. Tomorrow morning, the New Great Migration of people in every nation on the planet , from rural areas to cities, will continue to reshape economies and cultures worldwide, including in the U.S.
Most importantly, tomorrow morning, whether Clinton or Trump is our president-elect, western nations of the global north will continue to become increasingly diverse, identities will become increasingly complicated, and–from Europe to the U.S.–the browning of the northern hemisphere will continue, unabated.
To the current majority, I say, don’t be afraid. Instead, embrace diversity and accept the reality of demographic change. Another Democrat, many decades ago, said it best: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Christmas shopping at Stoneridge Mall, December 2015, Dublin, CA.
The last few posts were portraits I made in New York, and now I have a couple from San Francisco. I was walking down one of streets on the edge of SOMA and I saw this man sitting on the benches outside the Honey Bistro Restaurant. The backpack, fake fur hat, and fake fur coat posed an interesting challenge, in that I wasn’t sure I could easily capture their texture in a simple line drawing. I contemplated using comic dots or cross-hatching, and then I realized I’d prefer to keep the figure simple and monochrome.
On the last day of our spring 2015 trip to Brooklyn, my partner and I took a few hours to go up to Harlem, have lunch at Manna’s Soul Food and look for some of the street vendors who used to be so plentiful around 125th St. As we strolled around the neighborhood, it became clear to us that the once-lively street vendor culture of Harlem had greatly diminished by the demographic and economic changes in the community. The man in this drawing was one of the few vendors still left on 125th street, and when we stopped to admire his cleverly designed Black power- and Black history-themed t-shirts, he greeted us with the usual inquiries about where we were visiting from and whether or not we’d been to the City before.
Over the next 20 or so minutes, he regaled us with fascinating stories of his family, his struggles, his encounters with law enforcement, and his lively and spirited mother (who he clearly admired). I could probably have enjoyed another 20 minutes of stories, if I hadn’t been so worried about getting to the airport on time.
He most certainly had a lot more stories to tell. I hope I run into him again, some time. He was an amazing man with a warm and welcoming spirit, whose experiences had left him not embittered, but empowered and incredibly resilient.