I saw the man in this portrait as I was waiting at one of the few stop lights on Buena Vista Ave. He was walking with a couple of friends from a high school at the other end of this very long street, and there was something about the contrast between the fullness of the hair on this guys head and the sparseness of the hair on his face that reminded me of my own high school friends. I loved the way his wonderfully curly head of hair seemed to suggestion both awareness of and indulgence in the pleasure of embracing exactly who you are.
This is a portrait from the East Bay Alternative Book and Zine Fest, at Berkeley City College, in Berkeley, California. I saw this man and his friend walk past, and I had the same thoughts I have every time I see an African American man or boy with the hood on his sweatshirt pulled up on his head; I wondered how anyone could think this man was dangerous, and I hoped he got home safely, that night and every night. After all, an awful lot of people are afraid of Black men, and scared people with guns have ended an awful lot of Black lives.
I am not really a dog person. I don’t particularly like the idea of scooping poop, and dog kisses are a bit wetter and slimier than I can tolerate. Also, I’m allergic to most dogs; and German Shepherds, Huskies, Malamutes, and similar breeds can launch me into a sneezy, congested, throat-closing allergic frenzy.
Despite all of this, I melted a little when I saw this kid standing on the corner of Foothill and 50th, cradling a sweet pit bull puppy. There was something about the gentle way he held the dog in in the crook of his arm–and something about the way the dog looked up at him with complete trust–that told me this dog would never be in a fight, would never be neglected, and would never go without.
At the 42nd Street-Times Square transit station, New York, New York.
The massive transit complex at Times Square-42nd St. is a little intimidating. The signs are actually quite clear, and if you simply pay attention to where you’re being directed, it’s pretty hard to get on the wrong train. Still, the experience of being underground, with so very many people, in a complex of stations whose various levels of track seem to extend more and more deeply into the earth can only be described as unsettling.
At the same time, passing through this station was also kind of amazing. There were so many Black people everywhere I looked, and I wanted to do portraits of so many of the men around me. It’s been a while since I’ve experienced so much ethnic diversity within the Black population of a single region, and I can’t wait to go back with more pens and more paper and a lot more time.
Everybody would say “of course all lives matter”. Our philosophical, religious and moral sensibilities would all say that, but in fact, many people don’t matter. When we say “black lives matter”, it’s a hashtag. It’s a movement. Die-ins are happening all over the country, protest movements around that phrase “black lives matter” because young black men haven’t mattered in the country and the criminal justice system has treated them very differently than my young white sons.