At Sweet Fingers Caribbean Restaurant, Brooklyn, New York.
One day, perhaps during my next sabbatical, I will travel to my favorite U.S. cities; and, in each one, I will spend the day riding mass transit, drawing the Black men I see. Subways and buses are some of the best places to experience the true heartbeat of a city and its people.
I saw this young brother on a subway ride from Brooklyn to SoHo. His braids were coiffed to perfection, and I wasn’t the only person on our subway car who noticed. He didn’t see any of our glances, though; he was staring straight ahead, focused on whatever music device he was holding in his hands.
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.”
At the Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic exhibit, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY.
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.