Honoring the Spectrum of Self
On May 20, 2016 the Wild Heart Gallery hosted the opening night of “Honoring the Spectrum of Self,” an exhibition where Southwestern College staff, faculty, and students were invited to investigate the sacred pieces that have shaped them as an individual or within the collective. The show featured a variety of works installed within the gallery – including an interactive piece – and presentations on opening night of video, song, and spoken word format. It is our privilege to present the fourth in a series of blogs which showcase the shared voices of this exhibit that ran through August 8th.
Artist: Brittnee N. Page
Title: We Break Chains:
Conscious Uncaging of-
Nappy Heads and Afros
Collard Greens and Cornbread
Triflin’ and Carryn’ On
In an interaction, my blackness precedes the rest of my character.
Unfortunately, as we now know in this country, black bodies are judged, threatened and destroyed simply because of blackness. This all happened before George Zimmerman knew anything about Trayvon Martin’s identity beyond his skin. The corruption can range from the cultural misappropriation of slang and hairstyles to the literal annihilation of black bodies. I am finding in my young adulthood that there is no part of my cis-gendered, heterosexual, female, artist, dancer, daughter, sister, CCLS, plant-based cook, thrift store endorsing identity that I have to protect more than my race. I simultaneous love my blackness and yet constantly hide it from the rest of the world. I’m finding how frequently I change the way I speak, turn down Kendrick Lamar at the stoplight and make sure I dress “appropriately” in order to feel safe.
Throughout my first year at Southwestern College I found that I was hiding blackness more than ever…maybe that’s due to Consciousness I or for the first time in a while I was the only black face in every class I entered. This coupled with the awareness of how my fellow black brothers and sisters are murdered in this country started a roller-coaster ride that I still haven’t gotten off of. I’m having flashbacks of watching Amanda Bynes on the Nickelodeon and wishing my hair moved like hers. I am reminded of how at my 14th birthday party my friends tanned on the beach while I hoped not to get darker. My mind moves to when my dad would play “Papa was a Rolling Stone” by the Temptations and I would be embarrassed my friends would hear. I was so ashamed of my blackness and frankly prayed to be white for as long as I could remember. I deeply believed life would be better and I wouldn’t be laughed at, picked on or sightseen for my differences.
So, this piece unleashes the pride I have for black people, black culture and my black self. I had countless intimate moments of self-acceptance while gently mixing the rich browns seen on these faces. Both the masculine and feminine are connected through eye contact and it reminds me of how many stereotypes we (mostly) manage to survive; from Mammy to deadbeat dad, from welfare queen to dangerous gangster. We as a community break the chains of these labels everyday in hopes to find peace in honoring ourselves.