Hello friends, fam, and all around lovely humans. Happy Black History Month! As an artist I would like to pay tribute to the amazing contributions from Black artists that have influenced me as a person. I will end each of my posts this month with works from Black artists that I’ve been impacted by and think you should check out as well. I hope you will enjoy them and please reach out to me if you have any of your own suggestions for things I should check out.
Speaking of amazing artists there is something that I would like to talk about that was ignited by the halftime show- our need to comment on other peoples bodies. This thought first started to linger in my head as headlines scattered across my screen following the Super Bowl half time show. I’ll be honest, I didn’t watch the Super Bowl and I only watched the half time show after it was posted all over my feeds. I don’t really care about it unless the Packers are playing, so sue me. (GO PACK GO.) After watching the half-time show I remember thinking what’s the big deal? Why are people so concerned about these people? What is it about skin that freaks people out? Is it the fact that it is brown skin? Is it the fact that it’s the skin of people with vaginas? Is it because it’s “old” skin that “looks young”? Their art, and it was beautiful art, was clouded with judgements about their appearance. It just didn’t sit well with me.
I didn’t realize how much it didn’t sit well with me, until today. I was out for my daily run and a person insisted on yelling loud enough for me to hear over my loud AF headphones: “It’s okay honey, thick is good. THICK IS GOOD.” I think their intentions were kind. I think they didn’t want me to think I had to run. BUT, and pardon my language here, F**K YOUR INTENTIONS. As I continued my run, I thought about how they don’t know me or my body. It didn’t make me feel good, it made me feel violated. My body is not for anyone else and I don’t want advice or comments or anything else about it. That shouldn’t matter if I am famous or poor or rich or naked in the middle of the street.
I spoke to my friend about it who said, “it’s good it was you, a person that feels confident in themselves [most days]. Imagine it was someone else, who’s whole day or progress could’ve been brought down by that.” My day isn’t ruined and in fact I love being thick. Heck, my insta bio specifically says I’m a ‘thicc NYC babe always’. I just think about the lack of disregard for what people are experiencing and how we shouldn’t be assuming anything about people. Shakira and Jennifer Lopez may have their lives documented in the public light all the time, but we don’t know anything about them. Just because they are famous, doesn’t mean we have the right to say things about their bodies. They, as much as we forget sometimes, are humans. We are all just humans.
As humans I want to urge us to move forward with more intention. When the intentions are good and the impacts are negative we must be able to sit with that and work to remedy it. We must also being willing to speak up about those negative impacts. When they yelled this to me, I smiled and moved along, not wanting to make waves. I always fear making waves, believing that they will swallow me whole, rather than believing I can ride them. I want to be better about speaking up and telling people when I’ve been hurt by their words or actions. I want the people around me to do the same.
In fact, some of my favorite moments in my work is when people tell me how I might have misspoke or misinterpreted or misjudged. I don’t love messing up, the Type A in me actually hates it, but I do love it because of the powerhouse sitting in front of me. No, I don’t mean the mitochondria, that’s the powerhouse of the cell. I mean people acknowledging that they want better. They are recognizing their worth and their need to be respected in the way they want to be respected. That energy when I see someone speak up is power. They are power; you are power; I am power. I am channeling that power moving forward.
I actually felt some of that power this week when I had a lovely conversation with an acquaintance from high school. She reached out to me via FB to discuss some of the feelings she was having about the halftime show. She was honest and brave and we had a beautiful dialogue about what it means to be a person in this society and how that gets interpreted and what that means for others. I bring this up because it is moments like this that I am speaking about when it comes to being powerful. You don’t have to be famous to make an impact. There is power in talking, texting, putting words out there, even when it seems scary or overwhelming. Every time you tell someone what you are thinking, feeling, needing, wanting, scared of, excited for, worried about- the world is a safer and kinder place to be.
Be brave. Be honest.
“Love heals. Heals and liberates. I use the word love, not meaning sentimentality, but a condition so strong that it may be that which holds the stars in their heavenly positions and that which causes the blood to flow orderly in our veins.”
-Maya Angelou, Mom & Me & Mom
Published in 2013, this book explores Maya Angelou’s relationship with her mother. It is raw and beautiful and made me bawl on an airplane in 2016 when I first read it. Maya Angelou was a human of many talents and her art is something that will always make me feel so many things. I highly recommend Mom & Me & Mom but in all honesty just get anything done by her and you will feel things you didn’t know you needed to feel.