BLUES FOR BLACKS
Yesterday on a rainy day in April, I went to the Whitney with my sister to see "Blues for Smoke" and exhibition influenced By the history and musicality of the Blues. An interesting exhibition, it displayed how its influence can be seen in so many artistic disciplines. I dont get to see exhibitions often and when I do, I am one of the dorkier viewers who enjoys taking in every piece and installation. If there is music, scrawlings, dried fruit or anything, I enjoy the whole experience. I want to understand what motivated the curator or the artist to create, what they created. While, trying to squeeze into one of the audio installations, an older, white woman moved and covered her purse as I was trying to get to one of the headphones. My first reaction was to leave where she was because I dont want that sort of energy around me. I also was sort of struck by the irony of the situation, at an exhibit highlighting an African-American art form, here was a white woman consciously or unconsciously making me feel uncomfortable, for her comfort. The Whitney Museum, is located on the upper east side of manhattan, an area which I rarely if ever travel to,nearly a foreign land to me. The majority of people at the exhibition were non-blacks, and my sister commented as the tour guide was explaining aspects to of the "black art experience" to a group of older white patrons, it is sort of a surreal experience hearing yourself explained as other. There is no equivalant of where you hear white people explained as other, unless you are hanging out with a group of your friends after watching some ridiculous film.
I appreciate the Whitney for this exhibition, and the staff was a diverse group racially and intergenerational. It is also makes me angry, after a long day at work, looking forward to this exhibition before a rehearsal later that evening, that I would even have to encounter this..again..at an exhibit that was highlighting my OWN culture. There is no resolve in this piece, that woman will probably never have to account for her behavior and for me, the experience is not new just another to place in the "dont let that affect you pile". Also, this behavior is not exclusive to the "older white female", it is a behavior that crosses gender and age, unfortunately. You can experience it in the 'burg all the way to Staten Island. For myself, it makes me just want to avoid areas of where there is a majority white attendance, which is usually impossible but I am very aware of my surroundings and my time is calculated in those spaces. The situation is much more complicated than just "lets love each other", if i had needed CPR, i do not doubt that woman would have helped me. This is a deeper issue of honor and respect that is still very much lacking for my community in this country. A conversation and process that is still happening and unraveling. For now, beautiful exhibits like Blues for Smoke, is just that an artistic experience but not a political reality.
I was at a Bob Marley Tribute concert a couple of weeks ago at the House of Blues. A fellow actor peep hooked me up w/ a free ticket & a backstage pass. I had a sneaking feeling that this would probably bring out a majority white audience & lot of people who liken rastafari to weed & not any the political stance that led to the liberation of Jamaica from British rule. There was the usual suspects...the white hippies from yester year, the Rastafari elders w/natty dreads, the white frat boys, sistah's looking to show thier winding skills, the white women looking to explore thier Jungle fever & the blk man who are happy participants. Thier were several musicians who were all talented & brought thier version of the brillance that was Bob Marley to life on the stage. What was missing for me is the real reverence for the lyrics of what Bob Marley was writing. I saw people especially white couples who were grinding to the words of Jah, Love or Exodus. Young, white men singing "Irie" with drinks in thier hands coming from thier post at AIG. Black men who were just looking to get thier "packages" rubbed out on anyone's backside. Obviously, I understand it's a concert and people have to express themselves but I wondered when did roots reggae become a place for people to unleash thier inhibitions. When did the music of political liberation become reduced to frat boy excess? I am certain that dancehall ( which I am a fan of) is partly the culprit but also the commercialization of Bob Marley. He has become a cool product placement & the political commentary has gotten lost in everyone wanting to feel "Irie". Bob Marley literally risked his life in perserving the progress of Jamaica & speaking about the economic injustices that run rampant in the third world. His love songs were few, he used his prestige as a platform for political movement and commentary. He used his beauty & sexuality as a way to lure people to hear about the pain which is the everyday reality of many, many people. He enjoyed all the carnal & financial benefits of being a rock star but his private home was an open place & his religion was always at the forefront. He was a falliable man, especially in his emotional life but as a freedom fighter his vision was crystal clear & watching that audience at the House of Blues just brought sadness to my heart. I cant imagine that this was the legacy he wanted & how his birthday should be recognized. Again, there is no resolution just a commentary from a blk chick who lives in NYC.
An Actor/Director sharing her thoughts on creativity in this crazy metropolis, New Yawk Citay.