I visited sites along the Underground Railroad, historic sites in Philadelphia. My friend Ed came down from Brooklyn to give me a hand, which by that I mean, to take pictures of me while doing so. Though I had some vague idea of how I would be captured I relied on the chemistry between us and the sites we visited. After several weeks of rain, even on the morning of the shoot it was still raining, by the time we got to our first shoot it was done and the sun was getting away from the overcast.
Having been some time since I last wore it, the space between then and now has given me perspective about this most recent function action begun in 2015. In fact, the picture of me in profile overlooking the Philadelphia cityscape, the one that I use as the banner on the n00se as well as on my business card was taken whilst I was standing across the street from Belmont Mansion where unbeknownst to be at the time the picture was taken is the site of the museum for the Underground Railroad. It was an incredible day of learning about the underground railroad, its conductors, station masters and engineers. The guides who graciously took us on tour were so committed to telling the histories of each site. I was so impressed by their fervent testimonies I felt, I don’t know, American. They were so committed to informing us of our shared history I felt an earnest kinship that extended to them and through them to the heroes that felt no human should be treated as chattel. Our histories are all around us and Philadelphia is chock-full; all it takes is to peer ahead.
Ed shared a special relevance during the photo-shoot. He reminded me that in the last few weeks nooses were found hanging at the NMAAHC as well as at American University and other locations in DC.
He reminded me. Being mindful, rather, forgetful, is a position I often find myself in an hourly, if not, daily basis. There is so much trauma and terror, both in the world and right here in U.S., especially here that I register the latest atrocity of white violence, then, forget and move on. I have to. So much so that I am mostly unaware how the terror affects my day to day. I find myself looking at people, more than ever, looking at, studying actually, for tell-tale signs of white fear, for signs that they voted for this reality. A poet friend, Reuben Jackson, posted the next time your doctor asks how you’re feeling you should respond by informing her how the latest white terror is affecting your well-being, in fact, you are seeking medical attention because racism is driving your blood pressure up, having paranoid feelings when surrounded by white people, experiencing feelings of anxiety which can be traced to the latest police shooting, not to mention the 400 years of enslavement, disenfranchisement and terror that have been passed down through generations. How are you feeling today? Tired of racism and tired of white privilege. I wonder if white privilege will dramatically dissipate before I die or will racism and its terror just be the state in which I will live my entire life.
photo: ©Sherman Fleming/Ed Marshall 2017