"I’d rather go down in history as one lone Negro who dared to tell the government that it had done a dastardly thing than to save my skin by taking back what I said."--Ida B. Wells
It's Black History Month! While I think Black History should be everyday and not just relegated to February, I did want to commemorate it with a series that I recently started. My newest Inkscape portraits celebrate trailblazers and icons. They are my Black Superheroes.
I found images that were in the public domain (because getting sued for copyright infringement is not something that is on my bucket list) and merged them with previous Inkscape photographs that I had taken. It was somewhat of a painstaking process because I really had to dig to find the right Inkscape for each portrait. I wanted them to feel magical and ethereal and used color to reinforce the mood that each portrait inspired.
I deliberately decided to start my series with the amazing Ida B. Wells because, quite simply, she was a bad-ass and she simply doesn't get enough credit. In spite of being born into slavery, Ida seem to have a firm understanding of her rightful place in this world and refused to let her race or sex relegate her to sub-human status.
After being orphaned at the age of 16, she supported her younger siblings by becoming a teacher in a black elementary school. By the time she she got to college, she was keenly interested in the rights of black people and women. Incredibly, over 70 years prior to Rosa Parks, she refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a train in Tennessee and was forcibly removed. This sister didn't stop there, though; she she also sued the railroad company and initially won a $500 through the local circuit court, although that ruling was later reversed by the Tennessee Supreme Court.
As an investigative journalist, Ida B. started an anti-lynching campaign and revealed the correlation between local economics and lynchings in articles that she published in her newspaper, Free Speech and Headlight. Because of the constant threats against her life, she was forced to arm herself with a gun and the offices of her newspaper were eventually destroyed. She would later go on to write Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases, a pamphlet that pointed out that whites lynched black men not because of supposed allegations of rape committed against white women, but rather out of fear of black economic progress.
I admire Ida's ability to reveal the hypocrisy of the suffragist and liberal movements that not only ignored continued violence against black people, but also failed to include blacks in suffragist and temperance movements in the South. To learn more about how Ida B. Wells butted heads with Frances' Williard and how she also went on to read her for filth, please read the Root's article on racism in the suffragist movement. Her confrontations with such movements precedes the still ongoing problem of feminist movements frequently ignoring the plights of black women.
Ida B. was a fearless lioness that did not let fear, racism, or sexism get in the way of her beliefs, even when her own life was under constant threat. I wanted to highlight her bravery by creating a glowing light emanating from her center, her soul. Her convictions were her guiding light. I cast her in deep purple because her fortitude and pride instills a feeling of royalty.
To say she was a pioneer who was ahead of her time is an understatement. Ida B. was everything.
Over the last few months I've been getting emails, Facebook posts and Instagram inquiries from other people sharing pictures of work that resemble my Inkscapes. A lot of them have been from friends who have posted out of concern that perhaps my images are being ripped off by another artist or some mega-corporation. Other postings have been from complete strangers who may or may not think I have ripped off someone else or are not sure if I am the artist associated with a work done by someone else. While I appreciate that there are people looking out for me and that my work is reaching a wider audience, I have to keep it real: it's really annoying and I wish people would stop doing it. Please allow me to elaborate.
"Sometimes it's back to the drawing board but mostly I try to stay true to what I know and love as there's always room for growth and everyone. I've learned that I wasted valuable time worrying...and less time creating for many years. Don't let this haunt you or you'll go bananas. Go forth."
And that is exactly what I intend to do.