I've been listening to Sade's Soldier of Love on heavy repeat, not only marveling at the gravity of the song but how dope the music video for it is. If you've seen it, you can see the connections and how I was inspired by the #grayish ##landscape and the red smoke.
The song is powerful as it speaks to the resilience of spirit in the face of recurrent disappointments in love and the determination to soldier on it spite of it all. I've been clinging to this song in light of all the crazy shit I read in the news, particularly in light of the daily reports of sexual assault/harassment allegations. These are daily reminders of how tough is it to be a women, a women of color, a Black woman in a society that increasingly tries to make you feel powerless. I'm grateful for the reminders of the women who put on a brave face when they are battered and can face the #storm. I say that at the risk of further the perennial "strong black woman" stereotype that is tiresome and unhelpful. There is a power in the willingness to be vulnerable by taking off the mask of invincibility.
Before there was Sister Maxine (Waters), there was Shirley. Before there was Hillary Clinton, there was Shirley Chisholm.
Shirley was not only the first Black woman to be elected to Congress in 1968, she was the first Black candidate for President for a major political party and the first woman to run as a Democratic candidate.
Before becoming a public servant, Shirley was an educational consultant becoming a leading authority on child welfare and early education issues.
After going from being a State Senator to a US congresswoman, she eventually decided to run for President of the United States in 1971 campaigning under her legendary slogan "Unbought and Unbossed slogan". Not surprisingly, her campaign was met with tremendous obstacles based on race, but she also met even more intense resistance for being a woman running for President (some things never change, eh?). Not only did she receive little support for her Democratic colleagues, she received little support from her Black male colleagues and later stated: " "When I ran for the Congress, when I ran for president, I met more discrimination as a woman than for being black. Men are men....They think I am trying to take power from them. The black man must step forward, but that doesn't mean the black woman must step back."
After her unsuccessful presidential bid, Chisholm continued to serve in Congress. She worked to improve conditions for inner city residents and social services, opposed the Vietnam War and advocated against the military industrial complex. After retiring from Congress in 1982, she returned to her beginnings as an educator and lectured extensively across the country and taught undergraduate courses in politics, women and race at Mt. Holyoke college. She was nominated to serve as ambassador to Jamaica by President Bill Clinton but declined due to health issues and was later inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1993. Nine years after her passing in 2005, she was posthumously awarded by the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2014.
May Shirley's persistence and determination inspire us all.
"The artist must elect to fight for freedom or slavery. I have made my choice. I had no alternative. The history of the capitalist era is characterized by the degradation of my people: despoiled of their lands, their true culture destroyed... denied equal protection of the law, and deprived their rightful place in the respect of their fellows."
In celebrating Black History month, I'm returning to my Black Superheroes series with new portraits of Black civil rights pioneers and wanted to start with Paul Robeson. In what seems to be a moment of synchronicity, I stumbled upon an article today in USA Today that discussed how Paul Robeson's activist legacy is so relevant to current times because it merged art with activism.
Robeson was born in Princeton, New Jersey in 1898 to a father who was a former slave and went on to become an All American football player at Rutgers University and became class valedictorian. While pursuing his law degree at Columbia University, he sang and performed in various off campus productions. As his notoriety as an actor and vocalist grew, he became increasingly interested in civil rights issues of Black Americans. Robeson traveled abroad often and he eventually embraced Soviet communist principles because of its seemingly colorblind philosophy. Unfortunately, his support for communism cost him his career; during the McCarthy era, he was investigated by the US government and stripped of his passport. Unable to earn a income or travel abroad, his career suffered and never recovered. He spent his remaining years in declining health and seclusion but still remained committed to the principles of activism and social justice.
Robeson the athlete, intellectual, artist, and activist, was a renaissance man who's legacy is currently undergoing a resurgence at a time when we need it the most. May his work inspire us to be "the gatekeepers of truth" and to speak up against injustice wherever we see it.
I created this latest Inkscape in response to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. It never ceases to amaze me how there is blatant disregard to people's right to clean drinking water, whether we are talking about the Sioux Nation or the people of Flint, Michigan Environmental warfare always falls on the heads of people of color around the world.
I used an old portrait of Sioux member Amos Two Bulls available in the public domain because I was in love with the strength of his profile facing forward steeped in dignity.
Since the election of Trump, I am committed to creating Resistance Art as a way of amplifying the voices of marginalized people. The fight continues.