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.
One of the inspirations behind this newest piece was one of the promotional posters for my new favorite show Queen Sugar featuring two of the lead women actors Dawn Lyen-Gardner and Rutina Wesley. The show is shot with such indescribable beauty and sensitivity that it's hard not to be inspired by it. What stays with me about the show is how the characters, in spite of their very relatable flaws, have such capacity for hope and growth. This capacity for growth is what we have to hold on to these days when the news seems so seemingly stark and replete with bad news about hurricane aftermaths and mass shootings.
This piece is also the latest in my series featuring Black women and I was excited to create a work featuring two women together, reinforcing the importance of unity and solidarity and how when we come together, what we create is phenomenal. I'm also continuing with my continued intrigue with an interstellar theme because I think it also signifies limitless possibilities. A good friend told me that he likes to study cosmology and the nature of the universe because it puts things in perspectives when it comes to our place in existence, an idea which I love. Looking to the stars helps keep my sanity and the concept of incorporating Black imagery with it lends to the idea of possibility of expansion.
I'm noticing that fire is an underlying theme in this latest round of #Inkscapeportraits. Maybe on a subconscious level, I feel like every woman has something burning within her, be it #desire, rage, #vivacity, etc. I find this especially to be the case with the #women that may seem to be reserved on the surface but if you take the time to look her in the eyes, you see something powerful within.
Solely living off my art is a luxury that I can't afford. Having a day job, however, doesn't make me any less of an artist. Bills and responsibilities are real. So is my passion for what I create.
Every day it's a new scandal with the new regime in The White House. I don't know we are going to get through the next four years. In the mean time, I'm just offering this small commentary on his latest disaster...this one involves him leaking classified info to the visiting Russian ambassador.
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.
Still can't imagine a world without you in it, amazing us with your gifts and talents. You will live for an eternity through your music and inspire countless generations to come. Light up the heavens, Prince.
Limited edition prints of this work can be purchased at http://shop.jaimeetodd.com
Capitalism does not permit an even flow of economic resources. With this system, a small privileged few are rich beyond conscience, and almost all others are doomed to be poor at some level. That's the way the system works. And since we know that the system will not change the rules, we are going to have to change the system."--Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
As a young girl growing up in Pittsburgh, I remember listening to the famous I Have A Dream speech on the radio every year on the holiday and being awed and often moved to tears. The vibrato of Dr. King's voice moved me and yet made me feel mournful; I was incredibly sad that someone of his magnitude was gone and angry that someone would attempt to snuff out his light.
I say attempt because Dr. King's light continues to shine.
When I was in middle school and was living in Michigan, the area that I lived in did not commemorate the Dr. King holiday and we had to come to school without any real acknowledgement of his legacy. When I asked one of my teachers why this was, his response was because probably there wasn't that many Black students in the school system.
Luckily, my mom wasn't having it. She let me have the day off but on the condition that I did something to mark the holiday; I wouldn't be sitting around watching cartoons. Instead, I participated in a local march in Southfield and attended a program celebrating his legacy. Later on in the day I visited Detroit's African American History museum and bought my first African beaded bracelet, one of my most treasured possessions. That day was a reminder to me about what his legacy should be about; activism and cultural pride.
For a while, his image seemed in danger of being sanitized; his face was seen in food and beverage ads, he was too often made,into the poster-boy of passivity as the response to Black outrage in the face of racism and oppression, he was cast as the balm to Malcolm X's fiery activism. But now, I feel like we are taking Martin back and celebrating him for what he truly stood for. He was a revolutionary who not only challenged the evils of racism, but of poverty, income inequality and even capitalism. He was fiercely pro-Black and saw the virtues of socialism. (I highly recommend reading Harry Belafonte's memoir, My Song, which wonderfully details Mr. Belafonte's close friendship with Dr. King as well the fallout from his assassination). I truly believe he become truly feared when he planned to mobilize the poor before he was fatally shot. How astounding is it that he accomplished several lifetimes worth of achievements by the time he was taken from us at the tender age of 39.
When making this Inkscape portrait, I used the color blue because that is always the color I associate with Dr. King (it is the often the color I associate with people I feel warmly about). I also continued the theme I used with each portrait where every subject had a light source emanating from some point within as a symbol of their superpower.
While this is the last image in my current Black Superheroes series, there will be more editions to come, each of them celebrating and interpreting the richness of Black culture.