Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Other Side of the Gallery: Conversations Around the Mike Brown Exhibit

"Angelitos Negros" by Eartha Kitt in 1950 plays in the background.

Walk past the glass windows of Gallery Guichard on the intersection of Martin Luther King Dr. and 47th St. in the South Side of Chicago and a peculiar art piece hangs from the ceiling: a shredded Confederate flag.

But stare closer and nine names are staring right back: Cynthia Hurd, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, Mira Thompson, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Rev. Depayne Middleton and Rev. Clementa Pinckey.

The name of the nine victims who were shot in the basement of a South Carolina church during Bible study are plastered on the Confederate flag as part of a new exhibit entitled 'Confronting Truths: Wake Up!' by Ti-Rock Moore.

But what has caused a social media uproar is the piece recreating the crime scene of Michael Brown. 

A life-sized depiction of an unarmed young man who was shot by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer is the focal point upon entering the art gallery.

"I think it's a perfect show of white privilege and other issues we're dealing with our nation today," Josh Boss, 20, a Moody Bible Institute student said. "I think she attacks a lot of key issues including mass incarceration and current events such as the Michael Brown shooting and the shooting in Charleston as well."

Brown's body lies juxtaposed against a television screen with Eartha Kitt's 1950's eerie ballad "Angelitos Negros" echoing in the background.

Step away from the crime scene tape and more than 40 other art pieces make up the exhibit.

The thread holding the pieces together since it opened in July is what artist Ti-Rock Moore wants visitors to explore: the "honest and ... acute awareness of the unearned advantage" her white skin color holds.

Mike Brown's mother was at the opening reception and had requested that the gallery cover-up the body of her deceased son.

Another art piece has the paragraph "Gentrification - Doing Some Christopher Columbus Shit and Bogarting" written in white letters over a black wooden board. Next to it is a neon sign that lights up with "Strange Fruit" above a pile of nooses.

With topics such as slavery, gentrification, stereotypical slang words like "crackers" amongst others, it's hard to imagine entering through the doors of the gallery and leaving silent.

Silence is even hard to find outside.

Beyond the vacant grass lot across the street of the gallery is the Bronzeville neighborhood, an area fatigued by gun violence and gentrification.

Yet the owners of the gallery, Andre and Frances Guichard, are far from speechless since word of the exhibit has gone viral. They have hired a marketing representative to handle the public's negative response, from death threats to hate mail.

Except for a visit from Ayana Berry and her 11-year-old son Ahmad, the exhibit becomes a different kind of experience.

"I'm using this as a learning tool for him just to really understand," Berry said. "He's going to school with white kids and like I was telling him, a little over 50 years ago, that wouldn't have been possible."

The two stand in front of a modern-version of a jail cell with faceless shadows in the background. Ahmad's mother asks him what he sees.

"A black man behind bars and the bars are made of money," Ahmad said.

I asked him how it made him feel.

He pauses for a while. An eerie voice singing over her tears fills the air.

"Bad, because it's just not right," Ahmad responded.

Almost a year after the fatal August shooting of Michael Brown, the conversations a mother wants to teach her son about the world he's growing up in continues.

To see more pictures from the "Wake Up!" exhibit and others, click "Read More" below. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Audio Feature Story: 'How professional is black 'natural' hair?'

The M Report spoke with the brainchild behind the story, Bethel Habte.

M: So why did you choose this topic?

BH: "I have it and more and more women are choosing to do the same. I thought it would be fun to follow one implication of that - how it's perceived.

The workplace is the one environment where perceptions really matter.

So I went with that angle."

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Video: Spoken Word at Open Mic Night

Chicago- Heartland Cafe hosts Open Mic nights on Wednesday evenings in the Rogers Park neighborhood.

A lively crowd filled with musicians and poets gathered in one roof to share their art.

The energy was amazing.

I wanted to share my latest written piece. In case you can't watch the video below or if you prefer to read my poem in written form, I got you either way! Enjoy.

'the thrill of falling'

she doesn't give off the usual signals
her clothes aren't in disarray
her hair isn't a mess
she maintains her cool
But at the moment she had to jump
she doesn't think twice
the bottom wasn't going to hurt anymore
so she closed her eyes
and forgot her heart
Who's going to save her?
the moment she loses her grip again
will he extend his arm?
will he take a step in her direction?
before it's too late
she whispers goodbye
swiftly, softly, smoothly
His eyes are set
he sees her
and he doesn't know why but he holds on
if even for one second
because maybe the risk is worth something
no one really knows
maybe that's the thrill of f a l l i n g
with no expectations
something mysterious
nothing serious
she just forgot that her wings
even exist
How can the unknown meet at the point it's supposed to?
what if it's a disastrous crash?
an oxymoron of moments
two stars set in motion
reaching for the sky
swiftly, softly, smoothly
Her eyes are set
she sees him
and she doesn't even know why but she holds on
if even for a second
maybe that's the thrill of getting back up.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Jordan Exhibit Takes You Back To the Bulls' Glory Days

The exhibit, entitled "Open Air," is open at Chicago's Field Museum until Sept.8.

Chicago- Some relationships come at the perfect time.

For Michael Jordan and renowned Sports Illustrated photographer Walter Iooss, it was in the 1980s.

At that time, both were peaking in their respective industries. Jordan was not only taking the Chicago Bulls to the center of the national stage, but he was also taking over the international stage as a member of the U.S. Olympic team.

Iooss spent time documenting the Hall of Famer and recalled Jordan as "charming" and "easy" to photograph.

He wanted to do this for the city of Chicago after seeing an outdoor exhibit in Paris more than two decades ago. 

The 30 photos are part of the exhibit entitled "Open Air" and will be at the Field Museum until September 8th. 

Click "Read More" to see all the photos from the exhibit!