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Troy

Harlem Street Portraits - A Big Beautiful Volume

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Pioneer this is the book I wanted to do.  The only difference is that I did not want people posing...

 

As nice as this book is, I can't help but see the world through the lens of someone who has been on the business end of the racism stick for a few hundreds years.

 

Disclaimer aside.

 

I took the snapshot above, this evening, during a signing of this book in New York City.  I decided to go at the very last minute  The signing was in midtown on 57th street and I knew I would be able to park on the street for free.

 

The book store, where the signing was held, is simply magnificent.  One of the nicest stores I've ever set foot in.  It is an independent store in a physical space that is worth at least several million dollars.  The inventory was impressive.  It really felt like I was in a bookstore for the first time!  Honestly I'm disappointed I had not previously visited the store and it is just 2.5 miles from where I live literally walking distance, but it may as well be on Mars.

 

The photographer is a white man.  The signing was in this store, in a white neighborhood, the vast majority of the patrons were white.  I saw maybe 4 other Brothers (no sisters, one worked as a guard at the store). There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, of course.

 

For some reason I expected to see a bunch of Blacks folks "up in there".  I expected to maybe even run into Herb Boyd (writer for New York's Amsterdam News) who wrote the foreword .  I expected the event to feel...well.. familiar.

 

Instead it felt more like I was peeking in on an event where a group of people were recognizing the field research of one of their more intrepid photographers -- one who somehow was able to capture the beauty in the people of Harlem.  Reminiscent of Jane Critchlow's Some of My Best Friends: A White Woman’s Journey into Racial Profiling which yielded this comment:

 

She's "humanizing" creatures descended directly from Homo Erectus that aren't even within the same taxonomy as modern humanoids. She probably won't get it, even with a broken orbital bone and the usual ape-rape, just another idiotic female with warped or attenuated survival instincts that will end up in pieces in a dumpster somewhere.
Curious George and Jane GOODALL

 

Now the readers in this store did not appear to be the like the racist who left that comment on my website, but I wonder if they see the book any differently?  Are they fascinated that the people of Harlem are able to manifest some form of humanity?  Is Stein somehow illustrating that Harlemnites may even share some of the same characteristics they do?

 

Yeah I know it is my racist lens distorting reality, right?

 

But I also know that Black folks don't have very many book stores left.  Many of the ones that remain are struggling.  None (that I've been to) come close to being as nice as this store.  I always thought about all the photographers I know (maybe even myself), who could pull together photos good enough to rival this book but will never get a chance.  Even f they did would they be able to sign in the same store?

 

Maybe I'm just tried of fighting... 

 

If I went to some trailer park in rural Mississippi, took a bunch nice of photos of poor white folks, created a beautiful coffee table book, then hosted a reception where scores of copies were sold to upper-middle class Black folks who asked questions, while sipping on wine, about my adventures; I wonder what a white man from that rural Mississippi community would think if he witnessed that event?

 

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If I went to some trailer park in rural Mississippi, took a bunch nice of photos of poor white folks, created a beautiful coffee table book, then hosted a reception where scores of copies were sold to upper-middle class Black folks who asked questions, while sipping on wine, about my adventures; I wonder what a white man from that rural Mississippi community would think if he witnessed that event?

 

Lol....

You'd be blessed if you could walk out without some crazy redneck pulling heat on you and accusing you of being one of Obama's "government goons" coming to spy on them, lol.

They don't trust Black people as much as Black people trust them.

But even if you managed to get the pictures and get out alive, they probably wouldn't sell because White people don't like seeing the inferior unsophisticated side of themselves.

When was the last time you saw a White man with no teeth on television?

When was the last time you saw a White woman with no make-up on on television?

Unlike many of our people, they don't like "keeping it real"....lol.

 

 

 

Are they fascinated that the people of Harlem are able to manifest some form of humanity? Is Stein somehow illustrating that Harlemnites may even share some of the same characteristics they do?

Yeah I know it is my racist lens distorting reality, right?

 

No.

Actually your feelings of frustration are linked to what his taking pictures of Black people and displaying them in a White bookstore actually means on a subconscious level.

It's almost as if he's a White man who went on a Safari in Africa taking picture of animals and putting them on display to the more "civilized"

Remember when Bill O'Reilley went to Sylvia's a few years back and claimed to be surprised at how nice was???

Al Sharpton took him to task on it like....'da hell did you EXPECT to experience in a soul food restaurant?

I know how you feel because White suburbanites often do the same thing to Detroit.

They go through the city snapping pictures of Black people and run down buildings and display the photos at high-end events discussing them and they are often praised for having the "bravery" to do it.

If you notice, most of the photos in these various "urban experience" books are done in Black and White, and this is for an important reason.

It's to make Black people look like......history.

As if innercity Black people are an endangered species who can't speak for themselves and their images must be captured before....the inevitable happens.

 

The arrogance of it can really get to you.

 

 

 

Well.....

Atleast Arsenio Hall is back on tv, lol.

 

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"They don't trust Black people as much as Black people trust them."

 

Yeah I believe this to be true Pioneer.

 

Also if I did happen to get out alive with the photos.  I, like most other Black folks, would be able to get the book published.  Even if the book was published, I doubt Black people would buy it in significant numbers.

 

If I had the money I would do it myself.

 

Dude, white people have no problem putting low class white folks on TV -- if there is money on it --  have you seen any "reality" TV?

 

Black people, in America, are history... going the way of the so called native American.

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Black people, in America, are history... going the way of the so called native American.

Atleast the Native Americans have pretty much re-incarnated themselves as Mexicans and other Central American Latinos.

They have the same genes and ancestry, but the culture is different.

But no matter what language we speak or culture we adapt, we're still pretty much still considered Black people by the rest of the world, lol.

I'm sure in New York you've met hundreds if not thousands of Black people who have adopted Islam, joined the Hebrews, practice Buddhism, speak with a FAKE accent....lol.

Some are Puerto Rican, others Dominican and Haitian.....but if they look like other Black folks, they're still CALLED Black.

Changing religions, changing cultures, changing dietary practices.....

No matter what we do...we're pretty much "stuck" being Black, lol.

Like Samuel L. Jackson said in the movie School Daze:

"Yall's niggaz.....and you go BE niggaz....just like us....niggaz"

.....LMBAO!!!!

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Interesting scene it could be very easily played out today.

 

I went to a reading of writers from the Dominican Republic this week.  It was interesting how the Blacks from of the Dominican Republic lamented being marginalized because they were.. clearly of African descent -- "cocolos".  But when the come here they don't always self identify themselves Black ala Sammy Sosa or Zoe Saldana.  Who can blame them.

 

Samuel L Jackson's character is right. It does not matter what you think of yourself if the society at large views you differently

But Fishburnes character is right too in that you can't allow yourself to be viewed the way society wants to view you.

 

The question becomes how do you deal with the discrepancy between who your are and how society views you?  Most people, it seems to me, fall into the Samuel L. Jackson camp and assume the role society bestows upon them.  It is Jherry curl juice one day and saggin' pants the next.

 

More and more kids on college campus have more in common with Sam's character than Larry's. 

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Troy

I love most of Spike Lee's work.
He's one of the few Black directors with the gift to bring the realistic feel of the Black American experience to the big screen and make it entertaining at the same time.
That's a gift.

The older I get the more I appreciate the wisdom that comes with experiencing and observing things.

I've watched School Daze numerous times and saw that scene and as funny as it was it didn't hit me UNTIL I had a chance to go down to Atlanta and visit Morehouse college.
After visiting Morehouse and the surrounding WestEnd neitghborhood, and knowing Spike went to Morehouse...I saw where he got his ispiration for that scene from.

The WestEnd is a ghetto that sits right next to Morehouse with brothers (some of whom are still wearing Jheri curls..lol) like Sam's character still there very resentful of the upperclass Black youth in Morehouse.

Also there was another scene in the movie right before the clip I posted where Sam makes fun of "Mission men" implying that they were effininate.
That one didn't make any sense either until I visted Morehouse and noticed the large gay presence there and then again, I understood where Spike was inspired.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think success is often about what you think of yourself and what other's think of you and having the wisdom to properly discern which holds the most importance at the proper time.

This is where CULTURE comes in.
Unlike Latinos, Arabs, and even many ethnic Whites (Italians, Jews, Irish, ect....) Black Americans don't have a very strong CULTURE that people can clearly identify us with or that we can identify ourselves with.
Too many of us float along with whatever mainstream America is doing at the time instead of establishing clear boundaries.

Our culture used to be big on family and relatives helping eachother out, which is why you used to never see homeless Black people.
Not anymore.


Many Black youth go to college and feel lost because they don't know who or what to identify with.
 

There's an old saying that if you don't define yourself, others will define you.

It's for this reason that...as an Aries and naturally confrontational....I typically find more success when I make myself very clear on where I stand and express my ideas boldly rather than trying to play the "laid back" role in life which may look cool but is often ineffective and allows people to draw often inaccurate conclusions about you.

 

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Yeah and the campus (Morehouse, Spelman and Clark) are essentially fenced off from the community which indeed is pretty depressed.  Spelman is completely fenced off. Rather than serving as in inspiration to the surrounding community it is more like an inaccessible ivory tower. 

 

You get the same conflict with college students and "townies" almost any where you go.  I wonder if white students experience the same thing.  Somehow I doubt it, at least not to the same extent that Black students do.

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