Showing posts with label Race. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Race. Show all posts

Sunday, January 19, 2020

People Of Color

Whenever I hear the term “people of color” I cringe. EVERYONE IS COLORED. Do we say, "birds of color", or "roses of color"?

The phrase “people of color” is a meaningless label of human beings. 

I am an artist and see everyone colored, and also multi-colored. When I do a portrait of an African, I will use some of the same colors when painting a fair skinned person. Reds, blues, browns will be mixed in different proportions but are common to both.

On television, streaming online or on radio, when I hear the phrase “people of color” I recoil. To me, a gaffe has occurred. I don’t particularly blame anyone because society has a long history of racial prejudice; which is ignorant. 

I made a sample in the image above. Nobody is white or black. EVERYONE IS COLORED.

O CHILDREN OF MEN! Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other. Ponder at all times in your hearts how ye were created. Since We have created you all from one same substance it is incumbent on you to be even as one soul, to walk with the same feet, eat with the same mouth and dwell in the same land, that from your inmost being, by your deeds and actions, the signs of oneness and the essence of detachment may be made manifest. Such is My counsel to you, O concourse of light! Heed ye this counsel that ye may obtain the fruit of holiness from the tree of wondrous glory.
- Baha'u'llah

Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Earth Is One

 It is a rite of passage each year in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The second weekend in July brings artisans from all over the globe together for an extravaganza of popular, of-the-people art: the International Folk Art Market.

People come from far and wide converge on the grounds of Santa Fe's Folk Art Museum. I love most having the unique opportunity to see artists from places I might never visit, dressed in their native costumes and gathered in one place amidst all of their artwork. Tents shelter everyone from the sun.

I ask people and they are usually delighted and honored when I take their photograph. Then I see what Baha'u'llah meant when he said, The earth is one country, and mankind its citizens.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Hey Fat Man!

From my perch atop the wood fence behind my tenement apartment in Chicago, Illinois, if I spied the delivery man driving through the alley I gave him a shout out: Hey fat man! The big negro would smile, wave through the open window and respond with a cry, Hey skinny boy!  It became a game for both of us. I was four years old.

My father was finishing his studies for a master degree in criminology at the University of Chicago. On the side, he worked two jobs to support his young family. We were poor, but I did not know it. My mother stayed at home, minding me and two younger brothers.

I had a tricycle that I rode on the pavement behind the apartment. One day a woman was hanging wash on a line and I accidentally bumped my bike into her pail of clean clothes. Oh my, did she lash out scolding me. It was the first instance of human rage I ever experienced. I began crying loudly. My mother came outside, gathered me safely in her arms and apologized to the neighbor. I remember mother was embarrassed—another new feeling to me. Thus the beginning of learning about differentiation.

I played at a nursery school in the afternoons. It was a big place in Hyde Park for the children of poor families. We had guided play, meals, nap time on cots, and recess where we ran outdoors on a concrete playground that had a stagecoach in the corner. My first playmate was Darnell. He was black and I am white but neither of us knew. We did not know how to differentiate. I can still remember the love between us and pure joy of innocent comradeship. We were soulmates!

Our building was heated in the winter by a furnace in the basement that burned coal. During the cold months, a huge mound of black rock was piled out back. The building janitor was responsible for keeping coal in the furnace. He became friends of ours and one night my father took me to see him shoveling coal into the furnace. In the darkened room, the fiery furnace sounded with roaring flames. The iron doors opened. I stood at my father's side, reaching to hold his hand. The fire was at my eye level just feet away. I felt the warmth and saw the dancing light—like magic. Then the doors shut with a clang and we went upstairs. I could feel the love of my father and the janitor. They too witnessed the simple beauty of the moment; made special through my first experience of it.

I always slept with my brother Wade. One Sunday morning when I woke up, he was not beside me. I went to my parents and asked where he was. He could not be found. We looked all over. My mother was so frantic she looked under the living room couch although it only had an inch of space. In despair, the janitor was called upstairs to help us. I went in the darkened closet near my bed. Lifting up a pile of dirty laundry on the floor, there was Wade—fast asleep. Everyone gave out a cry of relief and some laughter followed. 

I will never forget my mother getting down on her knees and looking under the couch.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Everyone Is Colored

Whenever I hear the term “people of color”, there is a deafening silence that ensues. The silence is my own, since I object so much to the term and have to swallow it quietly. Certainly, this particular saying is the offspring of America’s troubled racial history—when it was necessary to separate people by skin color. I have traveled the world and know firsthand that to describe someone as “colored” in a country like say, Egypt, would bring laughter and bewilderment. It is so obvious that everyone is colored.

To say “people of color” is like saying “apples of the trees” or “horses of four legs” and yet, people continue to make use of this phrase and it is often heard in otherwise serious conversation. I have written on this subject before, see: People Of Color.

Recently, I have been working on a series of images using photos I took several years ago. At the time, I arranged to work with a very light skinned young woman, and asked her if she would model with a male. She told me her roommate would probably agree, and that he was black. Immediately, I welcomed this arrangement and soon, we were in my studio to work together. The entire session was delightful, especially since the two young people were perfectly at ease with each other and uninhibited enough to be naked and close and without tension. They were like little children—innocent, free, and untainted by guilt from notions of original sin.

I have been re-visiting the images from those sessions. With my wide-format printer, I can print on paper or canvas, up to almost four feet wide. Then I stretch the canvas on to stretcher bars, as I normally do with paintings. After that, I can paint them, making them into more than simple photographs. They become mixed-media art.

While I work, I love the contrast between her pale skin tones and his rich, chocolate color. In places, I intentionally blur areas that separate them, so that they are melding together.

See more Steven Boone Artwork

Sunday, June 13, 2010

People Of Color

Lately, I have been pondering the nature of prejudice. Here in the USA, we immediately think of racial bias. But prejudice comes in many shades. It can be nationalistic, religious, have to do with class and status, or intellect . . . the list goes on and on. What is sure is that prejudice diminishes life. Why? Because prejudice is a judgment or opinion formed before the facts are known and in most cases, these opinions are founded on suspicion, intolerance, and irrational hatred that resists alteration or enlightenment. Life, to me, is all about change, growth, flux, alteration, mystery, and surprise—in short, it cannot be contained by small minds with petty judgments.

When I set out upon my travels, I begin by looking forward to meeting the world in all of its diversity. I forget the color of my skin, my nationality, my religious affiliation . . . in short I abandon all that sets me apart from the matrix of where I am going, and then my eyes are open like a child's—full of wonder and awe at what is before me. Remarkable things happen this way. Doors open and miracles are plenty. Ecstasy demands abandonment. This is esoteric, but think of the mother’s love for her child. It is ecstatic in the moments of complete abandonment to the relationship.

I find it humorous and pathetic the attempts to define race. We all share the same genetic background and are of the same substance. Terms like “people of color” are particularly stupid. I am an artist and observe that everyone is colored. The term “colored people” is a silly contrivance. Melatonin produces the color we see in each other, and it also controls the amount of ultra-violet rays from the sun that enters our bodies. It is totally neutral and has nothing to do with intelligence or character.

I have painted people of various skin tones and find that I use the same colors, but in different proportions. If you look closely at the two portraits I include here, you will see that the two people share some colors. 

Nobody is black or white and everyone is colored. Many years from now, this need to define race will be gone, and all that will remain is the human family. For now, it is fun seeing the differences. When I first arrived in Nairobi, Kenya, from Rome, Italy, my initial impression was shock at witnessing a drab, dilapidated city, since I had come from one of the most culturally iconic and artistically dazzling places in the world. My eyes hurt, until I became entranced by all the dark skinned people who offered a beauty I had not seen before in such a grand way. From then on, my vision was not so much on the material surroundings as upon the people. Love allowed beautiful experiences to unfold. Prejudice would have killed my time in Africa. I am so glad that it did not—the ecstasy was waiting for me to experience.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Dark Continent

Note: This post is late because I was on safari.

Before leaving the United States, my mother pleaded with me, “please don’t go to Africa, they will kill you for your shoes there.” But how could I go around the world and not visit the Dark Continent? It is true that crime and corruption is rampant, along with unrest and inequality, and Africa is dangerous. But it is also vibrant, colorful and soulful.
When I arrived, I was met at the airport by Charity, an African woman who runs Kikuyu Lodge in Nairobi. Her partner, Trevor, is British and built the lodge himself on the outskirts of the city. After living in Rome, I am shocked how disheveled and ramshackle are the surroundings. Streets are crowded and roads are in poor condition. Along the highways are tiny shops pieced together from scraps of wood and tin. People are sometimes dressed in little more than rags. There is a lack of aesthetics . . . Kenya is practically barren of high culture, and my first day in Nairobi, my eyes hurt, starved for fine art in the surroundings.
I search for beauty and find it in people and some of the landscape. Everyday, I swim in a black ocean of humanity. The shades of black go from chocolate brown to ebony, and it is a wonderful experience for my eyes, accustomed to white everywhere. The skin is smooth and soft to the touch and I notice how light reflects differently across dark features. Generally, people seem quick to smile and wave hello, and at least look curiously at me, a white stranger in their midst. The main language is Kikuyu, the largest tribe in Kenya. English is universal, but sometimes among less educated people, vocabulary is severely limited and communication in English difficult.
Baha’u’llah in His Writings, "compared the colored people to the black pupil of the eye," through which "the light of the spirit shineth forth." — Just like the black pupil of the eye absorbs the utmost light to feed the brain information for cognition, it seems the dark race is the principal transmitter of earthiness and primary experience.
I am biding my time, waiting to go on safari. I go out with Charity everyday, mostly to use the Internet while she does errands, but also, we visit a tea plantation, a flower farm, and a Masai crafts market and a self-help co-op for single women with children where jewelry is manufactured. We have conversations and laugh together as our personalities mingle. I hoped to do some street photography, but noticed that people are more wary of cameras pointed toward them. One day, Charity takes me downtown and we walk while I snap pictures. She explains that some areas, especially around government buildings, are strictly taboo for photography and if caught, police can make an arrest. While we walk, she keeps close watch on me, warning me to keep aware of my personal space because of robbers on the street. At one point, she entirely forbids me to go into an area. “Do you know what can happen?” she asks. “A thief will attack you from behind and lift you off the ground while another one will take your shoes!”