With the very recent removal of the Robert E. Lee monument from Monument Avenue in Richmond, Va., members of BAAAR reflect on the year 2020 and their place in American history. They say history has a way of repeating itself and it seems on the surface that this year is a repeat of last year. The coronavirus pandemic is in its second wave, racism is still alive and well, and black people are still disproportionately dying from violence, lack of health care, systemic racism, and poverty.
Last year during this time, BAAAR was preparing for their exhibition at Browne Studio in Richmond "Stories and Histories." We wanted to share our Black American experience visually with accompanying narratives. For centuries, the Black American story was purposely left out of history and, still today, is not broadly taught in the public school curriculum. In mass media, the Black American story is relegated to stereotypes, prejudices, and subjugation. If we don't tell our stories, our future generations will be left to repeat history.
Read the narratives of just a few of the pieces from the show, view one of the artists' talk, and even see some snapshots of the artists below:
William E. Johnson
Oil on canvas
36”w x 26.5”h
This painting was created to honor the honorable John Lewis. Mr. Lewis was a great fighter for civil rights for African American and America at an early age. He not only talked openly about the unfair treatment of African American and the treatment of poor people in America, he was on the front line fighting. As a warrior, Mr. Lewis had no problem with being locked up. The honorable John Lewis was truly a historian, storyteller and a man of greatness. Many times he feared for his life, but like a strong warrior, no matter how many times he was physically wounded in battle, he continued to fight for the rights of people who did not have a voice. He always expressed the need of readiness and being prepared for action or battle. One of his biggest weapons was the right for all people to be able to vote. The honorable John Lewis will never be forgotten. He has many stories and plays a great role in the history of America.
24” x 30”
A portrait of Nipsey Hussle who thoughtfully considers all that he has, has done and very likely could do. And for a partial moment considers, ‘Could there possibly be . . .?”
Given that his music provoked thought for his listeners and protégés, his lifestyle did the same. Such that included in his legacy is all Black male book clubs in neighborhoods where reading was not very much respected. Readers adventuring to intellectually, as well as academically, discover established ways to successful entrepreneurship outside of the street hustle. This story has a future to be read.
Unicia R. Buster
Art quilt made with cotton, fabric paint
36”w x 36”h
Stories told throughout history have been placed both in and out of context like stories of the Bible, and stories of the brutality committed against black people from slavery, lynching and current murders. How we process information is greatly affected by the context in which that information is given. For example, the story of Jesus Christ is always given in the context of Jesus Christ’s role as savior of humanity. So when a person sees a crucifixion, they look upon the grotesque way Jesus died as a positive and justified death knowing it served a greater good. Contrarily, a black man’s lynching is always given in the context of racism and white men’s feelings of superiority. So when a person sees a photograph of a lynched black man, they look upon the grotesque way in which he died as negative from both sides feeling hatred towards another race. Out of context, both of these stories would be one and the same, a man of color inhumanly murdered on a large stick of wood. In the end, it’s how we turn around a tragic story that makes it go down in history. With just four words, George Floyd’s daughter, Gianna, changed the narrative of his murder by saying “Daddy changed the world.”