Preservation in action! Today this group kicked off a Preservation Plan for the Georgia B. Williams Nursing Home in Camilla, Georgia! Here, Beatrice Borders, a third generation African-American midwife, operated a nursing home from 1941 to 1971, delivering over 6,000 babies! Providing an essential service through segregation and the Jim Crow era, Beatrice provided a safe place for expectant mothers, and “birthed a city.” #thisplacematters#PreservingHope@thegeorgiatrust#preservationplanning@visitblackhistory#grassroots#kickoff
It was Sunday June 28, 2020 and I was driving down US highway 19. I decided to check out the Auchumpkee Creek Covered Bridge. I saw a group of men standing by their Harley Davidson bikes in a shaded area.
The website seconds Milton’s claim that Born Losers MC is the oldest, active, Black motorcycle club in the Atlanta area. Established in 1959.
Located 60-miles outside of Atlanta, Auchumpkee Creek Bridge makes for a nice afternoon drive and quick kickback. Plenty of green space to take photos, meditate, or enjoy a packed lunch. Watch and listen as the creek water rushes by.
Photographed in Decatur, Georgia. June 19, 2020. The afternoon after a Confederate obelisk was removed from Georgia Square. A city worker, father, after-hours dandy stops for a photo during his lunch break. “You can pull all the confederate monuments down…unless the hearts of people change, ain’t much else going to change.” -anonymous
Image 2: Dr. Hilary Green has published a Monuments Removal 2015-2020 Map. Link in bio
Background: In 2015, Bree Newsome Bass made national headlines when she scaled a 30-foot flag pole at the South Carolina statehouse and took down the Confederate flag. In an article entitled, “Charlottesville Reinforced That Self-Care Is an Essential Part of My Activism,” (SELF Magazine) Bass shares the importance of self-care stating, “I have a tendency to go, go, go until I burn out…self-care did not come naturally to me at first…since committing myself to social justice a few years ago, it’s something I’ve developed out of necessity.” VisitBlackHistory.com has invited participants to take part in an oral history project that will document the role of self-care in this day and time. We are specifically examining the individual impact of COVID-19, witnessing recent police brutality in the Black community, and the subsequent demonstrations that have followed.
Forrest Evansself-description: The best way to describe myself is that I am a wholehearted Geechee woman that is also trans…excuse me queer. But, that I am amongst that identity and that as a queer woman of color that is a librarian, I love being a vessel of information. You know historians, archivists, librarians, oral historians, and storytellers we’re a part of the same bird. We are feathers in the bird. And so, that also …we transcend and transfer energy. And someone that is a rootworker as well….under the rainbow…I always enjoy my self-expression and the expression of others. Not only within my community but the Black experience.
So, my passion reflects my journey to that as a librarian. I’ve always worked in minority-serving historically Black institutions or colleges. Or in LGBT circles or sectors. So I always want to maintain that and provide a space and opportunities for others. And so I am challenging myself to be the best me during and after this pandemic but to also be the best resource, be the best librarian, be the best me, be the best woman I can for me first and then the communities I reflect
“This pandemic and this time of racial and social injustices is living history and I want to be as part of as many collaborative efforts to show that we are organizing. We’re celebrating, we’re together and that we are to normalize this kind of unity. That this isn’t temperamental. That this should be a platform, a cornerstone for creating a new beloved community.” -Forrest Evans
Self-Care 2020: VisitBlackHistory.com, Oral History Index (Forrest Evans)
0:53 – 1:45 Forrest Evans: Self-care is showing up for yourself. Making time where you don’t feel guilty or as though it disrupts your discipline for individuality. Self-expression can also be self-care. But, also to keep in mind that your rest is your revolution. And as a queer black woman, there is a phrase that I hear in our community that Black girls die exhausted and I refuse to believe or subscribe to that philosophy.
2:03 – 2:47 FE: Yes, I do feel prior to COVID, African-Americans have always be disenfranchised. Specifically, because the journey to person-hood has been so long, collective, and is a narrative that includes so many other experiences. So, when we highlight and discuss All Black Lives Matter, that includes trans, queer. During the pandemic I hope that African-Americans can not only prioritize their peace but unify. Which is why we must say All Black Lives Matter. Especially during this time.
2:56 – 4:05 FE: I had to really prioritize myself, level myself, and put myself as a priority before I could love my community. Because if I’m not okay, I surely can not love on anyone else.
And so, during the height of the pandemic, I realized that not only am I resource to circulate information. And that is why I use my platforms to provide book selections and not only African-American literature and history, but LGBTQ+ resources..
4:06 – 7:06 The change you’re looking for is internal. You know like, Gil Scott-Heron says, “the revolution will not be televised.” The change we are looking for must take place internally and then when you express and love and show up yourself and then your community….the Sankofa effect…reaching back. Then that’s when the change is truly progressive and long-lasting. It is not temperamental.
That is also why Africa-American history is not always considered American history. The launch of the African-American museum in Washington, DC is so monumental. Especially others like the Tubman African-American museum in Macon, the historical slave monuments in Alabama. These are important ….contribute to the African-American experience. And they’re in the south as well. And that’s a reflection….well excuse me….the DMV to the south….and that’s a reflection of how we organize.
Black Wall Street in the midwest….Black Mecca in entrepreneurship but you know we had the Sweet Auburn District as well. I’m really excited to see how the entrepreneurship during and after the pandemic….celebrates a Black narrative of our own-ness.
7:35 – 9:02 FE: I work at a special research library in the downtown area. Specifically, that only and solely maintains a collection for African-American culture and history. And, what I’ve known…not only a reflection through our archive collection but also in the history of downtown Atlanta and gentrification. So, what I also have been able to see is that our history has not only been able to show a reflection of how we have been uprooted not only because of a lack of ownership but the lack of importance of history and preserving it….when we keep an open mind, that open-mindedness is the drive of passion to eliminate certain disenfranchisements and ignorances, and oppressions within people of color. Especially queer people of color community.
9:24 – 13:13 FE: because I am queer Black woman, I often at times find myself being a go-to or a representation….a representative for my heterosexual colleagues and counterparts because they do not engage certain LGBTQ or people under the rainbow.
So when I am at that intersection I try to verbalize, hey I am a face to the struggle that you don’t recognize and understand but by verbalizing you know, that you are uncomfortable in a room full of queer individuals or certain identities of the queer spectrum often at times overwhelms you, let’s talk about it. So we can then bridge…you know bridge together and understand where we have been separated.
And when we compare the images of how they criminalize images like Rayshard Brooks and with the brother that lost his life…because they escape me….these stories are so similar. The features, the narratives, the details are so similar and yet the names are so plentiful. That is the most disheartening about it. And yes, it is mostly African-American men. But there are many trans lives and queer Black lives that are being lost at this time but there names and stories are not being included.
So, that’s why I enjoy being a resource. And not that token Black queer resource but being a resource for that information.
13:37 – 15:49 FE: I set personal boundaries. I don’t have to talk about race and what’s going on all the time because that can be exhausting to my mental health. So that’s how I prioritize myself by saying “you know there are certain times of the day when I’m just not going to engage certain social media.” Because that’s also where I receive some of my information. Because certain news sources and platforms do not circulate our story with the full scope of information and that creates a biased scope of the information or the narrative that’s going out.
And to be able to show up for yourself. So, I notice that especially here in the Atlanta area…alot of queer folk, during the pandemic….if they are not protesting they are taking time to be one with nature. And so, I have also done that. Also needed that alienation and isolation.
I read this book called the “Marx Theory of Alienation” and it spoke about that….you know, creating your own narrative alone in that inner dialogue and then reflecting that through how you follow your actions with your thoughts and then manifest that progress through a collective effort. And so that is why I love setting those boundaries but also remembering not to live behind those walls. That boundaries are not walls but if I maintain too much isolation and alienation that they will. And so moderation also is key during this time.
16:13 – 17:16 FE: So, I love how great Atlanta circulates their information, especially the Atlanta publications. So, Wussy Magazine – them. I also write for an Atlanta based gay publication called GAYE Magazine… G A Y E. But also that the pillars of our community, the catalyst for change they now …I’ve learned and have seen they are stepping up in providing information to their community. So, I look to them as well.
17:40 – 19:24 FE: So this past…or this recent New Moon…I enjoy saging and palo santo at the library as well as my own place. I believe that you can cleanse any environment through not only what engages your senses but with what you resonate with the most. And I love Holywood and I also love utilizing certain crystals and stones to engage, settle, and maintain certain energies and frequencies that I’m on.
Like in the library that I work at. Because it is in a historically Black neighborhood, you know sometimes there are certain energies that are targeted. Especially from the Race Riots of 1906. So, I like to place a lot of Black tourmaline, that has mica, as well as some black obsidian. To use that negative energy for positive energy. I also like to use smokey quartz, I believe in that. As well as your words have power and can also manifest great things. So, I also like to speak and share that information. So, I use a lot of sound bowls to cleanse the sounds in areas. Not only in my home but the library. Because I believe your mind, body, and soul are separate but they are a collective. And they all are a part of your whole health and whole wellness.
19:45 – 22: 25 FE: So, going on hikes with Sula. You can probably hear her in the background. So, Sula gets her name from my favorite Tori Morrison novel. During the height of the pandemic I thought, let me read all the greats and be comforted by their words. And I was so alone. I was so alone because keep in mind these are the words of the greats that have gone before us. But, it is also nothing new. They are highlighting narratives that I see and am so saturated with. So, again I had to isolate myself. And one of the last novels of Toni Morrison that I read or got my hands on was Sula….and so, I when I adopted Sula I thought, I want a friendship and companion like that…that would comfort me and would love me unconditionally.
I love exploring the history….you know similar to VisitBlackHistory.com, I just love to get my feet wet. And get dirty in that history and sometimes it’s not beautiful. Look at genealogy. African-American genealogy is bittersweet. Because and I hope I don’t get emotional…because you’ll never get to meet these people. And you’ll never get to say I’m sorry
22:47 – 25:23 FE: I definitely…wholeheartedly would have thought of this as being selfish. Making this kind of time for myself. Because I never prioritize myself amongst things that are important. You know…my community, how others identify, those disenfranchised within my community, not only the Black experience but the LGBT community. And so, the pandemic helped me to understand I matter…too.
I need my time and space. And that’s it. Period poo. Period poo. *laughs*
something I want to highlight, especially during the month of July. When we see rainbow pride flags, look for the black and brown. I always tell people that because when you see rainbow flags you don’t usually see that initially. When you see that imagery. But, look for the black and brown because we are there too. And those stories are just as beautiful and colorful.
25:47 – 27:08 FE: that was traumatic. Not being able to be in my community. Not being able to be in my home library, which is in a historically Black neighborhood, downtown Atlanta area. I’m literally a few blocks away from the Georgia Capitol. I…and I know this sounds crazy but I prefer to take public transportation. I prefer to be in the community. I prefer to see what’s going on, how I can reflect, what’s new, what’s current, what isn’t being seen or overlooked. And so, when I wasn’t able to go to my job and be there, I was lost for a few weeks
27:09 – 28:42 FE: I do feel like I had to prepare myself. Success comes when opportunity and preparation are aligned. And I do feel like I was not balancing before the pandemic. This was the universe telling me to get myself together, to prioritize, to prepare, and also so that if I see something and intention that I want to manifest…that I also must do the work.
28:50 – 30:06 FE: So now my library is preparing to open back up and I’m enjoying that. But also, you know I am a published poet. So, I have collaborated with a lot of queer and LGBTQ+ platforms to not only circulate my art but to also share my experience during this time. Because this is a historical…we are in living history. This pandemic and this time of racial and social injustices is living history and I want to be as part of as many collaborative efforts to show that we are organizing. We’re celebrating, we’re together and that we are to normalize this kind of unity. That this isn’t temperamental that this should be a platform, a cornerstone for creating a new beloved community.
30:26 – 31:52 FE: I am a wholehearted Geechee woman …I am amongst that identity and that as a queer woman of color, that is a librarian, I love being a vessel of information. You know historians, archivists, librarians, oral historians, and storytellers we’re a part of the same bird. We are feathers in the bird. And so, that also …we transcend and transfer energy.
I am challenging myself to be the best me during and after this pandemic but to also be the best resource, be the best librarian, be the best me, be the best woman I can for me first..and then the communities I reflect.
32:06 – 32:33 FE: Well, during the pandemic I hope that others will …through their self-discovery and passions for the pursuit of a higher and elevated self…that they explore African-American history and culture. And also to see the beauty in a collective narrative and that trans and queer lives do matter.
32:34 – 32:36 SN: Thank you, Forrest.
32:37 – 32:51 FE: Thank you for having me, I really enjoyed it. Me, Sula, and our special guest. *laughs* Its been a great time, I really enjoyed just being….oh before the rain too. So, we’ve been blessed today.
32:52 – End SN: Awesome. I’m going to stop that right there.
Content may be used for educational purposes. Must include citation: Nelson, Sophia. Evans, Forrest. Self-Care 2020 Oral History interview conducted June 28, 2020. A VisitBlackHistory.com Oral History Project, Atlanta, Georgia. 2020.
On Wednesday, January 8, 2020, the High Museum of Art hosted Conversation: ATL Streetwear, which was part of the educational programming accompanying the Museum’s temporary exhibition, Virgil Abloh: “Figures of Speech.” The event’s emcee, Kenny Burns, expressed that streetwear derives from people with limited traditional fashion-world resources, who have the desire to create. Burns was joined by Marina Skye, Kwassi Byll-Cataria, and Renaldo Nehemiah. Together the four discussed several sub-topics, including the evolution of how streetwear is worn, the creative and small business economy that is supported by streetwear consumers, and Atlanta’s past, present, and future influence on streetwear culture.
In Elena Romero’s book title Free Stylin: How Hip Hop Changed the Fashion Industry, former Vibe Magazine editor-in-chief, Emil Wilbekin, recalls Hip-Hop’s early influence on fashion stating, “When the stars started becoming stars and needing more outfits, and the music videos became more important, they gave people something to emulate and something to copy.” Panelist and Wish ATL creative director, Renaldo Nehemiah, credited Goodie Mob founding member, Big Gipp, as one of his earliest fashion influences. Kenny Burns saluted his hometown brethren, DC-gogo band E.U., for wearing bucket hats designed by DC-based urban wear brand, Univeral Madness, in the group’s chart-topping music video, “Doin’ the Butt.” That is when streetwear began to garner his attention.
When self-taught streetwear designers entered the marketplace, they were able to exercise a bit of creative control over things like fabric selection, patterns, and garment cut; still, the consumer decided on the desired clothing fit. Just before Hip-Hop gained mainstream popularity, slim fit ankle cut jeans, rugby shirts, and polos were some of the fashion trends of the time. And as Hip-Hop artists began to take on a larger than life persona, so did their clothing. Old press and advertisement photos of 90s streetwear brands like Cross Colours, Karl Kani, and Sean John demonstrates an era of clothing being produced for and worn in a baggier fit. Then something began to shift.
In 2008, rappers Jay-Z and T.I. released “Swagga Like Us,” in which Jay-Z exclaimed, “Can’t wear skinny jeans, cause my knots don’t fit.” Subtly, Jay-Z was acknowledging a shift in Hip-Hop fashion – streetwear consumers were beginning to seek slimmer fitting clothes. According to public record, Atlanta menswear boutique Moda 404, was established in 2008. Panelist, Kwassi Byll-Cataria, is one of the store’s co-founders. Burns said one of the reasons he began frequenting Moda 404 is because Byll-Cataria selected and retailed clothes designed to fit Black men. Adding, “his clothes made you look less boxy…you know us black men have got butts.”
An audience member inquired about the probability of successful streetwear enterprises having a positive impact on Atlanta’s workforce. The panelists responded with a description of the talent pool that is needed to produce a streetwear brand. Manufacturers, printers, and graphic designers are a few examples of the professional service persons involved in getting a clothing brand to market. This is an opportunity for various professionals to get a piece of the streetwear production pie. Another audience member, Adia of Flr-Pln, sought distribution advice for streetwear designers that currently do not have a brick and mortar. Panelist, art, and set director, Marina Skye attested to the contemporary significance of Pop-Up shops like Clark Atlanta University’s Market Thursday, which provides an opportunity for brands to connect with consumers.
Renaldo Nehemiah shared that whenever he is on travel, he makes it a point to wear Atlanta streetwear brands. He wants interested passersby to see what Atlanta’s streetwear culture has to offer. Nehemiah believes that Virgil Abloh is aware of all that Atlanta has to offer. He finds it no coincidence that Atlanta was selected as the 2nd city to host Virgil Abloh’s “Figures of Speech” exhibit. The first city to host the traveling exhibition was Chicago, which is not too far from Abloh’s birthplace Rockford, Illinois.
Kwassi Byll-Cataria suggests buying fashion is similar to purchasing art. Furthermore, Byll-Cataria feels consumers today are moved to buy based on the person behind the brand. Some may find the “Figures of Speech” exhibit design demonstrates Byll-Cataria’s theory. A selection of works on view provides a glimpse into Abloh’s various creative endeavors that preceded his appointment as Louis Vuitton’s menswear artistic director. After viewing the exhibit and examining the depth of Abloh’s creative work, see if you feel compelled to purchase a High Museum of Art x Virgil Abloh t-shirt for your collection.
A discussion on Abloh’s recent streetwear will “die” in 2020 comment, seemed to yield a disconcerted reaction from the room. Kenny Burns felt Abloh’s comment was irresponsible since there remains a talent pool that is committed to not only sustaining but evolving streetwear culture. Burns expressed his disappointment to a packed house that appeared to be the perfect mix of consumers, designers, and distributors. If Wednesday night’s attendance is any indication of the interest in Atlanta streetwear culture, then I do not foresee the market going anywhere anytime soon.
EDIT: After further research, “Black Cosmopolitan: James Weldon Johnson in an Age of Empire” closed December 12, 2019 (via Stuart A. Rose website). It may be a good idea to call and confirm with Stuart A. Rose Archive personnel.
Raise your hand if you’re a geek for archive exhibits!
Here’s a beautiful one, “Black Cosmopolitan: James Weldon Johnson in an Age of Empire.” Curated by Kali-Ahset Amen, who Johns Hopkins University describes as an ”interdisciplinary social scientist, exhibition curator, and organizational strategist.” Amen is an assistant research professor of Sociology and has held the position of assistant director of the Billie Holiday Project for Liberation Arts and the James Weldon Johnson Institute for the Study of Race, at Johns Hopkins University and Emory University, respectively. Atlanta and those visiting Atlanta should experience Amen’s curatorial work, ”Black Cosmopolitan” which is currently on view at Emory University’s Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library. Check the Robert W. Woodruff Library website for visitors’ hours.
I attended a recent James Weldon Johnson Institute Dialogues in Race and Difference discussion in which panelists interpreted themes found in the ”Black Cosmopolitan” exhibit. Panelists engaged the room on the depth of James Weldon Johnson’s life and work. Johnson is most notably known for co-writing what many refer to as the Black national anthem, ”Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.” He wrote it with his brother, J. Rosamond Johnson.
President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Johnson as a US Consul to Venezuela and Nicaragua. He served from 1906 to 1913. Johnson was a political agitator on behalf of the NAACP. He took on an activist role while researching and writing in Haiti. Johnson wrote ”The Truth About Haiti: An NAACP Investigation, ” and ”Self Determining Haiti.”
Born and raised in multi-cultural Jacksonville, Florida, Johnson would dedicate his life studying, educating, inspiring the African Diaspora. Johnson’s creative and intellectual work took him from participating in the Harlem Renaissance to becoming the Spence Chair of Creative Literature at Fisk University, and so much more in between.
“Black Cosmopolitan,” curated by Kali-Ahset Amen, illustrates “Johnson’s early life, his political appointment in the U.S. consular service, and the transnational dimensions of his advocacy for black freedom at home and abroad.”