ARTIST TALK: Vaughn Kimmons – September 19, 2019

Vaughn Kimmons, affectionately known as Brown
Alice, is a multidisciplinary artist born and raised in Chicago. Through music and dance
performance, she celebrates blackness as the cosmic source of sacred inspiration, and gives
voice to the connective power of shared human nuance. She is a vocalist and songwriter in
Portland based bands, brown calculus and tribe Mars. Thank you, Vaughn. Thank you for being
here. Thank you. Okay, thank you, all of you for being here.
This means a lot to me. And one of the reasons why it means a lot to me is because growing
up in Chicago, I always wanted to be an artist. So to now be here, and the Portland Art Museum,
talking to you guys about things that are important to me, it means a lot. So I took
this as a big stride in my life. And I’m very grateful that all of you are here to share
this with me. So thank you. I also like to say some more thank yous. Because my grandmother
always taught me to express gratitude for the gifts that I’ve been given. so grateful
to my family, my chosen family as well or as people like to call them your friends.
My ancestors, future present and past, for the work they’ve done that has brought me
to this point. I’d like to express special gratitude to two ancestors who are my spirit
guides. And that’s my maternal grandmother Steel Dixon, and my best friend Candace Honery.
These women are no longer with us in physical form, but that guides me through this life.
It is their way that constantly reminds me of my greatness. It is their word that motivates
me to make healthy decisions. It is their word that reminds me that I don’t have to
accept anyone’s crap. That’s one of my biggest ones, if you know me. This is why I deeply
believe in the power of the gifts that our ancestors taught us. This knowledge is my
day teacher. And I hold it dear as it becomes my personal spirituality. As bad people in
this diaspora, we have been robbed of many of our cultural traditions as an attempt to
control us and vendor as powerless. But our ancestors made sure that we could feel their
love and all of these traditions that were suppressed. So with live within us. I intuition
is the spirit of our ancestors. I thank them for setting these intentions, so that we may
still walk forward with progress. I send my love to my ancestors who were torn from their
families, we may be apart, but I still feel their love. We were scattered, but you still
live within me. And I live in you. To the African diaspora, I love you. We are each
other. I feel your spirit from thousands of miles away. And I see you. I honor my ancestors
by carrying on the tradition of doing the intentional work to claim prosperity, and
health for future generations. I honor my descendants future generations for the work,
they are producing on a different plane as we speak, we carry a collective energy that
fosters love. We need this to progress. I respect and honor this progression. So this
talk today is basically a meditation for the things that I’ve been experiencing throughout
my life in establishing my self identity. And I was inspired by the love and culture
connection collection, which are these three pieces right here, this tie necklace, and
then for those who didn’t get to see the work before the talk, started, there’s the clutch
repeated clutch on the other side. And this work is is by Tessa Sayers. And as someone
who loves personal style, if you can’t tell them out over the top prints and stuff that
I’m wearing currently, the beauty of these pieces is what struck me first. I’m someone
who loves to get dressed up I love to adorn myself. So I was pulled in before I even read
like the placard I was pulled in because of the color and of how striking the pieces are.
I really wanted to wear all three of them actually. The bowl covers resonated, the intricate
beadwork all of these things, screen beauty to me. And if you know me, you know I have
a weakness for wearable art. I’m also really silly. But there was more than just the beauty
about these pieces that intrigued me is of course at face value. It’s like yeah, there
it’s beautiful, intricate beadwork. But for me, it pulled me in a little bit more for
other reasons. And it was the intention that Tessa Sayers put into this work. When I read
the placards, it just really resonated with me how she views her her culture and how it
moves her through her life. So what I loved is that this work has a focus on the healing
qualities of cultural tradition. And this is important to me, because many people see
the art of black and brown folks, simpy as something that is supposed to be consumed
or something that represents the past. Especially, when it comes to a work of indigenous artists,
folks often look at it as something that’s like a relic instead of something that in
the present which tests affairs is actually important one. So you know, it’s something
that is very present in our lives, you know, indigenous peoples are not an ancient people
of the past, they still exist. So, the term culture, culture, vulture has definitely described
the tendencies of non memorated people to attempt to absorb melanated people’s traditions,
without acknowledging, acknowledging the struggles of sad people. And this is really dangerous.
And the reason why this is dangerous, is because it attempts to erase those who fostered the
culture. And this is a result of colonialism, and white supremacy, through the absorption
of another culture, oppressors will try to blur the lines of cultural practices. And
this leads to a devaluing of those who created it. So basically, it’s you create this art,
or you have these traditions that have been passed down in your through generations in
your family, right. But then someone takes it because they see it, they like the face
value beauty of it. And instead of reaching deeper to understand the struggles that are
attached to it, they kind of just take the beauty for what it is without digging deeper.
And this leads to people’s cultures being marketed across, like, all over the world.
This has happened for so many people, especially for black people it’s happened a lot. And
this is something that I would like to see, stop. Services that as an artist, her Native
American heritage, which is Chippewa, Cree, and Metis. And Metis is someone who is indigenous
and also mixed with European ancestry. And this has become the foundation for her creative
work. This work seems to not only represent her culture, but also represents her interest
as well as the wellness modalities she instills. It represents her being a full being. And
that’s something that, unfortunately, black and brown artists don’t get always get the
privilege of that experience of being a full, multifaceted person. So this work here acknowledges
our multi facets through the lens of heritage. And I just I’m going to read what it says
on a placard. Her love and culture collection is inspired by her affinity for vintage fashion,
romantic love and culture. And that, man, that pulled me in right there when I read
that. The men’s tie and women’s necklace feature the same red flower that unites the couple
as one. The black background of the tie and white background of the necklace represent
duality, and contrary energies between genders, highlighting the importance of independence,
balance and strong identity of self. When we heal, heal and honor ourselves, we complement
and have the ability to truly love others. So I believe that respecting our uniqueness
fosters a strong identity and offers… honors the Universe by providing authenticity. So
truly allowing an authentic self to manifest is how we open up ourselves, to love and to…
to balance. One of my favorite people, is as cliche as it sounds is briefly, and the
reason why is because he talks he talked about self actualization and its importance. And
that’s what really popped in my head as I was looking at her work, because she’s using
her culture to highlight ways in which we can become healthier versions of ourselves.
Not… you know, this is these things are beautiful, but it’s not to create like this…
like hologram version of yourself this projected version of who are we… who you are, this
just very shallow or surface level of of who you are. She uses these techniques to talk
about duality in our lives and the importance of being independent people. I… a buzz term
that I always hear or at least heard for the past six years is codependence. I’m sure we’ve
all heard that in relationship to romantic relationships. So the fact that she used parts
of her culture, it’s a highlight the importance of still being in independent person, I was
like, I can get down with that, like art that like not only can I look cute, but you got
me thinking about stuff, you know, got me meditating. Yes, Carla stand behind all of
this. So, as a… as a child, I always knew I was different from everyone else. I mean,
I’m sure you can look at me until I was probably a different kid. And there was struggle and
peace in this realization. It was hard for me to be interested in the things that I was
interested in, because in my neighborhood, you know, growing up in a predominantly black
neighborhood on the south side of Chicago, people are just trying to survive. So sometimes
your interests that are outside of cultural scope, aren’t always supported. So the good
news was, my mom was all about the things I was into. She’s one of the main reasons
why I am the person that I am today, and why I’m into so many different things. So even
though there was this struggle of me, wanting to have other people around me, who were also
into the same things, I had this confidence, and always have this confidence of being my
own… my own person. I innately honored beauty. And then as an adult, I learned to honor beauty
and not only what we typically due it to be, but also I can see beauty and what some would
call our shadow selves. And if you’re not familiar with that concept, it’s basically
like, the parts of yourself that are hard to acknowledge at times. It’s the moments
that aren’t happy, that aren’t full of joy, the moments where we obsess over things where
we have anxiety, where we have these thoughts that seem like they might be thoughts of someone
else. You know, things that make you feel like maybe you’re off, but when we acknowledge
these parts of ourselves that are the shadow, so we see that it’s just parts of who we are.
We all have this the shadow self. So this is what I seek to reveal in my… in my creative
endeavors. I really want people to see that… what actually, sometimes I feel like the things
that stress us out, our brings us together, like closer than the things that bring us
joy, because usually these are the things that we don’t discuss. So whenever I’m writing
lyrics for songs, I try to highlight the things that… if I’m questioning… Well, does anybody
else go through this? Then yes, I need to write about that. Because whenever you have
that doubt of “I’m the only one”, there’s probably like, 3 million other people who
feel the exact same way. So instead of suppressing, you know, those feelings and leaning on…
the common things that people tend to celebrate or discuss within are….. listening to the
other part of your mind, that’s like, remember, when you got pissed off when that person looked
at you that way yesterday. Or, you know, remember how you felt when your friends went to go
do something without you, you know, which we call fomo, but all this stuff is real,
we can you know, we can laugh about it. But it’s these responses, these knee-jerk reactions
to the self that feels insecure, is what makes us who we are. Like, that’s how I believe
that we relate to one another. And that’s why I seek to create art that celebrates that,
because… I’m a big, big lover. Like I know I said, I’m somebody who does take a lot crap,
that’s true. But it’s because I am a… I am a big lover. Yeah. So… What I like to
highlight in the work that I do, is the magic of the everyday. And when I say the magic
of the everyday, I mean, like nuances, not the moments we’re going to brunch with our
friends, or the moments where we’re celebrating things or listen to our favorite music. But
I mean, like more rush in our teeth. When we wake up in the morning, we’re still tired
from the night before. When you… when you groom your hair. You know, it’s these small
things that even though they’ve become our routine, they actually become rituals, because
we do them so often. So these small things that we take for granted, often are our personal
spirituality. And the magic of the everyday is so important and so special, we even see
it with… with social media. So with like, with Instagram, and with Facebook, we’re able
to take these tools and celebrate these little small parts, pieces of our lives. I don’t
know, people are so creative, but like Instagram stories when you like, when you follow them,
and you see them starting their day, they’re like I’m brushing my teeth, I’m going on my
commute, I’m doing this, I’m blowing my nose with my food. You know, never do, I think
I would be so in awe of just the regular things that people do. And that’s, that’s the true
magic that I think people miss, you know. We often wanna celebrate these big moments.
But it’s in these smaller moments that I think the true magic lies. And this celebration
of the magic of the everyday, that I call it, is important, especially for black people,
because a lot of our traditions as black Americans in this country were suppressed. So we have
to create new traditions in order to have something to pass on to future generations.
You know, a lot of black Americans don’t have cultural celebrations in the same way that
other ethnic groups have. We don’t have like, a language that’s native to who we are. I
mean, unless you’re like African American, in the sense of your parents, you know, you
know exactly what country in Africa your parents are from. If you are the result of… being
this country from… if you’re the result of being a descendant of the offspring of
enslaved Africans, you don’t really have this strong… I would say like arsenal of, of
rituals. We have things, of course, that are black American, you know, I’m not going to
fry and say we don’t have a culture, because obviously, people are always taking our culture,
so they love the things that we do. But when it comes to ancient cultures, you know, trying
to reach back and celebrate those things, it’s harder because you feel as though you’re
reaching all over a continent. How do you pull from a continent and celebrate who you
are? You know, recently, I read something that there are some people, there are some
Africans, you know, who live in Africa right now who feel as though black Americans are
appropriating their culture. And I don’t have too much to really speak on that, because
that’s not my experience. But it’s interesting to feel like a nomad or like a vagabond, almost
as if you don’t belong anywhere, you exist in this, this in between. So that is why it’s
important for me to celebrate things that are just pretty mundane and normal, is because
that’s what I that’s what I have, you know, that’s what’s been passed down to me from
my… my mom and my grandmother. So how do we… how do we use our heritage as a compass,
not just a list of things that our great grandmother, you know, used to do? This is how I believe
we develop a strong self identity which Sayers speaks on. My life is devoted to translating,
instilling and implementing my culture into all aspects of my life, you know, the way
that I dress, like the way my hair looks. Africa is always on my mind. You know, it’s…
it’s something that’s always a constant, because I feel like it’s my duty, my duty to push
it forward. Whether people like it or not, because I really don’t care. But I’m devoted
to creating new traditions, and cultural shifts. And this is important because it allows us
the space to cater tradition to the current needs of our situation. So one of my favorite
musicians is Sun Ra. And he had a short film that he released in the 50s, called “The cry
of jazz”. And the reason I’m bringing this up is because he talks about… this is the
film is saying that jazz is dead. And as much as you want to, like put your hand over your
heart: “Oh, but I just bought all his coaching!” So whatever. Like the reason why he was saying
that jazz is dead, is because jazz was a response to what black people were going through at
the time that it was created. So can we still call the things in the music that we produce
now “jazz” if we’re not necessarily going through those same things? How can we respond
to what’s happening in our lives right now? How do we create an art form that resonates
with ourselves, but also may resonate with the future generation? So with this video
that’s playing, which I’d like to thank my cousin Reshanda Brooks for filming this and
helping me create this. It means a lot because… Yeah, thanks, Reshanda. Era, say: “Hey, Reshanda!”
She doesn’t like to be put in the spot, so I did it on purpose. So this video that’s
playing features the two beautiful black women grooming their hair. This seeks to highlight
hair grooming, as a meditation on tradition as a driving force in the development of self
identity. So, hair grooming for me, as a black woman, is a tradition that seeks to put me
first. It’s a way that I honor myself in the world that doesn’t see fit to honor me. As
a kid, like getting my hair done, was a big… it was a big to do. And it taught me self
care, independence, never having to rely on someone else. But also taught me that it’s
a practice in in balance, it taught me how I can not only do my hair myself, but I also
have the freedom to lean on someone else. And that’s as you see in in the film, you’ll
see that they start oiling each other’s hair. And so not only is this tradition that’s been
passing generations helped me just so I can like have healthy hair, but it also teaches
how to depend on somebody else, and have that freedom and relinquish that freedom sometimes
to be taken care of. I know that, when I was… when I was a little kid, having my older sister
do my hair was a special event because she was an accomplished, like well accomplished
in my eyes, because she braided my hair all the time, you know. She’s an accomplished
hair brighter. So there’s this art that was to just this thing that she was just doing
for me. So my hair would be like neat. But it also let me know that she cared for me
too. My sister is not one of those people to say like “I love you” like that. So her
doing my hair was usually the way in which I felt that love from her. So it was this
important interaction that we had. And the funny thing about her too is when I was a
kid, if I sat down at her feet, with like hair oil and the clips, and the brats, and
she started part of my hair. If she didn’t see a style of my head immediately, she would
send me away. Like I would sit down and she would be partying. And I’m like: “Yeah, I’m
about to be cute at school tomorrow!” And then she’d be like: “Go away, I’m not inspired.”
And she just sent me away. Like this: “Go away, I’ll do it, I’m not ispired.” Oh, man,
so good. In this concept that was talking about, of relinquishing this freedom to someone
else, or giving someone is like trust to do your hair. This really got highlighted for
me and this book that I read recently by bell hooks. It’s not a new book, but the book is
called “Sisters of the Yam”. And in this book, she teaches or discusses how black women have
been conditioned to be everyone’s everything. And this is unfair, this isn’t a fair role.
And I it definitely made me think about that in my in my life. And as someone who’s always
working to strengthen my self identity, because I feel like that’s how I can be the healthiest
version of myself, I realized that I too, even though I’m not a mother or a caretaker,
that I have a tendency to fall into trying to be everyone’s everything. And I saw with
my mother, and with my grandmother, and just black women and I know now is we do so much…
provide so much labor, often emotional labor for others at the expense of ourselves. Sometimes
I feel like that concept of being, you know, people will applaud one another for being
selfless. And I feel like actually being selfless is not a good thing. You know, of course,
have your own views on that. But being selfless means that there is no self. And if you can’t
put yourself first, then how do you begin to take care of other people? Yeah, this…
this selfless role is a concept that has become dangerous to our existence as black women.
It doesn’t give us a space to be depressed, to be anxious. To be anything other than what
people want us to be, you know, there’s this, there’s this view of black women as these
like strong, like always tough, like, you know, maybe kind of mean, you know, like,
personality. And we think about it: “Where does that come from?” Like, why has this stereotype
come to be? And the reason why is because it was a survival tactic. You know, every…
every black woman’s not not angry and not depressed. But there’s a lot who are. And
the reason is because we have been put in a place to care for everyone, but ourselves.
So that creates a bitterness sometimes in people. So if you ever do see, you know, a
black woman who might be a little irritated by something. Before you’re like tag “angry
black woman” yes, she might be, but think about the reasons why she might be angry.
You know, there’s not always a person to listen to how she feels. Because we have this perception
to be strong people that often people don’t check in with people who they perceived to
be strong. And often those are the people who are hurting the most. So yeah, this…
this concept forces us to be seen through the perspective of others, and it forces black
women to be caretakers, even though every black woman doesn’t want to be a mother. You
know what I mean? Like, yeah, being everyone’s everything is basically placing a mother role,
even when you don’t want any children. And I mean, children, not necessarily this sense
of like, actual, like, biological children, but and just taking care of people and…
and volunteering your time and your… your space to others. So we become everything for
everyone, but at a cost of who we genuinely are. Yeah, it… It’s hard to give your space,
give yourself space, to be your most genuine self, when other people put pressure on you
to provide for them. And this is something that I see to destroy is black women being
everyone’s everything. And then also black women accepting that it’s okay not to be everyone’s
everything. So some people have been in this role for so long that they don’t even see
that it’s hurting them. You know, I’ve known many, many black women in my life like onsen,
people my neighborhood and other family members who just seem to have like, you know, people
might think they have like a chip. But it’s really like this pain that they never learned
how to process. So back back to the video. Hair, grooming has taught me that there is
room for me to thrive as an individual. But then I can also, as you see right here with
her partner hair, I can stand on my own or I can lean on my community, allowing someone
to style your hair is an act of submitting or trust to the universe. Cause you’re noticing
that in the video, when you see their their faces, they appear joyful, and they feel at
home with one another… one another. And even though they didn’t even know each other
prior to this… this video, their shared tradition created a feeling of home and it
made it a sacred space. They shared stories of experiences growing up of how they did
their hair, they shared experiences of when people reached out and just touched their
hair without asking. Yeah, there’s a lot of, of sacredness in a shared tradition. Witnessing
home in another person speaks to the healing properties of… of heritage When I can look
at you and I see my reflection that already makes me feel 1000 times more comfortable.
And I feel like that’s a sacred act. So taking a closer look into passed down traditions
helps us to see their importance in cultivating a balanced life. We see how it sustains us.
So taking time to care for yourself, as we know is a revolutionary act. It’s something
that calms us down and it gives us time to reflect. For every action we make is a reflection
of what’s happening internally. So traditions have become more than just celebrations. They
become our daily spiritual practices, which I was talking about earlier. And this is my
hair grooming is my meditation, and it’s a ritual that brings me closer to myself. So
new traditions are an important component of establishing a self identity. Because we
carry the stories of self in our community, we carry within us our ancestors in the trauma,
but we also carry their joy. So often we want to learn all the ancient, you know, traditions,
all the ancient like spiritual systems. But really, I feel that we need to focus on creating
new traditions, because not only do we hold the stories of our ancestors, but we hold
the ones of ourselves and future generations. So we actually do ourselves a disservice if
we don’t push to… to create something new that resonates with the… with the new generation.
And this, so this new experience requires new rituals, new wellness modalities that
are rooted in tradition. Going back to talking about bell hooks and her book “Sisters of
the Yam” with grooming being a form of protection. So in creating new traditions, how do we take…
how do we take old ones and look at them in a different light. So she says that a lot
of people, a lot of black women have this pressure of looking neat. And looking so well
kept for people and being clean and tidy and that smelling and having manners and doing
all this. She says that our parents place this on our lives because it was a form of
protection from white supremacy. And when I say this to kind of like: “Okay, how does
grooming yourself, protect yourself from white supremacy?” And the way in which it does is
if there’s a stereotype about black people being dirty and not being seen as clean the
way in which you challenge it is by being the cleanest person on the block, the neatest,
like the clothes with the least amount of wrinkles, like to a point that it becomes
a bit obsessive. So something that was you were told was actually just a way of taking
care of yourself. It’s actually a way of protecting yourself against… against racism. I don’t
know if anybody else has this whole… I’m sure everyone does. But I know there’s a lot
of people who don’t have the experience of having to present yourself in a certain way.
So white people won’t think a certain thing about you. That was taught to me as a child
from like, day one, not necessarily like directly by mom, like my mom didn’t say those words.
But it’s kind of like: “Don’t act a fool in public, you don’t want why people to think
that you’re bad.” And that’s a lot of pressure to put on a child. To be this model citizen,
just for the sake of other people. But this is something that is deeply ingrained in my
life. And now I’m learning how to break that. And it’s almost… almost as if it’s a privilege,
to be able to be unclean, and public to not use deodorant. You know, like, yeah. Oh, man.
But I’m still even though this is… this has happened. And grooming was seen as a form
of protection. The way in which I flip it and make a new tradition for myself is actually
in the way I wish I have grown my hair. So having dreadlocks is not something like back
in the day that my grandmother really would have liked or my great grandmother really
would have liked. Because it wasn’t seen as something that was clean and like, just very
like, like tight and, and tidy. Because it’s unruly, I don’t comb my hair, I wash my hair,
I oil it, but I don’t comb it. So that’s the way that I’ve created a new tradition for
myself is allowing my hair grow freely and naturally the way in which I wanted to, and
knowing that the end of the day, my… my appearance, even if it threatens someone else,
I actually don’t care anymore. I used to care as a child. But now I see that it was stifling
who I was when I was said to think about what someone else would think of me. So you’re
growing my hair, and in this way and not straightening my hair, which I don’t have a problem, people
shaking their hair. But this is an act of resistance for me. And even when it comes
to being a musician, I grew up in church, gospel music was like the thing, you know.
But though people still make gospel music, I view gospel music almost as the same thing
as when I was talking about jazz being dead, which I’m not saying gospel is dead. But it
definitely felt like a response to something that after slavery indeed, was something that
had more importance than uplifting black people and pushing us forward to do more things in
our lives. And though that still that resonates with me, the way in which I’ve made this now
a new tradition is that I choose to make music that is now my ministry, but it’s not through
this religious lens. And it’s through a perspective, which is an answer to what my community and
people my age, people who look like me are going through right now. I’m grateful that
actually have the privilege to create new traditions, because some people don’t necessarily
have that privilege, either. My man, all my hair grow, and I’m messing up with the mic.
So I’m going to do a little activity. If everybody’s into it, don’t worry about to get up or anything
like that. But I basically want us to think of ourselves as ancestors… ancestors. So
I know we’re all still live in this room. You know, I don’t know somebody, I might be
projecting other places and stuff right now. That’s cool. But I want us to begin to think
about what it means to create new traditions for the next generation that will strengthen
their self identity, so they can be the healthiest versions of themselves. I don’t know if that’s
ever on mind. I think about that I lie you. This will be a little bit like a meditation.
So if everyone’s into it, I’m just I have everybody close their eyes, I won’t do anything
crazy. I’m just gonna sit here speak to you. So, someone, close your eyes. And think about
a tradition that you observe. that strengthens your connection with yourself. And is this
tradition a particular celebration? Is it a gathering? Does the tradition involve sharing
a meal with others? Is it a ritual that honors a particular time? Achievement? Season? A
person? An object? What’s the environment like? Does this tradition take place indoors?
Or outdoors? How does this tradition make you feel? What’s it taught you? Now imagine
you have the space to create new traditions for the next generation. That you are the
ancestor. What do you want to tell the next generation of your cultural community? What
should they know? What do you want to teach them? What do you envision for them? Would
you like to apologize to them for anything? How will your new tradition get this message
across? Is the tradition a self care ritual? Is it a celebration or reflection? Why do
you feel this new tradition is important? Take a minute to think on this as you create
your new cultural tradition. How can you implement these new traditions now? How do you plant
the seeds? Do you even feel it’s your responsibility to carry on messages to your descendants?
How do you personalize this tradition so that it is a response to what your community is
going through currently? Can you recognize when a tradition is no longer reflective of
your needs? Do you know that you have the power to break free from traditions that don’t
serve you any longer? You have the freedom and the power not to let unhealthy traditions
bind you. When you’re ready you can open your eyes. So I want to invite everybody
into a little I wouldn’t call homework. But of course I want to call it back because I’m
gonna feel like a teacher right now. But I… but I invite you to when you have the time,
you know, even if it’s something you do in your mind, that’s fine. Even if you gotta
do your phone, either way, you sit on the toilet, you know, whatever. But I invite everyone
to write a letter to your descendants. And this doesn’t mean necessarily mean that you’ll
have kids but your descendants, meaning the next generation of your ethnic group, of your
community. And meditate on it, all these… these new traditions that you formulated,
you know, maybe let them know about it. And then place it on your altar if you have one,
or keep it somewhere special. And then let this tradition reach the next generation,
through your intention. Be strong in yourself that you and your community may thrive. Thank
you. Appreciate that. Thank you. Thanks so much. And I believe now we can open it up
to q&a. Is that correct? There’s a mic. There will be a mic. I got distracted I aim gets
greys my hair that be all was getting into talking to you. We have a microphone for q&a, so everyone
can hear each other’s questions. Hi, I’m Jessica. I’m just curious on your
thoughts, and particularly or an appropriation. What would be what would you like if someone
saw you and was inspired and they just start mimicking, if you will, out of appreciation.
What would be your recommendation so that it doesn’t feel like appropriation to the
people who are observing it, and then so that the person who’s doing it is honoring the
tradition that it came from? Right, the whole, like, appropriation versus
appreciation. You know, it’s so… it’s usually really easy to tell when somebody is appropriating
and not appreciating. And when I, when I see people what approach appropriation looks like
to me is someone like you said, mimicking another culture or trying to embody instead
of educating themselves on the struggles or the history of that particular group, sometimes
people just like the pretty things, the shiny things that they like to grab. I think I I
would tell someone who maybe falls in the line of appropriating to just ask themselves
some questions about why they’re doing what they’re doing. I know often, you know, which
is a go to one is people were a lot of like indigenous, like headdresses and things like
that. I would ask someone, if they understand what this dress or the stands or whatever
it is, if they understand what it means in the context of the culture. Or did they just
like it because it was cute? That one’s hard. Appropriation… Yeah, because some people
will try to argue and say that they are appreciating something or it’s just close or just this.
But then that right there, when someone comes with their argument, it shows them, they’ve
already devalued you and devalued your culture. So I would tell someone to they would need
to ask a few questions about themselves and why they’re doing what they’re doing. Yeah. Hi, I have two questions. First one is I too
grew up on the South side of Chicago. Where did you Where did you grow up? In chatham, the chatham neighborhood is like
87th and harbor? I know it well. Thanks. My second one is,
what do you think of Beyonce’s blonde hair? Is that? What is that appropriation appreciation?
Or is that something else? Oh, I wouldn’t. It’s so funny to have like,
certain people like singled out when it comes to like people dyeing my hair certain color
this black people blonde hair, you know, so for dyeing your hair, certain color to me
is like not even reaching the like, it’s not even really getting deep into into our appropriation,
because there’s some there’s so many people that have blond hair. You know, what will
she be appropriating? Like, what do you think? Do you think she’s appropriating a specific
culture? Well, I do think it sort of speaks to white
supremacy a little bit that she’s appropriating the blonde hair, which has seemed to be sort
of superior in terms of beauty. She’s trying to appropriate that. Well, is it appropriation? Or is it that someone’s
been taught that or… Yeah, yeah. And that kinda goes to what I was talking about with
black women and grooming and having to be this certain version of themselves. I would
argue that it’s more so that is kind of a protect, not saying that it’s right. But like
I said, I think people dying their hair, whatever color they want to is like, fine. But I think
it’s a… almost like a defense mechanism or like survival tactic. But also, maybe it
was woke up and you wanted you hair me blonde too. So I think until I really know, like,
why Beyonce wants to dye her hair blonde? Which I think her natural hair is not even
that dark anyway. But… Yeah, I without knowing her reason, I can’t really speak on it. So I thought it was yhank you. My name is
Celia. Thank you for coming. That was really fun. Um, I have a question, which is possibly
unanswerable. But Henry Louis Gates, Jr. wrote about the kitchen, and how the hit for him
the icon of blackmail beauty was Nat King Cole. Because he had such beautiful wavy hair
that was was just so gorgeous. And then I think, and the reason I’m asking this question
is, which I haven’t gotten to yet, but because you were talking about some traditions, they
just become obsolete and have to fall away. And so what I’m thinking about right now is,
somebody just told me today, oh, Trump is going to win again, because there’s so many
people who hate so much that he’s just going to be a shoe in. And, and I was thinking,
what you were talking about one of the image you have of someone new an ancestor, say,
or a tradition that you want to pass on. And it was putting that with what you were talking
about the image of the person. And so and I feel as though Obama, who was up to just
recently sort of forced on a lot of people an image like that, or Michelle Obama, that
maybe that has just simply also kind of entered the past that that is now and so then who
might be someone who could sort of be a person like that for us right now. And I think that
might be an impossible question to ask. But I think it’s a really interesting topic, what
would be an image of strength of drawing on the strength of heritage and tradition, and
at the same time, giving us a new way of thinking to go forward? To continue to try to hope
and resist? Is that what does that what does it look like? I’m wondering, if you have in mind and an
image or a person who sort of reference… And I don’t mean, like, it doesn’t have to
be an actual biological person right now, because then that kind of maybe fetishized
system but but but an image for that kind of hope, and empowerment and strength for… Mm, I can’t say that there’s a particular
person or image because then that would have me speaking for everybody. You know, I mean,
and that’s why I kind of have the exercise of everybody envisioning it for themselves
and for their own culture. Because, yeah, I can’t, I can’t speak to what kind of because
I don’t believe in saviors. So I don’t have person that I can think of that I believe
will create these new traditions for everyone and just push us on forward. I think it’s
a personal responsibility for us to do that. Like each person, you know, like, that’s,
it’s on us, we can’t look to somebody to be like: “Save us, save us!” You know, because
that hasn’t ever worked. So yeah, it’s more personal responsibility. I think you have
to see that leader in yourself. Relative to Beyonce, Beyonce doesn’t have
an answer to anybody. She said: “Well, let’s try blonde hair. Why not?” Be trying to say it. Just kidding. Exactly.
People can do whatever they want to do. Hi. Well, first of all, I thank you. I think that
everything you said, and I feel like any black woman here will probably relates to what you
said. Especially that, like, all that pressure, you know. Since like, a really young age,
I was telling Victor that, you know, I used to like do this to my nose every single day,
so that it will be pointy, and it looked like not that black. You know, you could… Even
that thing, like, people don’t have a single idea of how many things we do daily, to be
able to avoid any type of confrontation or violence or even, you know, lose jobs. And
just to conform to, to to white supremacy. Exactly. It… it is fucking exhausting? Yeah, it’s
what it is. So I just wanted to preserve our thank you for for speaking and trying to explain
what that struggle is like but also that that, too, is that you do in those old traditions.
And I wanted to ask you like, Portland seems like a really progressive city. However, I
always feel like there’s like a liberal, moderate. That’s like how the Trump win. And people
don’t went out to the Capitol. And just like, you know, so sometimes I just feel like: “Whoa,
what’s going on?” And I feel like, it’s an unfair question to you. I feel like people
should be like asking themselves: “What am I doing?” or “What can I do more to dismantle
white supremacy in and not have the minorities come up with the answer?” Yeah. But however, what have been your challenges
navigating to this progressive city? And how do you think spaces like this museum or people
here can help… become better allies to other minorities? Whoo… Moved? Moving here definitely was…
it was a little bit of a culture shock. And… but even though the culture shock is kind
of like, I knew what I was going to be getting myself into, you know, I moved here. I knew
it wasn’t as many like bike around folks, but I knew that they were here, because we’re
often as people will be like: “Oh, there’s no black people in Portland.” And it’s like,
okay, you just want to ignore all the black people that live here. You know, it’s like:
“I’m right here.” But I… hooph… I definitely had struggles regarding my hair when it comes
to jobs. I always believed that professionalism is Eurocentric, like the whole idea of being
professional. And like how your clothes suppose to fit, and how your hair suppose to look.
Everybody can fit in those boxes. Yeah, I worked a job where the president of the company
told me in front of a group of like a people who are touring this… our office that he
was talking about how wonderful singer I was, but at the same time, he chopped me down and
said… I was like: “Oh, oh, you’re gonna make me blush” when he was talking about how
good of a singer was. And he’s like: “Oh, I don’t want you to blush. I’m just trying
to get you to comb your hair.” And then like the whole troop of black, and they are walked
away. I mean, of course, I no longer work at this place. But I’ve had a hard time navigating
some of those things living here. But the thing that makes me… has made me a stronger
person, and now doesn’t have me just think about those things all the time is that I
have a community that is a reflection of who I am. You know, also, when I’m, when you move
from other place, you want to learn the history of where you’re moving to, you know, like,
I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna move here and just be like: “Oh, I’m about to change things.
I’m gonna cultural revolution up in here”. You know, you have to acknowledge where people
are going through who are already here. And then work with them to create these new traditions,
you know? So that’s kind of my thing right now is, how do I not… How do I take up space
as a black person? But how do I not take up the space as a person who’s not from here?
So that I can help the people who are from here? Give whatever it is that they want to
strengthen their community. Yeah, wait, I forgot your other questions. Who, though? People are spaces? Like us? Oh, yeah, can be allies. My biggest biggest
thing, like biggest thing is… it’s so hard to do, but it’s moving past uncomfortable
feelings of if somebody says a comment that it’s problematic, speaking up and tell them
that’s not cool, even if it’s your closest friend, even if it’s your best friend telling
them, that’s not cool. I think it’s this fear that we have sometimes of like shaking things
up, and confrontation that keeps us quiet. But also a lot of us are fearful of what will
happen to us too. So I understand that, but it’s… it’s these really small things. It’s
like, now why people as a black person, what they can do to help. That’s one thing, you
know, it’s like white people talking to other white people about what they can do them calling
each other out on stuff. I think that’s the best way. When my friend says she wants somebody
to be accomplished, not ally. I want you to be side by side with me not like you know,
just like: “Oh, yeah, girl, I got your back” like. No, I want you to be like doing it with
me. So yeah, the biggest way to be an ally is to educate people who look like you, not
ask black people where they can, what they should be doing to help… you know what I
mean? Like… Yeah, yes, yes. Putting the labor, turning it back to yourself. Doing
some quick googles you know. To my friend, if you want some topics, you know some phrases.
Of course, it goes beyond Google. You don’t want Google for everything. But it’s not just
saying you’re ally and it’s not just hashtag activism. It’s not just activism. My Instaram
is like, what are you doing to show up in real life to check people when they say messed
up stuff? That’s one of the most important things I think to me. Read more bell hooks.
Yes. Any other questions? Hello. Hi, Jeremy. Hi. It’s really interesting to me that you
brought up the topic of like selflessness, and martyrdom cause I just like got myself
caught up like last night in a situation where I was like, like really stepping into that
role. And I’ve been thinking a lot for the last 24 hours about how to deprogram those
like tendencies to step into selflessness. Yeah. And I’m just wondering if you have anything
to speak on about, like how you’ve done that work yourself? Actually, I didn’t start doing the work until
I realized that I was getting irritated by everybody. That’s, that’s when I saw that
I was extremely impacted by racism was when everything irritated me. Somebody said they
liked my hair, and I was irritated. Somebody, you know, looks at me a certain way. I’m irritated.
you comment on anything about me. I’m irritated. So it was these signs in my physical body
that told me like: “Okay, you have to start taking care of yourself, and you can’t…”
You don’t last that long when you’re selfless. Because you’re selfless. You don’t even have
a self like, who even are you then? You know, you’re just you are just the community. And
of course, we are the community. But in order to have a strong community, we have to be
strong individuals. You know, you know, people always say that individualism is a like, Western
concept, which I believe it is. But I think it’s one of where the focus just plead on
being an individual. That’s where things be a little problematic. But yeah… I would
say… Taking a step back and asking yourself why you do the things you do for people. Why
should it be a cost to yourself? Like asking, like: “Who does this for me?” And final question? Yeah. Thank you so much for like… yes. Thank you.
I am curious when or like how long it took? Or if maybe you still are? Yeah. When did
you appreciate the shadow? So… Oh, my gosh. And… yeah. Oh, gosh. I don’t think I really appreciated
that until I moved to Portland. And the reason why is because it’s kind of like a… My move
here was the first time I lived away from Chicago. So I couldn’t just like, walk to
my mom’s house anymore. And like, then to her about stuff. I kind of had to deal with
stuff as it happened. So trying to be an adult who knows how to take care of themselves.
That’s what I like, stepped into knowing who the shadow self was. But I always knew it
was there. Because I’m a very outgoing person. But I’ve always been a person and kind of
spent a lot of time by myself. So when I was a kid, I was very familiar with it. Because
when I was mad at my sister I still, like, do like crazy stuff to the dolls. And so I
knew of that other side. I was like: “Raagh, the range!” You know, but yeah, it was moving.
It was moving here to Portland, and being thrusty into a place where I’d have family
around me, where I had to deal with my own problems. And I couldn’t just dump them on
people. Yeah. And then having other friends who needed a lot from me emotionally, they
made me also think about their shadow self too, because it made me think about maybe
I’m not addressing some things in my life, when I saw that people were going through
some things, you know. I’ve always had a family who’s been very supportive, very funny, very,
like caring, but we don’t really talk about a lot of like, like, how we feel are like
issues and stuff like that. So seeing other people go through things with their families,
made me start to question my responses to things and why I do certain things that I
do. Yeah. But the… it is the last I was a year to where I like full on was like, okay,
like, accepted and looked at and stopped, like, just started telling myself the truth.
Because what happens is often we tell ourselves all these stories to get by and or survive,
and that like, just keeps churning up this pain, you know… Yeah. That’s a good question.
Thank you. Thanks, everybody. One thing I forgot to mention is that we do
record all of our artists talks. And so and we post them on our YouTube channel. So if
you know somebody that wanted to be here, but couldn’t make it out, just tell them to
be on the lookout, and this talk will be posted. Rough estimate within three weeks. And then
we do have refreshments down in the cafe. So feel free to hop down there. Oh, thank you! Hey thank you. I appreciate it. Thanks, man. Right
right there. Thanks so much. Thank you. Thanks. Transcribed by

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