In the wake of recent racial violence and social justice tensions that have come to define our current moment in time, I, a Black man and an artist, had to find a way to document the experiences of my community – its beauty, its humanity and its resiliency. When the moment calls, I deeply believe that you must respond by using whatever skills you have to be a part of the change. For me, that means creating honest images that seek to connect people across boundaries.
I recently had an opportunity to show my images at the “Documenting A Reckoning” exhibit at the Mill City Museum. This exhibit was designed to bring people together who typically wouldn’t be in the same room for hard but important conversations around race and social justice. This experience and my participation in “It’s the People” is my way of honoring the countless victims who have lost their lives to police violence. It also allows me to give back to my community in a meaningful way after the suffering that Minnesota has endured over the years.
Working with King Demetrius Pendleton to capture his lived history in a single portrait challenged me to think about the complex layers and intersectionality of Black identities and lived experiences. This way of examining identity moved my work as an artist forward into new territory. It also became a way to document and truth-tell through images. I also feel that having a Black, independent journalist as my subject allowed me to see how my work as an artist is not dissimilar from his as a journalist. These ways of storytelling restore erased and subjugated narratives, re-empowering them and making them accessible to broader audiences.