By ANTONIA WILLIAMS-GARY
Its official! Donald J. Trump is now the 45th President-elect of the United States of America, and we can begin the countdown. We only need the approval of Congress for a done deal.
So the world as we knew it has forever changed. Henceforth, we can be grateful for the elimination of suspense and get down to the day-to-day reality of living- while-being-black in America.
And just what will that look like? I am reminded daily of my own black experience: first, when I look in the mirror; then when I drive around certain neighborhoods; also when I pass by police officers in marked cars; when I shop, etc. Whenever I take my grandchildren out, I consciously avoid certain places that I know will be soul-snatching encounters for them.
I had the great fortune recently to take three of my grandchildren to “Visions of Our 44th President Barack Obama,” a travelling exhibit of realistic, life-sized busts designed, painted, and/or embellished by 44 contemporary African American artists.
It is a must see for everyone who can get to The Black Archives Historic Lyric Theater in Overtown, 819 NW 2 Avenue in Miami. The exhibit will remain through February.
This exhibit is important, not only because it is historical, but because it reveals the fundamentals of African- Americans’ history, culture and place in this society through the eyes of our artists – who continue to serve as the cultural guardians of our story.
Imagine, the first and largest image in the exhibit was that of Barack Obama’s original birth certificate – blown up and displayed across a five-foot expanse of wall! Is it in your face? You bet! I asked the grandchildren to respond to each of the displays and tell what they thought the artist was trying to convey.
I asked them each to identify their favorite, and why they were impressed with the message, and the medium – some of the busts were finished to appear like bronze, rusted steel, wood, or stained glass, to name a few artistic renderings.
One of the grands was especially drawn to an image of Obama covered in clippings from his speeches; another liked the split black-and-white-faced Obama; and the third was most fond of the more lifelike image.
The artists addressed myriad subject matter in their artistic interpretations of Obama. A few reflected on his mixed racial makeup; some, his character; others, his political leanings; and a few showed his symbolic impact as a worldwide leader.
One of the most intriguing messages was that of the acclaimed artist Carrie Mae Weems. She projected a series of images onto Obama’s face accompanied by a voice-over narrative to depict a wide variety of archetypes – and stereotypes – including Barack Obama in blackface. It was powerful! The grands loved putting on earphones and interacting with the projected images.
So why is this exhibit so significant? In the aftermath of the recent political theater,the spin and manipulation by media has left me, and I dare say many of you, wrung dry of any feelings of hope or cheer. I dare also to say that many of you may feel compromised as American citizens: Especially if you did not vote in the election, your chickens have come home to roost.
Yet, there is still opportunity.
As a matter of fact, just as this exhibit has rooted the legacy of Barack Obama in concrete (actually the base of each bust is resin, cast in bronze), I have been listening to Obama and his phenomenal partner, Michelle, not say “goodbye” as much as “Hello America,” extending to each of us a resounding invitation to join them.
We all have more work to do. Our story of survival is still unfolding. The final chapter is unwritten, and we will not go away.