Emancipation Proclamations 2013
Given that 2013 marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and I see very little being done to commemorate this, I wanted to create and show a piece this year that commemorates this important, although imperfect attempt at justice.
The collaborative piece is four hanging panels of thread on polyurethane. Each panel contains the embroidered responses (unedited) in the participants' own handwriting to the question “What does emancipation mean to you?”. Because my experience has taught me that racism effects everyone, in my anti racist work with the film Traces of the Trade, in my teaching at a NYC public high school and in my art, I try to bring conversations about white privilege away from a solely Black and white context because I feel that the problem is much messier than that. However since the Maafa or African Holocaust (and before that the genocide of indigenous people) are the roots of present day US racism, and since the Emancipation Proclamation was about Africans in the US, I asked only people of European and African descent to participate in this project. Their voices are on the panels.
The writings ask audiences to question our ideas about freedom and consider new possibilities for healing and true liberation for all people. I believe that the emancipation of white people from the bonds of internalized superiority is the key to ending racism. Until we realize how much our oppressive attitudes kill our spirits and harm others, the present situation will not change. Although my experience is rooted in the US, racism and global capitalism are threatening the very existence of our planet as we know it. This is why I chose the polyurethane to work on. Everywhere I have been that is not materially rich, from my neighborhood in Queens, to Asia, to Africa to South America I see this material. To me, like racism, it is worldwide as is the need for worldwide spiritual and physical emancipation from oppression. Everyone’s survival depends on it.
Special Thanks to: Esther Iverem, DC Black Artists, Sharon Leslie Morgan, Dave Pettee, Suzanne Broughel, Juanita Capri Brown, Tom DeWolf, Beavin Lawrence, Dain Perry and Kimberly Becoat