Dr. Martin Luther King called jazz “America’s triumphant music.” There is a largely untold story of the key role of jazz in helping shape and quicken the arrival of the civil –rights movement. Jazz clubs in the northeast during the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s were the only places in town where blacks and whites were regularly on the stand and in the audiences together, according to Nat Hentoff a staff writer for the Wall Street Journal in a 2009 article. While much of my photos feature portraits and special history making
events, I am most drawn to the animation and mystery of musicians. I photography them as they transcend into another world where just them and the music exist. Birmingham, Alabama has given me and my camera an in-depth look at blues and the blues musician. The lyrics alone tell a story of a complicated lifestyle exposing the dirty truth about life in the south and its relentless refusal to offer a quality of life to all. Meeting and following the trail of Jerry “Boogie” McCain, Sumpter, James Brown, Henry Gibson, T-Model Ford, R. L. Burnside’s family and others who play and sing the blues, opened a new horizon for me in documenting the faces of the movement. These were and are the faces of hope, despair, poverty, anger, hopelessness, and for some, a burning fervor to stop disparity now.
A Visual Approach through Photography
First World Gallery
Choosing Langston Hughes’s “I, too Sing America,” was a major decision since it alludes to the common practice of racial segregation during the early 20th century when Black Americans faced overt discrimination in nearly every aspect of their lives. These images seek to expose the continued exploitation of Black America today in the 21st century. Each image was carefully selected to reflect the lines of Hughes’s poem with hopes the viewer acknowledges his or her hidden biases and promote a willingness to adopt a commitment to being a part of the elimination of racism.
I AM AMERICA
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