Photo by Sumter County Gallery of Art
Ekphrastic poetry is poetry based on works of art. I recently gave an ekphrastic poetry reading at Sumter County Gallery of Art based on art by Antoine Williams. One of his works is an installation called “What It Look Like”. It includes elements such as tires, police caution tape, and flowers.
In my opinion, it’s like a juxtaposition of our diverse emotions in our bodies. Zora Neale Hurston said it this way in her 1928 essay “How It Feels to Be Colored Me.”
But in the main, I feel like a brown bag of miscellany propped against a wall. Against a wall in company with other bags, white, red, and yellow…On the ground before you is the jumble it held—so much like the jumble in the bags, could they be emptied, that all might be dumped in a single heap and the bags refilled without altering the content any greatly.
Every emotion in our brown bags has no business sharing space in the same body: love, fear, anger, hate, depression, disappointment, excitement, apathy. In the Black Lives Matter movement, every black body has purpose. Some may not appear as civilized or Americanized as others. Some seem barbaric and savage, but what else can be expected growing up in concrete jungles around our nation: environments where men in uniforms and suits relegate black bodies to fractions of a soul?
When the emotions from the brown bag become volatile from being caged by preconceived notions of blackness or even humanity, black bodies become known as thugs. The word thug originated as gangster terminology similar to the word goon, or hired criminal. Not every angry black body fits this description.
Perhaps if blacks were the ones who enslaved whites for centuries, then our culture would be the benchmark for an already fractured society. However, it already is now the benchmark. Black culture and rebellion is a cliché that white children mock as well as embrace. White children borrow from black bodies because they feel theirs is not enough. Having every opportunity as a dominant race is not enough to them.
How could they possibly believe this? It is because although black bodies have been crushed and cramped into thin sheets by the thousands in ghettos, prisons, and even classrooms, black bodies still bear a smile on the walls of their brown bags. Black bodies dance, sing, and laugh, yet on the inside, the contents within the bags decay in silence. They see blacks’ resolve and covet blacks’ resilience. Their parents call it uncivilized. Blacks call it culture and heritage. That is how a gifted black man can take what they call trash from the essence of himself and call it art.