AN ELEGANT UTILITY
These videos are a part of a project I am calling ‘An Elegant Utility’. It is an evolving body work about the legacy and future Africans Americans in Seattle’s Central District, their historic community in the city. The project focuses on my maternal family’s story of migration and community building over six generations; from Arkansas to Seattle. It connects a century of racial discrimination in America, from violent oppression in the south to economic discrimination in the north, using personal stories to illustrate a legacy of resistance and community building. This collection of videos taps into the emotional and spiritual implications of resisting displacement and African American assess what community means post gentrification.
I recognize the displacement of Seattle’s African American community as a microcosm for changes facing black communities across the nation. The similarity of these experiences points to larger social, political and economic forces at work. Collectively the works attempt to grapple with larger questions about these forces shape how our society evolves and imagines how we might being to shift the paradigm.
‘An Elegant Utility’ is a work in progress. Many of these videos were created as video installations in multi=disciplinary museum exhibitions. I consider them as a kind of digital notebook, a way of sculpting my ideas in media as I refine my approach to this expansive, multi-generational story.
A Central Vision
I produced ‘A Central Vision’ for the City of Seattle Office of Planning and Community Development (Seattle OPCD). Although this is a client project, it is based on my continuing work on ‘An Elegant Utility’. Seattle OPCD wanted a video that illustrated how they view their recent development and housing policy initiatives as connected to community efforts to address displacement.
An Elegant Utility: Building Across Generations
This video documents how housing covenants, redlining and other discriminatory housing practices created the African American community in Seattle’s Central District and the social and political resistance that emerged as a result. By mapping three generations of interconnected personal stories, I am exploring how resistance can show up in unexpected ways. Relationships are at the heart of this story. In thinking about gentrification and displacement I wanted to illustrate how preserving complex communal networks are critical for the evolution of our society.
This Is Who We Are
I produced this two channel video installation for a 2016 solo exhibit at The Frye Art Museum. Inspired by my meditations on land and lineage, nature and ancestry, ‘This Is Who We Are’ investigates the evolving relationship between place and identity through the lens of spirituality and indigenous traditions. These videos examine how migration and displacement force cultures to change and adapt. What is retained, what is lost, and what is generated anew when communities are moved? My family heritage, which has roots on my mother’s side in African culture of the American South, and on my father’s side in the Niger Delta Ijo/Kalabari cultures and traditions. This melding of ancestry—the convergence of two distinctive sets of family traditions—is the foundation of the cultural and spiritual journey illustrated in these videos.
A lifelong resident of Seattle’s Central District—a neighborhood undergoing rapid redevelopment—I acknowledge that my home is built on the ancestral land of the Duwamish. As I resist gentrification by fighting to retain his place in the neighborhood, I am conceding my participation in a cycle of displacement. This video is an invocation of purpose and intent regarding the spiritual relationships and responsibilities I am facing in this experience.
An Elegant Utility Family Storytellers
I produced this video as a part of ‘An Elegant Utility’ my multi-disciplinary exhibit presented at the Northwest African American Museum in 2017. As an oral history presentation, this video provided voice to the objects and narratives in the rest of the show. It’s spare style is designed to center the voices of those sharing their stories.
‘Contructing Silence’ was produced for an exhibit called ‘BOOM: Changing Seattle’ presented at the Center for Architecture and Design in 2016. The video is in intimate meditation on the unexpected ways displacement highlights the importance of community cohesion.
A Tale of Two Ledgers
‘A Tale of Two Ledgers’ was initially created as an audio narrative for an sound-based exhibition ‘LISTEN: It’s a Sound Show!’ curated by Emily Pothast and Molly Mac and presented at Equinox Studios. Although the show focused on sound installations with the goal of encouraging people to slow down and listen, many of the installations included visual components.
In this video I am using the convention of oral history storytelling to delve into my personal experience of acquiring and keeping our family’s first home in Seattle Washington. In my story I want to shed light on two forms of discriminatory lending practices-redlining and predatory mortgage lending-and the ways they shaped community over five generations.
Share on Facebook