Poem by Deborah Harris
I shutter and capture the wind. Blue fog and grey clouds dance across the film of morning. It is only I…please don’t be afraid of me
I shutter and ask for the grace to peek once more at the secrets that the fields hold. It is only I…a friend…a wanderer…a seeker longing for truth and the beauty that escapes many beholders
I shutter and capture the fire, the soul, and tell the stories beneath the rubble of destruction and pain.
It is only I…a friend…a wanderer…a seeker longing for your truth
Grace me with the presence of your name, the secrets of shame, the beauty of the eyes that are framed with the heaviness of wearied brows yet ignited with the flame upon which tomorrow will bow
It is only I…a friend…a wanderer…a torch searching for your truth.
Grace me with the presence of your name
April 22, 2021: Journal Entry by Amari Dixon
They took another one from our village and the streets soaked in the tears that fell like rain from his beloveds. Daunte Wright would be laid to rest today but our hopes of liberation from a tangled web of death and deceit evaded our grasp. All we could do was hold on to one another in this moment. All I could do was shutter.
I knew that I needed to be on the ground to capture this moment in our generation’s civil rights movement. The verdict for Derek Chauvin had just come down a few days before and now I was in Minneapolis proceeding to a funeral to look upon yet another soul snatched away by the cruelty and indifference of this nation. I hadn’t known that I would be on the ground serving as a photographer for this pivotal moment in our nation’s history but a call had gone out from another Black photojournalists that asked for any Black photographers that were available to join him; he was willing to pay for our hotel stay to make sure that our eyes and ears were there. I knew all too well why and so do others but these dark and dirty reasons are swept under the white supremacists rugs of society and tossed aside into forgotten piles…sharp as shards of glass…sharp enough to cut…to the truth of the matter.
Today I stood with my newly minted comrades to capture what mainstream media and the dark soul of this county didn’t want many to witness…our humanity and beauty and truth of our brokenness and resolute joy in possibility.
The absence of Black photographers and journalists on the scene of our nation’s most important time is not a mere mistake or oversight. For generations our stories have been told through a white lens that oftentimes portrays whiteness as the victor, savior, truth teller and moral high ground of humanity; this of course is the furthest thing from the truth.
The ability to tell our own stories and truths on a large scale was immediately removed from us during the times of slavery; we were beaten and killed if we were learning to read or write or viewed as using a bit too much critical thinking. The destruction of facts and reality is second nature to this land and it is an evil that many have fought against since these lands were stolen and claimed by those “seeking a new life”. Stories being told by the captor will never hold a full truth or any truth that doesn’t beneficially serve them. Everyone knows that truths can be selective if one chooses and within that selection, one can wield power.
The power to make one’s voice louder, righteous, devoid of fault and more relevant has been curated over the centuries by whiteness. It is a power that has been used to stain the soil of this country red and erase the history of the Black Americans and the common denominators behind our trauma, pain, and social Injustices. Unfortunately, it is also a power that minimizes or completely ignores our joy and steps toward liberation; which explains why we are not readily present or accepted with open arms in journalism spaces.
Can you imagine if we took ownership of our journey and our eyes, language and visions was what solely carved a lane for public perception, accountability, and healing?
Looking around even in 2021, I’m aware that the eyes and words capturing the lives of Black people do not predominantly come from our communities and so the depth of who we are, how we fight, how we dream, and walk the road toward liberation is flat. Many organizations and individuals serve within the movement daily and have given their lives to making sure Black people are given what is justly due to them and we must fight just as hard for our right to tell our own stories. It isn’t enough for us to push for an unbought/unbiased press, but a press that is controlled by Black people is key; the narrative needs to be seen and written into history by those that suffer and wage war against the hands of the oppressor. If we are not in complete control of telling our stories, then they become devoid of a full truth, color, and our voice loses agency to capture the journey of our people.
Our generation’s civil rights movement must open the eyes of the world and our language must be written upon the hearts and flow from the tongues of humanity. It is then that our goals toward liberation will resonate fully, bridges are built and the fire in our eyes is given freedom to purify this nation.