“Even though I’m an immigrant, (my music) mirrors what a lot of African Americans experience because it’s such a black story. I’ve found inspiration from that community and they embrace me and allow me to do their art form. But at the same time I recognise that it’s very much an African rooted genre so in a way it’s giving and taking from each other.”
In “Our Kind of People” (image above) the Harlem-based artist Bayeté Ross Smith examines how clothing, ethnicity and gender affect our ideas about identity, personality and character. Devoid of any context for assessing the personality of the individual in the photograph, each photograph forces the viewer to face his or her own cultural biases. Ross Smith was one of ten Harlem-based artists and ten Columbia University students working together across diverse mediums, interests and cultural backgrounds for the month-long exhibition, “Bridging Boundaries: Redefining Diaspora” through much of February and early March.
As a very little girl, I remember shrinking from a particular sound, a hoarsely sharp, guttural rasp, because it often meant a nasty glob of grey spittle upon my coat or shoe an instant later. My mother wiped it off with little pieces of newspaper she always carried in her purse. Sometimes she fussed about low-class people who had no better sense nor manners than to spit into the wind no matter where they went, impressing upon me that this humiliation was totally random. It never occurred to me to doubt her.