Wednesday, June 3, 2015

What A Difference a Year Makes: What is working in you?

For the past year I have been a full time student!  Yes, a full time student at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) working on my MFA in Photography.  While I have been at SCAD for two years this year I was full time and on sabbatical from Columbia Theological Seminary.  This was the first time in my educational career that I wasn’t working full time and in school full time.  For all of my previous degrees I had to work full time to put myself through school.  I can’t tell you what a privilege it was to be able to dedicate myself to the work of working on my craft and me.  I was able to immerse myself in a visual world and as a resul I see totally different.

What I have found is that it takes giving yourself fully to something if you hope to be transformed.  I had to let go of how I saw the world through the viewfinder and allow the images and the work to find me.  I had to let go of trying to make a picture and let the picture make me.  I spent as much time studying photography as I did making pictures.  These two go together, doing the work and mastering the intellectual and visual history of the field work in tandum. If you don’t give yourself fully to understanding the field you want be involved in you have no base to work from and you need a base. 

As I have followed the transformation of Auburn Avenue I have been transformed.    I finished this year ready for my thesis exhibition, which will be:
Faith in Sweet Auburn: The Next Chapter
Friday, October 16, 2015 @ 7:00 to 9:30 p.m.
Apex Museum
135 Auburn Avenue
Atlanta, GA 30303
(404) 523-2739

This was a lot of work and it was more about me than it was about the images, videos and blogs I produced.  I was transformed by doing the work, letting go and allowing the process of study and making work transform me into a photographer.  While this has been hard work it has been very rewarding.  What is that challenge you need to take on at this point in your journey that has the potential to transform you?  Where is the creator trying to develop you and grow you so that your work at this phase in your life will have a greater impact than your former work?  What is going in you that has the promise of re-inventing you?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

This Is Not New: The Police and the African American Community

In April of 1967 (and here we are in April of 2015) the Black Panther Party found themselves in Richmond California to address the murder of Denzil Dowell who had been killed at the hands of the police.

The Black Panther Party ten point plan #7:

7.  We want an immediate end to police brutality and murder of Black people.

The Party organized police patrols to monitor police action in the community using cameras to record the police.  They were organized for action to stop what had been happening for years.  We shouldn’t be surprised by the actions of the police but rather we should proactively look back at the organizations that have been undermined who fought to protect us.  We need to resurrect the principles of some of our most enlightened freedom fighting organizations and tailor them for a new era.  We don’t have to reinvent the wheel but just update the engine.

The Ten Point Plan of the Black Panther Party

How the FBI undermined the Black Panther Party

While we remember the guns and how this organization was portrayed as a violent organization this was not the root of the Panthers.  The Panthers were not violent but rather they were trying to find a way to respond to the violence they were victims of at the hands of the police state in which they found themselves.  As we move forward let us look back and remember our history. 
Some Questions

What organizational tactics and organizations might inform how we organize and move forward? 
What can we glean from the ancestors who stand with us today?
How can we sit with the elders and let them teach us and walk with us as we empower the next generation freedom fighters?
How do we work to empower young, indigenous, grassroots leaders in our communities?
Who should be the leaders of these organizations? 
How are the masses to be involved in organization and leadership of such organizations?
Is the church, as it is presently configured, the natural place for this plan of action to germinate?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Doing You Makes All the Difference in the World: The Transformative Power in the Excellence of Teaching

Dr. Karcheik Sims- Alvarado and Dr. Sarah Cook
Historians make sure we don’t forget to remember.  As I work on my Faith in Sweet Auburn project I am amazed by the hard work our local historians are doing.  They are telling the story and bringing our ancestors back to life.  Yesterday I attended Honoring the Herndon Legacy an Honors College presentation at Georgia State University.  The students from the class of Dr. Karcheik Sims-Alvarado presented their research on one of Atlanta’s the greatest citizens, Mr. Alonzo Herndon.  Dr. Sims-Alvarado’s class was HONORS 3260: Alonzo Herndon and the Business of Civil Rights.  The students learned how Alonzo Herndon connected his business enterprise to the work of freedom.  For Herndon it wasn’t all about money but rather it was about how his work could support the freedom of his people, his city and his country.  The students did an outstanding job sharing their research findings and how this particular class had transformed them. These students weren’t history majors but they took this class and they were amazed by what they learned.   They stepped out of their comfort zone and as result they learned something that will forever shape their lives and how they see Atlanta.

Dr. Sims-Alvarado had done what all of us who are teachers hope to do. We hope that our students will fully engage the subject matter, own it as their own and allow the work of education to inform and liberate. In this case we saw the power of quality teaching in action.  Not only were the students exposed to great teaching but they were also in touch with local historians like Nasir Muhammad, Herman “Skip” Mason and living legends like Lonnie King, Roberta Phillips, Rev. C. T. Vivian and so many more.  She brought the stories to life and the students talked as if they had come in contact with Alonzo Herndon and the period in history in which he lived.  As a fellow professor I sat there in utter amazement.  The power of contextual learning with innovative pedagogy, learning goals and outcomes was evidenced right before my eyes.  I wanted to shout, “Now this is good teaching!”

The support that Dr. Sims-Alvarado has gotten from Dr. Sarah Cook, Associate Dean, has been outstanding.  Dr. Cook is committed to the work of Dr. Sims-Alvarado and making sure we don’t forget our local history.  This partnership inspired me and I am sure with the work of these two great scholars and so many more in our city we will not forget to remember.  As I continue to work on my project I am continually inspired by the great people I meet along the way who are doing the work of making sure our city remembers the blood, sweat and tears those who came before us.  We stand on their shoulders.  Yesterday I was called to remember the Herndon Legacy.  Who should you be remembering?  Who paved the way for you to enjoy what you are enjoying today?  What ancestors name should you yell out today and tell them thank you?
Rev. C. T. Vivian and Mr. Lonnie King (PhD candidate at Georgia State University)
“If I thought that anything with which I was connected would always be small, I would not want to be in it.”
Alonzo F. Herndon

Thursday, April 16, 2015

You Can Change: Do the Work and the Work Will Create a New YOU!

Ricci de Forest - Curator and Artistic Director, Madame CJ Walker Museum
The journey of a long term project is overly rewarding.  It is rewarding because you see the changes in you and the very thing you are working on.  I have been working on a trans-media project on the revitalization of Auburn Avenue here in Atlanta Georgia for over two years now (it is a ten year project).  I have been a witness to the change that is in process along this street and it has been something to see.  I have also changed over time.  My photography and storytelling has improved along with my growing relationship with the people I am photographing.  To commit to something and stick with it has the power to change your life and perspective.  You can look back and see what you are becoming as you do the work because the work does something in you. I want to encourage you today to find that thing(s) and stick to it.

Life is a longterm project.  We live the lives we create.  We have to take care to nurture the type of life and relationship we want to make sure we spend our days doing those things we enjoy and that we were created to do.  The joy in life is rooted in our living a life that lines up with the gifts the creator put in us.  It is doing the very things that we do well and enjoy doing that will bring us joy.  To do and be that thing you enjoy takes courage and handwork.  I have never worked so hard than I have in the past two years being a student at fifty-three.  I completed my PhD in 1997...that is almost ten years ago and  I have not been a full-time for a long time.  While I have done tons of continuing education stuff none of it was as difficult and demanding as the MFA program at Savannah College of Art and Design.  While this journey has been and is challenging it has been one of the most rewarding times of my career.  I love every minute of it and I am becoming that artist that I know is in me.  It is so worth it!!!!  What is it that you need to work on in your life to be what the Creator wants you to be at this stage in your life?  Are you willing to put the work in to have the joy of doing you each and everyday?  What do you have to do in order to do what you want to do?

You can follow my project at:

Friday, April 3, 2015

Follow Your Heart not a Career Path: The Joy of Life

I have been working the past year on the start of a ten-year project.  The project is charting the revitalization of Auburn Avenue in Atlanta Georgia.  The joy of this project has been the good people I have met along the way.  What has been consistent about the business owners along Auburn Avenue is that they have followed their heart.  A case in point is Jennie Rivlin Roberts.  Jennie is has her PhD in Industrial Psychology from Georgia Tech but she is the shopkeeper of ModernTribe.  Her story is one of joy and passion.  She is committed to running her business from top to bottom and she cares for this place like it is her child. She loves the business and the people she works with and comes in contact with on a daily basis.  What you see in her is pure joy.  She has a heart of gold and she is symbolic of what is happening on this street.

There is this relationship growing between the old and new residents on this street and their relationship speaks to the future of our city.  This blend of old and new across racial lines, religious affiliation, age and educational background is what this street typifies.  There is a meeting of the world along Auburn Avenue between the residents of our city and the visitors who come from around the world to The King Center.  This street is a microcosm of promise as we see on Auburn Avenue what was our history and what is our future.  If Jennie and people with a heart like hers represent the future of our city we can say the future of Atlanta is bright.

What makes our future so bright is that in this city you can live your dream, you can follow your heart.  This is a city that encourages people to come and be that thing you really want to be which may or may not be connected to what you majored in in college.   The worse thing you can do in life is get a job to pay the bills.  Jobs suck life out of you.  Following your passion and doing those things you were created to do and be is life giving.  To choose life over death is really what this is all about.  Jennie choose life and when you connect with her you fill the joy of life that oozes out of her.  What about you?  What you doing with the gift(s) God have placed in you? How are you living your life?  Are you living your dream or doing a job?  Is your daily routine giving you life or leading to an early death?  If it isn’t life giving how long can you survive doing it?  What is the cost for not working towards new life?