In addition to my Feature work in the July/August 2020 issue of BRAVA, and the shout from Shayna Mace in the Editor's section, they also ran a Profile on me as well! Read the full interview by Shelby Moyer:
Tell me a little about the first local BLM protest you went to, the ones spurred by George Floyd's death. What was your impression? What did they look like, what did it feel like, what was the energy?
The first event I attended was the African American Council of Churches Solidarity March, and there were people from all walks of life and faith. It felt warm and welcoming, and there was a sort of buzz in the air. Everyone there was kind. Everyone there was driven. Everyone there was fed up. This march brought out some of the best people in Madison - the ones who want to see an end to police brutality, to injustice, to systemic racism, and who committed to the work to do so.
-- What spurred you to photograph them, and how many did you ultimately go to?
Since I was a child, I've always been interested in capturing moments...from moments at horse camp to exploring Switzerland with my family for my grandma's 80th birthday. As an Early Childhood Educator by trade, I've been documenting children's development for over 25 years...and let me tell you, I've taken a LOT of photos. Now, without my camera I look at moments in everyday life and take a picture of them with my mind....wishing I had my camera in hand. There was no way I was going to let such a significant part of our nation's history - of my people's history - pass by without me capturing what I experienced in my corner of the world. Because of issues in my personal life, I was unable to attend the main protest and those led by the youth, so I ultimately attended and photographed the AACC March and the United We Stand Against Racism March in Middleton.
- What has been your experience as a Black woman in Madison, or just in general?
Having been born and raised in Madison since the 70s, I think I have felt all of the feelings. I know what it's like to enter a room or an establishment and to make eye contact with the only other person who looks like me within the first 5 seconds. People have touched my hair with and without asking, followed by unrequested commentary. When I enter a store, I make sure I don't have my hands in my pockets. I have experienced racism in the workplace. I have felt unseen, I have felt left out, I have felt unrepresented, I have felt unimportant, I have felt like I don't fit in and I have felt that I would never, ever be considered beautiful. The standard of beauty in this country has always been different variations of whiteness, so as a little girl looking through magazines, watching TV shows...I never saw anyone who looked like me. When I was in my 20s it was the first time I'd ever discovered a makeup foundation that matched my skin - I cried. My family who raised me was white. I would be stared at every time we went to a restaurant, to a movie to the zoo, etc. like I didn't belong. Through high school I could count on one hand, (sometimes on one finger) how many people of color were in my classes. My mom met one of my elementary school teachers for the first time and she said, "Oh! You're Shalicia's mom!? No wonder she gets along so well with everybody!" I noticed that I was treated better by my teachers in high school than the other Black learners, and I could only figure it was because I was lighter, (enter my first experiences with privilege). Sometimes as an adult I feel like I'm too White for my Black friends and too Black for my White friends. I get along with most everyone, and maybe no one has those feelings but me, but there's always an internal battle that I'm fighting. Living here is difficult for Black people, Madison really and truly is a Tale of Two Cities. Some are blissfully unaware that Wisconsin continues to be ranked the #1 WORST state in the nation for Black people in many ways from our life expectancy to the failure of our kids in schools. One good thing that has come from all of the yuck thus far in 2020 is that the spotlight is on institutionalized racism, equity and equality, the wealth gap and so many other issues in Wisconsin and all over the country - there's no putting the toothpaste back in the tube. This year has also shone a light on the brazen racism I've seen coming from the most unexpected people and I thank social media for outing them. People are fed up, standing up, and thanks to John Lewis, getting into good and necessary trouble.
- A lot of people have been read anti-racist books, watching films, etc. I'm curious if you've done so as well and what some of the big takeaways were for you — if there was anything that really resonated with you?
One of the books I have read is White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo and that is 100% where I encourage ALL White people to start. There's a lot of controversy in our community about recommending her book because it is not written by a person of color. However, it is a book written by a White woman FOR White women and men, and she calls out all of the racism in all of its forms, perpetrated by White women including herself. White Fragility provides a framework from which to start - you can't work on being non or anti-racist if you don't understand your own racism. Another fantastic book I'm reading is So You Want to Talk About Race by Ujeoma Oluo, and I feel this book describes racism as a system and how it operates, how it affects Black and Brown people and how White people contribute to the system. Though I don't have a lot of time to read, the books my friends and colleagues are studying and suggest are, How to Be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi, Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad and The White Racial Frame by Joe R. Feagin. These 5 books are where I would start, and it's truly just a start. Anti-racism work and becoming what Vanessa Rae McDowell terms a "co-conspirator" is lifelong work. It's not sharing a hashtag, making a sign or changing your profile picture to a black box on social media. It's an uncomfortable, necessary shift in thinking that leads to action.
As far as movies, I have already seen the ones that have recently been "suggested" to watch. Definitely put 13th on Netflix on the top of your list. Watch it, then watch it again, share it, discuss it. I would also recommend Just Mercy, I am Not Your Negro, Selma, The Hate U Give, When They See Us...and so many others. There is a list online of all of the movies you can stream for free in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. More importantly than reading books and watching movies, I would urge you to get out of your bubble and to meet people who don't look like you - as a start. Get to know them, their families, their stories, and do way more listening than talking. Get involved in community activism, follow Black community leaders and figure out the best way you can help. Maybe it's as simple as shopping at a Black-Owned Business, or maybe it's making a donation to a local organization doing the hard and necessary work in our community like Nehemiah, The Progress Center for Black Women, Urban Triage, The Foundation for Black Women's Wellness, or Freedom, Inc. to name a few. Follow Madison365 for integral news on communities of color along with top local and national stories; and listen to their podcast, Black Oxygen, hosted by Angela Russell. Two other phenomenal podcasts I would suggest are Black Like Me by Rev. Dr. Alex Gee, and Defending Black Girlhood by Lilada Gee. One more suggestion, if you really want to dig into how to become an ally or a co-conspirator, check out Justified Anger's African American History Course, Black History for a New Day.
- On your website, you say photography is poetry. I'm wondering if you can translate that to your experience photographing the protests or other BLM-related shoots.
Yes! As you go throughout your day, everything is always moving, right? When it's mundane activity, most of the time you're not even mentally present, focused or available and likely thinking about something else entirely. The beauty of life comes from the moments in between, and a photograph suspends that time in perpetuity. Sometimes I'm caught off guard when I see a photo I've captured and it's truly a gift when you are able to look at frozen time and think deeply about what you're seeing and to lean into how it makes you feel. A couple years ago I once had the opportunity to be a photography judge for the NAACP ACT-SO competition in Madison, and I was looking at a piece of art submitted by fellow photographer, Amadou Kromah. I took one look at his photograph and tears started streaming down my face, and I couldn't even explain why except that the photo spoke to me in a way that words cannot. That piece was poetry. I recently captured an image of the Honorable Rev. Everett Mitchell at the AACC Solidarity March, with a mural of Tony Robinson in the background. I noticed that the way he was positioned made it appear that Tony was staring directly at him. The juxtaposition was so profound that I could literally feel Tony's presence. I didn't have a lot of time to take it all in at the moment, but I have spent a good deal of time looking at it since.