PRESS & MEDIA
‘Why does freedom have to come with layers?’ Black, queer residents speak out about identity in Seattle
by Crystal Paul, Seattle Times Staff Reporter
Among other things, Seattle’s progressive reputation, the rainbow crosswalks on Capitol Hill, the plethora of signs everywhere declaring “Love is love,” and its out-and-loud pride festivals, have earned the city a reputation as being LGBTQ-friendly.
But Seattle is not quite as friendly for the 7% of the population that identifies as black. Since 2013, there’s been a notable increase in racist hate crimes targeting black residents, and gentrification continues to push black residents out of their homes in the historically black Central District. For those who live both of these experiences, Seattle can be a complicated place to call home.
In honor of this weekend’s Pacific Northwest Black Pride, we spoke to 10 black, queer Seattleites from different backgrounds about their work, their lives and their experiences in Seattle.
In their own words, they talk about identity, safety and creating community in Seattle.
Hail the Dark Lioness: A roundtable of black, queer Seattle artists on Zanele Muholi’s photography exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum
Zanele Muholi as the “dark lioness” greets you from across several rooms of the gallery with an intent stare that calls you toward them. Spread throughout multiple galleries at the Seattle Art Museum, this gaze tracks you from dozens of similarly intent portraits of the artist throughout the exhibition, each one demanding you to meet their gaze.
The portraits are bold black and white set against alternating charcoal black-and-white walls. The gallery lights are dimmer than usual, drawing you closer to the portraits and the adorned versions of Muholi staring back at you from within them.
In the more than 70 self-portraits that make up South African artist and visual activist Muholi’s exhibit, “Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness,” the artist reclaims the images of black and brown people who have historically been exoticized and othered in visual media. Here Muholi, whose pronouns are they/them, tells their own story.
In each self-portrait, the artist is creatively adorned in found objects, all of them heavy with meaning in black queer history and today. “Philia, Be Well or Live,” in which the artist wears a dozen inflated latex gloves, recalls multiple ideas at once — medical experiments performed on black men and women throughout history and the domestic-worker jobs that black men and women have been relegated to in places like the U.S. and South Africa. But it also pays homage to Muholi’s mother, who was a domestic worker. And it recalls the daring, bold and creative couture that comes from black, queer communities.
Each portrait contains multitudes — the multiple versions of Muholi themself, histories, celebrations and statements about the beauty and diversity of black people and black bodies.
During the opening week of the exhibit, Seattle Art Museum invited several black, queer artists and performers in Seattle to view the exhibit privately and discuss it among themselves. The Seattle Times brought some of those artists together again to share some of their personal insights and reactions to the art.
With this new year, unity has been at the forefront of our never-ending mission to help people see the world differently. "Diversity matters" was our mantra going live with our first site and with this new site we wanted to push 'Unity over Uniformity'. In other words: it's okay to be different. We must accept each other for our differences. The first way of doing that is taking the time to hear people's stories. This week we wanted to highlight two phenomenal women who identify as queer, nonbinary and so much more. Today, learn the story of Jessica, a black, queer-identifying multi-faceted businesswoman who speaks about juggling her corporate job and her side hustle, unexpectedly being the spokesperson on mental illness and what it means to be black maneuvering in these spaces. Images: TONL
37 #blkcreatives who inspire us to make our own rules
As creatives, it’s our responsibility to use our gifts to make the world come alive. As Black creatives, we have a double responsibility to use our gifts to impact the world AND keep our culture alive.
As the storytellers, the innovators, the curators, the teachers, and the designers, our work doesn’t just make a difference with what we’re doing now. Our work will be felt for years to come, in ways that we can’t even predict.
My 10-page interview in Human Condition Magazine
Issue three of Human Condition magazine focuses on the theme, “The Fallacy of the American Dream” and features perspectives surrounding the topics of identity, nationalism, race, freedom, and art, from local artists such as Randy Ford, Jessica Rycheal, Troy Osaki, Jordan Faralan, and Sol.
UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON
The Art of Black Urbanism: Creating space to be seen
A conversation on black visibility and shifting spaces. Hear from Dr. Matthew Miller of the University of Pennsylvania and Interdisciplinary Storyteller and Art Director Jessica Rycheal of Everyday Black, a recent exhibition of contemporary portraits at the Northwest African-American Museum in Seattle, Washington
Readings by Seattle Civic Poet Anastacia-Renee, Jessica Rycheal, Jane Wong & Daemond Arrindell
EVERYDAY BLACK, The Recap
Video produced by Trix
SEATTLE ART MUSEUM
Complex Exchange: Figuring Black Futures Today
Complex Exchange features presenters and practices that reference black experience and lives of people of color from a local context. Join in this series of conversations with Seattle community members from a variety of disciplines to tackle themes inspired by the exhibition Figuring History: Robert Colescott, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas on view at the Seattle Art Museum, and Everyday Black at the Northwest African American Museum.
Melanin Poppin': ‘Everyday Black’ at NAAM celebrates and exalts Blackness
by Lisa Edge