I was just as outraged as the rest of the world when I first saw the video of Amy Cooper wielding her white privilege in Central Park, her shrieks penetrating like a sword in an ultimately futile attempt to cut down Christian Cooper (no relation). One month later, the video is now at 45 million views.
In fact, I was so very outraged I consciously chose to ignore the slight inflicted by Christian’s sister, Melody, in her tweet that circled the globe.
In the middle of the night a collective grief weighs down on me like a haint. Yet another black person’s senseless death. George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. Speak their names into the prayer and justice fields.
Remembering moments like this one from May of last year. Amandla and I stopped outside of her fabulous loft apartment in Paris' 11th arrondissement to drink in the evening. I arrived from L.A. for a week, having been charged with ferrying Kumo the cat across the Atlantic. One year later I've just finished watching the result of Amandla's six-month rendezvous with Paris—the eight-part Netflix series, The Eddy. It’s a soul-stirring, cinematic marvel, and a poignant deep-dive into the lives of some riveting characters, including troubled Julie, played by Amandla. She is "scintillating" in the role, possesses an "arresting presence," and delivers a "scene-stealing performance," reviewers say. Plus there's this appreciation by Amy Taupin in Artforum and this gorgeous Emmy magazine cover. I may just have to stream it again.
"There goes summer!"
My brother sent this text to me and our two siblings when it was announced a few days ago that Los Angeles would be sheltering in place through July. Or maybe it's August. Since then, the city or perhaps the Los Angeles Times—has walked back this declaration. It's hard to keep track.
As for me, summer was cancelled, or rather, became a non-starter, when the following email arrived in my in-box late yesterday afternoon.
I had to write about Mommy. It was painful at times. I was conflicted. Can one be open with another's secret? She came to me early one morning. I felt her guiding me, urging me on. Yes, I could breathe life into her story and give her life. Even in death.
On Facebook I follow the group "The Golden Age of Illustrations," along with some 148,000 others. The images are lush, gorgeous, brilliant. This one stopped me in my tracks. A naked black woman. And is that Jesus? The post explained that the illustration, by John Farleigh, appears in the 1933 book, The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God. The author? One Bernard Shaw. As in George the playwright.
It's nearly impossible to find images of black people in this feed. The men, women and children are usually pink and rosy-cheeked. I immediately clicked "Like" when I came across a cartoon by E. Simms Campbell, an African-American artist whose works were the first to appear in popular national publications, including Life magazine in 1931, and created Esquire's wide-eyed mascot, Esky.
I wanted to know more. So I did what any other self-respecting arbiter of instantaneous gratification in the 21st century would do.
This painting’s genesis lies in the mystical. I was attending a retreat conducted by the abstract surrealist artist Rassouli, whom I first met in a course he taught at Agape, “Painting with Spirit,” in 2006. My participation in the class itself was the outcome of a long and hard negotiation I had the temerity to make with God.
I felt a strong call (I am being gentle here, it was actually a forceful push) to enroll in an introductory spiritual principles course at Agape. The only thing is, I didn’t want to.
I like to make stuff...and think about stuff.