Monday, July 21, 2014

Martinsville: First Friday Art Walk

Whenever one imagines the word “art,” images of swanky people drinking wine and eating cheese while debating the meaning of a piece of abstract art comes to mind. The Uptown Martinsville First Friday Art Walk aimed to dispel this myth by offering everyone in the city the chance to experience art without a price tag attached to it and be inspired to use their own creativity to give back to the community, while simultaneously giving the people a tour of their beautiful city.

My sister was super excited to go to this event to check off items for her internship’s scavenger hunt, but I was a little more ambivalent. While the concept of the event was promising, I was afraid it wouldn’t live up to its’ lofty goals. Nonetheless, my sister convinced me to tag along, promising me that it would be fun or at the least, they would have free food and live music.

There would be no free food or live music as we arrived late. When we arrived, there was no one in the parking lot. This is not a fabrication: there literally was no one on the streets or in the any of the stores we visited. I was right: the event was a huge disappointment turnout wise. In spite of that, I was able to see the art that the event had promised, including three of the then five murals of Martinsville/Henry County.

The first person we actually saw on our tour was the owner of Gallery 22, a glass art studio and antique store that recently opened. No one was in the store at all except the sweet little old lady who owned the place. She gave us a quick tour of her studio in the back of the store. I did most of the talking as I quickly realized that while I may be awkward, my sister is even more awkward. The antique pieces were lovely to look at, but sadly for the old lady, we didn’t purchase anything even though we might have been her only customers for the night.

We ended up walking in a circle two or three times before finding some of the places after over looking them, but it took us less than five minutes to do so. You can hear me in a video saying, “This whole place is smaller than UVA’s campus.”

Other stops on our tour included The Artisan Center, which also served as the Martinsville/Henry County Visitor Center. The Visitor Center has since moved, but once again, the story was the same: There was no one except us in the vicinity, and I did most of the talking.

We visited Uptown Sweets, a new bakery in the city. The girl who was working there knew my sister, but they barely uttered a word to each other.

I promised the owners of a new baby boutique, Sleep, Love, Play that I would take my aunt and uncle and their two kids to their store in the future, but I knew it was a lie, as I was only being polite.

Lastly, we walked through Studio 107, an art studio, and while the artwork was at best mediocre, it gave people hope and a creative outlet.

Martinsville is not the place it once was. Long gone is the tobacco, textile, and furniture industry that gave the place its energy and life. All that remains are remnants of the past like the murals and old buildings uptown. There are murmurs of hope for the future, but right now, it is not enough for the creative young to stay and give back: their motivations lie else where, just like mine.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Liberty Fair Mall Adventures

A couple of months pumps that my mom originally bought for herself for only $7 at the now-closed JCPenney Outlet; they're too big for me, so I have to stick padding in them and the hill is a little shorter than I want, but hey, I have to find a job first before I can buy myself better-fitting ones i.e. hooray for finally owning more formal interview shoes

Saturday...a new cross body bag for my sister at Belk; it's made from recycled plastic bottles and was originally $39.99, but with a sale and $10 reward coupon, she got it for only $10.50; hooray for my sister finally owning a purse that looks like someone her age would actually wear

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Where Are All The Black People At?
I was editing my Facebook profile one day by deleting or “unliking” musicians, television shows, etc. that I didn’t actually like in real life anymore. When I got to my “Movies” section, I wanted to delete Will Smith because I hadn’t seen him in anything recent, but then I realized I had to keep him because if I unliked him, then I would have no black people whatsoever under that section. I immediately ran off the list of movies I had recently seen, and none of them featured black actors. I didn’t want to come off as racist, but it wasn’t my fault (Disclaimer: I’ve watched films with black actors in them thanks to my Racial Borders and American Cinema class, but hardly any outside of the class). Shawshank Redemption was on my list, but that movie was made in 1994. Ultimately, this lead to my question, “WHERE ARE ALL THE BLACK PEOPLE AT?” Black people represent 13% of the U.S. population according to the 2010 census. Thirteen percent seems like a small percentage, but 13% of over 300 million people is a lot. Yet, African Americans and the American public and even the world are still seeing representations of life through the lens of the white majority.

Since that unliking spree, I have watched 12 Years a Slave, a movie with a predominately black cast and director. 12 Years was popular with the black and white moviegoers, winning three Academy Awards, but while it is a good thing that these slave narratives are reaching the masses without the so-called “Blaxploitation” and that slavery is finally portrayed accurately on the silver screen as opposed to films like Birth of a Nation (1915), contemporary black films still have to rely on old themes like plantation narratives in order to be wildly successful [1].  

Tyler Perry has become a star with his Madea films in recent decades, yet his predecessors, including Spike Lee, have criticized his portrayals of the title character, Madea. In movies that follow a modern day black family, Perry plays the elderly Madea in drag. These movies have given blacks much screen time and a creative outlet, but it has been done through comedy and cross-dressing, bringing up remnants of overtly racist caricatures of blacks in the past.

These examples of recent contemporary black films, where blacks and whites do not coexist shows that we haven’t gotten “there,” the post-racial state imagined by some after the election of the first black president. While the likes of Will Smith, Morgan Freeman, and Denzel Washington have been successful, these people are getting older. The YZ generation (think Emma Stone) is absent. The only person I can come up with at the top of my head is Michael B. Jordon, who’s latest film, That Awkward Moment with white costars, Zac Efron and Miles Teller garnered negative reviews.

Jordon plays a doctor in the film, which frankly I’ve never seen portrayed by a young black male before. Well, Sidney Poitier in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner was a doctor, but he was never explicitly shown as one (Jordon’s first appears in the movie in scrubs). Jordon is playing a successful black male, but in large part to the lack of success of the movie, no one has or will see that image. Birth of a Nation, the birth referring to the birth of the Ku Klux Klan nation, was the first time that many Americans saw an African American, thus providing them their first impression of them, illustrating the power of film to provide knowledge and images of supposed normalcy.

Thankfully, the failure of That Awkward Moment did not disrupt Jordon’s movie career as he is set to star as The Human Torch, replacing Chris Evans, a white actor, in the reboot of The Fantastic Four series. Blacks have come a long way in society, but have not done the same in Hollywood, leaving black and other minority audiences without an influence on the big screen or a feeling of inclusiveness. Hopefully, casting decisions like the one in The Fantastic Four will provide a new normalcy for black Americans and other minorities and provide someone on the big screen for younger African Americans to look up to and emulate, so the lens of the movies won’t always be through that of a white person.

[1] Professor Shilpa Davé