Did you ever meet someone you clicked with right before moving on to another dimension in life?
This is what happened to me before I graduated Fordham. I met wonderful artist and professors at the other campus- Lincoln Center. I met my mentor, who still mentors me and Joe who never fails to invite me to the dark room.
I also met a lot of my ancestors and professional artist through them.
Somehow, I’ve stayed in contact with them and them with me.
Back in October of last year, Casey texted me to check out Roy DeCarava at Zwirner and I told her I’ll go.
I arrived the last day and it was packed. I ran into Terrance and met some of his buddies. I was told Mrs. DeCarava was there- which it was a honor to meet her and while standing in line, I was excited to see my Professor, Joe.
Somehow I learned about photographer, Roy DeCarava, a month before he died. It was really awkward. I was in the computer lab looking for someone to write about and his story stood out to me. I remember typing his name into google to see if he was still alive and he had just died a month before, that October. Well, he’s another legend I can’t meet I remember thinking. Just like Gordon Parks.
DeCarava was born in 1919, in New York where he lived and started his career. He came from a single parent home. His mother migrated from Jamaica and placed her son into the programs in the neighborhood. He was a first black in some areas, like the first to integrate the New York City Textile High School and the first to win the Guggenheim Fellowship.
Gordon Parks was and still is my favorite photographer but what I enjoyed when reading about DeCarava was how real and close to home his struggle was. Firstly, he grew up in New York and experienced segregation. New York isn’t in the south! However, he was the first to integrate his high school! His story speaks to the real New York and how it is- even now!
Secondly, in the late 1940’s, his subject was Harlem. And, he showed Harlem as he saw it. His work is raw and gritty. As he said, ‘[I aimed for] a creative expression, the kind of penetration insight and understanding of Negroes which I believe only a Negro photographer can interpret.” Looking at his images, you are drawn into a world of segregated Harlem, where only Blacks dwelt. A Harlem where children are happy despite poverty and adults are struggling to create a better life.
His photo titled ‘Graduation’ shows a young girl in a white dress surrounded by rubbish. It shows the fluidness of the life his subjects were living; the ability to switch into wanting to live the American dream and at the same time seeing the reality of living as a black person in America.
Needless to say, I was very grateful that day to run into his wife, Sherry Turner DeCarava. I may not have met Roy DeCarava but it was a blessing to meet someone who worked along side of him. And it just so happens that not only did I meet his wife but I learned that my professor, Joe, also worked with Mr. DeCarava.
This mural of Dizzy Gillespie is in Harlem at 229 W 135th Street
I met Bob at the Schomburg in Harlem. He was photographing for an event. I was looking for the restroom. The second time I passed him, he said to me, “You look just like your mom”.
Really? And who is my mom?
What you mean, who is your mom?
You know my mom?
Yes, doesn’t she lead the student organization over at the-
I didn’t want to tell him my mom was indeed in heaven. He looked at me blankly.
Aren’t you from Eritrea?
No. I get that all the time. But I’m not.
You’re not the high school student whose mom leads the organization for high school students?
No, as a matter of fact, I’ve been out of high school for over 15 years.
Wow! You look just like her daughter!
He couldn’t stop looking at me. I thought the entire situation was kinda funny. When I told my friend, Kieara what happened, she responded, sometimes, when you have moments like that, it’s just to remind you about your mom and how often she would think of you.
Which I would love to always remember. I told her about the time the little boy in preschool, whom I never saw before, said to me.
Wow! You look just like your mom!
Really, little boy?
And where is my mom?
You look just like her!
He never told me where my mom was. He just kept telling me I looked like her.