MUSINGS BY V. MITCH MCEWEN
This text is broadcast to you from my home office in Harlem. I happen to be viewing the African-American Day Parade out of my window on Adam Clayton Powell Blvd, watching and hearing the marching band drums, house music, and snippets of Beyoncé and Biggie. When I look outside, there are dancers in gold sequins and boys marching with bronze cymbals, folks waving the red, black and green flag. A sanitation truck parades by, clad from top to bottom in large rectangular mirrors bolted onto its metal body.
We are a people of sequins and drums. I feel it, I see it. I wish my 4-year-old son were with me this weekend to see this parade. But I also would not know how to explain to him the Corrections van flashing its emergency lights, as if this could make our incarceration part of the festivities. I love us so much it makes me cry sometimes.
The works of the debut DuVernay collection are African-American artworks. They are of New Orleans, sewn in the Indian tradition, crafted by a steward of the Creole cultures. This beading is made with dancing and music and a lifestyle. All this is Black, all this is African-American in a way that still slips through our fingers when we try to hold it still. There is no natural history of this sewing and dancing, no organizational chart for this work.
And it is work. Collecting this work does not mean holding it still, but funding its movement. The land of New Orleans invites work, but primarily the work of the sugar, plastic and petroleum industries that embedded themselves in the former plantations. The land along the Mississippi River still calls forth that sweetly cancerous work and tourism (that other sweet extraction). To acquire part of the DuVernay Collection, to fund the movement of these beads, initiates a call and response of sorts, a drum line, a long distance second-line, from one neighborhood over or a continent away.
Be ready to move and be moved. This is why we insist on shining, I think. Because you only really see the light in motion.