“There’s Light” is supposed to explore themes connected to Black male identities, sexuality, masculinity, and mental health. How will it approach these themes?
The themes were really approached from existence first. Because I’m speaking with black males in this book, It’s really a reflection of ourselves. And so, the topics that we were exploring were sexuality, masculinity, mental health and all of these different things within the different interviews were all kind of approaching different aspects of those things. But it really was a reflection of that existence and being, to be like “Yeah, this is who we are, let’s ask questions about ourselves” with the hope and the intention of healing, and collective storytelling. Retelling our story for others to learn from, and for ourselves to learn from.
The book features artwork from contemporary art legends and newer talent, what informed this range of artistry?
I just wanted to show a full scope. because truly, at our core, there isn’t a hierarchy with us as a species. We’ve put these things in place, but they’re really tools to distract us, I believe. They’re tools used in the meritocracy and competition. To make a lot of people feel better about themselves, and a way to divide people. But quite frankly, all of our stories and our expressions, and our questions and our loves and beliefs are all valid. And so, we’ve historically seen how black people have been marginalized all over the world and I think it would really be a shame, if in the collection, we say “oh, people who have been successful in the art world, are the only people whose work are worth being presented in a beautiful way. I’m really grateful to the design team that I collaborated with to be able to present it in a way that honors the work, and as you can see in the book, the work is beautiful across different success levels. I’ve mentioned an artist a couple of times in interviews – Timothy Short, and there’s a trip-tick in the book that he did, and its brilliant work. So just because an artist isn’t gallery-represented yet, doesn’t mean that their work isn’t amazing, and worthy to be seen and admired.
What does being a black man, in the various fields you have found yourself in feel like?
I think, a real answer would kind of go with, I guess the wide view is that I do believe we all have a soul and we’re all connected to something deeper. I think how we appear in this world is beautiful, and its cultural and based on nationality, and ethnicity. And those things are beautiful to relish in, but at the same time, we are who we are, and I think that we’re constantly unfolding and trying to find that within ourselves. So, I say that to say that being a black man, one of the things about this book is – maybe what are the things that we’ve told ourselves about being black, and not only a black man, but just black in general, and what that looks like across the world, and how that informs who we are, as far as inherited story, lineage, history, and what that means in the current moment, and going into the future and seeing things that our parents have gone through, and seeing how we relate to the world. So, I say that to say that I’ve always been black, and I’m proud to be black and I explore things that are specific to the black experience in my work. Things that I’ve experienced specifically because I’m black, or the history that’s in my DNA, and other people’s DNA. But, I also thought it was interesting with this book to think about how that reflects in different parts of the world as well. But for me, it kind of goes back to that “existence”. I think of how we express ourselves, because we’re not monolithic. So, there are infinite faces of our identity. So, yeah, I really just wanted to be as honest as possible with myself and my experience in my work and begin to examine for other people. Because I found that in the artists I appreciated – artists who were expressing themselves uniquely. I remember even being a kid, and seeing Lenny Kravitz, and thinking “that was different, I could do that”. Even just being presented with the question of who you are when you begin to peel back, and how you’d want to express that. That’s what I’m trying to do in my work, and that’s a great place to start.
‘There’s Light’ is the first book in a planned trilogy to include a co-authored book by a female author. Can you tell us more about this choice of direction?
I was talking to my good friend, Marco Pavé, who is actually interviewed in the book. He’s a hip-hop artist in residence at Georgetown, he’s an activist as well. We were discussing that at Georgetown University, where the theme in the African-American studies course this year was “Black Feminism”, and he said to me “It would be interesting if you came to the school and we had a panel discussion about this book”. And he was talking with his wife, who is also a teacher at Georgetown, and the fact that black masculinity, when we’re beginning to think about it, or ask questions about it, examine it, we find that it is hand in hand with black feminism, and the two exist together because they support each other, and we think about how we’re moving together as a unified people, and what roles they historically play. Then we can go back and think about certain stereotypes or tropes between the masculine and feminine as it relates to being in a household, or who brings in the money. But we’re seeing these things change, and we’re seeing how we relate and respond to each other, and how we find love, and how we understand each other. And also, breaking down the fears that both genders may have as we approach each other, and how we can begin to let go of those fears and be vulnerable in a healthy way with each other, and begin a unity. I really want to open that conversation and think about not only male and female, but people who identify as non-binary. I want to bring together all of our existence, and think about what that means in day-to-day life, and how our roles play out as a symphony, and are there inherent things for male or female. And I believe that we used to always believe that, but I’m interested in different hearing people’s opinions about it, and moving forward into a place of listening, rather than always presenting an idea and t hats why I think this is important. It’s about listening, it’s about trying to understand and seeing where we meet and hearing people’s stories, and how we got to the places that we are. So, doing that in a space where we are all in the conversation I think is a necessary step. And in the first one, I did want to look specifically at masculinity, but with this book, I’m really interested in expanding that conversation.