5 Creatives And Their Experiences Of Racial Injustice
Xandrea Avonné from Avonné Photography
Dear Wedding Industry,
Topics like these are never easy to talk about and never easy to imagine, but very true and real to this life and this industry. For years we as an African American community, has had to fight for our place and relevance in this world and in this industry. Our skin is something we all as people are born with. As much as we tan it, tattoo it, or bleach it, our skin is embedded in our DNA and is a part of the makeup of humanity. We can’t take it off to fit the comforts of someone else nor can we change it, and we shouldn’t. Any of us.
This industry is in a mind-controlled state into thinking that a wedding only looks one way. On a mountain with a boho vibe with a slender blonde and a slender dark haired caucasian man. Don’t believe me? Just go to your Pinterest home page or a typical google search and just type “wedding” and see what you get. Its baffling to think that out of all the millions of beautiful hues roaming the earth, something that is so common that ALL humanity partakes in is shown in the narrowest of ways. Why? “Because anything other than standard is weird”, says the world.
Me personally as a Black woman in this industry, I have experienced so many horrid things, that it would make the average person throw up. Trust me, the list is endless.The most common being potential clients not thinking I was trustworthy enough to photograph their special day because they saw my simply profile picture and thought, she would make my guests uncomfortable, I couldn’t possibly know how to photograph their white wedding because they think I’ve only been around Black people, would she steal my rings?, Is she even a legitimate business?or I just don’t feel comfortable paying $x,xxx to a person who’s people are known for stealing. Stereotypes… judgements…jumping to conclusions; all before I could even open my mouth and say hi. Being Black in this industry has so many components that the masses don’t see because the masses just simply wouldn’t understand. But thats the exact problem this industry lacks, empathy.
This industry has to come to terms that empathy and inclusion among all races is a major issue. Middle Eastern people, Hispanic people, Black people, Asian people and so many more do not have accurate representation. You actually have to type “African American”, “Hindu”, or “for Asian people” before the word wedding or engagements to show our unions.
Doing styled shoots with people who are of all different races can create something amazing. If you have a White couple, use Black vendors or Asian vendors, and the like and vice versa. Most of the time, those vendors will agree to collaborate with you because they have been dying to book Black couples, or Asian couples or whatever for the longest time and you just granted them an opportunity. People will not want to hire someone if they are not represented in your portfolio, just like if you wouldn’t go to a hair stylist for a balayage if they only show Black women with natural hair on their feeds.
In your daily life, STOP. HEAR. LISTEN. All we want is love, acceptance, and normalcy on a day to day basis because we are ALL human. We do not want attention or handouts, or sudden fame which is what the world is making it seem. We have been screaming from the rooftops for 400+ years only to be laughed at and told you’re overreacting. I encourage people to love your neighbor as yourself, which means, love a personbecause they are a person, just as you love your own self. Include them in your space so that we can all learn from others and grow as mankind. Look inside your self, your hearts, and your feeds. Fix your homes, diversify your lives, and just watch how this world will change.. forever, because without love, there is no life.
I remember not claiming to be Black growing up. I would say, “I’m not Black, I’m Trinidadian.” As if they couldn’t be one and the same.
Looking back, there was a subconscious self-hate that filled my childhood. I would see Black Americans and somehow disassociate myself with them, even though I was being raised among them.
Only as a young adult, did I realize that they are me and I am them. We are all part of the diaspora. When people see me, I am Black, FIRST, and in my child’s mind back then, I didn’t get that.
I was Black then.
I am Black now.
And I will forever be Black…And PROUD.
With the current state of affairs around the world and, with great attention to, the United States, I find myself in a state of internal conflict, because in December of 2019 we made the decision to move out of the United States and back to the country of my birth, Trinidad.
We. Got. Out.
We made it out.
We made it to a place where WE can feel free.
But I cannot just leave and pretend like the uprising in the States doesn’t affect me. Because it does. I remember when we made the decision to move to Trinidad last year. While some were supportive, countless others questioned “Why?”.“You know the crime in Trinidad is really bad now.”; “Think of your family. Think of your kids.”
These are things we heard from FAMILY.
Our response was always the same. “Everywhere has crime. At least in Trinidad, you don’t have to worry about being killed by those who are supposed to protect you, simply because you’re Black.”
“The crime in Trinidad is not actually ‘worse’ than it is the States. It only seems so because of the news stations here focus on the crime HERE. Turn on any news station in the U.S. and you will find the same kind of narrative.”
“We ARE thinking of our family and our children. That is precisely why we know that they cannot grow up in America.”
We. Got. Out.
Like the slaves who fled the tyranny of the South to the perceived freedom of the North during The Great Migration. But, for me, I can’t just not look back. I have family and friends still there living under the veil of systemic oppression. I see what is happening and I am glad that we were able to leave when we did, but I almost feel like I deserted those who we’ve left behind.I wonder if that is how our ancestors who escaped felt.
Like Fannie Lou Hamer said, “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”
I have watched footage from protests happening across the country. Witnessing countless acts of police brutality reminiscent of the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s. Seeing that overwhelmed me in ways that are hard to articulate.
I felt hope, and fear, and anger, and rage, and sadness, and helplessness, and pride, and back to hope again.
I hope that FINALLY, this might mean change. ACTUAL change, not just empty promises and false hopes to appease the masses for things to go back to “normal”.
The world is watching as the people in the United States fight back against racism and the violence against Black bodies. And it’s leading the charge for other nations to finally stand up as well. It’s a painfully beautiful thing that is happening. I only wished that it happened sooner.
April Lawrence from Q & A Photography
I’m an inspired African American photographer of the past 3 1/2 years. I am a mother of three beautiful children and military spouse of 14 years.
I have traveled all over the world. Through my experiences and creativity, I captured an immense variety of photos to showcase the world’s beauty. I initially became a photographer because I wanted to document stillbirths. That is still a definite goal, but my creativity led me experimenting with different types of photography to become more well-rounded.
At first, I didn’t display a self-photo on my photography page because I wanted my work to speak for itself. I was also afraid that people would oppose working with me because of my skin color. I shouldn’t feel that way, but I’ve experienced racism and discrimination first-hand. I feel that many amazing African American photographers are often overlooked, including me. I do believe great change is coming, which is equality for everyone.
Living as a Black person is not easy. It’s also equally or more challenging as a Black business owner. No one will ever understand until you live it first-hand. This is one of the many reasons I am motivated to grow as a photographer and continue my onward journey. I am resilient and won’t give up. I will never stop doing what’s ethically and morally right. Bad experiences shaped me into the confident and talented photographer I am today. I want to be remembered as part of the inequality solution, not the problem. I want to inspire others to be great. Over the past 3 years, I’ve created so many memories for others. Every image has a story.
Now, it’s time for everyone to collectively stand up and listen to African American’s stories because we’ve been silenced for far too long. In the photography community, I hope for increased diversity and equal opportunity. Those are one of the many changes I would love to see.
Tash Jones from Love Luella Photography
I know it’s uncomfortable.
I know it’s overwhelming.
I know it’s sad and simultaneously scary to be faced with so much negativity and distressing accounts, it will probably seem like a floodgate all at once. (Trust me that it’s been here the whole time)
I know it’s easier to look away.
I know it’s easier to take a social media break.
I know it’s easier to go back into the bubble – but please don’t.
This has been life for myself and all of us for centuries and we can’t turn away. We cannot shield from it, we cannot make it stop or be temporarily rid of the feelings. We cannot switch off the fear. I know for many Covid-19 is the focus, but we can’t pause because of the pandemic, the systematic racism, and public lynching never pauses.
For those of you actively working against inequality, pace yourself, look after your mental and physical well-being because, for real, solid changes to happen we need you and your support for the rest of your days.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
As for the wedding industry, I hope that they take note. With a platform comes responsibility.
Lead by example and commit to doing better for more than this week, more than this month, more than this year.
I hope that Black and Ethnic minorities are featured and celebrated equally for their culture and not just when they have a designer dress or boho aesthetic…
I spoke to a fellow UK Black photographer today and he said, “we are like unicorns” – I had to agree because I can count on one hand the Black photographers I know.
I’ve had an influx of support from wedding industry piers and suppliers alike, it’s amazing and I’m grateful, but please celebrate us because we are good people, good suppliers and good human beings – not just because we are a trending topic.
To the photographers and wedding industry suppliers who have reached out to me and others in this challenging time, thank you. I appreciate you.
Black Lives Matter.
Gracielle Mason from With Love, Gracielle
I’ve been blessed to have this strong Black man beside me for almost 16 years now. I would like to say that his struggles are my struggles, that I understand what he goes through on a daily basis. But the truth is, I don’t and I never will.
It’s hard enough being a Black man in America, but he’s from a small town in south Georgia. The kind of town where they will cheer for Black kids that play football and win their games, play rap and R&B music loudly, but don’t want their daughters dating a Black boy. I grew up with white privilege. I grew up in racism. And still I can’t fully understand what he went and continues goes through because of the color of his skin. He has/does experience racism in many ways. So I’d like to take a minute and introduce you to the man I love.
Korre is incredibly intelligent. He is well-spoken. He has two degrees. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Information Technology from Georgia Southern University that he earned while being a dad and working full time. Korre is an IT manager that works hard to provide for us. He loves basketball and football. He’s actually really good at playing both. He is a man of few words until you get to know him. His thoughts are deep and meaningful. I have learned so much patience from him. He has the ability to look at a situation from multiple points of view without bias.
He is calm. He is caring. He is loving. He is selfless. His kids miss him every minute he is away from them because their bond is that strong. He is an amazing father and husband. Korre could eat pizza and Zaxby’s every day, although most days he’s too busy to eat and only eats one meal per day. He is supportive and patient. He takes pride in his appearance. He irons his jeans! (Crazy right?) Many people will tell you if you’ve ever had a conversation with him, he’s just different.
But guess what?
None of this would matter if he was wearing a hoodie at the wrong place at the wrong time because of his skin color.
Enough is enough.
When I look at my husband and son, I instantly cry. How can someone not love them? How can someone take one look at them and have hate in their hearts?
They will not hurt you.
They are not a threat.
They should be able to run without fear.
Please do not get scared and call the cops on them.
They have every basic human right you do.
We have to do better. All lives can’t matter until Black Lives Matter.
Organizations & Petitions
Black Lives Matter
Black Visions Collective
George Floyd Fund
Justice For Breonna
Minnesota Freedom Fund
National Bail Out
Reclaim The Block
Run With Maud
The Innocent Project