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Do black men get more recognition in the media than black women?
Is there a misconstrued perception of the identities of black women in the media?
Is it only “American” black women that get recognized and celebrated?
These are some of the questions that “Black Women Intersections”, a Carleton University led photography project aimed to pose, if not answer.
“Black Women Intersections was birthed around Black history month in 2015 when public discourse in the media centered mostly on the achievements of accomplished black men in America. Not a lot of praise focused on black women, and if some existed, they only centered around American women”, stated Debbie Owusu, lead program coordinator of the Womyn’s centre at Carleton University.
Owusu is a first generation Ghanian-Canadian female; a living intersection of black and female, so topics around racism and feminism play a vital role in almost every decision she’s made so far as program coordinator. Thus, when the opportunity arose to change public discourse (at least on Carleton University campus) centering on the identities of women in the African diaspora, she jumped at it, along with her talented colleagues and friends who are photographers.
“You don’t have to be an accomplished black person in America to be recognized for black history month or any month at all. History and education are key, and we need to begin to become inclusive not exclusive of black people, black females and communities that exist outside of America”, states Owusu.
For this project, she alongside talented photographers captured 50 black females of varying identities and differing ethnic background, and exhibited these images around the University campus for all and everyone to see.
The message surpassed the aesthetic as it showcased and explored the different identities of black women not often depicted in the media. The photo exhibition went on for a week and garnered the attention of students and professors, and Owusu and her colleagues knew in that moment that they had communicated their message.
In an article titled, “Why I’m a Black Man Against Black History Month” by Sincere Kirabo of The Humanist, he expresses the shift and lack of knowledge that exists on the true significance behind black history month. He explains this month in his article as a time to focus on education and integration of the history of black people in schools and in the media.
A period led by historian and author, Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of African American Life & History (ASALH) in the 20s, Black History Month aimed to re-evaluate and instate history books on black history in schools and to combat white supremacist history and criticize the way schools indoctrinate students with white-oriented, anti-black education.
However due in part to the current perceived progression in the West and of course the big bad brother, time, people have now become negligent of the task indoctrinated by Woodsen and the members of ASALH earlier on in the 20s. It is because of this negligence that the public need to be made aware of the distorted identities of black people in the media and sometimes hero worship of the same public figures year after year. As a result, females that have accomplished tremendous amounts of feat, as well as the legacy of groups and movements that exist outside of America often end up being ignored.
So the unadulterated and unapologetic message behind Black Women Intersections is about educating people and promoting knowledge of differing identities and accomplishments of black women not only in America but outside of it.
Here are some photos from the Exhibit: “Black Women Intersections”.