Plans to Prosper You: Reflections of Black Resistance and Resilience in Montgomery County’s Potomac River Valley

American University Art Museum, Washington, D.C.

June 15-August 11, 2019

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“The exhibition title takes its name from bible verse Jeremiah 29:11 to echo the central role of the Black church in bringing communities together, inspiring hope, and acting as a vector for social change. The goal of this exhibition is to offer a space of learning and meditation that highlights the Black history of Montgomery County and western Washington, DC and pay homage to the communities who championed fights against racial discrimination through faith, family, and fellowship.”  Excerpt from the American University web site

Plans to Prosper You includes two of my 2009 photo-collages on the Tenleytown, Washington, D.C. neighborhood and two new pieces commissioned specifically for this exhibition. I started to create photo-collages in 2009 examining the cultural history of my Tenleytown neighborhood. My work often uncovers a history of racial displacement due to government actions and market forces. Focusing on specific sites, I document how their use transforms over time reflecting changing societal values towards race, ethnicity, and gender. I blend archival and contemporary photographs, along with historical newspapers, maps, advertisements, ephemera, and text into one final image for each site. 

The 2009 pieces on Fort Reno document government action taken to make Tenleytown a white area through land acquisition for a park and public schools. My commissioned work explores two sites in the River Road Macedonia-Moses area of Bethesda, Maryland. In 5202 River Road, Bethesda, Maryland  I examine the various uses of land from tobacco cultivation using enslaved labor, to a “colored” elementary school, to an 809-foot television antenna now used as a cell phone tower. Moses Cemetery documents the establishment and destruction of an African American cemetery. The graves are first buried under landfill taken from a nearby site to create level ground for a shopping center and then become a parking lot for a luxury high-rise. 

A unifying thread in all my photography is an exploration of time and change. The passing of time is something we experience in our daily lives. We watch cities, suburbs, and rural areas evolve and change as a result of shifting societal values, desires, government actions, and economic market forces. Blending images of various opacities gives the sense that the past and present coexist. As James Baldwin said, “The great source of history comes from the fact we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it … History is literally present in all we do.”

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