I recently had the honor and pleasure of visiting the James E. Lewis Museum of Art in Baltimore, MD. The museum is located on Morgan State University’s campus. I actually went down to share some knowledge via a poetic performance with an organization called My Brother, My Sister, and was offered a tour of the campus. It is absolutely amazing what Morgan is developing into, and I enjoyed being in the atmosphere of aspiring scholars. It had been a while since I last stepped foot on a HBCU campus. Talk about exciting! I myself, studied at Fisk University and the art museum there had been going through some hard times due to a very expensive collection of wonderful art that has been there for years. The school was facing financial difficulty and wanted to use the art to sort of “save” the campus. Having been a connoisseur of the fine collection after writing a paper or two about it, I personally did not want to see the collection go. Seeing Morgan’s museum gave me hope!
It is everything an art museum on a HBCU campus should be! It had a warm energy that penetrated my soul. There was color everywhere! Not the pastels of a normal art museums, but the deep earthy tones of Afrikan, Asian, & Latin American cultures. My radar immediately zoomed in on the ceremonial masks, the fertility statues, the mud cloths, the cubism paintings reminiscent of Jacob Lawrence who was inspired by the Harlem Renaissance- it was all so breath-taking. I enjoyed the recognition of Afrikan cultures the most as it spoke more to who and what I am. Where I live, there is no African American Museum of Art so when I am in a city that has one, I go for it!
I enjoy that a lot of African American artists are still painting from within. In a world where mixed-medium art is the trend, I find it quite refreshing to see painting and the mixing of colors and stroking of brushes. Art is in layers, just like the heart. Paint from the heart and not for money.
The museum features both established and emerging artists so that says something for itself! You don’t have to die to get your art in a museum. I enjoyed that it was multicultural and found it important to include art from around the world because students should have a taste of many cultures. This can create a more well-rounded person with a more stable identity, something that African American students are in great need [of].
Speaking of identity.
As this pertains to your African Essence, it’s all about choosing your identity. Identity comes from within. Seeing this art exhibit spoke to something inside of me. The colors reminded me of something I had seen in a past life. I seek culture. I cannot live without knowing Afrika. I know that I descend from this continent and honestly it hurts sometimes to know you are from a place where you don’t even have real access to. Forever stolen, I try to cope. Without knowledge and acknowledgement of where you are from, your spirit will be constantly torn and confused and you will constantly self-hate. I heard an African American say the other day “I can’t stand Black people.” Sadly this is not the first time I heard this. Every time I hear it, I am in awe. I ask, how can you make a blanket comment like that and claim to love yourself? I know there are a lot of mistakes being made by the African American community, with the whole buying into the media and ignoring our own identities, selling material and verbal bulls*#@ to our youth, etc., but this is not reason to hate. Especially going around saying this in front of whomever! That’s nonsense.
Let’s live with the mindset, “if you are not part of the solution, than you are part of the problem.” People who hate like this are obviously part of the problem. It’s like those African and African American people who aren’t attracted to their own race, who actually say this out loud. No one says that you cannot cross cultures when dating but to say that you aren’t attracted to someone who looks like you is worthy of much shame. When one makes uncalculated comments like this, there is reason to believe that that person is having an identity crisis. Self-hate is so prevalent in our culture.
The museum on Morgan States campus is definitely something to visit. In addition to having a great art museum, they also have a great new library. It is what we call “state of the art.” It is still in its new phases, still in the process of acquiring a real collection, but I am sure it will get there. After seeing all this, getting a $30 ticket for parking on the street in front of the campus didn’t feel so bad!
Peace & Love,
Queen Duafe for African Essence