Distracted - 100 Years of Afro-American History

It usually takes about four starts to get this first sentence right, and we are on number three, so I guess that we are off to a good start.  

100 Years of Afro-American History: Jerome Johnson 2017

100 Years of Afro-American History: Jerome Johnson 2017

 

The ability to hate blindly without knowledge of background or history can be one of the most dangerous forces on our planet.  It stifles, burns, and takes the very fabric of humanity and what is good in the world and puts in a dark place.  I hate racism, but I do not hate the racist.  I do not understand its purpose, and I do not understand the mind of the ignorant fool.  I learned that the best way to fight ignorance is with intelligence and the tools and talents you are blessed with.  Combine those and sprinkle in a little bit of wisdom, and you have yourself an unstoppable force.

Jeff

Jeff

It is funny how God will direct your path in the midst of your distractions, and allow you the opportunity to see a light in spite of the negative things that surround you.  I was distracted yesterday and I was redirected, and I am extremely thankful for that.  My photography goal for yesterday was planned a few days ago, which included a sunrise photo from Ladybird Johnson Park, and a meaningful photo for this blog that would have had something to do with the state of our country and racism.  So that's just what I did yesterday.  I started out at about five in the morning, headed to DC, picked a pretty good spot right across the Potomac and took the photo that you see below.

Are those flowers dying? - Title: Monumental Sadness With Epic Clouds

Are those flowers dying? - Title: Monumental Sadness With Epic Clouds

This is where my distracted day began - With this freaking picture!  I took this photograph and went home to edit it and my wife was like, "are those flowers dying?"  I truthfully did not notice that when I took the photo, but after really looking at the photo those flowers look like sadness.  The first photo on my photography plan turned out to be an epic fail, along with the other four that ended up being out of focus due to the combination of a long exposure and wind.  I am truly sorry that I had to expose you to what we can title "Monumental Sadness With Epic Clouds".

Shameless plug...

Shameless plug...

If you have been keeping up with my blogs, you know that it is now time for you to scroll back to the top to remind yourself as to what we are actually talking about here.  Our subject for today boys and girls is "Distraction", and how it can overshadow the true ability to bring change when it can seem impossible to do so.  My second photo yesterday was going to be the subject of a planned blog entry, and I ended up discovering something far more spectacular and inspiring.  

Mr. Jerome Johnson

Mr. Jerome Johnson

Located right on Nannie Hellen Burroughs Avenue in Northeast, DC is the Deanwood Mural.  The original mural was created in 1991 by artist Rik Freeman and was sponsored by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities.  Mr. Jerome Johnson is the talented artists in charge of the revamping of the original work, which is scheduled to be completed on Tuesday, August 22, 2017.  The mural displays 100 years of Afro-American history and includes; The Honorable Adam Clayton Powell, Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, Jessie Owens, Angela Davis, James Vanderzee, John Carlos, Tommie Smith, Nannie Helen Burroughs, Jimi Hendrix, Marcus Garvey, Dizzy Gillespie, Mrs. Minnie Hines Powell & Grandsons (Deanwood).  I remember seeing this as a child.  Looking back, it was one of my very first experiences with art created by an African American artist.  It is an amazing feeling when you are able to fully appreciate things that you took for granted as a child.  It is also amazing to find yourself in a position to be able to memorialize the history of your cultures positive achievements, and to inspire others to do the same.  I actually met Mr. Johnson for the first time about a month ago, which was just as he started to work on the mural and I planned on writing about it, but could not find the words (I guess everything happens for a reason).

100 Years of Afro-American History

100 Years of Afro-American History

I met three amazing artists yesterday, a few kids on bikes, John R. Thompson Senior, and a random guy on a motor scooter that really did not want me to take his photo (cuz was legit mad, made me delete the photo from my camera, and asked if I was the police).  Mr. Johnson, and Jeff were at the far left end of the mural working on the lettering, and Candice was on the far right end, and was deep in her headphones when I started to take pictures of her, but she was cool about it and kept on painting.  I try to do a little research on my subjects when I am writing, and I discovered how much of a talented artist she truly is and I think that you should definitely check her out.

In her zone

In her zone

She had to stop eating her Chinese food to take this photo, but she was cool about it.

She had to stop eating her Chinese food to take this photo, but she was cool about it.

Jeff was cool as a fan, and we spoke about putting focus East of the River which is a part of DC that often gets neglected.  I asked him for a portrait and he was like "its going to be weird," then I was like "nah man its cool" and I did what I always do to break the ice...  I asked him "do you like fried chicken" and this was the face he made.

You can never go wrong with the fried chicken face.

You can never go wrong with the fried chicken face.

 

The purpose of this blog is to share with you the world through the lens of my camera, and the writing of my words.  The things that I share with you come from my own heart, and I feel blessed to be able to share these things with you.  My photos and words may upset you, cause you to be happy, and they may cause you to be sad.  They might take you back to a moment in your life that you did not think that you remembered, and may even allow you to be inspired by the lessons that I learn in my photographic journey.  Yesterday I learned that the world can be a sick and twisted place, and that you can either allow yourself to be distracted by the sickness and do nothing, or you can use your gifts to rise above hatred and ignorance to be that agent of change that the world needs.  I never made it to that second photo, and I do not think that it would have served any purpose if I did make it.  This blog entry would have been dark, angry, and pointless if I didn't make that right into that Wendy's parking lot.  It would have contributed to the negative while attempting to invoke a positive response, which on its face really doesn't make any sense and feeds right into the fabric of being non-progressive.  Me allowing myself to be distracted would have prevented my ability to share this with you.

I had the opportunity to meet some amazing artists, and they are a reflection of that light that flickers ever so subtly, but provides a world of hope for all that are exposed.  The beauty of art has long been a powerful tool that will always stand the test of time.  I grew up in Deanwood and I love what the Deanwood Mural stands for.  One hundred years of progressive history is a true definition of how you can overcome any obstacle using the gifts of education, wisdom, hard work, and expression.  The original version of this mural stood for twenty six years and I can remember that it ended with - 2000?  A lot has happened between then and now, and we still have so much more to accomplish.  I pray that we are able to be such a driving force today, that we inspire someone to once again paint the Deanwood Mural in the year 2043.

 

Deanwood14.jpg
Bussin' Wheelies on Nannie Helen

Bussin' Wheelies on Nannie Helen

John R. Thompson Sr. (Deacon In Training)

John R. Thompson Sr. (Deacon In Training)

Deanwood16.jpg

 

I thank you so much for taking the time to read this, and I would encourage you to share this with anyone that you feel will be inspired by the photos and words that I have shared with you.

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Artist: Jerome Johnson - Email: jeromejohnsonartist@gmail.com

Sponsored by: DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities

 

Artistic/Autistic

I pray that my combination of words and pictures reach you in more ways than I can ever imagine.  The purpose of this blog is to share with you the things that I see and feel, and maybe out of the two of those you are able to take away something that you may not have had before.  It has been a while since the last time I have shared anything with you, and I think that it is better that way.  I only write when I really feel that I can be most effective, and this particular entry deserves that title.

Artistic

Artistic

This story begins on a Friday night trip to the UniverSoul Circus, which by the way is amazing and I would highly recommend going if you get the chance.  Amusements such as the circus, which you and I can easily take for granted posses a huge challenge for people on the autism spectrum.  I cannot imagine experiencing such a thing as sensory overload, but my son knows all too well what that feels like.  He is far too young to explain it to me himself, but I see it and there is nothing that I can do about it, and that is what hurts the most.  

 

By the way...  He did not spell "below" incorrectly.  This is supposed to be "bellow" (look it up)

By the way...  He did not spell "below" incorrectly.  This is supposed to be "bellow" (look it up)

One of the challenges of having a child on the autism spectrum while having two other children is the practice of inclusion.  There is nothing that determines as to whether or not a new adventure will be accepted or rejected, but that question cannot be answered until you are on that bridge.  I mentioned the UniverSoul Circus earlier, and that was one of those challenges.  We believe in giving him the opportunity, and if he likes it then we are good, and if he does not then we have a backup plan.  Well this time he wasn't having it and the circus was not the move for the night.  So after waiting for a little while, I took him to my mother-in-laws and he had a peaceful evening while we were at the circus.

As a parent you really want the best for your child, but we do not always know what is best.  While to me he may be missing out on an opportunity to see the circus, he would much rather spend the time in a quiet place away from noise and commotion, and that is not easy to understand.  I cried all the way to her house because I want my son to enjoy things, and I feel that he may miss out on amazing opportunities, but I now know that feeling that way is partly because of my own selfishness.

Courage

Courage

Now that we've gotten all of that out of the way, let us move to the positive part of the story.  I know that you all have been wondering (or maybe not), what the heck these letters have to do with the circus, and to tell you honestly, they have nothing to do with it.  This story is about how God can take your doubts and show you the blessings that should take their place.

It is so easy to allow the negative to overshadow the positive, even when the negative is not really negative.  Autism is not a negative thing, but it is very easy to place a unique way of thinking into a category associated with a disability.  While my son may be what many would consider socially awkward, he is quite a genius and while I am biased in a way, it is still very true.  Embracing the awesome and amazing gives hope and encourages growth, and as parents we have to be an example of what that means.

 

Celebrate

Celebrate

It all started with the word Artistic...

We have a playroom in our house and it is filled with all sorts of fun things.  One of those fun things are big and small foam letters.  Letters are my sons thing and that is what he uses to escape whenever he feels that he needs to do so.  We have learned to embrace and encourage that, which has manifested into something that I feel is quite amazing.  My son started reading and spelling at around 3 years old, and although he will be entering kindergarten this coming year he now reads on a second grade level.  It is so fascinating when your children exceed your expectations, and even more fascinating when those experiences come at the right time.  

Let's take a trip back to the first photo in this story (I will give you a moment to go and come back).  It started out with him beginning to spell the word "Artisic", which at first glance appeared to be "Autistic".  I asked him what he was spelling, and what he said sounded like "Autistic", but ended up actually being "Artistic".  From that point he ended up spelling other words on his own and he was on a roll.  One after the other he started to spell out different words, and these were not your average everyday words.  

I will let you take a look for yourself...

Contraption

Cooperate

Journey

 

Thank you so much for taking the time to read what I had to say, and I would hope that you leave from here with a little more than you came with.  I would encourage you to share this if you would like, and maybe someone can be blessed by what is written here.  

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"More Than a Picture"

The first sentence is always the most difficult to start, because it truly does set the tone for the story.  I am never good at starting the story, but you have to start somewhere and I decided to start here.  So I am writing this in my dining room while my children are having their bedtime snack, and my house is very loud, but it keeps me motivated.  My experience previewing the upcoming exhibit today at the National Museum of African American History and Culture was motivating, humbling, and amazing and I only wish that you take the opportunity to experience it when it opens on May 5th.  

 

The "More Than a Picture" exhibit is an amazing collection of photographs taken by some of the most amazing African-American photographers and today I had the pleasure to see an early preview of the exhibit before it opens to the public.  My goal today is not to share with you a bunch of photos of photos, because that would be boring but what I would like to do is share with you a few things that will maybe inspire you to experience it for yourself.  

Robert Whitman captured this photo of a young artist named Prince in 1977 which was a year before the release of his first album outside of Schmitt's music store in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

With all things, there are things that truly stand out amongst others, and that is the person behind that lens.  I love the spirit of a truly gifted photographer, because the way that they see the world resonates through their personality and that is a very admirable trait.  Today I had the opportunity to meet Sharon Farmer, who was the first African-American woman to be hired as a White House Photographer, and the first female to be director of the White House Photography office.  You would not believe her spirit, her energy, and her humility.  There are so many egos in the world of photography in todays age and that positive spirit is always very refreshing.  

I want to leave you with a quote that Ms. Farmer gave us and also a couple of minutes of her speaking to a group of us today.  Please take the time to view the video in it's entirety and share if you wish.  

"The thing about humanity is being a human" - Sharon Farmer

Sharon Farmer

More Than a Picture