race, sexuality and gender are popular themes in media of
the 90s, I have come to realize that I can no longer accept
the lack of and the misrepresentation of black lesbians in
films and videos. I am tired of seeing images in which black
lesbians play victims or macho bull daggers who persuade women
to "experiment" with their sexuality. These stereotypes
are dangerous and further marginalize an identity which celebrates
the life I choose to live. I am dedicated to building a visual
culture about black lesbian life which focuses on our creativity,
our culture and our concerns about a world where we are forgotten.
many years for me incorporate my black lesbian voice in my
work as a visual artist. I constantly avoided issues of race
and sexuality because I thought these were issues too personal
to be considered artistic. I made films and videos about "my
other" white men and women whose presence dominated
most of the worlds I socialized in. To me they were safe subjects,
and in using them I might be better accepted in their worlds
which for a long time was my world. It wasn't until
seeing the works of Michelle Parkerson and Marlon Riggs that
I was able to consider my experiences as a valid subject.
Their voices of Black lesbian and gay subjectivity, respectively,
set my mind on fire. I realized I could exist on the screen
and began using my marginalization as subject in my work.
In Janine, I tell the tale of my relationship with
a white girl in high school.
really affected me a lot she was blonde, blue eyed
she seemed so perfect and I just seemed so imperfect. I was
the class clown and the fool...just kind of goofy and out
of place. And she in one way kind of made me feel like it
too or maybe I just made myself feel like it. I don't know
I never really kind of got over it...
I raise in Janine aren't easy ones, and I struggle
with them daily. Rather than internalizing them, I put them
in my videos. Right now I find it important to include myself,
physically and autobiographically, as a character in my work.
This strategy allows me to explore my identity and its relationship
to you, my audience.
as a black lesbian video artist has two main goals. The first,
to educate those audiences that know little or nothing about
black lesbians and our life style. And second, to empower
and entertain "the sisters." Never in my life have
I seen images of black lesbians loving each other, in love
or making love.* It's something that I had hoped to see in
lesbian film and video artists. Rather than waiting, I made
She Don't Fade a video about Shae, a
black lesbian who shares the secrets of her "new approach
(Shae) recently broke up with a lover about a year ago and
around that time she started her own vending business which
is really, really good ...it's good business. You meet a lot
of people you're out on the street you're really self engaged.
was good to do that at that time because it got me into myself
when I had been in relationships with women... consecutive(ly).
This last one was three years. The one before that was - so
many years... I've been going out with women pretty much as
a livelihood for a while. So I decided to get into my own
self and I'm going to approach women differently I'm going
to have a new kind of rapport with them where it's less this
in the video are both black and white. There's Zoie, the "dyke
yenta" narrator; Paula, Shae's best friend; Margo, a young
black photographer Shae meets and then breaks up with; and
Nikki, Shae's "erotic fantasy" which comes true in the end.
The tape is playful and witty as it explores one aspect of
black lesbian life.
I've begun to question the issue of multiculturalism and how
it relates to me as a black lesbian video artist. In the past
year my videos have received a lot of attention and it makes
me understand how empowering visual imagery can be for any
marginalized peoples. My work is usually screened at festivals
whose agenda addresses issues of race, sexuality or both,
and often the word multicultural is used to describe the politics
these institutions are embracing. I often feel torn, and question
whether my videos are being shown because they are "good"
or because they fulfill the multicultural agenda of a particular
which comes to mind is The Third Annual New York International
Festival of Lesbian and Gay Film, which presented works by
Lesbians of Color in a program called, "Poetry In Motion."
On the one hand, I feel it is important for my work to be
included in a "Lesbians of Color" program because it creates
a sense of solidarity through a collective subjectivity. But
on the other hand, the category "Lesbians of Color" works
to further marginalize my work, as once again I am placed
outside objectified because of the color of my skin.
a solution lies in the programming of festivals: Rather than
grouping works on issues of race, sexuality and gender, why
not group works on thematic and content issues, or even obvious
issues of style or length. This method would allow a dialectical
exchange to occur between audiences rarely engaged in any
of my work as a black lesbian video artist has in one sense
just begun. It will be some time before my marginal identity
is incorporated in mainstream discourse and media. Rather
than wait for inclusion, I choose to use my marginality as
what bell hooks calls a site of resistance. In Black lesbianism,
I become the subject in a world where I am never "different"
or "other" but an authority on who I am and who I am becoming.
It is this affirming voice that I articulate in my videos
and offer to all marginalized people working to transform