Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Mow many men does it take to change a flat tire?

Moments before taking this picture of 5 men changing a tire at the corner of 14th and E Streets in NW WDC and for the second time in a week I had captured ice skaters at Pershing Park in connection with a new documentary project that will focus on Ice Skating in Pershing Park.

During which time I would reflect on the second time that I had ever ice skated which, in 1979, was when I would join Frank, Rae Ann, Eason and Inny at an ice rink that was then situated just one block east of Pershing Park and directly in front of the National Theater, in what is known as Freedom Plaza. To the echos of many who proclaimed that I was 'acting white'.

In 2006, and as a 53 year old black man who, over the years practiced integration I also realize that many regard my interest in photography and, in particular, the manner by which I photograph as "acting white!".

When folks see me with not just one but two cameras, their first and last reaction is to police, oversee and negate me. And while I experience racism everywhere that I go, there are differences in the manners by which various groups of people project their racism upon me.

For the sake of this photoessay and pertaining to my experience when photograpong ice skating at Pershing Park on Sunday evening, 17 December I now speak on black on black racism.

Earlier in the day when photographing at the 2006 Downtown Holiday Market I would confront a similar reaction from several of the black exhibitors. When one black female exhibitor, threw up her hands, and then ran inside of her booth when she saw me candidly photographing. A few days before, another black female exhibitor yelled at me, 'You shouldn't do that ...'. And when I would explain to her that I had been invited by the event organizer, and as often is the response from many, she said 'Well, I don't want you getting paid and making money off of me ... or stealing my ideas!".

My response was "Negro, please!".

As I approached the Pershing Park Ice Rink staff members and skaters and people in the area began to watch, police and oversee my every move. Taking picticular note of where I amed my camera and whe nI walked near a table or someone's belongings several would run over to where I was standing. In the same way as had been done, earlier that day and each time that I have visited the 2006 Downtown Holiday Market.

A young black male would stand behind me, gesturing to subjects that I may would photograph. And a black teen girl who was skating, threw her hand up, and snapped at me "Don't take my picture ...!".

It brought to mind the racism that I had experienced in 1979 when Frank, Rae Ann, Eason, Inny and I skated in this very same park, when I was labeled as "acting white!".

So, when the young black male staff person walked up to me, a grown ass black man, in the exact same way as have the young white boys who skate in Freedom Plaza ... I turned and said "Had I been white ..."!

At which point I'd turn and walk away where at the corner of 14th and E I'd happen upon five men changing a tire. Saying that one of my foci is street photography I inquired if I may photograph them. They sure 'Sure!'.

for first thought for a possible caption was "How many men does it take to change a tire?"

After taking a series of photos I'd thank them and walk away, reflecting on the fact that, in 2006, I have less freedoms now than I did in 1979.

How many more years will it take for the change to come?

If in 2006, blacks young enough to be grandchildren have been conditioned to police, oversee and negate black men ... the changes will never come. At least, not enough for me!

How many men does it take to change a flat tire?

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