Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Blues artists and historians Rick Franklin & Mike Baytop Opens Eastern Market Music's 2007 Summer Season

Organized by Capitol Hill Community Foundation in response to the recent fire that severely damaged the Eastern Market Complex on Capitol Hill in SE WDC, the first installment of the Eastern Market Music Series which launched on Sunday, 22 July with a 10:30 a m until 1 pm performace by blues artists and historians Rick Franklin and Mike Baytop.

Here are the four videos (1 - 2 - 3 - 4) that I shot as well the Rick Franklin & Mike Baytop - Eastern Market Music - Sunday, 22 July 2007 photo set.

Unfortunately, my experience at the Eastern Market on Sunday 22 July 2007 was not unlike my experience each time that I have visited the Eastern Market complex since the fall of 1978 which was shortly before my December 1998 move to Capitol Hill.

As a result of the racism that I have experienced, over the years, I almost did not visit Eastern Market on Sunday, 22 July but, as an artist and historian, when I heard news that blues artists from the Archie Edwards Blues Heritage Foundation were scheduled to perform I made it a point to stop in.

And though while video-taping and photographing Rick Franklin and Mike Baytop I experienced the same form racism from the crowd that I experience where ever I go, as a black male, what stood out was the reaction that I got from the same white woman and exhibitor who reacted to me the exact same way when I photographed the 2006 Arts Of Foot at Penn Quarter. Or each time that, in recent months, I engaged in street photography in the vacinity of the Whole Foods Market at Logan Circle on P Street.

It brought to mind the reaction that I get from folks when I photograph in Dupont Circle which I have photographed since 1992 but, more importantly, the reaction that I got last Sunday from a white female who reacted to me with the exact same arrogance last Sunday when, as a photojournalist, I was photographing DCFD - EMT Foggy Bottom as would the white lady who would react to me exacltly one week later at Eastern Market.

The week before, on Sunday, 15 July, though the police informed the white girl that 'it was public space' and that I could photograph ... they then suggested to me that to make things better 'why don't you just leave the park for a few mintues and come back later .. when things have settled down.'

"Excuse me, officers, you expect for me, a 53 year old gay black man, to leave Dupont Circle, for just a few minutes because some well meaning white girl and white gay boy, in a kilt but more skirt, who plays a pink ukulele and looks like Tiny Tim ... demand that I 'play their nigger ..." was my response.

It was not the first time that this same white girl or this same white boy had atempted to obstruct me. Not only Dupont Circle but on the National Mall at the Smithbsonian Folklife Festival and at anti-war protests, as well. Nor was it the first time that this same white woman, at Eastern Market, had attempted to obstruct my photography. Not only at Eastern Market but at the 2006 Arts Of Foot Festival, as well.

I explained to the two cops, in Dupont Circle, who I had observed just a few weeks before overseeing the Two Steps Away Dancers the exact same way that folks oversee me when I photograph in Dupont Circle or at Eastern Market. And, as had been the case on 22 June when minutes before capturing Two Steps Away Dancers at Dupont Circle that I had attended the Herb White Memorial at the Friends Meeting House.

Continuing to document the "black DCFD - EMT in the line of duty" I said to the cops 'It is not just this Sunday or just this past Friday. It is each time that I visit Dupont Circle that these two people confront or attempt to obstruct me.

I said further , "And as a 53 GAY BLACK MAN ... ain't no white girl nor white boy ever gonna dictate to me what I can, can not, should or should not do."

I reiterated "I'm not their nigger!".

Remembering what had occured the week before in Dupont Circle, on Sunday 22 July, at Eastern Market, I turned and politely said "... white lady ... as a 53 year black man ... please, do NOT go there with me!". And when she stood and threw her hand up and said "I'm gonna ..." the same way as white girl who turned to the police in Dupont Circle the week before ... I reiterated "I'm not ya nigger!". And continued with my ongoing Sunday At Eastern Market series.

As a black artist but, more importantly, as an historian it is imperative that my photography and videographically not only document the times but, also, shed light in my personal story.

Moments after the 15 July incident on Sunday afternoon in Dupont Circle a white man and school teacher that I've known for many years who, each time that he sees me, will 'approach me about drugs' told me that the 'white pot dealer that I had referred him to no longer 'deals'. As if to suggest that I should refer him to another one of my white friends who deals pot.

It brought to mind how in the past that whenever white men had approached me about drugs ... I, literally, had to leave my home and, racially, discriminated against on job because white man had approached me about drugs. This white man was not the first school teacher or other civil servant who, over the years, had targeted me.

Not unlike the police who suggested that I leave Dupont Circle, just for a minutes, to make the white girl happy ... folks also expect for black men to change their lives and directions so that white people can deal and do their drugs ... while, at the same time, watching, overseeing and policing the black men who they and others regard 'as their niggers.'

It was not just that Sunday. Nor that Friday before.

It is not just Dupont Circle or Eastern Market. Nor just Fort Lauderdale or New York City.

As a 53 gay black man who, over the years, practiced integration ... it has been my experience that it has everything do with "... when white folks come around ...".

No comments: