BLACK

Story By: Taylor Lamb

I cry a lot. And I mean… a lot. I have a hair trigger on my emotions and it takes very little to set me off. A raised voice, a misfortune, even just the feeling that I have disappointed someone… all of it can trigger the water works. This has been true for my entire life. It’s definitely not something I’m proud of, but it’s just a fact. If I were a character in a script or a video-game, it would be apart of my bio. Taylor Lamb is a crier.

A few years ago, I was at rehearsal for a musical in which I was the lead, and I was really struggling with something. Hitting a note? Executing a particular dance move? I don’t remember, but it doesn’t matter; the point is I was frustrated and exhausted, and as always… I started crying. I cried in front of everyone. As all of my cast members came to comfort me, my best friend said, “This is my first time I’ve ever seen you cry.” I was shocked. I think my jaw literally dropped. The two of us had been best friends for almost five years at that point! I was pretty damn sad in high school, filled with teen angst and crying nearly every day. How was it possible she hadn’t seen? But then I thought about it. Every single time I cried, I tried to do it silently. If I was in a class or at a sleepover, it didn’t matter. I’d hold it in. I would try to be strong. In fact, even more than strong. I think a lot of people would argue that the way I presented myself, at least when it came to my own personal feelings, was heartless– emotionless, as if nothing affected me. I was there for everyone else to lean on, my shoulders would get wet with everyone else’s tears, but I made sure to never let anyone else think I needed that in return. I would lean on myself, I would be my own shoulder. Okay, the image is a little awkward but you get the point. I was a “strong black woman.”


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Iris Reading List: Immigration

Iris reading list

Compiled by the Iris Team

If you’re anything like us, you love to read (and you love to read Iris, am I right?). We read because literature, regardless of content or style, is a gateway to thought and passion. Language tells stories, and stories are powerful little entities that can shape and reshape mentalities, take us to faraway lands, allow us to fall in love and hate, and force us to feel. And I mean, force, because you have no choice in the matter – If you are reading, you are feeling, and that’s non-debatable. So, the Iris team presents our latest column: “The Iris Reading List”, the top 5 pieces you should be reading on a variety of topics.

So, here we go…

To start, let’s talk about immigration. Regardless of how you feel (or how you thought you felt) about immigration policy and law, we are (mostly) all realizing that we may know a lot of immigrants, but we know very little about them. You may know a friend, a hairdresser, a barista at a favorite coffee shop, a favorite pediatrician recommended to you by your older and wiser sister, a neighbor, a man or woman who was not born in the United States. You may know that today, America is their home. But you may realize that you know very little about anything in between those two facts. You know they are this thing called an “immigrant” or a “visitor” or a “foreigner,” but what does that really mean? Stories can help us figure this out. Because immigrant stories are so personal, it is often difficult to encounter comfortable spaces for sharing experiences. Literature gives us that comfort, and lets us find, tell, and share stories that define the “other.”


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Story By: Pinky Hossain

As I near the end of my fourth year, I am forced to contend with the repercussions of one of the most important decisions I have made thus far: being a creative writing major. Yes, it comes with its fair share of preconceived notions, like a future involving the barista, the cardboard box, the mother’s basement, and all the rest, but there is one thing that every writer will tell you: they are crazy about writing. That’s what I saw in Julia Clairborne Johnson, a UVA alumna who just published her new book, Be Frank with Me. She reaffirmed a lot of things about writing for me — how experience shapes your writing, how much toiling is involved in the writing process, and how money can’t be the reason that you write. As Julia put it, “Novelists don’t make a lot of money. Shocker, I know, glad you were sitting down.”


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BLACK

Story By: Taylor Lamb

So, recently for my “Black Power & the Bildungsroman” class, we’ve started watching Luke Cage. Yes, that is my homework for one of my classes. #Blessed.

I won’t spoil the show for you (although, if you haven’t seen it, I really think that should be your first priority) but I will tell you that in one of the first episodes, Luke is confronted with an important question. He has this incredible power, a gift you might call it. Is it his duty to use this gift for the betterment of his community? You may or may not know, but the community in Luke Cage is 99.9% black, and race is repeatedly addressed in the show. Me being the self-interested person I am, immediately made connections to my own life and the things I’m involved in. I’m an artist who does a lot of black art, and the question of “Do I owe it to my community to make art that helps black people?” is one that constantly comes up for me and my colleagues, partners, friends, people. Speaking for me personally, I say yes. I’ve written about this before, but I believe in the power of art to change the world, and that’s what I hope my art does. I would like to say that I think all black artists should be doing that. And I would say that almost all of the black art I consume does that. The books I read, the movies & TV shows I watch… they all help the community by addressing race issues, or giving a positive and necessary representation of black people in the media. But there is one exception I just can’t ignore. The music.


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Where are women on Grounds??

Story By: Pinky Hossain

The art we use to decorate our spaces says a lot about us. My dentist, for example, has simple, minimalist paintings and sculptures from local artists ornamenting her office walls. She likes to support local efforts and has modest taste. Really, it’s her values that adorn the room. Now I wonder what it would look like if she almost exclusively adorned her office with paintings and sculptures commemorating the old white men that have given her the money to fund her dentist endeavors, what kind of vibe that might set off in the room, and how her clients might react to the art installations of old white men. Let’s add, just as a thought experiment, some historical context to the office itself. Say that the space was built by a group of people that were oppressed by those same old white men. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t particularly comfortable with waiting for my teeth to be cleaned in a room like that.

The University of Virginia is a bit bigger and more complicated than a dentist’s office, but the same ideas apply. The art in our spaces around Grounds say a lot about the values that we hold, and it tells me that UVa does not revere women or people of color (it goes without saying that women of color are especially underrepresented) because the majority of the visuals that occupy the most important areas around Grounds, namely the ones that we study in, that we think in, that we process in, that we learn in, that we reflect in, are of old white men. What is more, we can’t have a conversation about old white men dominating the art sphere here without discussing who physically made this university: slaves. Although there are areas memorializing slaves at UVa, like Gibbons dorm which is named after William and Isabella Gibbons who were enslaved by professors here, we lack visual art (sculptors, statues, paintings, etc) commemorating them.


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THE BLACK COLUMN: Music is All We Got

BLACK

Story By: Taylor Lamb

“…never yet could I find that a black had uttered a thought above the level of plain narration; never seen even an elementary trait of painting or sculpture. In music they are more generally gifted than the whites, with accurate ears for tune and time… Whether they will be equal to the composition of a more extensive run of melody, or of complicated harmony, is yet to be proved.” -Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia

You know those weeks when everything just seems super connected?

In my AAS class, we were reading The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois. This is one of the most important texts in African American Literature, and I’d say it’s required reading. (It’s only $2 at the book-store, get you one.) We discussed how he employs ethnomusicology in his work. He speaks of Negro Spirituals and tells us how you can listen to them to understand the people. The music tells of their lives, their struggles, their hopes, etc. The music is the story.  


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