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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Skin Deep

We just wanted you to know how much we love and appreciate you! Thank you for everything you do for us. -)

Story By: Madeline Baker

I’ve had acne for as long as I can remember. Seriously, the combination of my parents’ genes was just not conducive to clear skin. In kindergarten, one of my fellow classmates asked me why I had so many ant bites on my forehead. I was confused because 1) I definitely would know if ants had bitten me on my forehead and I could not recall this happening, and 2) what did she mean? What was wrong with my forehead? In kindergarten my skin wasn’t bad at all. I had a few really small blemishes but that was probably from running around and sweating all the time. I never washed my face either, so I couldn’t tell you how dirty my skin was at that point. It wasn’t until around 4th or 5th grade that my skin really became a problem. I had full on breakouts that covered my face. They weren’t deep or painful, and I wouldn’t say I had chronic acne, but it was obvious that they weren’t going to go away anytime soon. I was never really teased for my skin, but it certainly felt like I was the only one with this problem. I was washing my face with Neutrogena before I was wearing a sports bra. I bought my first tube of concealer, a color way too orange for my own skin tone, before I was even allowed to stay up past 10pm. I was embarrassed, and no one in my class could relate to the same struggle (or so I thought?).


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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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My junior prom was pretty run of the mill: I wore an atrocious dress and put on way more makeup than necessary for any 17-year-old girl. Twelve hours before that night I didn’t even have a dress, and in my mind it might as well have been the apocalypse. My sister, Julia, home from college, drove me to the mall at 10am the morning of prom and helped me pick out the only dress I could find given I had to be ready in 6 hours. I hated that dress. It was salmon pink with a one-shoulder strap and white beads that looked like it could be worn by a beauty pageant participant. Once I had finished my makeup and gotten my hair done, I slipped on the dress and started to cry. Julia looked at me and, without a shred of sympathy in her expression, told me to wipe my tears because my date would be picking me up at any minute. I told her that I didn’t feel pretty at all and that this wasn’t how I pictured my first prom. Julia raised her eyebrows and said, “Junior prom might be the most insignificant part of high school, and there is absolutely no reason to be crying over a dance. Besides, it’s not the dress, it’s the person in the dress.”

Although these words were perhaps cliché, it was exactly what I needed to hear in the moment. My sister wasn’t going to feign understanding or sadness for my situation; I was being a brat and needed to hear it. That’s how Julia has always been: honest and never willing to take my shit. Julia has been my sister for all my life, but we joke that we have only been friends for about 5 years. We rarely got along when we were growing up, and we couldn’t go more that 2 hours before finding ourselves in a screaming match about whose clothes were whose, or what board game we were going to spend the afternoon playing. It wasn’t until she had left for college when I was a sophomore in high school that we really started to become close. The distance between us made me realize how I had taken for granted having an older sister who was way smarter than I could ever be.  She was there for me throughout high school, always listening when I had to rant about our mother, my friends, or boys. I listened to her as well, and I found her to be the only person whose opinion I really valued and took to heart. I had friends in high school, but they weren’t crazy about listening to what I had to say, and that was ok because at the end of the day I would just vent to Julia about it.


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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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