ART X POLITICS II
REESE FULLER SAMERA PAZ DJ UNDERDOG AYANA ZAIRE SAMSON BINUTU MARK THOMAS ARI MELENCIANO ROSE JAFFE DESIREE VENN FREDRIC ANDREAS BROWN NAEEM WYNN MARK CUSTER
DONNESHA BLAKE RANDI GLOSS LLOYD FOSTER CHANTIA JOHNSON BEAU YOUNG PRINCE MILF MITCH SHERIEKA ASHANTI
NAPPY NAPPA SHADE RENEE KOSI DUNN DESEAN RAGLAND GRANDE MARSHALL JOE OBIMA AHAD SUBZWARI
BECAUSE DC’s creative community deserves a platform to showcase their art, style, and culture. BECAUSE we must take full advantage of the opportunity to interject a creative consciousness into the political fabric of DC. BECAUSE DC’s creative community is not one color, class, or culture. BECAUSE it’s about community not competition. BECAUSE creating at home gives your work a deeper, more meaningful purpose. BECAUSE contributing to our creative ecosystem today, means contributing to DC’s future generation of artists tomorrow BECAUSE leveraging our local, existing creative connections will empower us to kill it elsewhere in the future. BECAUSE we have a political responsibility to cultivate a diverse creative community, especially in the nation’s capital. BECAUSE art is relevant to every facet of our life and there’s no disregarding it. BECAUSE this is mandatory. BECAUSE this is home. DISTRIKT MANIFESTO BECAUSE DC is the shit. BECAUSE we are here and we can’t keep quiet any longer. BECAUSE it’s time to tell the truth.
22 Editor In Chief + Art/Creative Director An artist and life long student of Parliment Funkadelic experimenting in afrofuturism, womanism, radicalism, time travel, and all things philosophical. PG County is home. I don’t like to complain so I’m keeping busy trying to make the enviornments I exsist in ones I want to live in. @ayanazaire
22 Managing Editor + Art Director A feminist, a designer, a student, a woman, a passionate member of your audience. My aim is yours: empowerment, justice and a blossoming community. From Pittsburgh, rooted in the District. @aniberry
23 Head Photographer A filmmaker/photographer who enjoys high end fashion and honey bunches of oats. lol @sambitionphotos
19 Editor + Film Production Aspiring filmmaker and writer with a focus in surrealism and critical race theory. Music and art appreciator at the core. I’m blue baby, blue. @out.getting.ribs
22 Illustrator + Film Production I’ve devoted my life to art so deeply that I often catch myself subconsciously arranging my groceries in some sort of collaged pattern on the conveyor belt. Life is my artisitc medium. @ariciano
Andreas Maurice Brown 23 Fine artist, fashion designer, and graphic designer. Hailing from Cheverly, MD. Founded KITSCH, with co-owners Luke Crow and Justin Tyler. While some artists seek to carve out a specific niche for their abilities, I wish to explore all avenues of art, steadily creating a map of my world for the rest of you. @icetheendless
Adedayo Kosoko 32 A creative that loves to capture stills of life in motion. I’ve been shooting professionally for six years & gravitated to the GLOSSRAGS movement due to their constant questioning of the status quo. #GETHYPE @hypenextdoor
Roland Agli 21 I’m a visual storyteller. I don’t speak much, so it’s humbling to be able to communicate my thoughts and ideals through photography. @raat_fashion
Samera Paz 21 Photojournalism is my passion. I want to be a war photographer. I want to tell the stories that don’t make the news. I like to document everything. I want everyone around me to chase their dreams and succeed. @sameraaaaa
Reese H. Fuller II 23 I’m an analog photographer & writer studying Social & Consumer Psychology at NYU while interning as a consultant at SS+K. Readers should know that I will Milly Rock on any block. @reesehiawatha
Mark Custer 17 Born in NW Washington DC, senior in high school. Shoots digital and film photography and skateboards. @markcuster
Donnesha Blake 25 Black feminist fashion scholar, educator, and doctoral student in the Department of Women’s Studies and a Ronald E. McNair fellow at the University of Maryland, College Park. My research focuses on how African American/Black style, dress cultures, and style narratives are tools for examining self-making, gender identity/ expression, sexual cultures, and social relations in Black communities. @donneshabee
Chantia Johnson 21 I’m just a young carefree black woman who is still on the path to finding herself, but meanwhile I currently manage at a restaurant/ coffee shop! Still forever dancing my ass off every chance I get (hopefully professionally, SOON) & still destroying thrift stores in my spare time. @chantiaj
Randi Gloss 24 DC-born activist, entrepreneur & writer. Her brand GLOSSRAGS, is committed to conscious consumerism through critically crafted designs that are a catalyst for social activism & discourse. The signature “And Counting” collection of apparel does the necessary work of memorializing black men and women who’ve lost their lives at the hands of police and trigger-happy citizens. @randigloss
Lloyd Foster 25 People are interesting. I like taking photos of people. @floydloster
Desean Ragland 23 Photographer. @otm_media
Joe Obima 24 Studying multimedia journalism at Morgan State University and a freelance photojournalist/photographer currently living in Baltimore, Maryland. @joe___implores___you
Ahad Subzwari 24 Been taking pictures for like 10 years and love working with film, light, and music. I eventually want to work in film. @aalisub
Kosi Dunn 20 A poet powered by good coffee and bad puns. He likes Pokemon, plot twists, black superheroes, and third-person. Find me on the internet. @notkosi
E D I T O R ’ S N O T E
I look at this photo and I smile but I kind of feel sorry for her. She was in college, she was bright eyed, and ready to bust out of undergrad to literally change the world. She wore 5.5 inch Atwoods to the Hirshhorn. She started Distrikt with a few friends, it was fun. Now it’s not about fun (well, it still kinda is), but it’s about something way bigger - as it should be. It’s about standing our ground. It’s about defending the culture. It’s about reminding people there were citizens here before The Huffington Post wrote the DC metro area was the “most popular city to live in for millennials”. The purpose of Distrikt is to tell the truth, reminding us in the journey toward sensationalism one will always be met with falsehood. Why Art and Politics? Because police have been killing a lot of fucking people and now we see what the message is. Because we are watching DC turn into one big ass expensive cafe no one can afford to patronize. Because we can’t wait on the Washingtonian or the Washington Post to decide to tell the whole story and not just Arlington’s story. Why Art and Politics? Because it IS about class. It IS about race. It IS about gender. It IS about abuse of power. It IS about lack of opportunities. It IS about our public transportation being ironically inconvenient, most of the time. It IS about “affordable housing” being a fundamentally racist, yet socially accepted concept. It IS about old white men colonizing new “hip” neighborhoods with their development dollars (where did them and all their money come from?). I look at this picture and wish I could warn her — the things you are most passionate about are the most daunting and exhausting “girl, it’s going to take a really long time to fix that” things one could be passionate about. But I smile because I’m so hopeful. Like, sometimes I’m OVERWHELMED with hope and excitement for the future of the city. Sometimes I’m so hopeful I exhaust those around me just talking about it. This issue took a year for a lot of reasons. We had to figure things out. We had to find some money. We had to build relationships. We had to treat DC like a case study and do our research to make sure WE were telling the truth. We had to be lazy and reflective and decompress often. BUT I am so proud of this issue. Not for it’s photos, size, or the amazingly talented people who agreed to sit down and spend their valuable time, art, and insight with us but I’m MOST proud of what people were courageous enough to share in the form of their words. We hear from 21 year old, environment enthusiast, Naeem Wynn (see Part I’s cover) who is using trap shooting to bond with the young men he mentors and change the face of a traditionally exclusive sport. He’s also using events to consistenly bring DC’s less “conservative” non-yuppie community together (Yes, there is a non-yuppie community here GQ). We hear from Donnesha Blake, a 25 year old professor and PhD student at University of Maryland. We hear from some of DC’s best hip hop artists with strong ties to the city and we explore the parallelism of our environmental and race issues with photographer Reese Fuller (see Part II’s cover). We decided to break this issue up into two parts. Part I is where you will find all the text heavy content, the juicy stuff, such as the interviews and think pieces. Part II is the photo book where you will mainly find the visual editorial work. In this two part issue the pages are purposefully not numbered because it is meant to be digested as one seamless body of work, in it’s respective order. Part I first, go get a glass of water, then indulge in Part II. In closing, I want you to know Distrikt is all about beautiful art and lovely music but ultimately, on a paramount level, it is a place where we can EXPLORE THE TRUTH BY TELLING THE TRUTH. It is our obligation as artists, it is our job as humans. Where there is abuse of power and resources there is rebellion. Where there are young people there are rebels. It starts and happens on the streets of DC and it will be “televised” here. Thank you for reading. Oscar Wilde once said, “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.” so I’m compelled to tell you the whole Distrikt team just farted. We literally all farted in unison. Bye. PHOTOGRAPH BY SAMSON BINUTU
SAMERA P AZ BALTI MORE 20 15 AFTER THE MURDER OF FREDDIE GREY, THE NEWS PORTRAYED THE PROTESTS IN BALTIMORE AS A WAR ZONE. THEY REPORTED TO THE REST OF THE WORLD THAT THE NATIONAL GUARD WAS CALLED IN AND THAT THE SITUATION WAS OUT OF CONTROL. I SAT AT HOME WATCHING FOOTAGE OF CHAOS UNFOLD ON THE LOCAL NEWS. THE VERY NEXT MORNING I HOPPED ON A TRAIN ALONE TO BALTIMORE, MARYLAND. THE MAN COLLECTING TICKETS REFUSED TO LET ME PAY. THE ONLY THING I HAD WAS 14 DOLLARS AND 4 ROLLS OF FILM. I EXPECTED TO SEE BUILDINGS ENGULFED IN FLAMES AND SHATTERED GLASS EVERYWHERE BUT I ARRIVED TO A QUIET TOWN WITH ARMY MEN PATROLLING PEACEFUL NEIGHBORHOODS. RIFLES HUNG FROM THEIR SHOULDERS AS THEY ATE APPLES.
WORD ON THE STREET WAS THAT A PROTEST WAS GOING ON IN PENN NORTH. I FIND MY WAY THERE AND ONTO THE FRONT LINES WHERE POLICE OFFICERS HAVE FORMED A BARRICADE, GRIPPING BATONS AND SHIELDS. THE OPENING ON THEIR FACE MASKS IS THE ONLY WAY TO DISTINGUISH WHETHER THESE POLICE ARE ACTUAL HUMAN BEINGS AND NOT ROBOTS. A FEW PROTESTERS ARE YELLING AT THEM OUT OF ANGER FOR EVERYTHING THEY REPRESENT. I STAND AND WATCH THESE OFFICERS BECOME VISIBLY NERVOUS. THEY’RE CLENCHING THEIR JAWS, BITING THEIR TONGUES, DIGGING THEIR NAILS INTO THE SKIN ON THEIR HANDS AND LOOK AWAY AS PROTESTERS DO THE OPPOSITE. WE’RE STARING AT THEM AND WE DON’T BREAK EYE CONTACT. WE’RE LOOKING FOR SOME KIND OF ANSWER OR RESOLUTION. HOURS PASS AND I FIND MYSELF IN THE MIDDLE OF A GROUP OF BLACK FATHERS WHO SHARE THEIR PERSONAL STORIES AND OPINIONS ON THESE ACTS OF VIOLENCE AGAINST THEIR SONS. AT THIS POINT I’M COMPLETELY OVERWHELMED AND CONFUSED BY THE WORLD AROUND ME. HOW DO I FIX THIS? HOW DO I COMFORT EVERYONE? I KNOW THEY’RE HURT. YOU CAN HEAR IT IN THEIR WORDS. THE PEOPLE AROUND ME ARE SCREAMING AND FIGHTING FOR PEACE AND EQUAL RIGHTS. MY TEARS ARE UNCONTROLLABLE AT THIS POINT. A MAN NOTICES ME AND POINTS ME OUT TO THE CROWD. HE SAYS THE VIOLENT NEEDS TO STOP SO WOMEN LIKE ME CAN FEEL SAFE IN THIS WORLD. I EXPRESS TO THOSE AROUND ME THAT I’M AFRAID TO HAVE CHILDREN ONE DAY. MY FEAR OF HAVING A SON AND NOT BEING ABLE TO PROTECT HIM WHEN THE PEOPLE WHO ARE SUPPOSED TO BE PROTECTING US ARE TARGETING HIM. ONE PROTESTER TELLS ME TO NOT LET THE POLICE TAKE AWAY MY GIFT AND DREAM OF HAVING KIDS. THE SADDEST PART ABOUT THE PROTEST IS THAT NO ONE KNOWS WHAT TO DO. HOW DO WE STOP THE POLICE FROM KILLING AND TARGETING PEOPLE FOR NO REASON? THIS IS BIGGER THAN THE POLICE OFFICERS. THEY’RE A COVER-UP FOR A SYSTEM THAT HAS BEEN SET UP TO TAKE DOWN A SPECIFIC GROUP OF PEOPLE. THAT SAME SYSTEM IS PROTECTING THEM WHEN THEY COMMIT THESE MURDERS AND UNNECESSARY ACTS OF VIOLENCE. IT’S EASY TO SAY “FUCK THE POLICE” AND YELL AT THEM DURING A PROTEST BUT THERE ARE PEOPLE ABOVE THEM WHO CONTROL THEM LIKE PUPPETS. I MADE SURE TO LOOK AT THESE OFFICERS IN THEIR EYES AND MADE SMALL TALK AS A REMINDER THAT I’M A HUMAN AND THEY ARE TOO. DEHUMANIZING POLICE IS HOW THEY BECOME EVEN MORE POWERFUL. DAY BECOMES NIGHT AND IT’S TIME TO GO BACK HOME. I HOP ON THE LAST TRAIN AND I DON’T HAVE TO PAY FOR THIS RIDE EITHER. I SIT AND REFLECT ON THE EVENTS THAT HAVE UNFOLDED TODAY. AS I ARRIVE TO MY HOMETOWN OF WASHINGTON D.C. A YOUNG MAN SAYS TO ME “BABY GIRL YOU’RE HOME NOW.” I FIND COMFORT IN HIS SENTENCE AND WHILE BALTIMORE IS NOT TOO FAR AWAY I PRAYED AND HOPED THAT THE VIOLENCE AGAINST BLACK YOUTH DOES NOT EVER REACH HOME. PHOTO ESSAY AND TEXT BY SAMERA PAZ
PHOTOGRAPH BY NATE INTERVIEW BY AYANA ZAIRE
Ayana Zaire: Alright so what is District Displaced? Mark Thomas: District Displaced is an ongoing project I started. Basically it focuses on collaborating and aiding as far as humanizing the DC homeless population. AZ: So what have you done with it? Talk about your contribution, the photography, etc... MT: Actually the project started right here at Smith Public Trust. I started with a brunch where people were able to come bring cold weather clothing and anyone that brought clothing received a free drink ticket. Of the clothes that I collected, I basically used that as the groundwork for the project. I would be able to start an interaction by providing them with the opportunity to pick out cold weather clothing. After getting to know the individual a little bit by having conversations with them, from there we would potentially make the transition into involving them with the photography aspect of the project. I took hand portraits, from there, I moved on to offering them a disposable camera so they could go out and take pictures. I make an attempt to retrieve the camera, get their pictures developed, and then provide them with their photos as well as keeping the photos to be included into the final exhibition. AZ: What inspired the project? Talk more about what we spoke on earlier regarding the ethics of photography...making sure the exchange is equitable for both parties, the photographer and subject. MT: Yeah. There is a huge rising homeless problem in DC. Statistically from 2013 - 2014 the homeless rate in DC increased by 13% which is astronomical. Another crazy statistic that really impacted me was, as far as families that are homeless, 50% of them are “headed by” individuals between the ages of 18 to 22. That’s right where I am, so these really are our peers. Our neighbors in DC. Also me kind of feeling disenfranchised with a lot of the homeless photography that was going inspired the project. It seemed like there wasn’t really a lot of new awareness being brought to the population, especially not aide so being able to combine activism with art was the inspiration. AZ: Talk about how art and politics can benefit each other and whether or not we as creatives have the obligation to use our talents to address certain social issues. MT: Yeah, I definitely would say the work I’ve done is more so on the social advocacy side within politics which calls for change. The first major project I did with Tony Lewis, Collateral Damage DC, focused on the impact of mass incarceration within the family unit and with that shoot I didn’t directly involve activism. It was calling for change, but the best thing about that is for the people who came together..it almost created a community amongst the subjects where they were able to see other people going through similar situations. Then with the District Displaced Project it’s great because I’m actually able to involve personal action from myself. I’m actively working to potentially help people’s lives but at the same time hopefully cause people to see homeless individuals are also our neighbors. They shouldn’t be stigmatized. I think it really is important to, you know, no matter what you’re doing whether you’re an artist or an electrician, you should obviously always be involved in politics because that’s what the groundwork of this country is based on. Not everything you have to do has to be serious and political but it is important to take some time and see what you feel passionate about and find out a way you can make a change for the better. Yeah, it’s important. AZ: So do you think political art is effective? We’ve been talking a lot about this because, you know, there will be times where...For example, with Distrikt, I’m trying to use my skills and my resources to bring attention to politics and sometimes I wonder if I’m even really making a difference. So do you think political art is even worth it? MT: I mean, I think it definitely can be because if you look back to like the WPA projects during the Great Depression the government actually formulated these programs which, specifically what I’m interested in, hired these groups of photographers that went out to the Midwest and the Dust Bowl and documented the lives of all of these individuals out there and then they were able to come back to places like New York and these urban hubs and give that insight. You know? That’s specific to photography but the WPA project and different Great Depression art projects also had empowered muralist and all different types of artists to do these things focusing on, basically, the American condition. Allowing people to understand or attempt to get it through a different view point, because when you just hear things on the news that’s one perspective but there’s different ways to approach different situations. That goes for painting, sculpture, whatever your medium is...I think it’s definitely is possible to be effective with it. AZ: Yeah I often wonder if political art can actually bring real world change. It’s one thing to bring attention to the issue but it’s another thing to actually inspire policy. MT: Yeah, I mean it’s definitely possible. Look at the Humans of New York page and that Instagram photographer, he recently teamed up with that school in New York. And just through the way he shared his work, was able to get a lot of funding for the school as well as take the original kid he met right up to Obama in the oval office so I mean I’m sure that definitely made an impact on the president. AZ: What do you think the creative community in DC needs? What do you think could bring it together? MT: Well I think one of the main things in DC would be venue usage, which is one of the most difficult things here. I feel like we need more locations where people can do events and be able to create their work. But what a lot of it comes down to, especially people my age, is actually going out there and doing things regardless. Like if you really want to be about it, you just gotta go and do it. You know what I mean? Less excuses and more action. Really also just working with people...like a lot of people are friends and a lot of people do different artwork but really just continuing to pump out content then just being about it. Work with your friends and make sure you’re having a fun time while doing it. But yeah I’d say venues are a difficulty but I feel like that can be overcome. AZ: So making venues accessible to young artists and young creatives? MT: Yeah I think that’s important, but obviously it has to be worthwhile. You have to make sure you are prepared. But yeah, I mean just keep on going at it and don’t stop if it’s what you’re passionate about. Just do it. AZ: So talk about the people you’ve met through District Displaced. Talk about how you may have impacted their lives but talk about how they may have impacted your life and how it may have changed how you approach your creative process. You know? How has this project changed you? MT: I mean I’ve definitely met like many amazing people. One of the biggest things I’ve learned or really taken away from it is a sense of generosity. Because these people who don’t have homes and live in these very unstable circumstances, multiple times upon meeting them when I was giving out the clothing...different people were actually taking clothes for other homeless individuals. So just the fact that they were so far ahead and thinking of others. You know? So it’s people like us that need to be thinking about helping others as well. There’s this one guy I met in Dupont, David, he actually offered me food because he said he was already full for the day and someone gave him a big bowl of spaghetti and it’s just been great to see the immediate change with the people that I am interacting with. And when I go back and meet them like actually seeing them wear the clothing that I was able to collect to gift. Its like amazing to see like, wow. It’s hopefully a positive difference that was made, so yeah, I think just like a greater appreciation for I guess...humanity and seeing that, you know, there are still a lot of good people out here. There is a lot of wild stuff that we see all the time but there still are also some genuinely great people despite their circumstance. So I guess it’s just about not judging a book by its cover and taking time to get to know someone and just help out when you can. AZ: How do you think DC should address the homelessness issue? MT: Oh man. That’s a hard one. I mean there’s a lot. And these are quotes that I’ve gotten from some of the homeless people that I work with, DC, what I’ve learned is a decent place to be homeless whether you live in the shelter or not. Because, these are quotes, “There’s always places usually to get meals as well as cold blanket distribution, they have the hyperthermia vans”. But if you are ending it, which obviously would be the ideal thing, I think a lot of it will be through transitional housing. Because with a lot of these individuals, they do want jobs but some jobs you can’t get unless you have an address and how are you going to prepare yourself everyday for a job? You can’t even get some low income government benefits if you don’t have an address from what I’ve understood from talking with them...like food stamps, Medicaid, and Medicare. So I do definitely think by just giving people housing...which does exist, like Nate, another person I work with on the project, he’s on the waitlist right now for a new studio apartment and his passion is the artwork and doing illustrations. He really just wants to get that space so he can start getting into his creative work. So yeah definitely transitional housing and then have platforms in place to help find gainful employment as well as needs assessment, helping understand the people as individuals. So if they do have mental health ailments or various addictions they can get what they need to help overcome those obstacles. Another lady I met through the project, Mary, she has not been homeless now for about 13 years. Originally she had a drug addiction but she was able to find treatment and now she does have a home and a job, she’s gainfully employed. So it just shows with the right type of intervention there really is the aptitude for them to pursue stability and make good changes in their communities, because a lot of them want to. You know? They want to good work but when there’s certain obstacles in the way, you just don’t have any opportunity, or when your immediate surroundings are people who aren’t, you know...it’s just important to have good surroundings. AZ: Alright what’s next for District Displaced? What is next for Mark? What is next for Capture the Capital? MT: Ahh that’s another loaded question. *both laughs* Well for the project, I’m working on compiling what I have from it and putting it into an exhibition. And as far as the whole District Displaced thing I do plan on continuing to do a yearly cold weather clothing drive brunch. I do want to also be able to continue working with some of these different people, because you know, when these relationships are built it’s more than a project. So just staying in these communities, not so much on like the art aspect of it anymore though. I’ve met so many homeless individuals who are artists so I’m more interested in figuring out ways I can empower them to continue creating. Because I feel like that’s a great outlet and maybe we start doing gallery shows just showcasing different homeless individuals’ artwork so hopefully people find interest in their work. That can work as a platform to financially empower some people so they may have better living situations. AZ: I love that! So like giving them platforms to showcase and sell their work. MT: Yeah...who knows? Even artist residencies for the homeless. It’s possible but what’s next for me as an artist? There’s a few more touches I want to do with the whole Collateral Damage DC project, as well as, ideally do a shoot in every major city in America due to mass incarceration being an American issue not just in DC. And then other projects...Capture the Capital. I mean just keep on capturing what I think is great in DC and sharing what my friends do. Like that’s what it’s all about. Yeah so, just having fun and sharing.
1: NATE ROLL 1 –1/28/15 –FRANKLIN SQUARE WHEN HE WAS RELEASED FROM PRISON NATE HAD TROUBLE HOLDING A JOB. WHEN HE FIRST GOT OUT OF PRISON, HE WORKED AT A HOMELESS SHELTER, BUT THEN RELAPSED HE LOST THE JOB AND HAS BEEN HOMELESS FOR THE LAST 28 YEARS. HE IS CURRENTLY IN THE PROCESS OF SECURING HOUSING, RECEIVING HELP FROM MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS AND CREATING ILLUSTRATIONS. 2: LORRAINE ROLL 1–12/15/14 –CONGRESS HEIGHTS 3: LORRAINE ROLL 6–3/17/15 –CONGRESS HEIGHTS AS A YOUNG ADULT LORRAINE WENT TO MEDICAL SCHOOL FOR THREE YEARS, BUT AS SCHOOL BECAME MORE OF A FINANCIAL BURDEN SHE DROPPED OUT AND BECAME A BRICK LAYER WORKING IN THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY. FOR THE PAST TWO YEARS SHE HAS BEEN DEALING WITH HOMELESSNESS DUE TO HER MAN PUTTING HER OUT OF THE HOUSE EACH DAY. HOWEVER, SHE CAN STILL NAME OFF EACH BONE IN THE HUMAN BODY, AND PLAYS AN ACTIVE ROLE IN HER COMMUNITY. 4, 5: MARY ROLL 1–12/29/14 –CONGRESS HEIGHTS AFTER BEING HOMELESS FOR 15 YEARS, MARY WAS ABLE TO OVERCOME HER DRUG ADDITION AND MOVE INTO A NEW HOME. SHE NOW HAS A JOB AT A LOCAL MEDICAL CENTER, BUT STILL ACTIVELY WORKS WITH THE HOMELESS LIVING IN HER COMMUNITY. 6: ROBIN ROLL 1–3/2/15–DUPONT CIRCLE 7, 8, 9: ROBIN ROLL 2–3/17/15–DUPONT CIRCLE SERVED IN THE 82ND AIRBORNE DIVISION, AND AFTER SERVED ON ACTIVE DUTY FOR NINE YEARS; HE ALSO HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO TRAVEL THE WORLD. FOR THE LAST TWO YEARS ROBIN HAS BEEN HOMELESS IN DC. ROBIN DECIDED THAT PANHANDLING WAS NOT HOW HE WANTED TO LIVE, SO HE STARTED HIS OWN COMPANY; POTOMAC ROCK ART. INSPIRED BY ART HE SAW WHILE IN SPAIN AND AFRICA, ROBIN COLLECTS ROCKS FROM THE POTOMAC RIVER AND ILLUSTRATES THEM WITH SHARPIES AND PAINT TO SELL TO PEOPLE IN DUPONT CIRCLE.
DISREGARDED UNTIL IT’S TOO LATE
In college, I made a mess once. Halloween had come and gone. We had decorated our dorm festively: a bowl of candy on the coffee table, plastic hanging ghosts and ghouls, carved a happy-face pumpkin sat atop the mini-fridge, cobwebs in the corner. Some weeks passed, and an odor began to linger in our common room. Odors like this weren’t uncommon between musty socks and unwashed dishes, but this was different, fouler, stronger, and it’s strength grew every time we decided it was someone else’s responsibility to clean. Amidst classes and jobs and all-too-necessary naps, the pumpkin had been left to rot. One day, finally fed up, I brought a trash bag over and went to lift it, no longer a pumpkin but now a grinning, speckled, pitted blob, reeking of decay. I watched as the carved face sagged into a frown in my hands, the weight of the rotten, soggy pumpkin pulling it through my fingertips into a mountain of maggoty orange slush on the carpeted floor. The stale gas that had collected inside the pumpkin was free now, as were the dozens flies. Both filled the room. I threw up, left, collected myself, and came back with a mask and mop to clean a mess that never needed to be there in the first place. We all make messes. We’re messy. Life is messy. Some messes are kind of cute, like a loose bun atop your lovers’ head, or a baby’s cheeks after a half-eaten bowl of Spaghetti-o’s, but as a global society we’re messy in a decidedly unsexy, adult way. Our messes are full of neglect. We’ve let our pumpkin rot for centuries. Our messes are the unidentifiable green sludge running into city sewers, the smell of urine and sweat and bile in the air underground, floating islands of plastic drifting in the currents of the Pacific, black blood in neighborhood streets and even churches in the South, children’s corpses washed ashore in Turkey. These aren’t “sorry my room’s a little junky” messes, they don’t make our space feel “lived in” or “cute”; these are messes that destroy our environment, and are messes that cost lives. They are intolerable. But we aren’t cleaning them up. We’re just moving them around. Ignoring a problem won’t make it go away. This editorial explores a parallelism between issues of race and ecology, and begs questions about the societal value of lives of people of color that live as part of the society, and the condition of the physical environment that the society is encompassed by. Credits: Creative Direction + Styling: Ayana Zaire Photography + Editorial Introduction: Reese Fuller Models: Andreas Brown (shown here) & Chantia Johnson (shown later) Assistance: Ari Melenciano & Bria Quarles
LLOYD FOSTER DC 2015
Back in January we asked Lloyd Foster to shoot black and white images of the black people he came in contact with. I wanted this series to be an exploration of the early stages of the Black Lives Matter movement. When we asked Lloyd about his thoughts on the project he said, “I was totally up for it. I’ve photographed street often in the past but never really dabbled into shooting a select group of people for a series and sticking to it”. We never told him the main inspiration for the project was to depict the many lives that police brutality affects, instead he said he, “Found it fitting granted the evident demographical change in DC in recent years. Washington, DC has been referred to in the past as the Chocolate City due to its predominantly black population...However in the same city, on the streets of Shaw, I found myself walking as many as 7 blocks without an African American in sight”. We embarked on this project with the goal of showcasing the many variations of blackness as it relates to gender, class, and age. I also wanted to use this project as a platform to question the semantics the black lives matter movement was founded on. This idea that we should be negogiating with the public, convincing others that our lives matter. We know our lives matter. They know our lives matter. What if we stopped begging to exist and act in our liberation? I know it’s not easy, I know this is a very insensitive statement, I know it’s idealistic...but what if? — Ayana Zaire “The very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining over and over again why you are here. Somebody says you don’t have any language so you spend 20 years proving you do. Somebody says you don’t have any culture so you dredge that up. None of that is necessary. There will always be one more thing. Complete your work without worry. Do not be confused. Don’t waste your energy fighting the fever, you must only fight the disease. And I urge you to be careful, for there is a deadly prison. The prison that is erected when one spends their life fighting phantoms, concentrating on myths, and explaining over and over to the conqueror your language, your lifestyle, your culture, your habits. And you don’t have to do it anymore. You don’t have to dwell on changing the minds of racists. Racial ignorance is a prison from which there is no escape because there are no doors, and there are old, old men and old, old women who need to believe in their racism, and need you to focus all of your creative energy on them. They thrive on the failures of those unlike them. They are in prisons of their own construction. But you must know the truth. That you are free.” Toni Morrison at Portland State in 1975
Photography + Editorial Introduction: Reese Fuller Models: Chantia Johnson & Andreas Brown
Creative Direction + Styling: Ayana Zaire Assistance: Ari Melenciano & Bria Quarles
This editorial explores a parallelism between issues of race and ecology, and begs questions about the societal value of lives of people of color that live as part of the society, and the condition of the physical environment that the society is encompassed by.
SPECIAL THANKS TO THE
AT THE FORT TOTTEN
TRANSFER STATION AND THE
BROWN STATION ROAD SANITARY LANDFILL
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ROLAND AGLI INTERVIEW BY AYANA ZAIRE
On August 14th 2015 Distrikt presented: Shade Renee, Vol. 1119. See exclusive behind the scenes footage in this issue. Shadé Reneé is a DC area native entering her senior year at Parsons, pursing her BFA in Fashion Design. Before diving into her senior thesis she wanted to share with all her family and friends at home what she’s been working on. Her first fashion preview show here in DC acted as a manifestation of her avant-garde vision for the brand thus far. Uninspired by traditional gallery spaces and staying true to her “designing new silhouettes with family and friends” brand mantra, her exhibition was held in the basement of the charter school owned by her grandmother on North Capitol: Where she grew up, where it all began and begins again. Friends and family filled the room acting as models, stylists, and bartenders. After the show we catch up with her to see her thoughts on DC, the politics of fashion, and the future. AZ: What are your earliest memories of designing? SR: I remember after taking that sewing class, you know, the one we took together at sew n vac *laughs*...I made my own skirt. I remember being up at 2am cutting out 300+ petals to sew on this skirt. I sat there sewing 300+ petals row by row. Then posting a pic on my lil blog. AZ: Talk about growing up in the DC metro area as someone who wanted to pursue fashion design. SR: I was either “that weird girl” or “that cool girl”. I was expressing myself. Call it what you want. AZ: Why was it important to have your first preview show here in DC? SR: DC needs to know more about art. What’s going on now is amazing, but there needs to be more. Especially in fashion. There’s not that many preview shows happening. Maybe you get a glimpse of a look book on Instagram, but there’s not enough personal interaction going on. DC is a great place to start to show people what you’re about, because the people will be about it. AZ: Talk about your observations of the political landscape of the fashion industry as it relates to race and gender. How do you feel as a black women working in fashion design? SR: At first, it was just fashion to me. But moving to NYC made me realize it’s so much more. Not only do I want to be a fashion designer, I will be the first black woman to have her own fashion house. I fantasize about it everyday. I’m obsessed with opulence and decadence. I thrive for Black excellence. It’s starting. Have you seen photos from Afropunk? Janelle Monae’s Wondaland? I’m excited to be a part of and contribute to Black excellence. Black excellence y’all. AZ: We saw Vic Mensa, Amber Rose, and Blac Chyna don political statements on their clothing at the VMAs. Acne is promoting gender equality in their latest collection and Vivienne Westwood has always infused politics into her art. What is your opinion on protest fashion and do you think it’s valuable? SR: I was and still am here for Amber Rose, Blac Chyna, and her two assistants. They looked fabu. Sometimes we have to be reminded that fashion isn’t just about style. Fashion is art. You can have a good sense of style, but to change/interrupt the environment you’re around by the way you’re dressed is an achievement. That’s when it’s fashion. AZ: What is fashion’s place in politics? SR: Fashion is an artifact of the zeitgeist. Fashion is a part of history, an attribute if you will. Specifically, right now there’s a debate about the current fashion...everyone wearing all black, being serious, wearing all casual wear, and how that is impacting the atmosphere and look at our environment. Everyone acts very serious and stern and people are doing dark things, antics. Just think about it. We gotta brighten up people. AZ: Talk about your senior thesis and what’s next for you. SR: My partner and I just thought about another name for senior thesis, The Come Up. The come up for us all forreal, forreal. Our generation needs a come up. And a solid one at that. Join our movement when it’s time.
SOMETIMES WE HAVE TO BE REMINDED THAT FASHION ISN’T JUST ABOUT STYLE. FASHION IS ART. YOU CAN HAVE A GOOD SENSE OF STYLE, BUT TO CHANGE/INTERRUPT THE ENVIRONMENT...BY THE WAY YOU’RE DRESSED IS AN ACHIEVEMENT. THAT’S WHEN IT’S FASHION.
JOE OBIMA JOE OBIMA IS A 24 YEAR OLD STUDYING MULTIMEDIA JOURNALISM AT MORGAN STATE UNIVERSITY AND A FREELANCE PHOTOJOURNALIST/PHOTOGRAPHER CURRENTLY LIVING IN BALTIMORE, MARYLAND. JOE CONSIDERS HIMSELF A “CONCEPTUAL PHOTOGRAPHER,” WHETHER IT’S AIMING HIS CAMERA AT BIZARRE SUBJECTS THAT HE COMES ACROSS OR CREATING BIZARRE SUBJECTS OF HIS OWN. ALL OF HIS WORKS, ACCORDING TO JOE, ARE “OPEN-ENDED, OPEN FOR DISCUSSION. NO TITLES, JUST A PICTURE. EACH PICTURE YOU SEE, THEY ALL STAND OUT ON IT’S OWN,” LEAVING PEOPLE TO CAREFULLY OBSERVE HIS WORK AND DISCUSS THE MESSAGE BEHIND EACH WORK. [THE FOLLOWING QUOTES WERE CURATED BY AYANA ZAIRE] [BACK COVER BY JOE OBIMA]
IN THE END, WE WILL REMEMBER NOT THE WORDS OF OUR ENEMIES, BUT THE SILENCE OF OUR FRIENDS. - MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.
YOU SEE IT’S BROKE NIGGA RACISM THAT’S THAT “DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING IN THE STORE” AND IT’S RICH NIGGA RACISM THAT’S THAT “COME IN, PLEASE BUY MORE” - KANYE WEST
DISTRIKTDC.COM SEE EXTENDED INTERVIEWS AND ADDITIONAL PHOTOS
The Art x Politics issue is a two part issue. Part II holds all the visual based content.