On view through January 15, 2023
Chelsea J. Williams
The “Black is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite” exhibit at the New-York Historical Society is an important highlight in the history of Black Art, Black activism, and Black self-awareness.
Because of artists/activists like the great photojournalist Kwame Brathwaite and his favorite model, his wife, Sikolo Brathwaite, and her ebony-hued friends, the Grandassa Models of the late 1950s to the present, we now have protective laws such as the Crown Act (“Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair”).
Unfortunately, it is sad that 60 years after Kwame Brathwaite presented his view of our natural beauty, we must have a law that allows us to enjoy our natural beauty wherever we are in America. It is a shame that it took hundreds of years before people of color could accept their natural beauty. It is a shame that the beauty standard all the years was to look as white as possible, like having hair as long and sleek as possible, lips as small, and noses as straight … as possible.
Mr. Brathwaite’s exhibition does not dwell on the negative and does not condemn individuals’ decisions to use hair relaxers, hot combs, or wigs. The exhibit features beautiful images and uplifting soul music of the period when they were in their 20s and 30s. It also displays the fashions designed and handmade by some of the models.
Mr. Brathwaite was always positive about his people. His work teaches my generation to know the mental impact on African Americans of being taught to feel ashamed of the truth of how we look and where we come from. Mr. Brathwaites’ exhibit informs my generation that Black is beautiful when our Black lives matter to us. To purchase tickets, visit www.nyhistory.org/exhibitions/black-is-beautiful-the-photography-of-kwame-brathwaite.
photo/Bernice Elizabeth Green