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By Micherlange Hemsley
THE RACE TRACK
By Micherlange Hemsley
My artwork is inspired by a college class activity where we were asked to draw what we envisioned power to look like. In my drawing, I represented power with a race track, where those with privilege have no barriers/hurdles standing in their way, and African-Americans do. In the activity, we were asked not to use any words, so I drew symbols on the tracks to signify forms of oppression and discrimination that Blacks face. What has now been created is a refined version of my original drawing and ideas about power. I replaced what were originally symbols in my drawing with photos that symbolize various forms of oppression.
The photos repersent: housing and educational inequality, slavery, mass incarceration, segregation, and racial terror. The inner lanes with the arrows represent those who don’t face the systematic forms of oppression that are imposed on Black Americans. I strategically chose this placement because when you look at a race track, the inner lanes appear to have a shorter distance than the outer lanes for those who are running in the same race. This serves as a metaphor for how white privilege functions in America. Furthermore, I entitled the piece "THE RACE TRACK", in which the double-meaning of the word “race” as a noun is conveyed. I provide the following two definitions. 1. noun: race; plural noun: races a situation in which individuals or groups compete to be first to achieve a particular objective. 2. noun: race; plural noun: races the fact or condition of belonging to a racial division or group; the qualities or characteristics associated with this.
I also included song lyrics in the outer lanes that reinforce the story told through the photos. One specific song quote of lyric importance is from Kendrick Lamar’s ELEMENT. Kendrick states, “we talkin' about races. You know this'll never be a tie, just look at their laces.” We see Kendrick employing the same double-meaning of the word “race” in these lyrics that was described above. Other lyrics are included from the following songs: Brotha Man by A$AP Rocky, Casket Pretty by Noname, This is American by Childish Gambino, Queen and Slim by Coast Contra, BJ The Chicago Kid, American Hypnosis by Saba, ELEMENT by Kendrick Lamar, and Strange Fruit by Nina Simone.
This artwork was created using the “Paint 3D” application.
The photos in the collage were sourced from the following websites: https://allthatsinteresting.com/segregation-in-america-photos#2 https://www.cnn.com/style/article/gordon-parks-civil-rights-photography/index.html https://nationalpost.com/news/five-years-of-research-catalogues-4000-blacks-lynched-in -the-american-south-some-as-recently-as-1950
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