Portraiture of Resistance
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Art and Poem by Ras Corey Ameen
Resist is to struggle,
fight back when attacked
Withstand the effects,
prevent it with your words or acts
Learn about resistance,
we can start way black
In Jamaica Nanny Maroon defeats the British,
1739 to be exact
Same land was a slave Dutty Boukman
and he wasn't haven't that
Shipped to Haiti where he sparked the Revolution,
beheaded by the French that's fact
Like Steve Biko in South Africa,
killed for speaking out and being black;
Resistance has a cost, so be ready for that
To free Black people Marcus Garvey sacrificed,
let's bring that spirit back
Resist against racism,
keep fighting or stay a victim
Words can awaken who's listening
Malcolm X we sure miss him
Like Chairman Fred Hampton,
both assassinated by the System
Black Power is the message that should never go away,
Resist and start today like Kwame Ture
Sometimes we fight and run, to live another day
Can't beg for freedom that's for sure
Resist like Assata Shakur
Rise up; eat clean and pure,
don't treat your body like a sewer
Resist their poison food,
Dr. Sebi showed us all the cure
Put your fist up for Resisting
Turn existing into living
The fight is real so never fake this
Resist like Dr. Angela Davis
Some sing about Resistance,
touch you deep to the bone,
like 'Mississippi God damn!',
Resist like Ms. Nina Simone
Come home while moving on,
I'll Resist until I'm gone
When The Creator says 'not today',
Live to Resist like Dr. James Cameron
© Ras Corey Ameen
My earliest memory of displayed racism was from when I was about the age of 4. It took place in Milwaukee, WI where I was born and raised. My mother was called a 'Nigger lover' as we sat at a restaurant eating lunch with my granny.
Born in the early 1970's to a Black father and White mother and raised in the most segregated city in "America" has taught me a lot. Questions like, 'What are you mixed with?' and statements from fellow students (who are now law enforcement officers) calling me 'Yellow Nigger', 'Nigger', etc. have all impacted my thinking as well as my use of words and actions. Defeating racism, WHITE SUPREMACY is my greatest 'muse' as an artist.
Like all black people in the NW Hemisphere I experience trauma. I have stories I can share of being beaten by cops. I have witnessed and endured many people exercising their racism and the authority it gives them in this world. I share in all the loss, the harm and all the pain caused by this wicked global system. I cry out for all those who have been killed and who have died unjustly.
Through my expressions of word, lyrics and art I am able to do something that will hopefully help someone else learn, share and express themselves. My work is to inspire others to keep fighting and striving to counter racism. At this point of my existence, I can think of nothing more important to me as a duty, focus and mission than; "Replace THE SYSTEM OF WHITE SUPREMACY with Justice." (words of Neely Fuller Jr.)
This is my reason for being an 'artist'.
Afterword by Justus Selah
The portraits of those who resist oppression are by their nature testimonies against injustice. Adorno the philosopher wrote “all art is an uncommitted crime.” If this is true the question should be asked by its nature what or who is the artist then committing a crime against? Art can threaten the status quo. It has been used as an incredible weapon for social revolution and lasting transformation, but it has also been used with great success as a propaganda tool for the ruling classes.
Resistance art and portraiture are found throughout time and across the globe. The walls of ancient Egypt, Ethiopia, Sumer, Babylon, Peru, Greece, Rome and any and all places in-between are full of these vital forms of expression. What we now refer to as graffiti has been a crucial tactic for the declaration of social ails since as early as history has been recorded. Likewise, since the beginning of human expression humankind has been portraying themselves in art upon our walls.
It’s been shared that if art is part representation, then portraiture is representation writ large. Peoples tell their origin stories in this manner, from cave artifacts depicting hunting scenes, to illustrations of supposed glorious battle victories and those victors that shaped their nations’ direction.
Consequently, it has been the rulers and ruling class who have most often utilized portraiture to present themselves. Repeatedly, in an idealized manner, they have attempted to portray superiority to their subjects and neighboring peoples. The very ability to commission a portrait was a sign of one’s dynastic legitimacy. It showcased their power and control over economic and artistic resources. Portraiture came to be used as a tool for not only self embellishment, but correspondingly a tool for oppression.
Throughout much of the past thousand years black people were all but painted out of portraits. The Euro-biased view of the world’s pictorial story is so visible its incredibly clear that racism is institutionalized in the world’s so-called prestigious art museums and galleries. Even the venerated “Black Madonna” found in hundreds of churches throughout Europe has endured an ongoing attempt to whitewash all threatening controversy away from the obvious depiction of a black christ and his black mother.
Fortunately the historical canon has been greatly enriched by protest and all the artwork produced against oppression, violence, injustice and imbalance. These artifacts are testimonies of life expressed, negotiated and lived. We stand today on a foundation of protest. The artwork that is the fabric of today’s life is full with images, songs and writings developed as resistance.
The portrayal of those who have stood up and of those who continue to counter the wrongs humans commit against one another will play an essential role in every attempt to truly bring a balanced civilization to the globe. These portraits, like the role their historical counterparts have played will help shape our children’s children’s origin stories. Hopefully, if we can meet what this moment in time demands of us, these images will help share how we overcame so much to build the more just world they will know.
This is what history in the making looks like. We are participating in building tomorrow today. It’s in each of our power to make the world more just, more balanced. The opportunity for us all is here and now.
Pilny S., Why ancient Roman graffiti is so important to archaeologists, redorbit.com [October 12, 2016]
Colazzi, Alessandra, Fear of the outside world. An Egyptian perspective. academia.edu (2022)
Bard, K., The Enclyclopedia of the Archeology of Ancient Egypt, academia.edu (2022 )
Milnor K., Graffiti and the Literary Landscape in Roman Pompeii, p.1., (2014)
Kaufmann Miranda, Black Tudors: The Untold Story, OneWorld (October 2017)
Durlcy M., Black Madonnas: Origin, History, Controversy, University of Dayton, udatyton.edu (December 2020)
Bortolot, Alexander Ives. “Portraits of African Leadership: Living Rulers.” (October 2003)
Bortolot, Alexander Ives. “Ways of Recording African History.” (October 2003)
Rediscovering Black Portraiture, National Portrait Gallery (July 14, 2020)
Queen Nanny Maroon
A History of Queen Nanny, the Mother of Us All, by Karla Gottlieb
Black Rebels, African Caribbean Freedom Fighters in Jamaica, by Werner Zips
I AM Dutty Boukman, by Amina Phelps
Bookman and Cecile Fatiman: Black Revolution, by Frantz Derencourt Jr.
I Write What I Like: Selected Writings, by Steve Biko
The Testimony of Steve Biko: Black Consciousness in South Africa, by Steve Biko
Biko, by Donald Woods
Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey, by Marcus Garvey
Message to the People, by Marcus Garvey
The Tragedy of White Injustice, by Marcus Garvey
Marcus Garvey Life and Lessons: A Centennial Companion to the Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers, by Marcus Garvey
Garvey: His Work and Impact, by Rupert Lewis and Patrick Bryan
Harlem History presents Marcus Garvey Speech
The Autobiography of Malcolm X, by Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley
Malcolm X Speaks: Selected Speeches and Statements, edited by George Breitmant
Malcolm X, by Gail Fay
Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary, by Walter Dean Myers
Malcolm X Talks to Young People: Speeches in United States, Britain and Africa, by Malcolm X
Power Anywhere Where There's People!, A Speech by Fred Hampton
It’s A Class Struggle Goddamit!, A Speech by Fred Hampton
The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther, by Jeffery Hass
Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael)
Stokely Speaks: From Black Power to Pan-Africanism, by Stokely Carmichael
Ready for Revolution: The Life and Struggles of Stokely Carmichael, by Stokely Carmichael
Black Power: Politics of Liberation in America, by Kwame Ture and Charles V. Hamilton
Assata: An Autobiography, by Assata Shakur
Women in Prison: How It Is With Us, by Assata Shakur
Assata Shakur: A 20th Century Escaped Slave, by Barbara Casey
Dr. Sebi Bible: The Complete Guide to Everything You Need to Know About Dr. Sebi’s Treatments and Cures for Any Disease, Alkaline Diet and Encyclopedia of Herbs., by Kelly Outtara
Dr. Sebi’s Treatment Book, by Aniys Hendry
Dr. Sebi Alkaline and Anti-Inflammatory Diet, by Emily Wilson
Angela Davis: An Autobiography, by Angela Davis
The Meaning of Freedom: And Other Difficult Dialogues, by Angela Davis
If They Come In The Morning, by Angela Davis
Seize the Time, by Angela Davis
Oppression and Repression in US, speech in 1972 by Angela Davis
I Put A Spell On You, The Autobiography of Nina Simone, by Nina Simone
Nina Simon’e Gum, by Warren Ellis
Best of Nina Simone - Original Keys for Singers, by Nina Simone
Mississippi Goddam, by Nina Simone
I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free, by Nina Simone
Dr. James Cameron
A Time of Terror: A Survivor’s Story, by Dr. James Cameron
Dr. James Cameron Pamphlet Collection, by Dr. James Cameron
Sweet Messenger: The True Story of the Only Known Survivor of a Lynching, James Cameron, produced by Fran Kaplan and Tony Ferraro, edited by Tony Ferraro