The Black List

Book cover, The Black ListThe Black List
Timothy Greenfield-Sanders and Elvis Mitchell

Photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders works his portrait magic while Elvis Mitchell interviews a list of awesome people. Many of the names I recognized, others, I didn’t. Nearly made me turn to my computer, looking for more information on some interesting idea or bit of information they mentioned.

The first profile I turned to was Toni Morrison’s. Because, you know, Toni Morrison. She just doesn’t even seem real to me, like she’s this amazing, focused, concentrated force of tremendous creativity and talent. But of course, she is a real person. And that is awesome.

I was going to try to summarize this excerpt, but let’s just keep it in her words:

“My mother talked about her dreams as though they were events. She never said “I dreamed.” And we would listen to those dreams. For her it was part of her life, you know. And at the same time, this was a woman who, when they put the eviction notices up on the wall or the door, she tore them off. If you have no access to the political life or the government life or the institutional life of your world, you do reinvent or invent a reliance on religion, magic- something else that’s yours. So that’s part of this life that’s enchanted. It’s an enchanted life they lead. But at the same time they really do have to get that mean and go down to the tracks. We used to go down with little bags, pick up the coal that had been dropped, and bring it home to heat up the house. At the same time, there was this enchanted world that we lived in, because people talked about it as though it were enchanted. And we began to think of it that way while we were doing this very practical, no-nonsense, get-the-job-done-and-stop-whining thing.”

That passage helps me understand her work more fully. There is always that enchanted sense at least flitting around the periphery, even when someone is taking a train ride or watching children.

It’s been too long since I read one of her books. I need to fix that.

Can we talk about how much I love Thelma Golden’s portrait? Like, love. I know nothing about her beyond what I learned from her profile. She’s the Director and Chief Curator for The Studio Museum in Harlem.  To me, her picture says she’s more used to being behind the scenes, arranging art, than being the subject of such art. But she knows she her life and her portrait are worthy subjects, and she uses her space masterfully. But that expression on her face – to me it’s as though she hears someone calling to her, needing help selecting the perfect display base for a sculpture for a current exhibition.

Portrait of Thelma Golden, a black woman, from midsection upwards.

I was going to tell you about more sections I loved, but that would be most of them.  So maybe you should just get yourself a copy and enjoy it.

The Black List is:

Slash; Toni Morrison; Keenan Ivory Wayans; Vernon Jordan; Faye Wattleton; Marc Morial; Serena Williams; Lou Gossett, Jr.; Russell Simmons; Lorna Simpson; Mahlon Duckett; Zane; Al Sharpton; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; William Rice; Thelma Golden; Sean Combs; Susan Rice; Chris Rock; Suzan-Lori Parks; Steve Stoute; Richard Parsons; Dawn Staley; Colin Powell; Bill T. Jones.

Want more like this? Try:
Ted Talks!


2 thoughts on “The Black List

  1. I saw this exhibit when it came to DC and it was awesome. I believe this is the same one. It was portraits representing 50 of the most influential African Americans of the 20th century – which is key.They also had a screen playing in the center of the exhibit showing interviews from each person. Notably absent was Barack Obama.

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