This Land Is Our Land

For five days I’ve been stuck as fuck while writing about “Mastry,” the Metropolitan Museum of Art retrospective of the work of Kerry James Marshall. This is a stressful time in my personal life, and a more stressful time in our young country. Right now what’s saving a lot of us is art. For sure that’s true for me: film, dance, music, and fine arts, especially this retrospective, which I’ve seen three times. So it seems fitting that in the same week that an evil empire is entering office and we are commemorating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I’m struggling to do justice to the brilliance of Marshall, who grew up with the civil rights movement and who doesn’t labor to fit black folks into the Western art canon so much as to fit that canon into the larger context of the African diaspora. What sticks me is this: Who am I, a daughter of Scots and Jews and Sioux Indians, to opine on his endeavor? Well, I am one of the many Americans who live on this land long tilled with the blood, sweat and tears of so many brown and black bodies. I live on this land and so I inherit its legacy; its story is my beautiful, barbaric story, too. Today we celebrate one of our greatest modern prophets–the only 20th century figure to earn his own holiday in our country’s calendar. Rather than loaf on this day off, I’m proud to honor Marshall’s extraordinary achievements, his boldest beauty. To defeat empire, we must do whatever we each do best. That is what Dr. King asked of us–no more, no less. So as a channel, I must acknowledge my wonder as well as my ruin. And Marshall’s work–encompassing two floors of one of the most hallowed art institutions in Western civilization–has wrecked me in the very best sense of that expression. I’m starting here, and hoping I’ll finish somewhere better. God knows we must connect from our most honest, humble places if we’re to make any meaningful movements.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy