By Ellen Maidman-Tanner
I had the opportunity to speak with a dear friend of mine, who allowed me to ask her questions about her views on what African American female artists need at this turbulent time in our country’s history. By way of background, Marjorie and I worked together many years ago at DC’s downtown Gospel Rescue Ministry, a shelter and educational center for homeless crack-addicted men. My friendship with Marjorie was my great gift from that experience.
Marjorie considers herself a conscientious investor, and advocate for social justice, and an educational consultant. An activity near and dear to her heart is her volunteer work at the Eubie Blake Cultural Center in Baltimore. She has long promoted artists of the African Diaspora – men and women – in the Baltimore area.
I asked her point blank, “What is happening with black female artists right now in Baltimore? What can be done to help?” Marjorie had many thoughts on this. She started by noting that, “Art needn’t be indicative of the times, but a way to feed our souls.” She said that African American people are perpetually experiencing a limbic hijack, resulting in a fight or flight mode riddled with anger and discombobulation. African American women, additionally, can often feel constrained by exhausting societal norms which seek to dictate to them what they can and can’t do, what they can and can’t say, and how they can say it all in an effort to assimilate into the white mainstream.
Marjorie shared that for years black women’s actions have been hemmed in by too many perspectives not necessarily their own, radiating from a church culture that preached women be good, quiet, polite. This has made it hard for black women artists to find their own voices. She has noticed fewer black female than male artists exhibiting their work at The Eubie Blake Cultural Arts Center. “Young African American artists are overwhelmed economically with limited places to show and sell their work. Stuff is online but it’s not the same. All artists are struggling, women even more so.”
Her conclusion – “Artists need to be nurtured and heard without fear of reprisals. There is tremendous pent-up anger and as advocates for African American culture, we need to make sure we provide spaces and places for black female artists to vent their anger, produce their art, and share their souls.”