This is one of the major photographs from Memory Landscape Memoir, my work in progress. I’m trying to create an aesthetic of memory, so the photographs get very complex and layered. But these bad times make me want to show this image with a direct immediate story. It’s a very different way of doing this for me, but in this moment it feels right.
The black and white photo is of the The Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom, which took place on May 17, 1957, when a crowd of over thirty thousand nonviolent demonstrators, from more than thirty states, gathered at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Somewhere in that crowd are me and my friend Pat Sexton. We had come down from NYC on the bus with an NAACP group from Jamaica, Queens.
The young woman in the photo is me at about the age I was in 1957.
1954 is the last year Emmett Till was alive. He died when I was twelve. story of his death and the images of his battered body made a deep impression on me then.
The 9mm bullets and shells are like the bullets that murdered Trayvon Martin in 2013
Aces and Eights are the “Dead Man’s Hand”. Wild Bill Hickock was holding it when he was gunned down.
The white handkerchief represents the handkerchiefs they asked us to wave rather then applaud the speakers since it was a prayer pilgrimage. The air was filled with waving handkerchiefs. That created very intense energy–far more then applause would have.