History Appropriates Itself

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Project Description: I used this collage project as an opportunity to explore topics that I am extremely passionate about. I wanted to take time to think about the past's connection to the present. For my community, the loss of that connection is a method of oppression. In academia, history is divided into racial sub categories. Of course, those categories only refer to histories of "others" that we have created. History is the story that generally involves a white main character who manages a heroic ending despite the colored bodies in the way. To learn about the history of those colored bodies, you have to take a special course in departments that didn't even exist until second half of the 20th century. An existence disconnected from the past could only be, at best, half full. Worse still, is that the past that we deny reappears in new forms in the same patterns. If we were more aware of these patterns, maybe we could create a future that didn't simply appropriate itself. 
I take my title from the classic line "history repeats itself," but I have myself appropriated the phrase. I use this title to draw attention to the fact that history revisits us in new forms. There are remnants of the past in each moment of the future. What does it mean then to not know this past? Do we ever embed hip hop in the black musical tradition it belongs to? The controversy around hip hop is a collage of the same responses that Jazz met. The existence of hip hop itself is a testament to the conditions people were facing in the South Bronx which is pieced together with images of conditions the blues produced.

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This piece is a reflection of a chapter I read in Hip Hop Revolution by Jeffrey O. G. Ogbar. In this chapter, he draws a connection between commercial hip hop and the history of minstrelsy. Phonte, a hip hop artist, is quoted saying: "When you turn on the TV and you watch these videos, you're not seeing real people, they're damn near like caricatures." He asserts that white market demand for hip hop has turned the art into a depiction of black culture that consumers are comfortable consuming. Ogbar says it in other words: "The point is this: debasement of black communities is entirely acceptable- required even -by hip hop's predominantly white consumer base" (29). 

In the other pieces the same logic follows. Michelle Alexander posits in_ The New Jim Crow_ that mass incarceration has risen as the new form of racial control after slavery and Jim Crow. The second piece is in conversation with that assertion. The last is about how people at the intersection of oppressed identities have often been forced to choose which group to align themselves with. Women were considered a secondary issue in black movements, and blackness was considered a secondary issue in women's movements. 

I have chosen to present these pieces in my journal. I am also a passionate journaler. I believe that one way to combat the disconnection between the past and the present, the lack of information about the history of certain groups, the dismissal of experiences, is to document your existence. Tell your story. So, I write down my thoughts and "collage" literally all the time. History is territory on which battles are waged. The implications of those victories and losses inform everything that we believe ourselves to be. 

Process:
I bought a big piece of cardboard. I wanted to use sturdy material for the collages, but I also wanted to be able to place them in my books. I then printed images according to the ideas that I had. I didn't use many images, because there's a lot of intention in my choices. 

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I made wheat paste, because I wanted it to look a little messy. First time, too! Loved it. 

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Each of the three projects ended up being some variation of de collage. The hip hop one is probably the most effective imitation of that, but for the rest I just sat the images down in the order I felt they needed to be. The one about the prison industrial complex is the least like de collage. 

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