Today, from our friends at Guernica, we bring you a conversation between artist Kameelah Rasheed and author Imani Roach. They talk about the “stutters” and footnotes of history, archiving as art, visibility, and Rasheed’s project How to Suffer Politely (And Other Etiquette). This article was originally published on March 6, 2017.
Perhaps, while strolling down the sidewalks of New York City, or scanning your Instagram feed, you’ve encountered a thick crop of black block letters set against a neon yellow background that read “Lower the Pitch of Your Suffering,” or “Tell Your Struggle With Triumphant Humor.” If so, you have already been privy to the terse power of Kameelah Janan Rasheed’s art. If you have ever kept a stack of ticket stubs or love letters in a shoebox under your bed, or taken a deep dive into the old issues of Ebony magazine beside your grandmother’s coffee table, then you are also acquainted with the ritualistic source of that power. While Rasheed’s creative process manifests in diverse ways—from slick text-based posters and superimposed projections of Black family photographs to installations comprising hundreds of pieces of ephemera—her interest in mining, complicating, and resurfacing historical narratives persists.
In addition to her various ongoing solo projects, Rasheed recently joined with more than 100 of her peers under the banner of Black Women Artists for Black Lives Matter. This group, originally convened by artist Simone Leigh in conjunction with her 2016 show at the New Museum, has already mounted an impressive slate of performances, workshops, installations, and ritual happenings, all in support of Black life, health, and collective joy. And it is just getting started. As Rasheed, who serves as the group’s official archivist, explains, “We’re really imagining this as a movement of multiple chapters. We are thinking about horizontal organization, honoring people’s capacities, and how every person plays a part in the process.”