In Front of the Veterans with DILUTED LOSS
For the rest of my life, I will remember standing in front of a room full of veterans from the Vietnam & Korean Wars at the Veterans Outreach Center and thanked them for their service.
And in return, they applauded me.
It happen on Tuesday, Feb 22nd when just before I begin to talk about DILUTED LOSS and who I am as the artist and what drives the work. The room was packed from front to back with a mixture of black and white vets and a few of their family members.
At first I was more nervous than I’ve ever been before when talking about the series. It was because of the collective experience of these older warriors that was, at this point in time, focusing on me at the front of the long room.
After the initial applause, a small joke and some laughter, I was back on my game and began to speak with confidence.
For this particular Black history Month presentation I wanted to try something new, and other than speaking only in relation to the work, the goal was to focus on the historical significance of the work. Studying had prepared me with historical facts about the Tuskeegee Airmen, the USS Mason DE-529, the 761st Tank battalion and the 555th Paratroopers.
Pointing to these stories made the work more relateable to the crowd. They seemed impressed with the fact that I was not willing to “sugar coat” the racial aspects of America’s military past, even in mixed company.
I also made a note about when WWII ended and what came next for black the Americans who fought for the country. Everyone was in agreement about the fact that, while the war was supposed to change life for African-American civilians and the soldiers who fought during the conflict, American racism and Jim Crow laws were still a weight on their lives and a detriment to their citizenship and participation in politics.
Creating a civil rights time-line and displaying the years between the ending of the war on August 14, 1945 and the 1954 Brown vs Board of Education, decision, the year 1957 when 9 black students were blocked from entering the school on the orders of the governor of Arkansas and 1965 “Bloody Sunday” march for voting rights, illustrated the lack of change in the lives of millions of Americans after they assisted in the success of freedom around the world.
All these things created an atmosphere that facilitated conversations from the soldiers, prompting them to tell of their own experiences with the war and racism, bringing up past and present issues that we face as a country.
To my utter surprise, at the end of my talk, the administrators of the Veterans Outreach Center presented me with an award that for participating in their program, which left me speechless. But what really struck me was the men standing in line to come up and shake my hand.
The honor of being able to present Diluted Loss to these men and women was more than I had ever hoped for with this series. I never thought it would lead me to this point in my artistic career, but with my representation from Clarke Art, it feels as though this is just beginning.
Thanx for viewing