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Jordan Washington: “Still”

Wrapping+up+2017+with+a+reflection+of+The+Arts+at+Springbrook.+
Wrapping up 2017 with a reflection of The Arts at Springbrook.

Wrapping up 2017 with a reflection of The Arts at Springbrook.

photo by Yearbook Staff

photo by Yearbook Staff

Wrapping up 2017 with a reflection of The Arts at Springbrook.

by Michael Solomon, Editor-in-chief

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Senior Jordan Washington isn’t really much of a painter. In fact, with all the time he spends as the marching band’s drum major, as well as his on-the-side DJ gig, he’s only had time to make about 3 paintings his entire life.

His latest thought-provoking piece, titled “Still”, mostly made with acrylic paint and photo paper, and was entered into the annual Springbrook Art show. The painting was inspired by Jay-Z’s “The Story of OJ” music video, which was an animation that portrayed the history of African American culture and oppression.

photo by Yearbook Staff
Wrapping up 2017 with a reflection of The Arts at Springbrook.

“Ever since I first saw the music video in the summer, I knew that I wanted to incorporate those same animated aspects into a painting. Similar to my other works of art, I took the main character in the video “Jay-Bo”, and painted him as a version of me, with high hair and baggy eyes,” said Washington, “…as an African American, Jay-Bo is a representative of me,” he explained.

In “The Story of OJ”, veteran rapper Jay-Z illustrates the sad reality that African Americans are still facing all forms of oppression, even though many would like to believe that our society has already left behind such ideologies:

Light n**ga, dark n**ga, faux n**ga, real n**ga

   Rich n**ga, poor n**ga, house n**ga, field n**ga

   Still n**ga, still n**ga

  • Jay-Z, The Story of OJ

“It represents the absence of change when it comes to racism and oppression in America. African-Americans are still facing inequality in most, if not all aspects of life,” Jordan said.

The issues that are addressed in both the song and the painting have been talked about for quite some time. When explaining the reasoning behind his lyrics, Jay-Z explained, “We tend to, as black people—‘cause we never had anything, which is understandable—we get to a place and we just think we separate ourselves from the culture,” he said.

In fact, Civil Rights leader Malcolm X once spoke on the same issue as well during his time, explaining the difference between what he called “the house negro and the field negro”, again touching on the subject of how higher social class can draw some away from their roots. In “The Story of OJ”,  Jay-Z states that this doesn’t make a difference when it comes to racial oppression. He portrays the sad reality that regardless of money, fame, or power, black people continue to be oppressed and discriminated against. Thus the phrase, “Still n**ga”.

When asked about the intended message of his piece, Jordan replied, “I honestly didn’t intend to have a message when painting this because as of now, we as African-Americans shouldn’t even have to explain ourselves anymore.”

Acknowledging the fact that his painting portrays some graphic and disturbing images, Washington said that he “wanted the viewer to feel disturbed by the images of racism that I transfered onto the canvas…  I don’t care how disturbing the artwork may seem to people, and I honestly didn’t think that I would be allowed to display it, but that’s just the ignorance that we still face in 2017.”

The painting illustrates a wide array of symbols associated with racism as well as the civil rights movement. Washington included images of Jim Crow, MLK, Abraham Lincoln, and many others. He said that each one of these photos was placed deliberately for a specific effect: “All I want is for people to understand how African-Americans feel. All of the stereotypes we face are extremely detrimental to how we look at ourselves, and how we try to conform to the world for acceptance. If a monkey eating a watermelon makes you feel some type of way, or Emmett Till’s open casket, or the klansman, then you start to question what you feel. If not, then you’re ignorant. The truth shouldn’t be sugar-coated”.

I mentioned to Jordan that many people today feel like African Americans dwell on the past too much, and that they need to move on. He completely disagrees with those people, saying that, “You can’t move on from something that isn’t changing. You can’t avoid racism.” Washington believes that at this point in history, African Americans now know how to empower, but are still being stripped of that very power.”

“I’m not dwelling in the past if the past is still occurring in the present. History has to be told in order for the future to adapt accordingly,” he said, “As I stated earlier, this painting was made to make the viewer uncomfortable, and if you do, then I feel like I accomplished my job. It’s not my job to make you like my work, I just want people to acknowledge our struggle.”

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Jordan Washington: “Still”