The Black Standard - Martell Ruffin / by Leroy Mikell


My newest personal work Consists of addressing the support system or lack there of in my community.  I am specifically targeting this series at traditionally Black topics that I feel serve to stunt our progress more than help.  This is a sort of Internal civil rights movement.  

I was looking through images of freedom riders and I came across an image of a young black man being tormented by another young black man blowing smoke in his face and scowling through his best impression of Jim Crow.  This series of images stuck to my eyeballs.  In context the young men were helping each other practice composure in the face of future oppression.  I knew this same situation still occurs daily in our community without any of the good intent that the men in the photo undoubtedly possessed.   Today we reserve certain occupations activities and even entertainment as not for us.  The freedom-riders prepared themselves for a world none but few of us can imagine by creating situations they would face during the sit-in movement in the states they were preparing to travel through.  They were helping each other build armor against an unfair world and terrible circumstances.

We test each other's armor more than we help build it.  There is an old adage in Black America about Working twice as hard for half the results.  My aim is to focus my lens on an emotion.  An emotion we lost by removing good intention from the process of building our armor for the world around us.  We see this emotion when Black Twitter locks in and targets someone we feel this emotion when we share an oversized dream at the lunch table at school.  I have personally seen people's dream die over a lunch period due to a merciless beating of quick witted kids with the sole purpose of getting the most laughs at your expense.  They test your armor and only the bulletproof survive.

The test always comes.  The honor roll is for white people, test, you are too Black to be an AKA, test, Black people don't go to medical school and on and on and on.  This energy needs to be positive.  The test should help others build armor for the future not wear it down to the useless covering we now call fronting.

This piece is called Men in Ballet because Black men dance but they don't do ballet.  Martell Ruffin is an Alvin Ailey Dancer and he had enough Armor to Survive.  

Let me know what you think.