The Mela.nin Éclat is a series of images, sounds, perspectives, and demonstrations (performances included) that represent the eclecticism of black people, and other communities of color.
Camille Upshaw, 21/detroit,mi
How do you feel your skin tone/complexion has affected your experience as a human being?
I feel like my skin tone has been a topic of conversation since I was a young girl. Since grade school I was always considered one of the lighter skinned kids in class, and I remember being in pre-school and all the kids surrounding me and telling me to close my eyes so that they can see the faintly visible veins on my eyelids and once they saw them they would immediately call me a “devil” or “demon child”. It was very hurtful and humiliating at the time. But of course I had come to learn that those children were ignorant and didn’t know any better. Another thing that’s constantly brought up is the complexion difference between my mother and I. Its often brought up when my mom, my aunt and I are altogether. People often assume that my aunt is my mom because she has the lighter skin, similar to my own and that my mom is the aunt or the friend or something of that nature. When the reality is my mother is the one that radiates the melanin that she proudly owns which has taught me to do the exact same. My complexion has had a huge impact on me since I’ve been in college, but in many different ways. I study in New York where its so intercultural and you can find someone of almost every nationality in this one place. I often get asked am I Dominican or “what part of the West Indies my family from” when I can only respond — “I am black”. But whether or not I am perceived as Dominican or West Indian it all comes under the category of being black in the acting conservatory that I attend, where my complexion and my background is something I am constantly reminded of. I am a human being and after that I am black that’s something I cant change, but being a black actor is something in itself. Andmy complexion has just taught me as an artist and a human being that I have to work three times as hard.
How do you feel music and other artistic expressions can act as a tool to spread a message of integrity and wholeheartedness?
When a person has the ability to create art I feel like they have the power to change the world. I feel art is the thing people turn to when they are celebrating, when they are sad, when they want to get some alone time, etc. So if we as artist are able to filter positive messages throughout the art we create people will notice it and pick up on those positive vibes. The things people watch and listen to has an affect on them whether they know it or not and if we could fill this world with more love, more honesty, and good vibes people would feel that.
What perspective or scope could a young black artist who is developing in an underprivileged area of America take to thrive and create change within himself and the greater world?
I would really encourage that young black artist to let out their creativity anyway they can, whether it’s being a poetry club at your school, or creating your own dances in your Granny's basement. GET IT OUT! I would also let them know that their light shines beyond the community they live in, and they have the ability to go further. Trust me I know myself that you don’t have to become victim of the hood you stay in. If you dream big, think, big, believe big, you will be able to make a way to do the things you really want to do in life, I truly believe that.
"...but unfortunately I feel like the artist who are really trying to create culture and advocate for change aren’t as publicized and put out there for the world to see."
How do you believe we can preserve and improve the black image, and the greater image of the world through expression in all mediums?
I think the key to this is black people coming together and sitting down and creating some dope shit for ourselves. Telling the stories of our culture that are untold. A lot of other people have been producing our plays, writing our music, supplying spaces for our art work, writing the movies we’re cast in, etc. for years. There are a few exceptions, but like I said a FEW. Its time for more of us to start making self-generated work and getting it out there.
What role do you feel you play in your community? Do you ever feel a direct correlation to the affects you experience due to your skin tone?
Within the college community I live in I play the role of one of those “actors”, and within the acting conservatory I play the role of one of the black actors. And being black has had a lot to do with my experiences at college and within the conservatory.