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. 

wesley t. jones, 22  / detroit, mi

How do you feel your skin tone/complexion has affected your experience as a human being?

Growing up, there were times during the times of my elementary school years (few times in middle school and high school) when I wished that my skin complexion wasn't as dark as it was. I'd say it was around the first or second grade when I became aware of my skin color in contrast to others, particularly people of lighter color because they were seen as more attractive, "cute", or "beautiful". My first time remembering experiencing this form of discrimination was when my bestfriend at the time, who was mixed, was "chosen" (over me) by a girl that I had really liked simply because he was lighter skinned. This is also the first time I remember wishing that I wasn't dark. It was even worse in the summer months, as I spent a lot of time outside my skin was tanned by the sun and even more dark--I remember seeing myself in pictures mentally noting how dark I looked and how much I wished it wasn't so. 

As I got older, and more mature and confident in my looks, I came to accept not only the color of my skin but it's tone in comparison to my black brothers and sisters who are lighter than me. Grant it, there were even times as a teenager when I'd wished that my skin was lighter just to be seen as a "more attractive" guy of the bunch, but those insecurities started to weigh less and lass as my confidence began to build as I got older and more attractive to others. It took me some time to come to terms with my dark skin and the beauty that it, too, beholds. I would say that media had a lot to do with my build in confidence. Once this whole 'discovery of beauty in the darker black persons skin' movement began (can't really remember when exactly) I started to see more and more dark skinned men and women on tv or in magazines who were glorified because of their skin tone or even being recognized for being dark skinned "and still beautiful", It'd seemed to me that all of a sudden times had changed. All of a sudden you could be a darker skinned black person and still be seen as an attractive being, and to some, even more attractive. Now, I own my black beauty and I am no longer running from the sun in the summer time because I know that at the end of the day my MELANIN is a God given gift that many people lighter than me pay for at their local tanning shops. I see my dark skin tone as a blessing, not a curse. I wear it with pride and I feel beautiful knowing that the universe's biggest star glistens my skin, and that my skin, being dark as it its, protects me from it when it needs to. 

How do you feel music and other artistic expressions can act as a tool to spread a message of integrity and wholeheartedness?

I think that music and other artisitc expressions are powerful because they have the ability to force us to self reflect, to gain more knowledge or awarness of something, to see something from another perspective, or to simply FEEL. These are all things that we as humans don't like to do much, and I think Art and all of its forms of expression has the power to challenge us and help us to be better people of the world.

 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 believe that everyone has something that they were born with, a gift that is within and that was planted in them to grow into the world. You cannot allow our circumstances to detour you from the plan that God has for you or keep you from delivering the message given to you to deliver to the world. You simply have to believe. Believe in what is in you, and trust that that is enough because that of which is in you, was all that you were born with. You can change the world by simply shining your light. Letting your light shine enough for it to shine on someone else. I think changing the world is as simple as shining and sharing your light.

Photos by GOODSTEPH. Taken in San Diego,CA

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.

NJERI RUTHERFORD, 21, CHARLOTTE, NC. 

GOODSTEPHHow do you feel your skin tone/complexion has affected your experience as a human being?

NJERI: When I was younger I truly hated my complexion. The reason for this is that when I was about 6 or 7 I was at church with my grandmother who is very fair skinned and a girl in my Sunday school class said I couldn't possibly be related to her because we were two completely different colors. I then began to question everyone in my family and that was my first introduction to colorism and skin tones that I had never paid attention to before. As I've gotten older however I have fallen madly in love with my skin. So much so that I take care of my skin more than I ever have. I try to avoid any blemishes so that it's chocolatey goodness remains unscathed. It makes me feel empowered, beautiful, and strong. Like maybe being brown somehow brings me closer to my ancestors.  I also have learned to appreciate the various skin tones of the people I see no matter their ethnicity. I find myself thinking "his/her skin is gorgeous" and being thoroughly intrigued by the complexity of melanated skin. 

"Somehow, however, black people continue to thrive. We overcome each and everything that attacks us and we are better for it. Black people persevere and rise against any battle and it has been that way for centuries."

GS: Culture evolves in time and space. Can you think of one thing about black culture that has remained consistent throughout time?

NR: A constant that has always been apart of black culture is resiliency. Blackness is more often than not scrutinized and made out to be ugly or inferior. Everything associated with black culture has some sort of negative connotation. Somehow, however, black people continue to thrive. We overcome each and everything that attacks us and we are better for it. Black people persevere and rise against any battle and it has been that way for centuries.

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GS:  Do you feel the current state of black music/art is imitating, perpetuating or creating culture?

NR:  Black music/art is always creating culture. Everything "popular" and "trendy" is the result of something that was created by black culture. Any imitations would be from something our own people did years ago in which case it's really paying homage, not imitating. Black music/art however is often imitated by other cultures, but never duplicated. 

Photos by GOODSTEPH. Taken in San Diego,CA

birth canal 

(WORDS BY GOODSTEPH)

At the center of my being, I am as pure as a unicorn, trotting open air with creamed coloured hooves. You might even equate me to a pearl. The finest of pearls formed from a grain of sand in the oyster of my mamas womb. I was the fate of 1994, I am the fate of a lifetime. As I walked along that life line, "In time." My mother reassured, with a desire for days-telling all she knew of the king she would come to raise. 
DYLAN E. RICHARDS

DYLAN E. RICHARDS

At the pit of her was fear cause she gave the burden to her calf, another misunderstood King with a crown of naps so sure to last. The man was unfit yet the woman had so much soul. With her eclectic sense of style and her shimmering heart of gold she had LOVE and peace as well to pass on to me. She was she and I became me, a unique palette of illustrious words and sounds and pictures of cold Summer's on the 7 mile block.  She flipped a mean chip on the shoulder of young man who was ugly by American standard and shiftless by the Student Code of Conduct.  A real shy fella with a moon shaped head, he had soul- enough soul to make you reconsider the product that came from the sparsely put housing where there ain't too many brown sets of kings and queens. Not too many grocery stores but enough liquor ones to drown a fish, not too many record stores but enough empty lots for bodies to get bodied, and for the bullets to rest easy. Where we lack the minds of the curious but the eyes of the delirious searching and searching for something or someone to keep them moving and grooving. Moving and loosing. 

DYLAN E. RICHARDS

DYLAN E. RICHARDS

When the groove was the idea of the mailman bringing mamas check today and we'd have to take those earnings to the thrift and get fresh to play our same candied yams and collard greens in the summer time.

--

And yet I still can't deny, sometimes I wonder whether we'dever see the sun or discover a truth from ancient times, or would I fight for manicured lawns and a stint of TV time. We are like peacocks in a barrel flapping hard and jumping high - looking toward the horizon for an answer to our cries. If you want the truth look inside, you were formed from an oyster just like I. Your heart so pure and tender your disposition strong with pride. Don't fall or fold beneath these marred and troubled times, you alone are the standard. The treasure awaits in your mind. Continue to pray, continue to eat, and tell the truth instead of the lie. See the beauty in these times, see the beauty in these times. 

DYLAN E. RICHARDS  

DYLAN E. RICHARDS

 

PHOTOS BY DYLAN E. RICHARDS

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.