Home > DC Happenings, Fun for Everyone > Put Me On ‘The Black List’ Please

Put Me On ‘The Black List’ Please

The weekend of the King Holiday a friend and I made it out to the National Portrait Gallery to see ‘The Black List’ exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.  It’s a collection of photos challenging our usual perception of the term “black list.”  Photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders takes away the negative connotation and gives us a new way to think about it.  For this black list he organized a group of 50 African Americans with careers in business, politics, sports, music, the arts and more.

It featured details about education, upbringing and accomplishments.  I learned that Debra L. Lee – Chairman & CEO of  BET Holdings,  is originally from my home state – South Carolina.  The sheer joy on Suzan-Lori Parks’ face put a smile on my own.  She seems truly at home in her skin and I love the way they captured her.  She was one (of at least two) MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” recipient featured in the exhibit.

Power couple Samuel L. Jackson and LaTanya Richardson Jackson were individually featured.  I was reminded of her earliest work as a teen and her varied career as an actress.  I’m always moved by stories about people who’ve been focused from an early age. I admire that quality. When we viewed the picture of Samuel Jackson I was surprised when the wall notes mentioned his many successes as well as his drug addiction.  Now that was keeping it real.

There were other surprises along the way.  I’m a Wu-Tang fan, but didn’t expect to see RZA in the exhibit.  Having seen them perform at Rock the Bells last summer I was delighted!  They also got a shot of Guns N Roses legend Slash.  I had to add him to my Pandora playlist so I can hear him rip that guitar.

I enjoyed the loop of interviews and we watched several them – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Al Sharpton, Zane, Thelma Golden.  Throughout our visit we scanned birthdates and marveled at the beauty, health and overall attractiveness of people 20 and 30 years our senior.  A visual lesson on living well.

‘The Black List’ honored excellence, but made no judgments on who deserved to be on the walls.  There was respect for Colin Powell and Toni Morrison, as well as for Tyler Perry and Sean ”Puffy” Combs. That distinguished this exhibit.  This accomplished group consists of people who took chances and succeeded despite their challenges.

I will head back to the exhibit to catch more of the video footage and to take in the crowd.  It was well attended the day we toured and I hope the traffic remains steady.  I appreciate the reality of the exhibit – not just feel good moments, but capturing whole lives.

You have plenty of time to plan a visit.  It’s in DC until April 22, 2012.

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