Who is seen? Who is not seen? These are questions I frequently ask myself as I observe Asheville culture as portrayed in local media, tourism marketing, events, etc, etc. Overwhelmingly, the people who are seen are white, and the people who are not seen are black or brown. We must change this.
A recent example of this was a Black Friday commercial for the River Arts District, brought to my attention by David Forbes of the Asheville Blade:
In the Blade post about this video, entitled “Gentry Friday,” Forbes offers a tongue-in-cheek idea of what the behind the scenes conversation about this video could have sounded like:
“’Ok, we need a great new promotional video for Black Friday.’
What about: ‘Friday doesn’t have to be black?’
‘Wait, you know we’re right in the middle of an area hard-hit by redlining and gentrification…’
‘Yes, indeed, one that’s majority black, fighting against the impact of poverty and the legacy of racist government policies. One that’s seen its own business community pushed out or steadily disappear? Where it’s become such an issue that the city and the feds finally ended up issuing whole studies on the problem?’
Forbes also shares this:
“Joking aside, this kind of clueless-to-the-point-of-incompetence work is an example of the problems we face, depicting Asheville as a playground for the white and wealthy even when showing areas in the middle of the most predominantly African-American part of the city. It’s far from the only culprit, but the fact it was signed off on without anyone involved apparently having the sense to go ‘wait, this is a really bad idea’ shows the depths of ignorance our city faces in trying to deal with de facto segregation.
Like every other group, local business owners in the arts range from good people trying to make a living and improve Asheville to those out for their own greed who are avidly encouraging segregating the city further in the process. The former deserve far, far better than this crap claiming to represent them. As for the latter, well, to them this probably looks just fine.”
As always, I appreciate the Asheville Blade for raising awareness, and for stimulating conversations about how we can do better. I’ve actually sent the producers of this video, Fiasco Pictures, a message asking to meet. My guess is that they, like many in the dominant culture, are not aware of the African-American perspective that Forbes is drawing attention to. This is a journey for all of us and I am always open to sharing insights and ideas about addressing unconscious bias, etc.
The system is designed to keep white people from noticing that we are central to every story. Acknowledging this is the first step towards a new paradigm that will allow us to truly see all of our neighbors.
For those of you who ask me what you can do to work for racial equity – calling out exclusion when you observe it is important, along with offering suggestions for inclusion.
ASHEVILLE ACTION ROUND UP
Nuestro Centro Posada
The very wonderful and vital Nuestro Centro will hold their annual Posada fundraiser on Sunday, December 18 from 4 – 9 pm at 37 Brickyard Rd. Sponsorships are available for $100, email firstname.lastname@example.org by December 1 to confirm inclusion in event PR and a table at the event.
CommUNITY Holiday Expo
This Saturday, December 3, from 1 to 4 pm at the Edington Center, 133 Livingston Street, will be the CommUNITY Holiday Expo. Support black-owned businesses!
Woods & Wilds Storytelling & Music Festival
Also this Saturday, from 6 to 8 pm, my band Krekel & Whoa is performing at the Salvage Station for the Dogwood Alliance’s Woods & Wilds Festival (the event runs 1 to 10 pm). Though I usually do not write about my music on here, I thought I’d share this one since it’s in support of an organization fighting for Southern forests. Details.
BIG BOY FLY and The Bank
Last Friday’s BIG BOI FLY Fashion Show, produced by Asheville411.com, My Daddy Taught Me That (MDTMT), and photographer Micah Mackenzie, was a sweet event. I was particularly touched by the young models from MDTMT, and the positive messages that were shared by the musical entertainers that evening, Santos and MOOK! Congrats to everyone involved! That same night, I was able to catch the debut performance of The Bank at the newly renovated Haywood Lounge. It was a treat to hear contemporary R&B performed by the seven talented members of that group. I went home thankful to the organizers of both events for providing cultural options outside of Asheville’s norm. The city is richer because of them.