[i have a new tumblr, so if you like cool/pretty pictures, you should take a look. that's the long story made short. the long story made less short is below.]
growing up with my nose always in a book, i learned early on that moving away, switching schools and/or divorce were some of the worst things that could happen to a kid. copious amounts of judy blume warned me that these sorts of decisions were usually made by parents, their consequences wreaking havoc on your life suddenly and irreversibly. so when my mother calmly asked one day if i wanted to transfer to a another school, i hesitated. was this a set-up? had i done something wrong? jesus christ, were we moving?
"no?" panic crept into my voice, punctuating the response with a quivering lilt. sensing my confusion, she elaborated: "maybe...you'd like to go to a school with a few more little black girls? children that look like you?"
another pause, as i tried to relax and approach the question with the wisdom of my years - all seven of them. "no?"
being the only black girl in all of my classes never felt like a particularly good or bad thing. it was just one fact among others, including but not limited to: i liked my teachers, i got good grades, and i had a solid group of friends, shyness and bookworm tendencies notwithstanding. the prospect of starting over in foreign territory just to even out the playing field of diversity frankly seemed a bit extreme. she nodded, and the brief but strange conversation came to an abrupt end and the topic was never mentioned again. i felt i'd dodged a bullet.
over the years, i learned that despite her occasional qualms, my mother had made a conscious decision to send me to schools where the caucasian percentage of the student body was high, as long as the graduation rate was even higher. still, i never regretted my decision to stay put. maybe it was my multi-culti doll collection, reading list or favorite tv shows, but for the most part, i simply accepted my plainly obvious otherness among my peers. it's not like being one of the few people of color in the classroom was a constant walk in the park, but at the end of the day, it always seemed like a matter of demographics and not much else - i did grow up on staten island, after all.
higher education yielded cultural diversity in spades, so i focused instead on the few academic pursuits that didn't bore me to death: literature, fashion, social history, journalism and twentieth century americana. thankfully, the classes that covered these topics were phenomenal, and i relished every chance to immerse myself in a wealth of new knowledge, which, for the first time in my academic career, included a comprehensive examination of the black american experience. it certainly wasn't the first time i was learning about the marginalization of minorities throughout history. i was, however, intrigued to find out just how pervasive the consequences of these methods could be.
even trawling my favorite vintage stores soon became an exercise in curiosity. i'd find a blush pink cropped angora sweater in the back corner of my favorite haunt and notice that the narrative i dreamt up for the original owner of the garment inevitably featured a white woman. do a google image search for '60s fashion,' and it's not until page twenty that any women of color - diana ross and the supremes, to be exact - show up. american history shakes its head reproachfully at the injustices suffered by its minorities, but we don't need to wallow in our remorse. it's not like black people's entire existence was a feedback loop of trials and tribulations. the wringing of hands has gotten to the point that we forget to include people of color in our gauzy recollections of the good old days. even when i went searching for evidence to the contrary, the results were scattered at best. i decided to cobble together a collection of the best vintage imagery of black folk i could find - the sorts of images that i would post on this blog, if i were into image-heavy posts with negligible commentary - and a tumblr was born.
a couple of days into my research, i discovered other fantastic tumblrs like of another fashion and vintage black glamour. i considered leaving the task to their able hands, but then reconsidered, deciding that sharing the beauty of vintage photographs is hardly a novelty, whether or not they've been largely overlooked until now. some theme tinkering and a bit more research later, and i've got vintage noire. enjoy.