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Wadsworth Jarrell conveys the trope of African American liberation through his painting Revolutionary, of Angela Y. Davis. This trope is conveyed through text, color, representation, and human activism. Influential words flow throughout the painting and bright colors are used show the strong feelings of this piece. The painting itself reflects the views of a current militant reformer. The suit exemplifies the revolution that the black race faces within itself, which connects to Jae Jerrell’s two-piece women’s suit. There can be many ideas as to what the suit represents, two ideas were that it represents ammunition for a revolution and also creation.
Together the two pieces convey the historical tropes of battle and women empowerment.
During the Civil Rights Movement, one specific group of individuals cannot be ignored since it had major impacts on the movement. These individuals dedicated so much of their own time and energy to fight for equal rights for the African American race, not only with their actions but with their knowledge.
They made sure that goods and resources were provided. They instilled the importance of providing moral support amongst one another. These people were an important element of the Civil Rights Movement.
The group being described were the African American women of the movement. “Race leaders” increasing rhetorical ties to religion also opened up new opportunities for women’s participation in the civil rights movement. During the Civil Rights Movement, numerous women partook in important roles, including being lawyers on school segregation lawsuits and leading local civil rights organizations.
When women tried to lead the movement, they were frequently overshadowed by men. Men still to this day get more attention and acknowledgment for their successes in widespread historical narratives and commemorations. Since day one of the movement, African American women not only demonstrated to the public what it is like to risk their life for something they strongly believed in but they were also becoming teachers in the process.
They taught the public to read and write so that they too, can fight for their liberation. Some individuals took their newly learned skills, and fought for equal rights and justice for their people. A couple of the groups they were associated with were Student Nonviolent Coordinating, Congress of Racial Equality, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Some would even say that the women of that time were the “backbone of the Civil Rights Movement.”
What made the black women back then develop into the “backbone of the Civil Rights Movement”? Dealing with the harsh historical circumstances, women back then underwent horrific challenges including brutal oppression, which gave them a sense of motivation to change not only their lives but the lives of others as well. Racial discrimination was one of the major issues that caused African American women to get more involved with the movement.
When they went to go look for jobs or even to buy houses they were so discriminated against that they were exhausted and desperately needed something to change. Unlike in many religions and cultures, black women were made head of the household which included making decisions around the house religion, so why not the decision to make a change? That is exactly what they did, they took their responsibilities for granted to take care of their communities, so they partook in the movement without any hesitance, all to aid their people.
Throughout African American history women have always played major roles. “The word trope has also come to be used for describing commonly recurring literary and rhetorical devices, motifs or clich?s in creative works.” The tropes of battle for women empowerment were viewed through many pieces of texts in black history. One piece of work was Wadsworth Jerrell’s painting of Angela Y. Davis and Jae Jerrell’s two-piece revolutionary suit. Wadsworth Aikens Jarrell was an African American painter, printmaker, and sculptor. He was born in Albany, Georgia, and moved to Chicago, Illinois, where he attended the Art Institute of Chicago. After graduation, he became heavily involved in the local art scene and through his early work he explored the working life of blacks in Chicago and found influence in the sights and sounds of jazz music. In the late 1960s he opened WJ Studio and Gallery, where he, along with his wife, Jae, hosted regional artists and musicians.
Elaine Jae Jarrell (born Elaine Annette Johnson in 1935) is an American artist best known for her fashion designs and her involvement with the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s. Influenced by her grandfather’s work as a tailor, Jarrell learned about fabrics and sewing at a young age. This acquired knowledge led her on the hard working and time-consuming paths as a fashion designer, artist and vintage clothing dealer. In 1968, AfriCOBRA was founded by Jerrell and some other accredited influencers of the time period like Jeff Donaldson and Barbara Jones-Hogu. This group was called AfriCOBRA because it stands for African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists. These artists strived to help the black community grow and prosper in the art profession. Jarrell wanted to provide positive representation of the African culture in the art world. She wanted to instill not only pride and power, but respect and liveliness into the black communities. She did this by building and creating African garments as a representation of African strength, persistence, and reign.
Wadsworth created an absolutely fascinating painting of Angela Davis, a well-known writer and civil rights activist. He painted her in such a way as to prove to the world just how much of a leader she was when it came to fighting for gender, racial and economic justice. Wadsworth illustrated her in a revolutionary suit, which was designed by Jae Jarrell back in 1969 and recreated it in 2010 for AfriCOBRA. The canvas displays vibrant colors which were signature to the group, Davis’s outfit consists of powerful words she has used in her speeches and protests in addition to Black Power slogans which show the contiguous battle black people face in America. When she speaks, her voice turns into a flying burst of words and colors that reflects the energy and intensity of her activism.
Who is Angela Y. Davis? Angela Davis is an activist, politician, philosopher, and professor. She was born on January 26, 1944, in the Dynamite Hill area of Birmingham, Alabama. The neighborhood got its name because countless African American houses in this area had been bombed throughout the years by the Ku Klux Klan. Davis’s father, Frank Davis, was a service station owner while her mother, Sallye Davis, was an elementary school teacher. Davis’s mother was also very active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
If a person was openly associated with the organization, danger was prominent due to the organization’s civil rights activities. By 1967, Davis was moved by Black Power supporters and joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and later joined the Black Panther Party. This party was a black revolutionary party founded by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton. In 1969, Angela Davis was hired by the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) as an assistant professor of philosophy, but her involvement in the Communist Party led to her dismissal. During the early 1970s, she also became active in the movement to improve prison conditions for inmates. That work led to her campaign to release the Soledad (Prison) Brothers.
The Soledad Brothers were two African American prisoners and Black Panther Party members, George Jackson and W. L. Nolen, who were incarcerated in the late 1960s. On August 7, 1970, Jonathan Jackson, the younger brother of George Jackson, attempted to free prisoners who were on trial in the Marin County Courthouse. During this failed attempt, Superior Court Judge Harold Haley and three others including Jonathan Jackson were killed. Although Davis did not participate in the actual break-out attempt, she became a suspect when it was discovered that the guns used by Jackson were registered in her name. Davis fled to avoid arrest and was placed on the FBI’s most wanted list. Law enforcement captured her several months later in New York. During her high-profile trial in 1972, all charges were dropped.
The painting itself was based on a picture that was taken of Davis in 1970 while she was giving one of many or her speeches. Revolutionary (the painting) was made from recurring words, sayings, and letters. Words such as rest, black, nation, revolution, love, and beautiful burst from Davis’s head in Jarrell’s notorious “Kool-Aid colors”. Davis’s speech, I have given my life in the struggle. If I have to lose my life, that is the way it will be, goes down her left arm and torso. Words that start with the letter B like, beautiful, blackness, and bad are repeated throughout the artwork. While the writing can be difficult to read and involves a lot of focus to decrypt, Jarrell states, We clearly wrote on the canvas … exactly what we wanted you to know.
Jae Jarrell’s two-piece women’s suit made of gray tweed in 1969 and remade in 2010. In the fashion of the time, the skirt is a short, simple A-line, while the jacket is collarless with a scalloped edge and hidden closures. Accenting the curve of the scallop is a colorful suede bandolier filled with brightly painted wooden dowels which have a dual meaning: ammunition for a revolution, or ammunition for creation, crayons or pastels an artist might use to create a statement about pride and self-determination.
When it pertains to women empowerment, African American women have come a long way. In 1940, 60% of working black women worked as domestic servants however now the number is down to 2% but 60% hold white collar office jobs. in 1958, 44% of white Americans expressed that they would move elsewhere if an African American family moved next door to them; today it stands at 1%. in 1964, the civil rights act was passed and as few as 18% of white Americans claimed to have a friend who was black; nowadays 86% of whites said they have at least one black friend similarly 87% of blacks confirmed that they have at least white friends. Progress is the largely suppressed story of race and race relations over the past half-century. And thus, it’s news that more than 40 percent of African Americans now consider themselves members of the middle class. Forty-two percent own their own homes, a figure that rises to 75 percent if we look just at black married couples. Black two-parent families earn only 13 percent less than those who are white. Almost a third of the black population lives in suburbia.
The trope of women empowerment through battle has not only been seen in incredible pieces of art. Some may not know that the music they listen to today contains plenty of empowering messages behind them. Some examples would be “Independent Women” by Destiny’s Child, “Run the World (Girls)” by Beyonce, “I’m Every Woman” by Chaka Khan and many more. These everyday songs, sung by powerful women show that yes, today African American women are more heard and seen but not just that. They proving to the world that they are going to stay being heard loudly and seen everywhere. “In Run the World (Girls)” by Beyonce, Beyonce talks about women empowerment. The video depicts a feminine faade but also illustrates masculinity when it comes to the dancer’s personality as she sung, “Girls we run this mother” which signified to the audience that women run the world and that they too have power. Within the song she says, “My persuasion can build a nation. Endless power. Our love we can devour. You’ll do anything for me. Society normally associated power as a masculine trait. But that isn’t the case, she later on in the song expresses that women are able to have children and go right back to work when she says “strong enough to bear the children then get back to bidness”. Not only are woman able to do a man’s job they can also have their own jobs solely as women to raise and provide for their families.”
The lyrics in “Independent Women” imply that women have enough power that they do not need a man to depend on, to purchase them things, or to control what they do and don’t do, stating: “Question, tell me how you feel about this? Try to control me boy you get dismissed. Pay my own fun, oh and I pay my own bills, always 50/50 in relationships. The shoes on my feet, I’ve bought it, the clothes I’m wearing, I’ve bought it, the rock I’m rockin, I’ve bought it. Cause I depend on me.”
The video does a remarkable job at depicting this theme of women empowerment and that there is no need for males to have control. Throughout the video the women were not dressed very erotic and cover up majority of themselves which allows for them to display to the audience that women are no longer going to be sexualized and “controlled” by social media. Also, they are showing that having an all women music video expresses that women are the ones with the power now. In the video there is a long conference tabled filled with women and even a woman sitting at the head. Something else the video demonstrates is that women can make their own money to buy whatever they want and they do not need to depend on a man to “run their lives” and control every aspect of them.
In conclusion, women empowerment has been conveyed throughout African American history and will always continue to spread. Gender bias overall is completely unreasonable, outdated and immoral on so many levels. Today, women empowerment is so important since back then women were not even allowed to get higher educations, vote, or even get a job. Women have come so far and paintings like Jarrell’s help women remember how powerful they really are and to stand up with other women and continue the cycle of women’s power.
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