COLORED: An Unexpected Family Reunion

From the outside, the Carpenters Building looks dreary and unloved — like its been long forgotten in the bustle of Tacoma’s never ending coming-of-age story. With dated paint and cloudy (or covered) windows, the building is easy to miss in the grit of the city

The site became a source of intrigue, though, when the word “COLORED” was painted along a concrete wall. No explanation, no context. Just the word and two dates; one for the preview, and one for the hard open.

The more I heard about “COLORED,” the more I wanted to know, and see. Christopher Jordan, a City Arts 2016 Artist of the Year, did a wonderful job building anticipation and excitement as he worked tirelessly with artists — local and otherwise — to create something Tacoma has never experienced. From the short, tantalizing video ad to the growing roster of artists and performers, as well as the sneak peeks posted online, it became obvious this was going to be not just another art show, but an event.

What excited me most? The unapologetic Blackness of it all.

Though being Black comes with a vast and varying richness not found in every community, it has also long been an ordeal. The collective traumas and truths of being Black, which have lead us to where we are as a diaspora and as individuals, can sometimes give us tunnel vision; we focus on overcoming and moving forward, often forgetting to take time to celebrate ourselves, each other, and our culture. COLORED, though, takes the time and makes the space for us to do just that, to celebrate us and our wholeness as a people.

To walk into this exhibit is to walk into the lives of Black folks. The art filling the room is as varied as the people who created the pieces, and each one brings new or redoubled emotions. The shabby-chic feel of the Carpenters hall — with the dim lighting and stale air — elicits the feeling of walking into the well kept attic of an old relative. The space feels like home and history. And centered in the middle of it all, the stage (a piece of art all by itself) which allows a spot for everyone to come together to experience the show as a collective. Even when there was no one performing, patrons gathered around the stage as they ate, drank, and discussed.

Throughout the the evening, I ran into people I had not seen in years, and people I saw just the day before. People who live down the street, and folks who moved away from Tacoma years ago. There were babies, elders, and every age in between. Then, after our stomachs were full, our cups empty, and our imaginations piqued, the DJs began spinning their art and we danced. And in that space, among friends and strangers, I watched as we all became family.

As we Juju’d on that beat, got in Formation, did the Electric, the Wobble, formed a Soul Train line, and stepped (in the name of love, of course), I felt like I was at my Auntie’s house, and everyone was my favorite cousin. I didn’t feel the need to explain anything — not the art on the walls, not the tears brimming in my eyes, not the food on my plate, nor the slang in my sentences. I felt excited and comfortable to be there, to be Black, to be myself… to just be. And as I looked around and saw nothing but smiles throughout the room, I think others were riding that same vibe.

Christopher Jordan did not just curate art, he curated our minds and our culture. COLORED is by far the most authentic art experience I have ever had, and you would be a fool to miss it (no matter what color you are).

Photo: Christopher P. Jordan

COLORED is an experimental exhibition pairing the artworks and poems of Black creators from the US and Caribbean in dialog across space and time.

Check the Facebook event page for details on time and location.

Use the the hashtag #COLORED2017 for an ongoing experience.

Prior to the show, download one of the apps below, and be sure to have a fully charged battery.

Negative Me Free — Apple
Negative Image — Google Play

 This post was written for and originally posted on the Destiny City Discourse blog; it has been reposted here with permission.

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