Black Lives Matter

Portrait of Vernis Jackson
Vernis Jackson, chair of the City of Portsmouth (NH) African Burying Ground Memorial committee.

Black lives matter.

I want a world where all lives matter. Where we recognize that all humans are one family. Where everyone has enough to eat and a decent place to live and meaningful work to do and is safe from violence. Where the variety among people is celebrated. Where humans live in balance with the Earth and all its inhabitants.

I believe it’s possible, but we’re still a long way from it. We can’t get there until Black lives are valued.

I’m not sure what happened to my people but we’ve been very confused about our place in the world. History has shown that all humans are vulnerable to greed, fear, and hate, but people of European heritage, especially the English (half my heritage) and Spanish, have taken it to another level.

White people have been determined to take all the world’s resources for ourselves and have been willing to use whatever means we can to get them. Racism, particularly racism against people of African heritage and the devaluing of Black lives, has been central to that effort.

As white people, racism offers us bribes in the form of resources, power and comfort in exchange for complicity with and participation in exploitation and violence towards Black people and other people of color. This robs us of our integrity, courage, connection with other humans, and actual pride in our culture and heritage. It leaves us feeling ashamed, guilty, numb, isolated, and defensive. Racism not only divides us from people of color but also from other white people, as we try to be “better” or “not like them” or “one of the good ones.”

The costs to our humanity are actually very high. I think our best chance to end racism will be when white people decide these costs are too high and are no longer willing to accept them in exchange for comfort and fear-based power.

To put it another way: I can’t have the world I want as long as racism exists, so it’s actually in my interest to eliminate racism.

Here’s my ongoing commitment as a photographer:

  • Portfolio – Update my portfolio through personal projects so that it reflects the diversity of the world and tells the stories of people who have been pushed to the margins
  • Production – build a production crew that is majority Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC). If you have a recommendation for a producer, stylist, etc, in New England, please drop me a line – I’d love to hear from you.
  • Business culture – Challenge white supremacy culture in how I conduct business. Aim for human connection over cold efficiency, honesty and vulnerability over defensiveness, integrity over comfort.
  • Clients – Advocate for inclusive storytelling. My clients ultimately have control over who is included or not and the story that is told in the images, but I will advocate to tell an inclusive story.
  • Education – Continue to educate myself about racism and about other cultures.
  • Speak up & show up – Talk with other white people about racism. Interrupt racism when I see it. Be willing to be uncomfortable. Make ending racism a priority in my life.

I’ve found these articles to be especially helpful, and would love to share them:

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