For most of us, 2016 was a whirlwind; we saw the demise of some of our most beloved icons, witnessed senseless violence and injustice, and to top it all off we are bidding adieu to our first black family. The one thing that kept me afloat this year, however, was being able to bask in some black excellence! The sweet little glimpses of joy and creativity those on the list below decided to share with us this year was everything. Follow these seven Instagram accounts to start your 2017 off right!
Rakeem Cunningham – https://www.instagram.com/rakeemc
Queer, unapologetically black, and talented, Rakeem Cunningham is a Los Angeles based photographer and videographer. Rakeem shares his journey of self-growth and love through photos on Instagram and gives us a sneak peek of his upcoming works. Rakeem uses his photographic talents not only to capture people like the ultra-talented Barry Jenkins (director of Moonlight) for the Fader but to deconstruct social norms. Rakeem speaks out on topics that plague our society such as police brutality, systematic racism, and the struggle of being queer and fetishized by other races. What I love most about following Rakeem is that through his images, you can get a sense of his serious side, but at any given moment he’ll hit with a meme or someone twerking to Beyoncé!
Johanne Rahaman – https://www.instagram.com/johannerahaman/
Black Florida and Blvck Vrchives: Jacksonville. While on location in Jacksonville last Saturday shooting for @blvckvrchives, I ended up at a rally to protest police brutality. The woman who invited me, Ms Elizabeth ‘Lil Boo’ Bing, lost her grandson, 22 year old Vernell Bing Jr a month earlier. He was shot multiple times. He was unarmed. Jacksonville, FL. July 2, 2016 #blackflorida #johannerahaman #blvckvrchives #blacklivesmatter #jacksonville #northflorida #vernellbing #vernellbingjr #stoppolicebrutality #endpolicebrutality #bw #bnw #blackwhite #blacknwhite #blackandwhite
What Rahaman does with her Instagram feed is something quite extraordinary. Johanne Rahaman is the creator of Black Florida, a project that takes a look at the “simplicities and the complexities” of the neighborhoods and people around her. People tend to forget that South Florida is not just a spring break spot; long after tourists have gone home and Art Basel has wrapped up, its residents are still here living their lives. Outsiders may not see the beauty once all the flashing lights are gone but Johanne Rahaman does, and we appreciate it. Also, you have seen Johanne’s work in Sugarcane Magazine. She photographed Nora Chipaumaire in August for us.
Black Florida: Fort Pierce. Ms Mary Everett, photographed here at the end of April this year. This was a few hours after her first fall. She strongest, most resilient person I have ever met. She never sits still, even when she’s just sitting. Every time I visit her I always take out my phone and read to her the fb comments from everyone in her community and beyond, which she loves hearing, even if I’ve read them before. On the day of this photo she had fallen and was nursing some bruising on her legs. Then 2 weeks later I dropped by to see her and she was not there, so I called her granddaughter Shukirrah who told me she had fallen again and was at the hospital. I went to see her at the hospital, to find her wearing a neck-brace and in deep sleep the entire time. The nurses said she had fallen again that very morning in her hospital room. On the wall the nurses had wrote some details about her. The one that stood out was that she was feisty. Last Saturday I was happy to see her back at home in her usual spot on the porch. Her delicate smiles erupted into laughter every time I mentioned what the nurses had wrote. Ms Mary Everett is the most senior of the elders in Fort Pierce, and the oldest person I’ve ever met. She is a legend of Fort Pierce, and it is said that she dedicated her entire life to working in order to put all her children through college, only to outlive them all except for one daughter, Janice. Ms Mary Everett, is either 93 or 96 years old, and her recollection of her entire lifetime is foggy due to Alzheimer’s. Often called “Sunrise City,” Fort Pierce is on the Treasure Coast, stretching from St. Lucie Inlet to Sebastian Inlet along Florida’s Atlantic coast. Harlem Renaissance writer, folklorist and anthropologist, Zora Neale Hurston relocated to Fort Pierce in 1957 until her death. My camera is my passport. Fort Pierce, FL. April, 2016 #blackflorida #blacklivesmatter #johannerahaman #ReportageSpotlight #mycameraismypassport #fortpiercefl #fortpierce #zoranealehurston #girlgaze #girlgazeproject #portstlucie #florida #blackhistory #blackwomen #stluciecounty
Black Florida: Palatka. Mr Abe, the musical director at Bethel AME Church, on his way in to Sunday service. Originally called Pilo-taikita, meaning “crossing over” or “cows’ crossing,” Palatka was once the home of the Timucuan peoples, until they were wiped out by war, and infectious diseases from the Europeans. Producing turpentine, indigo, rice, and corn, Denys Rolle, a former British Parliamentary Minister operated one of the largest slavey plantations in British Florida, marking the first chapter in the history of forced labor on that patch of land, but certainly not the last. In 2007, Ron Evans was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison on drug conspiracy, financial re-structuring, and witness tampering charges, among others. Evans recruited homeless U.S. citizens from shelters across the Southeast with promises of good pay and housing in exchange for harvesting crops in the surrounding potato and cabbage fields. At his East Palatka labor camp — the same East Palatka where 230 years earlier Denys Rolle brought Africans to work as slaves on land he called Rollestown — Evans deducted rent, food, crack cocaine and alcohol from workers’ pay, holding them “perpetually indebted” in what the Department of Justice called “a form of servitude morally and legally reprehensible”. **Cited from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. My camera is my passport. Palatka, FL. July 3, 2016 #blackflorida #blacklivesmatter #johannerahaman #mycameraismypassport #palatka #putnamcounty #putnam #blackhistory #northflorida #bw #bnw #bandw #blackandwhite #blackwhite #blacknwhite
Loza Maléombho – https://www.instagram.com/lozamaleombho/
Brazilian-born Loza Maléombho is a designer that grew up between both Côte-d’Ivoire and the United States. If you follow her online, you know that her presence is otherworldly and it reflects in her one of a kind design portfolio. Her work is so stunning that Queen Bey wore one of her creations in the visual album Lemonade. Not only is she an amazing designer but she empowers women by manufacturing all the clothes for her label in a small, local workshop. She truly defines #BlackExcellence!
Tony Gum – https://www.instagram.com/tony_gum
Tony, Tony, Tony *Jan Brady voice* what can I say about Mr. Gum (pronounced goom) that hasn’t already been said? She’s ethereal but relatable, her selfies are both nostalgic and futuristic. Gum is without a doubt a future legend in the making. At any given time of the day when she graces us with her presence, it’s likely something mysterious and unique like a random nature pic or a video of her expressing herself through elegant movements. Following her on Instagram is like getting a glimpse inside her studio (and who wouldn’t want that?).
*Bonus: I had the pleasure of meeting her briefly this past Art Basel and she is just as ethereal in real-life as she seems in her work.*
Saddi Khali – https://www.instagram.com/saddikhaliphotos
Saddi Khali is a self-proclaimed PhotoVangelist. Khali’s feed is full of images (taken by him) that defy standard beauty norms. In a world where European beauty standards are unattainable goals, it’s great to see images of those who do not fit those standards be celebrated. With each photograph, Khali decolonizes beauty and shows us that every size and color is beautiful!
Theresa Chromati – https://www.instagram.com/theresachromati/
Theresa is by far one of my favorite follows! Chromati is a mixed media artist and innovator based in Baltimore. I’m so glad to have come across her Instagram before 2016 was over so I can start 2017 off getting my life! The way Chromati utilizes her Instagram feed always leaves me in awe. From the styling of her hair to her clothing everything about Chromati reeks of individuality and black girl magic. Her execution is always flawless. The best way to sum Chromati up: a James Van Der Zee photograph in motion!
Wilnise – https://www.instagram.com/wilnise
I am so thankful for discovering this girl. Though she does not live in Haiti, as a proud Haitian woman she offers us a different view of Haiti from time to time through videos and photographs. I am thankful for her perspective and for sharing the Haiti that so many people know but is often not documented. She is a vegan as well! Usually, when you think of someone being a vegan, you think of an obnoxious person wagging a finger at those who haven’t chosen their same lifestyle. That’s not what you get when you follow Wilnise. What you get is someone who shares her culture, family, and healthy lifestyle in a very intimate way.
Today’s energy is nothing more then magical! Embrace the magic and fill your hearts with gratitude on all that is to dissipat and expand on the abundance that is your birthright. Every morning I wake up deeply renewed, filled with immense love and gratitude for myself and the world. Today I felt that light fill my entire space and was in tears on how blessed and loved I am. I think we all have wondrous gifts and we’re in such beautiful spaces of tapping into them. Unleashing who we are as breathing, loving, mystical beings. Every waking day we’re making a choice to loving ourselves fully and coming back to our whole self. My way is through interactions, food, settings and relationships. All speak to how much I truly love all that reminds me of me. Natures magic is a constant reminder of that! Thank you for continuously reminding, thank you for continuously loving without fear nor judgement and thank you for loving yourselves as deeply as I do you! ❤️⭐️✨ #magic