feature: revisions of us – capturing the journeys, struggles of african americans & african people in the u.s.

January 6, 2015

You hear it all the time. “Go back to your country, you African booty scratcher” and as for the African American “Lazy Akatas” Harlem based artist, Naima Atti took her resistance to the streets. Her project “Revision Of Us” takes portraits of men and women, young and old, insolent and impactful, in the very spaces where strangers and peers have victimized her. The real power of Atti’s work, however, is not in reliving those moments of fear, but in allowing African people and those of the diaspora to come together and reveal the real truth behind their identity. This project is a chance for both African people and people of the African Diaspora to come together and discuss the ways in which they perceive one another as well as how they are perceived by ‘mainstream’ America. It’s not enough to question the harmful structures that exist outside of the black community, we must also reflect on those that function within it. Through this project, Atti is moving communities into uproar; this is one step that leads Black Americans, Africans and Immigrants to greater understanding, unity, and solidarity among mutual love.

By Naima Atti, AFROPUNK Contributor 

My name is Naima Atti and I am a student at the City University of New York LaGuardia College.  As an African immigrant I have encountered people of different cultures and backgrounds in America, many of whom carry misconceptions of the diverse nature of Africa’s countries and cultures. Those encounters have led me to further explore the social structure of the American Society in a project which I have entitled ‘Revision of Us’.  This photo series captures the journeys, struggles and experiences of African Americans and African people here in America – both immigrants and non-immigrants. I strongly believe it is imperative to debunk the negative images of African Americans and Africans that are portrayed in the media. Africa is shown as a continent filled with diseases and starvation while African Americans are displayed as proudly uneducated people, who lack ambition and tend to rely on welfare. Rarely do individuals from either party take the time to educate themselves about the other group. Communication is the first step to combat negative perceptions,therefore I would like to create an open forum in which both sides can freely discuss the pernicious stereotypes that exist in today’s society. While this is not a solution, it is a step towards unifying and empowering those of the African diaspora.

We ask that you please help us to spread the word about this project and the chance to donate to our cause. Encourage others to contribute to our  KICKSTARTER page, which will launch soon, 2/2/2015. Also check out our official website, REVISION OF US to find this series.  Our first photo gallery will be held here in NYC, on March 18, 2015 at LaGuardia Community College. We would love to have you be a part of this  event. The event will take place in the E Atrium from 2:00pm – 5:00pm. We are in process of fundraising, to gather the funds needed to film the documentary as well as travel expenses for various states in the U.S. and parts of Africa.

 I am proud to present this project to you. Here are some of the captivating responses from ‘Revision Of Us’ photo series participants:

Chavares Gay

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when a man “compliments you by saying you’re pretty for a black girl”?  

I usually hear that I’m a pretty “dark-skinned” woman, and I often feel that it’s not even a compliment. To me, I feel that my beauty is being limited, that if placed next to a woman of lighter skin or another race, that I wouldn’t be beautiful. This is something I have, and still do, struggle with. I’ve come across many men who prefer or would only be with a woman of fairer tone. It’s plaguing though. It’s a false idea of beauty; a lie Black communities were sold centuries ago. The problem isn’t just the perception of males. Black women, as mentioned before, often conform to men’s false warped perception of beauty: long straight hair, lighter skin, altered features. So while it upsets me that a man may give me a “degrading compliment” it saddens me that some men still believe that skin tone or hair texture or body type defines beauty. It’s ok for men to have preferences, but is that preference fed by prejudice?

Chukwuma Ndukwe 

What would you say has been the American media’s biggest crime regarding black people?

The biggest crime of the American media against people of color is that of negative portrayal. Interpersonal relationships and stereotypes are greatly influenced by popular narratives, therefore the media armed with the power of controlling the narrative should be more responsible with this power by giving a fair and balanced story of the Black/African experience.

Even with the advent of the internet and the constant globalization of the world, it is still difficult for a lot people to have the kind of close-knit relationship that is required to form genuine opinions. For these people, they still rely on the media to form ideas and general sentiments about various issues.

It is for this reason that the media in American should be fair in their presentation of the African American population. I am not advocating for only positive portrayal in the media, as that will be a lie (the same way disproportionate negative portrayal is). What we need is an equal display of the good with the bad and the not so beautiful.


What’s the worst image you have ever received or at some point believed about your/people of your ethnic group?

That we are poor, that we are uneducated and that we aren’t beautiful. We are golden, a true treasure, not just African but mankind. We have to delete this “color” thing from our mindset in order to have a progressive future. Now to continue on this topic, media is the main driving force behind this. P.S. please remember media is man made {think about that}.

Ramelcy Uribe

Why is it hard for most Afro Hispanics to identify with their African ancestry?

“AntiBlackness is so real” is what I constantly say when asked about AntiBlackness and Latinidad. The answer is not simple because even Black Americans have their own struggles with accepting and celebrating their Blackness in the United States. It’s a difficult process of decolonialism we are all undergoing and struggling with. Latinxs have a painful history of colonialism and slavery in their countries. From the Dominican-American perspective, I feel like it is a trauma that we never fully healed from. We never really had collective nationwide or even cultural movements that pushed “Black is beautiful” or celebration of our African ancestry. For Dominicans, Trujillo also played a big part in institutionalizing Anti-Blackness. Under Trujillo’s administration, Jewish refugees were invited to the island with little political barriers, and thousands of Haitians and Black Dominicans were slaughtered to advance his larger agenda. Blackness became directly correlated to the possibility of death, danger, being an “outsider,” and unworthiness of being called “Dominican.” These important historical and cultural times have ingrained in the Dominican consciousness the negativity and undesirability that surrounds Blackness, which I very much believe impacts how Dominicans think about their African ancestry today. And because we only see one depiction of Blackness in the media, Latinxs do not want to be associated with a group or a community they are taught is lesser than, less valuable, less intelligent, and frankly, less human.

But I would also like to say that in Dominican culture, we have our own celebrations of Negritude that cannot be understood under an Amerikkkan or U.S.-centered lens. To understand the duality in which, yes, we are a part of Anti Blackness, yet love our Blackness in many ways, you have to adjust how you understand color, culture, and race in Dominican culture. From the way we love our brown skin, the African drums’ influence in our music to the way we move our hips, we celebrate our Blackness too just not in a way that is always visible to the outside eye.

Doesn’t end here beautiful viewers of Afropunk,  head over to our website “Revision Of Us” for more on this series. Special thanks to Sade Shakur, Ikeslimster , and Leon Hinds