ArtBody Politics

kendrick daye’s #blackqueertarotcards bring inclusiveness in an old age practice

February 23, 2021

Tarot card reading is an old age practice that has been around for centuries, guiding individuals to their paths of understanding their personal values and self. Even though the practice is not as simple as other methods of divination, people have been drawn to its magic due to the unique characters of the cards. Even though each practitioner has a different way of reading the Tarot, the fundamentals have been the same since its inception, and for a long time, the practice has only been depicted with a white cis and non-inclusive gaze. However, the young talented Harlem-based artist, Kendrick Daye is challenging the outdated non-inclusive decks of the past with the Black Queer Tarot Card deck. The Black Queer Tarot takes the traditional 78-card Tarot arcana and reimagines it with a new inclusive tarot that celebrates liberation, expression, and diversity of Black queer bodies. We had a sit-down with Kendrick to talk about his creation.

Can you tell us what inspired you to start creating Black Queer Tarot cards? How did this idea come about?

Of course! I was looking to purchase a tarot deck for myself. Of course, I wanted something to represent me, so I was specifically looking for a deck that was proudly Black AND queer. Every deck I came across was either White and gay or if was Black themed it didn’t read as Queer or even worse, was made by white creators. So I started toying around with the idea of creating my own deck. Initially, I worked up in my head that I would use works I previously created for the card’s imagery. It felt like a no-brainer because a lot of my work already looks like it could be the artwork for a tarot card because I’m really inspired by a lot of occult and esoteric artwork and am intentional about including that imagery in my work. But back in maybe I wanna say September of 2020 when I finally decided I was doing this, me being the ever-ambitious triple-cardinal sign that I am, I decided to create 78 new artworks for the deck and photograph a majority of the muses (models) myself.

What is your creative process and how long does it take you to make a single card?

A lot of my process happens in my head. many of my concepts or compositions even are worked out there before I even start sourcing images. With this project, it didn’t seem like such a daunting task until I was in the middle of it. when I first started I tackled the Major Arcana, which are the first 22 cards. Each of those cards have very specific imagery that I was able to figure out how I would flip the concept quite easily. It doesn’t take long at all for me to finish a piece, and again most of the “work” happens in my head before I start. I always feel like if I know where I’m trying to go, getting there is not only easy, it’s fucking fun. Also, when it’s a project like this where I have to do multiple pieces at once I became a one-man factory. So I worked on these as a group, bouncing from piece to piece. One card’s discarded idea became the starting point for another. It took a good week to get the major arcana cards to a place where I was happy to share with Justin Henry (a Black queer tarot reader that consulted on this project), and from there once I had this process down,  we knocked out the suit cards pretty quickly. All in all, I was done shooting people in December and it took me a good month and a half to finish the artwork.

You’ve taken an old age spiritual practice and have made it an inclusive work of art that not only celebrates Black Queer bodies but also changing the status quo. How has the reception been like to this shake of the table?

It’s been overwhelming but in the best way possible. I didn’t know so many people would connect with this project. I believed in it, and was and am fucking proud of it, but I didn’t expect it to resonate with everyone else the way it has and for that I’m grateful.

I’m not really versed in the practice of Tarot reading, but I find it fascinating, and your creations have definitely piqued my interest. How does one get into the practice and how long have you been practicing?

For me, Twitter has been a great tool to find like-minded readers and learn from them. I would not say being a reader, as in doing readings for others, is my calling at all but tarot and other tools of divination have been instrumental in my growth as a person. I also was into astrology and as I grew that translated to learning more about my full natal chart and understanding more about myself. I got my first tarot card reading a few years ago, actually, it was Justin Henry who gave me my first reading, which was a READ! lol.

What I enjoy with the pieces you made, is the diversity in your models. How you’ve managed to make this project such an inclusive “cosmic” space? How did you decide on who to cast for each Tarot? 

There were certain people, friends of mine that I asked personally to photograph, but the majority of the muses came from calls I put up on social media. For me, the idea of this project had to be as inclusive as possible without coming across as tokenism. So whoever replied to the ad that I was able to physically photograph I picked. I wanted there to be as much of a mix of skin tones, body types, genders, sexual orientations to represent as much as possible the beauty of what makes up the Black queer community. When it came to picking what card they would be, that part was intuitive. There were about three cards where I knew who exactly would portray that card and why, but the others were guided by the experience of photographing people. During the shoots, I got to know something about each of them and was able to get a sense of their personality and it just all fell into place that way.

Is the project digital or can people purchase physical cards too? and if so, where can we get to buy them? Also is it only US-based or do you ship internationally as well?

No! This is intended to be a physical, purchasable tarot deck. We’re currently running an Indiegogo campaign to raise the funds to bring this project to life. People can donate or purchase some goodies like the BLACK QUEER TAROT deck, guidebook, and other really dope items before the retail release this summer. Also, we ship to wherever people want this deck.

How else can people support your work?

They can find out how to support the BLACK QUEER TAROT by visiting Donations are amazing, but non-monetary support is not only appreciated but greatly it’s encouraged. A share, retweet, like, or post is just as helpful in us reaching this goal!

Your support will directly fund:

  • The design, writing, and production of the BLACK QUEER TAROT companion guidebook.
  • The production and editing of a short film documenting this entire process.
  • Fulfillment of all the perks.
  • Additional decks, merchandise, and companion books for future online sales.

You can check out more of Kendrick’s work on his Instagram/Twitter @KendrickDaye.