ARTIST CREATES CAPTIVATING #BEINGBLACKANDMUSLIM PORTRAIT SERIES
Written by: Devyn Springer
“There is an increasingly prejudicial connection being made between Blackness and Islam which fuels the erasure of Black Muslims in pop culture,” artist Bobby Rogers tweeted. “Simply existing at the axis of #BeingBlackandMuslim can be exhausting. You're always not enough. Always having to validate your existence,” he states, and accompanying these important words is a magnificent photo series that explores the intersection between Blackness and Islam.
The photographs themselves are straightforward but powerfully executed. Simplistic in style, a solo images of a Black Muslim (taken by Rogers) is shown beside a quote of them describing what it is like being both Black and Muslim. The portraits display a wonderfully vivid use of color and minimalism, with a very soft yellow-green gradient slightly pulsing from behind the subjects’ bodies to place a focus on them and their features.
Aside from the sheer beauty in the simplicity of the project, the words themselves are illuminating of experiences that resonate deeply with many other Black queer Muslims, including myself.
Describing the intersections of Blackness and Islam, the individuals display such concise and important analyses of the clashing of identity, religion, and intra-racial trauma in short sentences. That is what is so impressive about this series; it manages to capture such grand socio-political statements on what it is like being Black and Muslim with so little. One of my biggest frustrations being a Black Muslim is the double standards surrounding politics, and the respectability implored onto us by non-Black Muslims. I can recall a moment when i was told that saying “Black lives matter” is too controversial, while the brother who told me this is someone of Arab descent who often talks publicly about the movement to free Palestine. Why are we allowed to discuss the politics of oppression surrounding Palestine but not do the same for Black lives?
In several instances, I have witnessed Black Muslim women be silenced, talked over, denied autonomy and platform,a nd generally disrespected. When malcolm X said the Black woman is the “most disrespected person in America” maybe he should have added the word “Muslim” in that powerful statement.
I think of the ways Blackness is seen as inherently criminal, and the ways it is sexualized, particularly in the west, and the way that the criminalization and sexualization of Black bodies influences the culture of Islam. In a recent article discussing the Black Muslim woman’s influence on modest fashion in the west, journalist Najma Sharif states that the “bigger, darker and curvier a Black Muslim woman is, the more and more difficult it becomes for her to be considered “modest.” These are just a few of the initial thoughts and conversations that Bobby Rogers’ fantastic portrait series was able to bring to my concious with his art.
The nature of this existence has been described as “a minority within a minority,” a claim that is contradictory to the fact that Black Muslims, both US-born and immigrants, make up one of the largest racial demographic groups in Islam. Estimates have placed the Black Muslim population in the US between 20-30 percent, a very high percentage which comes with a colorful and unique culture as well. That so many Black Muslims in the US can exist and be rendered near invisible is beyond problematic, which is why this photo series is so very important. By focusing his work on Black Muslims, our voices, our faces, and our experiences, Bobby Rogers is joining in the line of artists and individuals actively fighting against this erasure, and it could not be more exciting.
To see more of Bobby’s work, visit: http://bobbyrogers.co