THE MEDIA IGNORES US
Seventy-two things are racing to be finished before midnight, but I gave priority to only one of them this morning: attending "The Media Ignores Us: A Human Art Exhibit" at Crescent City Boxing Club, 3101 Erato, New Orleans. The title is intriguing. Curiosity demanded that I find out what an exhibit devoted to young, gifted, and Black youth in New Orleans encompassed. It is fashionable to demonize young Black people in the United States, to pepper Internet, television, and print media each second with negative, dehumanizing images and narratives about them. On a post-Katrina Saturday morning, we needed positivity.
The exhibit, conceptualized by Kim Dilosa, founder and executive director of the YOUTHanasia Foundation, Inc., did not disappoint me. It featured twenty-six young people who stood silently under or in proximity to an awesome mural of Mohammed Ali at the Boxing Club. As I looked at them and read the placards which explained who each was and what she or he had done since August 29, 2005 and what he or she was determined to accomplish in life, I was deeply moved. They were the polar opposite of Herman Melville's Bartleby. Their silence was very loud. They were brave, willing to risk a certain irony in "exhibiting" human aspirations. They were twenty-six stars forming a constellation against my usual blue-black cynicism. What I saw was unconditional, unmitigated hope and strength and the young lifting themselves in affirmation of what their ancestors, immediate and remote, lived, suffered, and died for. Their iconic faces spoke to me. Ashé. Amen.
Chance arranged for a young man whom I'd met over a year ago when I spoke to Students at the Center to reintroduce himself and to give me some information about one of the exhibit participants, a future Icon of NOLA. Our conversation convinced me to make a small donation to the cause. I also asked Ms. Dilosa if any of the New Orleans newspapers planned to cover the exhibit. She told me they would not. The papers did not like the exhibit's title. They refused to cover it. Ah, poetic justice. I intervened by calling and leaving a voice message for one of the best journalists in New Orleans. The media has the option of ignoring the exhibit, but the media ought not ignore the positive stories the twenty-six young people can tell to the United States of America and the world. It is criminal to ignore the storytellers and the stories during the anniversary of the Storm they survived. At the back of my mind, I hear a small, weird voice saying, "Fool, don't you know by now that criminality is the modus operandi of choice at every social , mass communications, and political level in the City of New Orleans?" I answered, "Perhaps I do know that, but my work is to support the young, gifted and Black by speaking against the status quo and the media that ignore them.
Jerry W. Ward, Jr.
August 29, 2015