"The 'other' faces of Blackness" / (1)ne Drop: On skin color, race, and identity

(photo: Jamel Shabazz / "Yaba Blay and Noelle Theard)

"Being Black is not a matter of pigmentation -- being Black is a reflection of a mental attitude."
-Steve Bantu Biko, (I Write What I Like, 1978)

People of African descent reflect a multiplicity of skin tones and phenotypic characteristics. Often times, however, when met by people who self-identify as “Black,” but do not fit into a stereotypical model of Blackness, many of us not only question their identity, but challenge their Blackness, and thus our potential relationship to them. A creative presentation of historical documentation, personal memoirs, and portraiture, (1)ne Drop: Conversations on Skin Color, Race, and Identity, literally explores the “other” faces of Blackness -- those who may not immediately be recognized, accepted, or embraced as “Black” in this visually racialized society. Through portrait documentaries (book and film), photography exhibitions, and public programming, the project intends to raise social awareness and spark community dialogue about the complexities of Blackness as both an identity and a lived reality.

Africana Studies scholar Yaba Blay, Ph.D., and award-winning photographer Noelle Théard are collaborating on an innovative new project: a photo essay book that explores the “other” faces of Blackness -- those folks who may not be immediately recognized, accepted, or embraced as Black in our visually racialized society. Entitled (1)ne Drop, a reference to the historical “one-drop rule,” the project seeks to challenge narrow, yet popular perceptions of what “Blackness” is and what “Blackness” looks like by pairing candid personal narratives with beautifully captured portraits.

“With this project, I wanted to look at the other side, or at least another side. When we talk about skin color politics, for the most part, we only discuss the disadvantages associated with being dark-skinned. We know about the lived experience of being dark-skinned in a society where lighter skin and White skin are privileged,” says Blay, the author for the project. “This is not to say that that discussion is over or resolved or that we need to stop discussing it. But we also need to start having more balanced and holistic conversations about skin color.”

Interesting, yes. Riveting even; but not enough to get it published.

Once upon a time, a good idea was all a writer needed to secure a book contract. Times have changed. In the past, one needed to get published in order to get recognized. Now, one needs to be published to get published -- a frustrating reality for unpublished authors. With publishers losing money on upwards of 80% of their book lists, they simply aren’t willing to take as many risks as they used to, especially not on unknown writers. So writers must now convince potential publishers that they can sell enough books to turn a profit. Blay and Théard are prepared to do just that.

To fund the project’s completion, Blay and Théard have launched a fundraising campaign on Kickstarter.com, an all-or-nothing crowdsourcing platform that enables artists and other artistic minds to raise the money they need to initiate, if not complete their creative projects. (1)ne Drop is hoping to raise a minimum of $9,000 by November 11 to cover a variety of expenses including travel, film processing, digital layout and graphic design, and the printing costs for a small number of books (maquettes). These books will be used to promote the project and to attract a publishing contract. (1)ne Drop's first exhibit will be Saturday, October 22nd at Taller Puertorriqueño in Philadelphia.

(photo: Noelle Theard / "Lena Delgado de Torres: Black Latina")