“I sometimes tell myself how lucky I am to have been born into this life as a Black woman. I think it’s a gift...there’s no other identity that you can embody in this lifetime that parallels the experience you have as a Black woman...it is divine.” -- Heather. Pittsburgh, PA. yogi. OG punk. female trouble. queer creator manifestor. blue lipstick enthusiast. American woman.
Video, photo, editing: sarah huny young
Music: The Stuyvesants
Cherice Harrison-Nelson, also affectionately known as Queen Reesie, is the Maroon Queen of Guardians of the Flame, the co-founder and curator of the Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame (MGIHOF), and the Education Outreach Coordinator for the Guardians Institute in New Orleans, LA. This educator, artist, activist, Mommy Queen, and mother fights for justice for indigenous cultural traditions and has performed and lectured throughout the world.
Queen Reesie describes these traditions and rituals, sometimes called 'masking', as "the empirical evidence that somehow we found a way to remember our ancestral homeland. That all that we were stripped of: our dignity, our language, our culinary ways, ways of dress, all of those things—we found a way to remember and manifest it as something uniquely African-American and celebratory."
It was an honor to spend time with Ms. Harrison-Nelson, to interview her, and to be granted permission to shoot photos and video of the gorgeous, breathtaking creations in the MGIHOF. The ceremonies practiced and the ornate suits handmade and worn by the Maroon societies of New Orleans are amongst the greatest contributions in American history. To find out more about the Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame and to donate to this crucially important organization and space, visit the MGIHOF page on Facebook: fb.me/mardigrasindian
An additional heartfelt thank you to the lovely and gracious Ms. Herreast Harrison, and the following individuals for their photos and video included in this work: Jeffrey David Ehrenreich, Jerry Moran, Al Kennedy, and Christopher Colletti.
AMERICAN WOMAN is a multimedia portrait and interview series about Black American women by Creative Director and photographer sarah huny young. americanwoman.co.
I had the pleasure of interviewing and shooting portraits of the stylish and powerful Tarana Burke over Labor Day weekend 2017 in Harlem, NY. This was before the #MeToo movement she founded in 2006 to protect, advocate for, and empower survivors of sexual assault and abuse became a mainstream rallying cry, but her activism has always been worthy of a huge platform—it was only a matter of time.
In this clip, Tarana talks about what she pictures when she hears the term "American Woman", and why she chose Audrey Hepburn's "Breakfast at Tiffany's" as inspiration for her photoshoot.
A huge thanks to Harlem's own Jimbo's Hamburger Palace for the hospitality during our photoshoot, and thank you to Brooklyn's own The Stuyvesants for the instrumental. New York you're the greatest.
AMERICAN WOMAN is a multimedia portrait and interview series about Black American women by Creative Director and photographer sarah huny young. americanwoman.co