Home » family

Tag: family

My Perspective: The Danger of Painting People with a Broad Brush

People Danger of Broad Brush

Trying times

The week of July 4th was difficult. For me. For my family. For the people of this country.

I was about to board a plane in Dallas when my husband texted about the targeted killing of police officers overnight. In the days before, two separate videos that dominated national headlines showed black men shot and killed. Regardless of what transpired, they were clearly victims of excessive force by law enforcement.

My plane was headed to Charleston, South Carolina.

Just over a year ago, the city was the site of a horrific mass murder: the lives of nine black churchgoers lost to the white man they prayed with seconds earlier.

Stepping up

Hairston Family Picnic
From my Dad’s photo collection. My great-grandmother is on the front row, to the far left. She and my great-granddaddy had a very large family: eleven children in all!

The reason for my trip that weekend? My family reunion. The Hairston Family Reunion, of which my dad was an avid member of the planning committee. Before he passed away, he sent me an email about his role:

“I’m going to need you to step up for me on this…”

Taking my dad’s place on the committee was a bit intimidating. I couldn’t completely fill the void he left.

I gave some input about the schedule and food, even designing the t-shirts. Our family reunion was something Dad looked forward to every couple of years. He was so proud of his family and heritage. He loved being with his “people.”

I’ve hesitated to talk about the events of that week. There are ample comments, links, and videos on Facebook already; so, I didn’t really think I had anything to add to the conversation. Honestly, what I have to say may not be profound or enlightening to everyone. I do think, however, it is important for many voices to be heard—my own and those of others.

Black-on-Black Hatred

Pillow Projects
These two pillows were the first iteration of what would become my graduate thesis project. The text on the pillows are actual quotes that were said to me in public when I was living in Chicago.

Most of the overt hatred I have encountered has been from other black Americans. I have been called a “sellout bitch” and told to “rot in hell” by full-grown adults.

Little girls told me I say my own name “like a white girl.” I’ve been labeled a disgrace for dating white men.

My first boyfriend even made fun of how few “black films” I had seen. Sorry, I haven’t seen Friday fifteen times (more like three, tops).

Now, I’m not even mad about any of this. In fact, I’m elated because it gives me so much great content for my personal artwork (find out more about my work in this recent interview).

Race ≠ Culture

What irks and disappoints me is the assumption that all black people are a certain way. “Race” is not the same as “culture.”

This experience is not unique to African Americans. Stereotypes of many Americans—Jewish, Irish, Italian, Muslim, just to name a few—have been used to classify complex groups of individuals into standardized bundles. We get painted with a particular color or style to make us easier to identify.

Native Americans, in particular, experience some of the worst aspects of this practice. Each of the 566+ sovereign tribal nations has its own languages and dialects, beliefs, food, clothing, social structures, and governance. In other words, they each have their own culture—not one collective Native American culture based on skin color or physical features.

Likewise, there is a general belief that a single “black culture” exists. If you are black, you are automatically categorized as part of that culture, whether you like it or not. Non-black people do it to blacks all the time as a means of categorization. Blacks do it to one another to point out who “doesn’t belong.” You’re either just plain “black,” or you aren’t “black enough”.


People Hairston Family Reunion
Our family reunion was in Charleston, South Carolina, this year. We lost several members since our last reunion, but we still take joy in being together (kinda like that Stevie Wonder song).

My parents instilled in me an unspoken camaraderie with other African Americans.

Anytime you pass another black person, you make eye contact, nod, and say “Hello.” It is an acknowledgment of the “collective experience” as black Americans. It stems from our history in this country, going back almost 400 years. Each of us is unique, through genetics, environments, and experiences. Yet, we recognize that—outside ourselves, our homes, and are communities—we are all “black washed”. Stigmatized. Ostracized. Targeted.

Over the years, I have come to expect strangers to say something shitty to me. About my clothes, my speech, my marriage. So when I discovered that our family reunion in South Carolina was one of five black reunions taking place at the hotel that weekend, I braced for the worst. Instead, I got so many nods and “hellos” that I was caught off guard. We were all there for the same reason: to honor our linages and celebrate life. There was no gauge of blackness. We were all just… People.

The Post-Racial Myth

In my opinion, recent generations are not talking enough about race. Some institutions have even decided to gloss over entire centuries of black history as “No Big Deal.”

This suppression of “talking about race” creates huge problems. These are issues so large that it seems we are moving backwards rather than progressing.

A black president in the Oval Office has not changed perceptions. We aren’t living in a “post-racial America.” Racism still flows strong. Our lack of discussion has created an entire generation of Americans who do not understand how to deal with people that are different or have varying viewpoints. And it has made older generations apathetic to racial and socio-economic disparities that supposedly no longer exist.

Movement Towards Progress

People Hairston Family Shirts
For this year’s reunion, I designed the t-shirts with a version of the Hairston Family crest. The theme of the reunion was ”No More Than Ever”—very appropriate considering the recent events and losses.

This is where contemporary social movements come into play. In essence, these are attempts to take the collective experience that black Americans have known for centuries and put it in the public’s face. Such movements allow not only blacks, but supporters and allies of all races and creeds, to talk about race through a united front. It is nodding, saying “I feel you,” and locking arms with one another in the name of progress.

No social movement is perfect. Individuals can and will take aspects of a movement and construe them to fit their own motives. Groups will clash over what the movement really represents.

Regardless, these movements acknowledge the disparities that are still prevalent in our society. It is up to all of us to fill these widening gaps.

Let People be People

Life is scary nowadays. I worry about my brother stopping to get groceries after work. I think about my nephew driving home from school.

I dread the news of another young person of color dying because she was stopped by the wrong individual at the wrong place and the wrong time.

No one should have to fear living their life. Yet, it is the daily reality of the black American. We are tired of being black washed.

We’ve been tired for a long-ass time.

Let us move forward and just be “people.”


Discover Creative Inspiration in a Midwestern Metropolis

Creative inspiration Kansas City

Traveling has been a huge part of my life. My family has never lived in the same city as our extended family. So we found ourselves driving 4 to 8 hours each summer to North Carolina to visit relatives. My parents would also arrange a family trip to some place new—a different location each year. These yearly vacations would later prompt me to travel all over the world.

Exploring new places means trying new foods, uncovering histories, understanding cultures. I know that many artists will sketch when they travel. I have never really been that way. I prefer documenting with my camera. Photos can capture colors, textures, and moods that are very difficult to depict in a quick drawing.

I happen to be traveling a lot this year, so I decided to start this “Explore” series. Each trip, I’ll post images and stories about what I have seen, heard, tasted, and felt. I will also point out things that inspire or attract me. My hope is that sharing my travel experiences will encourage you to look more closely at your surroundings—familiar and unfamiliar.

The trip

LOCATION : Kansas City, Missouri, USA
DATES : June 27–29, 2016
OCCASION : Father-in-law’s birthday

When my husband and I first met, we realized we had a lot in common. Similar upbringings. Close ties to family. A love of traveling. And the St. Louis Cardinals. Within the first year of knowing one another, the Cardinals won the World Series. We took that as a good sign.

It was a no-brainer to join my in-laws in Kansas City for a couple days to see the Cardinals play the Royals. Neither Devin or I had ever been to KC, so the idea of barbecue and baseball was way too good to pass up.

With less than 36 hours in the city, we tried to hit some really good spots near the hotel. Fortunately, we stayed right across from the Country Club Plaza, allowing easy access to great food, shopping, and sights.

Since I’m all about visual storytelling, I’ll let the photos do most of the talking.

06.27.16 : Monday

8:29 PM

Much consideration has gone into the art and architecture in the Plaza. This statue of the former Prime Minister of the UK is one of several commemorations of historical figures throughout the area.

Churchill Statue Kansas City
You’ll find statues of dignitaries and historical figures throughout the Plaza.
The Plaza Kansas City
Soft blue clouds were deceptive as we crossed Brush Creek to head to dinner. We had hoped the temp would lower after sundown. That was not the case. 😓

06.28.16 : Tuesday

9:42 AM

The look of the Plaza is completely unexpected in a midwestern metropolis. Tiled rooftops, walls, and walkways transport you to Seville, Spain—completely intentional. The structural and urban architecture were designed in the early 1920s (one of my favorite artistic time periods) by Edward Buehler Delk, funded and founded by developer J.C. Nichols.

Fountain in Kansas City
Saw this funny fountain on the side of a building and just had to take a photo.
Tiled Wall Kansas City
Gorgeous colors and wonderful rendering of a Spanish town in this tiled piece. Wouldn’t mind having a wall like this in my home (eventually).
Tiles in the Plaza Kansas City
Some of the beautiful tiles along sidewalks in the Plaza. Definitely saving this color palette: sapphire + terra cotta + burnt orange + Carolina clay + chocolate + cream.

9:57 AM

Despite the morning rain, we ventured out for coffee. We ended up at a place with a familiar name. I remembered Kaldi’s Coffee from my college days in St. Louis. Since then, they seem to have expanded all the way across Missouri and into a couple other states, as well. They made me an awesome soy cappuccino: rich, creamy, and not skimpy on the milk + coffee! 😆

Kaldi’s Coffee Kansas City
The foam on top of my soy cappuccino was so pretty. I hated to mess it up by, you know, drinking it. 😏
Kaldi’s Coffee Kansas City
While waiting on our coffee orders, I glanced up at the ceiling and saw this great composition.

12:52 PM

The sky cleared up nicely by the afternoon. Morning’s rain cooled things off for about an hour. Then the heat settled in. I’d still take that midwest heat over Houston’s. 😓

Brush Creek Kansas City
The Plaza was an easy walk across Brush Creek from our hotel. The structural features on either side of the creek make it pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly.
Bell Tower in Kansas City
The morning rain moved out and exposed crystal blue skies. A beautiful backdrop to the terra cotta, cerulean, and cream in the architecture.

1:14 PM

It was my father-in-law’s birthday and we were in Kansas City, so we knew we were gonna eat a sh**t ton of barbecue. And we did. And it was delicious. The concierge at the hotel recommended Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue—a short walk away from where we were staying. In hindsight, a farther walk would have been better. We definitely needed to burn some calories after that meal. 😞

BBQ Kansas City
Fantastic barbecue from Fiorella’s Jack Stack. I’m good on beef and pork for at least a month.

2:34 PM

We kept passing windows and doors with this logo on them. It’s the logo for Country Club Plaza, which is now privately owned. The design is right up my alley: simple shapes and thick lines that allude to the Spanish architecture.

Country Club Plaza Logo
I saw this logo throughout the Plaza and finally stopped to take a picture of it. Love how it describes cultural elements with simple curves and lines.

7:32 PM

One of two times we’ll get to see the Cardinals this year. They lost to the Royals the night before, so we really wanted to see a win that night. Yadi and the guys did not disappoint!

Baseball Game in Kansas City
Our incredible seats behind home plate. Kauffman Stadium is a really nice venue and the people were extremely friendly and helpful, even with the Cardinals’ win! 😆

Trip Details


Intercontinental Kansas City At The Plaza : Definitely not the cheapest place, but there are several hotels in the area to choose from. I’m sure there are some nice Airbnb spots, as well.


Kaldi’s Coffee : Great Midwest-based coffee shop, serving carefully selected seasonal coffees, fresh smoothies, and tasty treats.

Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue : If you like smoked meats, this is your place (at least to start). We got other BBQ recommendations from various sources, but if you’re staying in the Plaza, Jack Stack is a fine choice.


Country Club Plaza : This area is walkable and full for great art and architecture. Most of the shops and restaurants are high-end, but there are some more affordable options, as well.

Kauffman Stadium : Love baseball? No? Well, as long as you don’t absolutely hate the game, try to make it out to the ballpark. It has a great atmosphere and super-friendly staff. And, yeah, their baseball team is pretty good, too. 😒


For a summer trip to Kansas City, I packed the following:

  • Dressy top (for nice dinner)
  • Travel pants (medium weight, easy to clean, doesn’t tend to wrinkle)
  • Tank tops (Cardinals gear, of course)
  • Skirt
  • Leggings
  • Dressy sandals
  • Sneakers
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Poncho (actually forgot this, but it would have been great to have, just in case)
  • iPhone (for taking and editing photos, amongst other things)

Your turn

Do you have any travel plans this summer? What types of things do you look for while exploring a new place?