The conference room of 2150 Comm. Ave. pulsed with the sounds of Frank Ocean and Chance the Rapper. Students and faculty mingled around the room munching on cookies and drinking sparkling lemonade. Photographs of young black men were arranged in a semicircle on the beige walls, transforming the space into a photo gallery.
The photographer, Malakhai Pearson, dressed in jean overalls and a green hoodie, effused the kind of effortless style most people struggle to attain. His gallery, “My Brother’s Black Body,” was brought to Boston College as part of the Women’s Center’s Love Your Body Week.
This year’s week, led by Marwa Eltahir, who works in the Women’s Center, is based upon the theme of creating spaces for intersectional identities.
The issues of gender and race as social constructs are complex and deeply rooted in our society, and while Eltahir recognizes this, she still suggests there are many things students can do to dismantle different types of oppression in society.
“Just having honest conversations with people and finding the right resources to be able to further that conversation, whether that be going to … the Women’s Center, or finding different outlets to be able to talk about these things and push your own understanding a little further [is important],” Eltahir said.
“Just appreciate the images for what they are and in the same way, appreciate people for what they are.”
-Malakhai Pearson, photographer of “My Brother’s Black Body”
Pearson is a senior studying business at Bentley University. He finds art to be a provocative and poignant way of expressing both his inner creative drive and sense of social justice.
“I found myself being really challenged, but I wasn’t getting that creative push that I needed and so I just picked up a camera,” Pearson said.
What started off as simply photographing his “homies” has turned into a personal commentary on the perception of black males in society.
“The exhibit is called ‘My Brother’s Black Body’ because I wanted people to be able to connect to that concept of these are your brothers, another human being, not just bodies,” Pearson said.
Race and the perception of the black male have always been a part of Pearson’s life growing up on the south side of Framingham, Mass.
“I grew up in a very diverse racial environment where my best friends were Brazillian and black and I am black and white myself,” he said. “I’ve always had this interesting split between races where you kind of don’t always fit or belong in a certain place being both black and white.”
After moving to the north side of Framingham, Pearson noticed a change in the races of his friends. Instead of seeing a variety of races and ethnicities, the majority of his friends were white.
“So I think that was the first instance where I was really like, ‘Woah, this issue of race actually matters,’ because in the south side I had white friends, black friends, Hispanic friends, everything,” Pearson said.
Pearson’s experience with race culminated this past semester, when he studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa.
“I was exposed to so much in terms of racial issues and racial confrontation while I was there,” Pearson said. “I think coming back from that put things in perspective for me,” Pearson said.
The exhibit highlights Pearson’s insights from not only this trip, but the experiences with race and ethnicity he had while growing up. While he does not have a specific takeaway message for students, he hopes that they gain a new appreciation for their fellow man.
“Just appreciate the images for what they are and in the same way, appreciate people for what they are—black, white, Asian, or Hispanic—appreciate your brother,” Pearson said.
The exhibit is a form of celebration, he said.
“When you think about what it means to be black or a person of color today in America, sometimes you are laughed at, you’re looked at differently, people tell you that you can’t be things based on the way that you look,” he said. “So for me this is just a celebration of my brother.”
Featured Image by Franciso Ruela / Heights Editor