Shades of Noir

Daniel Harper

I am what they called a “late bloomer” when it comes to life. Growing up I was one of five children, raised by a hard-working Black mother. My mother would work long hours and with that being said, I had to figure things out for myself most of my life whether it be the hard way or the easy way.

I am not going to contend that I was a prodigy child as it pertains to art or my athleticism because that is not the case. I was 18 turning 19 when my friend approached me about track and field as a get-out-of-school-pass. You can guess what I did next? Growing up, hanging out with my friends, and presenting myself in whatever form I liked (i.e., in hoodies), we were always marked through a language of disruption. People crossing the street because of the perceived notions enveloped in my Blackness wasn’t something that bothered me, but normal I thought it was.

Now fast forward to the 31-year-old me, star track athlete being praised by the same people that were once afraid of me.

These photos illustrate my everyday experiences in the spaces in which we share. During these hard times, dealing with COVID-19, we need to share our lived experiences as we are stronger when connected. And by connectedness, I do not mean in a superficial, but in ways that feel deep, a genuine intimacy that acknowledges and affirms our existence. 

My works are to celebrate Blackness and I want to invite everyone into my space. To insist that the value of an athlete is equivalent to the value of a racialized person walking down the street; that the value of an athlete is equivalent to the value of a Black man wearing their natural hair to work or school, etc. Athletes do not occupy a different realm of humanness, nor deserve the glorification of such. I hope that when you view my work you feel happiness, love, and connection because these words have no color.