damali ayo: The 21st Century Richard Wright?

damali ayo

Moving into the present, I stumbled upon the websites of damali ayo (her capitalization), a writer, performer, artist, comedian and activist, who uses what she describes as “Now Art” to engage audiences in discussing current race relations in America.  ayo created the website “Rent-A-Negro” as a type of performance art and followed it with the companion book, How to Rent a Negro in 2005.  The website and book raise questions regarding racial relationships in a satirical and witty way by providing humorous tips, quizzes and terms. 

ayo also created, “I Can Fix It!” a free guide that outlines ten solutions for increased public participation in positive race relations.  Like Richard Wright her work relies heavily on her own experiences growing up in a white-centric America.  She captures the attention of the public through humor, then candidly opens up and encourages discussion of taboo topics.  Instead of trying to describe her interactive work in detail, I highly recommend viewing the following clip of ayo’s interview with Bill O’Reilly, and visiting her websites to learn about her art and programming.

One thought on “damali ayo: The 21st Century Richard Wright?

  1. damali ayo’s How to Rent A Negro sounds like a very compelling book. I especially liked the points she made in the interview about “professional services” African Americans perform for white people without payment. Some of those services seemed to be acting as token black friends or representatives of the whole race.

    It made me think about some of the work we do in museums when studying our audience. There were times last summer when I felt uncomfortable treating different demographics of ethnicities or social classes like commodities. I felt strange sifting through visitor data searching for a person of a particular race. We, as museum professionals, probably also do a good amount of profiling when taking surveys to find “diverse” opinions. Even though diversifying a museum audience should be a moral responsibility, I can imagine it would be tiresome and insulting for a person being treated as a token or some able representative of her people.

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