“You May Sit Beside Me”: Visual Narratives of Black Women & Queer Identities

Portrait by Lalya Amatullah Barrayn
Portrait by Lalya Amatullah Barrayn

You know how you go to the grocery store checkout counter and leave with not only your bags of food, but all those annoying tree-killing printouts from the register and a bunch of coupons for stuff you don’t even eat? Don’t underestimate.

So I go to a Foodtown in Brooklyn in order to browse their selection of olive oil. I am a pretty dollar store and tiny market shopper, but when it comes to olive oil I need to have choices. For some olive oil, almond milk, half-dozen brown eggs and parmesan-peppercorn salad dressing, I received a near ream of printer/copier paper back from the register. This is when I learned that you not only are hit with coupons for things you don’t eat or buy, but you also receive a near newspaper pages of community announcements. No, I don’t have kindergarteners to bring to community play dates or sign-up for the free dairy program. And no, I don’t need a coupon for $1 any item in the dairy section if I spend $15. And, no, I don’t….well, you get the picture.

But last night, as I pondered if I should be lazy and just ball all this mess up to three-point to the garbage rather than put it in the recycling bag, I noticed “Black Women” and “Queerness” and “exhibit” and “reception” and “film screening” embedded in the middle of one of these grocery store notes. I saw this in the nick of time, as there is a community reception and film screening tomorrow as well as a chance to witness the offerings until this Saturday. Whew…thank God for running out of olive oil.

I have walked past Restoration Plaza on Fulton Street nearly every day, and I had no idea the brilliant photographer and curator Layla Amatullah Barrayn was inside. Well, she is not physically inside. However, her latest exhibition of recent photography spotlights real Black women in love, building families and strengthening communities; the photographs are intimate without sexual suggestion, natural without lacking stupendous beauty and just large enough for you to think these women of color stand right in the room. I definitely eat that.

“You May Sit Beside Me”: Visual Narratives of Black Women & Queer Identities
Skylight Gallery, 3rd Floor in Restoration Plaza
1368 Fulton Street
Brooklyn, New York 11221
Gallery Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, Saturday 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Public Event: Thursday, May 22, 6:30 p.m. Closing Reception and Queer Film Screening


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