Look y’all, we know that art-for-people’s-sake is one of the rarest of the rare commodities in these white supremacist patriarchal capitalists times. That’s why it’s a must that we shout out Brittani Sensabaugh, or Brittsense, a photographer from East Oakland who wields her camera in the service of “her people.”
YOUR people. MY people. OUR people. Feel me?
Speaking with KQED Arts, Brittsense breaks down her passion for photographing communities of color and showing the world the beautiful struggle that is living while Black in present day America.
“My mission is to bring back the beauty, the unconditional love, the trust that is lacking in these communities” she tells KQED, as they accompany her across many non-traditional scenic locales featured in her work. Part of resurrecting “beauty and unconditional love” involves exposing the pain that so often characterizes everyday existence of communities of color.
Part of resurrecting “beauty and unconditional love” involves exposing the pain that so often characterizes everyday existence of communities of color.
One example is her early recognition of the organic connection between poor Black diets and lack of accessibility to healthy foods relative to low-income Black neighborhoods — a fact of Black life that disturbs her:
“When I was younger I would see certain things in my community that I wouldn’t see anywhere else, like why I had to go outside of my community to get something healthy for me to eat. But inside of my communities was nothing but fast food places, liquor stores, checking cashing places. Nothing that uplifts your vibrations and makes you feel good about yourself.”
Her work is a conduit to the Black working class experience in cities across the country. Her mission has taken her to Philadelphia, New York, Houston, and Chicago, to name a few.
“… You’ll see a lot of street signs to show what is in our communities and how that is affecting us psychologically. Because when you see certain things, when you see liquor signs every day you walk home from school, you’re gonna wanna drink liquor.”
… to scammy checking cashing establishments,
“Check cashing places are inside of broken communities that have no money, but were constantly reminded of money.”
… to beauty supply stores,
“… inside of these beauty supply stores you see nothing but chemicals. It’s saying that ‘This is what I’m supplying for you in your community … chemicals that kill your hair and that kill your vibrations that flow within you. This is the beauty that I’m supplying you.”
… Brittsense shows us, visually, why these communities are broken — “the story behind the story” as she calls it.
We know that’s right. Wanna know what else we know? Wherever he is, Gordon Parks is damn proud of Brittsense grabbing that art-for-people’s sake torch.
He’s practically beaming from ear to ear, basking in a slow, cool sip of some of this here:
“I document the struggle and the love of melanated people in broken communities all over the world”
We see you, Brittsense. Keep up the #blackgirlmagic.