by Julie Jigsawnovich
Tonight I met Jamel Shabazz at the opening of an exhibition including his photos. He looks a lot like, Malcomb X, but does not sound like him when he speaks.
Shabazz is very tall. Tilting my head back to be able see his face I said, "I went to Iran, and know Shia Muslims. I'm curious--are you Muslim?"
Shabazz answered, "No, I'm not a Muslim."
"No?", I said.
"I'm a Hare Krishna," he said.
"Well, you could be. I know Hare Krishnas," I said.
"No, I'm not a Hare Krisna--must be the...talking. I'm a photographer, not religious," he said, and smiled.
He was on the rooftop over the penthouse exhibition space. Gathered was a mix of old school graffiti writers with youngsters sprinkled in, and Shabazz encouraged individuals to step forward and tell their memories of the beginnings of New York subway art. One graff writer discussed the evolution of graffiti style, and its reception by the art world. Another mentioned that graffiti was the means by which he transcended restrictive neighborhood gang turfs in the Bronx. Yet another writer mentioned specific train lines he loved creating art pieces on--and now how proud he is that his daughter went to the Fashion Institute of Technology and is now a designer for Phat Farm.
Shabazz mentioned how important it is to document your history and your peers', whether with photographs, video or by interviews. He said a lot of history is not in museums, and that everyday people are important. And he encouraged us all to talk to people wherever we are, in the train, etc.
His photos, and also photos by Francisco Reyes, are beautiful and inspiring documentation of Hip Hop culture.