Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Closing out Black History month with a Message for the Brutha's

The need to address health care disparities in black men is supreme in light of the fact we have the lowest life expectancy of any group in the U.S. There are many barriers to accessing healthcare that exist for black men which include socioeconomic status, masculinity/machismo, racism, lack of awareness of the need for primary care, religious beliefs, peer influences and FEAR. As singular entities, these may not appear unique, but when viewed collectively, they represent an overwhelming assemblage of obstacles for Black men. While all these barriers exist, we also know we can overcome them if we choose to.

Our survival in many cases is directly related to the choices we make. Our families depend on us, and we owe it to the one’s we love to take care of ourselves. Begin to choose LIFE. If something seems “off” and symptoms persist, seek out medical care from a trusted medical professional. If fear of the unknown is your personal obstacle, get a family member or close friend to help you along the way to seeking out the care you need. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help! At the very least, get an annual health screening which include: Colorectal and Prostate check (for men over 50), Diabetes screening, Cholesterol, Blood pressure and STD’s. Doing so will not only make you and your family feel better, but whatever the result, you can move forward. Movement is the key. Even if something is detected, you can begin treatment. In most instances, when medical conditions are diagnosed early, the chances of survival increase. And lastly, looking good/healthy on the outside (being buff), doesn’t always mean you're healthy inside. Don’t get it twisted! Whatever it is, it’s always better to know!

–Message of the day, the month and the year!
--Ocean Morisset, Cancer Survivor

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Somewhere, in the haze of chemo.

A visit to the Jewish Museum for the exhibition: The Radical Camera, New York's Photo League 1936-1951

Today I visited the Jewish Museum in New York City for an extraordinary exhibition titled The Radical Camera, images by New York’s Photo League 1936-1951. I must admit, though I’m an avid museum goer, I never visited this beautiful museum located just across the street from Central Park at 92nd street. After clearing security and walking through a metal detector, I walked passed an army of small Jewish children on a school tour and approached the reception desk to pay the $12 fee. The Asian cashier who seemed altogether pleased and relieved to see me, a black man, suggested I become a member of the Jewish Museum. Sensing my hesitation and without missing a beat, she tried hard to sell me the membership by announcing that painter extraordinaire, Kehinde Wiley will have works on view in March and rattled off a couple of other names of African American Impressionist’s whose names were unfamiliar, and escape me at the moment. I thought it was a good sell, and while I will be back to see Kehinde’s exhibition, I declined the invitation to become a member (for now).

I entered the exhibition space and was struck by a sense of New York history almost immediately. I read and studied the photographs and information as if I was getting a pop-quiz the following day. As a photographer, being at this exhibition was like being a kid in a candy store. There were so many photographs well spaced and positioned; all of them rich, fine gelatin silver prints by such notable photographers like: Aaron Siskind, Berenice Abbott, Paul Strand, Arnold Newman, Lisette Model, Helen Levitt, W. Eugene Smith, Vivian Cherry, Lucy Ashjian, and others whose work I had only come to learn about like Eliot Elisofon, Joe Schwartz, Lewis Wickes Hine, and Morris Engel. I also became familiar with the work of Harold Corsini who viewed documentary photography as honest and unmediated. He believed that a “true” and “good” picture was one in which aesthetic qualities did not overwhelm the context or subvert its message. As it relates to documentary photography, I couldn’t agree more.

Playing football by Harold Corsini

Buuterfly boy, by Jerome Liebling

All of these Jewish-American photographer’s were members of New York’s Photo League whose solidarity centered in the belief in the expressive power of documentary photography and on a progressive alliance in the thirties of socialist ideas. Leading member Sid Grossman pushed students to discover not only the meaning of their work, but also their relationship to it...a philosophy I personally and firmly believe in.

Zito's Bakery, by Berenice Abbot

Most of the images created during the period of 1936 to the late 1940’s by the New York Photo League contained within them a social narrative and aesthetic. It was indeed social-minded photography as depicted in Eliot Elisofon’s WPA cleaned this area, Keep it Clean (1940) and Vivian Cherry’s startling Game of Lynching(1947). The introduction of small hand-held cameras around this time enabled this new kind of chance photography, at once casual and purposeful. Each image would serve as a powerful document, recording signs of the times from Great Depression, to the War Years. An interesting part of the exhibition was the Harlem Document, 1936-1940 which was a project led by photographer Aaron Siskind. The Harlem Document’s goal was to provide evidence of an impoverished community in peril and advocate for improvement of its living conditions. Any photographer who has followed the work of Siskind knows that his intentions blew up miserably in his face, as many images (not all) that I’ve seen from this period portrayed a stereotypical view of Harlem, and a negative portrayal of African-Americans. To paraphrase Siskind: “There was so much good going on in Harlem that we could have shown, but we never had an opportunity to show it.” The images on display from the Harlem Document were benign in my opinion and I didn’t see anything offensive in them, though they were beautifully printed. I guess the museum curators thought better of inciting a riot!

Wishing Tree by Aaron Siskind

Game of Lynching by Vivian Cherry

Besides original photographs, the exhibition also included original newspapers and articles from the New York Times, Life Magazine as well as the New York Photo League’s official publication titled Photo Notes. The exhibition ended nicely (and leaving me wanting more) with a documentary film about the New York Photo League called Ordinary Miracles. See the video below.

I left the exhibition feeling inspired, ready to see the world and reflecting on my own bearing in it.

If you haven’t yet seen this exhibition and you are anywhere in the tri-state area, I highly recommended a visit to the Jewish Museum. The exhibition is up until March 25, 2012. For more information, follow this link:

“The thing that shocks me and which I really try to change is the lukewarmness, the indifference, the kind of taking pictures that really doesn’t matter.” –Lisette Model

Monday, February 20, 2012

"You have to expect things of yourself before you can do them."
--Michael Jordan

Thursday, February 16, 2012


So many emotions, so many people to thank, feeling so blessed! It's been a seven month journey, now coming to an end. I fought cancer and I WON!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Eleven things I've learned from Whitney Houston's death

1. Having fame, money and personal success doesn't guarantee peace or happiness.

2. Live every day like it's my last.

3. Examine the choices I make in life. If something is not working for me, it's time to introduce change.

4. It's ok to pause, self-reflect, and take inventory. Not everyone is going to "love" me, but I will most certainly love myself.

5. My happiness will not be dependent on another person.

6. Realize what personal influence I might have on people's lives and be careful how I wield such power.

7. Think about what I'd like my legacy to be and work towards creating it daily.

8. Own up to my failures as much as I do with my successes.

9. An "entourage" is not the same as "friends", or people who "got my back."

10. Remember what I'm made of. Know that whatever adversity I face, I have everything in me to overcome it.

11. It's ok to stop wearing the "mask."

RIP Whitney Elizabeth Houston Aug 9, 1963- February 11, 2012

Thursday, February 09, 2012

The Man and His Shadow by Paulo Coelho

(Photo copyright Ocean Morisset)

Many years ago, there lived a man who was capable of loving and forgiving everyone he came across. Because of this, God sent an angel to talk to him.

... ‘God asked me to come and visit you and tell you that he wishes to reward you for your goodness,’ said the angel. ‘You may have any gift you wish for. Would you like the gift of healing?’

‘Certainly not,’ said the man. ‘I would prefer God to choose those who should be healed.’

‘And what about leading sinners back to the path of Truth?’

‘That’s a job for angels like you. I don’t want to be venerated by anyone or to serve as a permanent example.’

‘Look, I can’t go back to Heaven without having given you a miracle. If you don’t choose, I’ll have to choose one for you.’

The man thought for a moment and then said:

‘All right, I would like good to be done through me, but without anyone noticing, not even me, in case I should commit the sin of vanity.’

So the angel arranged for the man’s shadow to have the power of healing, but only when the sun was shining on the man’s face. In this way, wherever he went, the sick were healed, the earth grew fertile again, and sad people rediscovered happiness.

The man traveled the Earth for many years, oblivious of the miracles he was working because when he was facing the sun, his shadow was always behind him. In this way, he was able to live and die unaware of his own holiness.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

The end is near...a new beginning on the horizon

Now that I'm nearing the end of my chemotherapy treatment, and I remain in remission, I wonder what my "new" normal will look like? Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled that the chemo has worked in ridding me of Hodgkin's Lymphoma, but I can't help but feel a type of mourning for what i experienced the last seven months of my life. This experience has altered my view of life and has heightened my awareness, including that of myself. Cancer survivor's often talk about fitting into this a new reality, and now I'm beginning to grasp what they're talking about. Life will never look or feel the same. Everything will have new meaning, and grander purpose. Emotions are sometimes out of sync with reality, and of course there are those lingering effects of chemo (neuropathy, body aches, fatigue, nausea, etc) that sometimes last years. There is a sadness and perhaps even guilt i feel for surviving cancer while many others have not. I mourn hose who have lost their battle, or are currently struggling. I'm ok, really, just reflecting on my experience and pondering the future. I have no doubt it will be beautiful and amazing, and I look forward to all the miracles that lie ahead! My final chemotherapy treatment will be next week. I'll be happy to move onward and upward!

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Soul Train FEVER! Soul Train Line (Flash mob), Times Square NYC

People of all ages came to celebrate the life of Don Cornelius, creator of the beloved musical variety TV show, SOUL TRAIN. Hundreds arrived at the 'center of the world' , Times Square, to recreate a mass Soul Train Line. Some arrived in 70's fashion, others brought their children, exposing another generation to the show that connected so many people through music and dance.

Afro's (not weaves) was in fashion again, if only for a day.

New generations being introduced to the Soul Train Line.

Remember the boom box?

Nice to see entire families out having a good time.

Rene spraying Brenda's hair with a classic 'Afro Sheen.'

RollerSKATEs not blades. If you're from Brooklyn and you're a skater, you MUST remember the Empire Roller Disco! I remember a few skate-dancers on Soul Train.

This sequined hat was popular disco head-wear in the 70's-80's.

Back Up!! There was such a dense grouping of people waiting to dance, that it took some time for a narrow space to open up for Soul train Line dancers.

The crowd parts for the Soul Train Line.

Get yo' dance on!

Check out the KNOW that was hot on SOUL TRAIN!

Soul Train Line. The space didnt stay open for too long because too many people wanted to dance, some started doing the electric slide, others danced in a circle. Maintaining space for the Soul Train line was difficult due to the crush of people in attendance.

Smiles all around. It was nice to see so many happy people.

Get yo' dance on!

RIP Don Cornelius September 27, 1936 – February 1, 2012. Love, Peace and Soul!

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Preparing for chemo#11 tomorrow, doing what I love. The fight begins and ends with me, and my daily "frame of mind" depends upon how much I nurture my spirit.

Black History Month!

February is Black History Month, a time when we celebrate greats like Malcolm, Martin, Langston and many others. Here's a piece of Black History of a different sort:

The Azande Warriors.

According to extensive research and fieldwork by the British Anthropologist E. E. Evans-Pritchard, the Azande date back to the early 1600's in southern Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Unmarried Azande warriors routinely took on boy-wives, who would be between the ages of twelve and twenty. They would purchase these boys in exchange for spears, and their bond would be publicly acknowledged. The boys did not cook, but would fetch cooked food, and would perform other services for their husbands. In return, the husbands gave the boy-wives pretty ornaments, and he and the boy addressed one another as "my love" and my "lover".

The image is a recreation I photographed of The Azande Warriors based on old photos and drawings.

Happy Black History Month!