Friday, May 19, 2006

When Dashikis Were In Style

The Miami Times was "the black paper" in Miami for years when the company that owned The Pittsburg Courier, also a black paper, decided to expand into Miami with a weekly paper in the early 1970's. They sent a guy down here to get things started up and he was the first black to rent an apartment in a new complex near Coconut Grove. No, I can't remember his name, but a woman who worked for a large piblic relations agency also lived in the building, and she gave him my name. He was looking for a photographer in an era when there were few black photographers, and the folks who ran the Courier figured that if the government could convince white owned companies to hire more blacks, or at least a token black, then it was only fair that a black owned newspaper should have a token honkey on staff.

We got together, I showed him my portfolio, and discussed the fact that I'd be handling assignments in black neighborhoods, often the only white face around. It was a time when the Black Power Movement was at its peak a lot of blacks weren't too friendly towards whites. I showed him photos I'd taken in the ghetto with the Rev. Tom Morse. We talked money. I was hired on.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson was at his peak of popularity at the time, and the assignment was to go to a large Baptist church in Overtown, the black neighborhood just north of downtown Miami and get some photos of him speaking. He had a huge afro hair style and was wearing a dashiki. He was a powerful speaker and spoke for about an hour, raising a lot of money for his organization. They didn't pass the plate or the collection basket. He had guys walking around with garbage cans when he called for donations. People dug into their pockets and fives, tens, and twenties went into the cans. After he finished speaking he was whisked away by his bodyguards.

The paper was printed in black and white but I always shot some color for possible stock sales. This was shot on High Speed Ektachrome Type B, an ISO 125 slide film balanced for tungsten, with a one stop push. I was using a Leica M3 with an 85mm f/2 Nikkor.


Blogger shutterbug said...

Hey, I used to own several including a long dress/robe dashiki. Seems like the other day.

1:40 PM  

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