From Brownsville to Baltimore, Chicago to Watts, Philadelphia to Houston, photographer Brittany “Brittsense” Sensabaugh has traveled around the United States documenting the lives of Black Americans today. With her camera in hand, Sensabaugh has captured neighborhoods that have been alternated abandoned and vilified, with a sensitivity to the spirit of resilience that lies deep in the heart of the hood. The Oakland native started the 222Movement to “document communities that have been forgotten and people who feel they have no voice. I shoot to bring awareness towards the individuals living inside and outside these areas by showing that we all share the same struggle and love.”
The project was inspired while on the A Train in New York. Sensabaugh had been wearing an Oakland hoodie, and an elderly white woman started to squawk about how the city was filled drug dealers and thugs. Angered by these aggressively ignorant perceptions about her hometown, Sensabaugh used that energy to propel her to create a positive and more accurate representation of world she knew and loved.
Sensabaugh comes full circle with her first Bay Area solo exhibition, #222ForgottenCities: The Power of Melanin, now on view at Betti Ono, Oakland, through February 26, 2016. Presented in conjunction with Black History Month, Sensabaugh’s work provides a poignant and inspiring reminder of the on-going role black women play in building and nurturing the community. Sensebaugh offers a counter narrative that centers on the love, power and resilience found in Black people determined to survive life at the margins.
#222ForgottenCities is conceived as a love letter, offering inspiration, understanding, and support, for the challenges facing the community today require spirit and stamina in equal part. In Sensabaugh’s photographs, we feel the power and the heart that exists despite the harshest of realities. Amid the high rates of unemployment, state sanctioned police violence, generational poverty, and rapid gentrification, Sensabaugh bring another point of view, one filled with Black Love and strong black families.
Sensabaugh reveals, “My documentations are examples of the strength and love my people have inside of them despite all the negative perceptions society throws their way. They are for the people living in the projects without any resources feeling trapped and hopeless. Whether your 9 to 5 is owning a business, creating art, playing sports, getting an education, making music or selling drugs, the common denominator is survival, and trying to make sense of situations that make you feel hopeless. My mission is to show my people that we all share the same struggle and love… No matter how much we go through, we still shine and will always shine in all that we do because melanin is Real Power.”
All photos: ©Brittany “Brittsense” Sensabaugh
Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.