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The Roots of Inspiration for the Raymond Lucas Collection

Music has always been in my life. I have never lived in a home without a piano as part of the living room landscape along with a host of some misguided family members convinced of their own respectable voice and instrumental musical talent. Music was always equivalent to joy whether experienced through the humming and singing of my relatives around the house, or through the radio, or via records on the stereo. Music is like a bright light for me. And, although I saw jazz as a child as a more subdued blue light, I learned very early that Jazz was something very special. Jazz records were always in a special pile, and it was simply understood that there would be hell to pay if the surface of one of these treasured records got damaged or scratched. This thing called Jazz music also stirred something in my parents that was very different and I got use to the sequence of events that led to their periodic transformation. My mother or father (usually my mother) would carefully remove the records from the album covers and sleeves and gently stack them on the shiny metal rod in the center of the turntable. And by the time that the first record hit the turntable platter, my parents, either individually, or together, were sitting on the couch, heads back, with a lit cigarette holstered in the ashtray waiting for the soothing sound of Coleman Hawkins breath latent tenor sax or unpredictable harmonic shock of a Count Basie opening. Jazz listening was sometimes accompanied with alcohol usually scotch or a beer. This seemed appropriate since many of the musicians on the album covers looked as if they were doing the same. I especially remember a Coleman Hawkins album and noted how much more relaxed he looked than Nat King Cole or other more mainstream musicians on their albums. The blue tint effect of the black and white picture along with Colemans casual and somewhat disheveled look just said Cool. Another favorite was their Big Beat on the Organ album by Jimmy Smith. I must have been about 6 or 7 at the time and my brother had to explain the metaphor from the picture of a huge red beet lying on the keyboard of an organ. Now that was really cool. Jazz was one of the bright joys in my parents lives that helped them decompress from the dull, dim darkne ss of oppression and racism that they faced EVERYDAY while they struggled to carve out a good life for their family. And, it should be no surprise that I have been walking into the light of jazz some part of my entire life through listening, performing and capturing the images that represent those joyful moments of freedom that I watched my parents cherish and enjoy so much to help them deal with the dark side of being Black in America. My photographs convey only a mere portion of what I felt when the image was captured. What is missing is the music produced by the subject, in that space, in that moment in time, never to be heard again the same way. I want to make people feel the music through that one instant from the musicians expression and body language. I want people to experience the joy and freedom that these musicians feel through their expression of music.


Race Has Always Mattered

As a very young Black Boy in the late 50s and early 60s, I struggled with what was NOT said about the dark side of the African American experience. No one ever discussed, in my early years, the fact that I never saw a Black person on a billboard or TV commercial, or TV show. And I was never allowed to be comfortable enough to ask why. My family worked extremely hard to project a fairly perfect world for me, taking every opportunity to hide the fact that the playing field was not level for them, or that they had to operate by a different, more difficult set of rules than those of their white counterparts. It was not hard to see through the thick vale they tried to create, especially when the whole family would crowd around the TV like blockers protecting a quarterback, screaming with joy when a Black entertainer or celebrity showed up on the box. Although communication about race and differences was not direct, it was not always ambiguous, either. I learned by watching my parents reactions to an unfair and unjust world. I noted the difference in the dynamic of conversations they would have with White strangers (formal and tense) vs. Black strangers (casual and friendly.) There was nothing ambiguous about these exchanges. We moved to the Windsor Hills community in Baltimore in 1960 and as we drove around to survey the surrounding neighborhoods, we passed Gwynn Oak Amusement Park. I was very excited at having such a place so close by. But, when I asked if we could go, my fathers response was Were not members. My brother had to translate this for me and explain that this meant that Black people were not welcome there. Imagine an eight year-old explaining this to a 5 year-old! In 1960, my parents allowed my brother and I to be pioneers as we integrated the youth bowling league at Johnny Unitas Colt Lanes in Baltimore County. Our love for bowling trumped any misgivings we had about being comfortable in the all white environment. My brother and I learned that being good at something could potentially mean more than race. And, we were VERY good. This early immersion into White culture gave us incredible advantage, and our parents treated it as if it were no big deal.


Transcending Shame to Self Esteem

As I reflect on times growing up, I remember the shame that I felt during those weak moments of traitorous thoughts of wanting to be White so that I could benefit from the privilege of having the winning skin color. Imagine living in a world where every billboard, every TV commercial, every magazine was filled with images of white faces, blue eyes and blond hair. The icing on the cake was those blue-eyed blond haired images of Jesus in bibles, random pictures, movies, and even Black Churches. Its no wonder that I was considered disruptive in Sunday school when I challenged these contradictions after being told with a powerful voice, that you are created in Gods Image! Imagine how I reconciled this madness every time I looked in the mirror. Everything presented to me as special and good was white and not Black. And, I struggled to understand what the Hell was going on! Imagine the 50s and 60s through the eyes of a Black child with a skin color that was not literally Black or white. I was always confused because I was treated completely different by those identified as white and somewhat different by some of those who called themselves Black, or Negro at the time. (Notice that I capitalized Black and not white. I guess I still have issues!) My situation was unique from my peers in the Black community because I even had the opportunity to encounter other white children at the bowling alley on Saturdays. Although my mother had very fair skin and my father was very dark, they never made any reference to my color and whether it was good or bad. However, many other influential adults in my life were very hung up on the distinctions between light and dark skin Black people, with light having significant preference and dark often distained. This resulted in many critical comparisons between me and my brother who is darker than I, and cruel things were often said. This tension and turmoil within the Black race was sometimes more devastating in its impact than the discrimination and ignorance faced from outside of the Black race from whites. I do not think I will ever comprehend the damage that racism has done to my psyche as a child or as an adult. I do know that I found solace in Jazz and Photography. Music and images gave me a ticket to moments of freedom similar to those Jazz listening respites that my parents cherished in an unfair, unrelenting white world. Many people have no concept of what entertainer James Brown did for instilling pride in African Americans when he released Say It Loud! Im Black and Im Proud! in 1968. We were shouting it in the streets years after. Brown uplifted every African American, especially those that had ever been called Tar Baby, Chocolate Drop, Black as Coal, Ink Spot, etc. He made Black people proud of their Blackness. But, this was still a problem for me, because it took time for people to accept and understand that Brown was really talking about our color on the inside vs. outside. And, many Blacks continued to be hung up on the many shades of Blackness. So, fair skinned Blacks now had to prove they were Black Enough. Feeling that I had to prove I was Black Enough, too., my Afro hair style was born.


I am well beyond my shameful and traitorous thoughts of longing for White Privilege and have grown in to becoming a Proud, Black Man that is extremely proud of my heritage. But, this has been a long journey marked with a mixture of failures and accomplishments. And I am very fortunate that the scales tip heavily on the accomplishments side. The roots of my success can be attributed, primarily, to the development of my Emotional Intelligence that facilitated my ability to communicate, interact and navigate through many culturally diverse worlds. I was blessed with very strong and proud parents who knew who they were and they put NO limitations on what I believed I could do. In addition to my parents, I was raised by The Village comprised of friends and extended family that had HIGH expectations and a lot of love that was clearly needed to transcend all of the ignorance and nonsense that was in my way. The charcoal figures in two of my pictures, Juliette and Blute are my interpretations of the beauty that I see inside of my beautiful, Black People.



Throughout the past 25 years, my journey into genealogy has had an incredibly positive impact on my psyche as I discover more and more about the incredible lives and accomplishments of my ancestors as far back as the mid 1700s. And I thought I had problems!

This Underground Railroad narrative was written by my great-great Uncle Abraham Howard Wallace, a Conductor for the Underground Railroad.


Jazz and Freedom Go Hand in Hand

Per Webster, freedom has a broad range of application from total absence of restraint to merely a sense of not being unduly hampered or frustrated. In other words, unbridled freedom by one will eventually result in disruption to the freedom of another. This is why society has rules and guidelines to maintain order. And, Freedom must be exercised within the context of societys rules and guidelines. Jazz pianist Thelonious Monk said, Jazz and freedom go hand in hand. Roger Villines of the Jazz Patriots added to Monk, indicating that The act of improvising jazz is a way of expressing individual freedom while at the same time working within a team with others as they express their individual freedom. Such a process inevitably leads to innovation, which is clearly seen in the explosion of styles that are all called jazz. Just as Freedom within society is subject to rules and guidelines, Jazz often follows the same playbook, even during a soloists improvisation. Jazz rules may suggest that the soloi st make their primary choice of notes from a specific set of chords as the song moves across a continuum of time. Musicians are free to take liberties with different rhythms combined with their note selections from the chords that the group has agreed to share, or as designated by the composer during that particular measure of time in the song. The bottom line is how does the resulting music make you feel? And, were the musicians successful in imposing their feelings on you through their music? Did you feel joy, sadness, were you inspired? Was your experience hampered by your inability to see them perform?

The Age of Obama

From the words of Monk and Villnes, President Elect Barack Obamas mission can be represented as a Jazz metaphor as he tries to find a way to lead people to a way of expressing individual freedom while at the same time working within a team with others as they express their individual freedom, in a manner that will lead to the innovation we need to save our country and our world. Obama cannot successfully lead a world orchestra to play the same songs as written. He needs flexibility. OBAMA NEEDS JAZZ!
Photographed @ Ellicott Dredging


A Tribute to Keeping the Arts in Public Schools (& my band directors)

I took this Black & White photo series of my fellow, young High School musicians in 1973 at Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore. (Clearly, the BEST Band in Town.) This was where I experienced that special moment of Dynamic Convergence bringing music and photography together in my life, not realizing the powerful impact this marriage would have on me. From 7:00 am to as late as 7:00 pm, we (today we would be known as Band Geeks,) were in school. There was no question as to where we could be found. If not in class, we were either in the band room with Concert Band playing Peter Mennins Canzona, or on the field playing Isaac Hayes Shaft, preparing for a parade or game, or playing a Reppard Stone or Wit Williams original song or arrangement for our Jazz Band. The collateral skills that students gain from exposure to The Arts in public schools, are vast. Skills that I developed through my Band experience included, but were not limited to:

Me & Dr. Tom Delaine My HS Band Director

Listening Leadership Discipline Mathematics Teamwork

Academics are certainly important, but I am sure that our brilliant leadership of our public schools can figure out a way to leverage The Arts to help students pass their No Child Left Behind Tests. I am certain that I would not be as successful as I have been today without these experiences that enhanced my skills and shaped my values through my exposure to The Arts in public school. Thanks to Mrs. Ruby Gill, Mr. Sturtevant, Dr. Delaine and Dr. Stone! And also, a special thanks to my photography teacher, Mr. Wallace Baden who shot the Marching Band picture at the top of the page, in 1973!

Robert Sturtevant, my Lemmel Jr. High Band Director

Dr. Reppard Stone and Dr. Thomas Delaine My Douglass High School Band Directors


Douglass High School Series - 1973


Jazz and Freedom, A Natural Combination

She is an award winning poet, author, actress, civil rights leader, Jazz Singer?? Yes, Dr. Maya Angelou was a Jazz Singer. What is more amazing is that she didnt sing jazz in New York, St Louis or New Orleans, she sang Jazz in clubs in Hawaii! I could not find a better metaphor for Freedom than through the incredible diverse works of Dr. Maya Angelou. This picture of the esteemed Dr. Angelou that I shot in November 2004 in Greensboro, North Carolina, is extremely special and has very deep meaning for me for a number of reasons. The beautiful Black Sisters flanking Dr. Angelou are famous in their own right. They are Malaak and Attallah Shabaaz, daughters of ElHajj Malik El-Shabazz, better known to most as Malcolm X. Dr. Angelou returned to the United States from Africa to work with Malcolm X to establish the Organization of African American Unity (OAAU,) with a mission of engaging the United Nations for African American civil rights. Shortly after Dr. Angelou returned to the U.S., Malcolm X was assassinated. Following Malcolm Xs assassination, Dr. Angelou went to Hawaii where she had a brief career a s a night club Jazz Singer.

This photo on the left can, in no way, capture the essence of the spiritual connection shared by these three wonderful women. It was apparent that they had not seen each other for some time. I can still feel the energy from this meeting that occurred in 2004. So, I chose to call this photo, Joyful Elation.

Joyful Elation
L to r: Ms. Malaak Shabaaz, Dr. Maya Angelou And Ms. Attallah Shabaaz


Melanie Bohemian Caverns Washington DC 2007

Jazz Freedom, Freedom Jazz

I saw you perform. I heard your music. I felt your joy. I watched you revel in your freedom Playing Jazz on your Viola? No rules. No constraints. No confinement. Freedom, unbridled passion Becoming one with your instrument Coordinating motion, vibrating strings Using the Key to choose your notes Hearing your choice and knowing it fits Selecting rhythm from your inner vibe Anticipation -changes, bridge, changes Making youre unique music yours and yours alone Never to be heard the same way again. JazzFreedomFreedomJazz Welcome back into my life. By Raymond W. Lucas RAYMOND W. LUCAS 9

Melanie Behind the Image

As I watched my cousin, Melanie, perform at the Bohemian Caverns in Washington DC, back in June of 2007, my mind had difficulty processing all that I was feeling. I had to sort through my pure joy of seeing my cousin, a relative who I have reconnected with after more than 45 years; the excitement of experiencing her incredible talent, and the anger from years of missed opportunity to know Melanie. The source of controversy that drove a virtual wedge between our families, originated around the turn of the 20th century. And, this wedge was SKIN COLOR. You see, my grandmother had dark skin and my grandfather and his side of the family was very light. And, as the story goes, when my grandfather brought my grandmother home to Fremont OH from Macon MO, his younger sister, Linnie said to him, Why did you bring HER home? Daddy didnt even keep a BLACK CHICKEN in the back yard! These painful words caused an unspoken separation and alienation between our families based on a very warped sense of worth based on Shades of Blackness. This color sickness in the Black community is believed, by 1874-1941 Grandfather some, to have been fueled by a man named Willie Lynch whose ALLEDGED famous speech in 1712 on the banks of the James River was purposefully designed to teach slave owners how to keep their property in check through the exploitation of differences. Although the legitimacy of this speech is in question by scholars, references in the speech that encourage slave owners to turn slaves against themselves so owners can maintain control, seems like a page from a Slave Owners Investment Protection Guide Book. When slaves were fighting among themselves, they were not causing trouble for Massa! This shameful skin tone prejudiced behavior amongst my people continues to be a serious issue in Black communities. I still hear Black teens commenting on the prize of a light skinned girlfriend with good hair! This disgusting mentality continues to split the black community by the various Shades of Blackness, and often goes unspoken. Director Spike Lee took this issue on directly in his film School Daze when he spoofed the Wannabes against the Jiggaboos on a mythical college campus that was as real as you can get. The light skinned Wannabes with flowing hair were supposedly, a prize as opposed to the nappy headed, dark skinned Jiggaboos. And, Jiggaboo is not a term that I suggest you use freely. Casual use of it cost Don Imus his job! The unspoken message that a Black child picks up from this nonsense is that the closer your color and hair are to the White -Anglo standard, the better you are. This, I believe, is the biggest Con of modern times.
Josephine Allen Wallace 1885-1966 Grandmother Felix Whetsel Wallace

Aunt Linnie holding Melanie, while I get my cheeks pinched by Charlotte, in Fremont OH 1963

I was always amused in the summer months as I watched white people bake in the sun, basting themselves with suntan lotion to darken their skin to make them feel more beautiful. I often wondered how dark their skin would have to get before they would lose their White Privilege. How does a Black child interpret this madness without questioning their own value, based on the shade of their skin? I worked with a white guy that was very comfortable comparing his suntanned arm to mine and bragging how his was darker. I just told him to get a copy of the movie Watermelon Man, where a white man mysteriously woke up as a Black man. I was certain that this would offer him a different perspective in a Black mans shoes. I dont know if he ever saw the movie, but he never compared his arm to mine again. Feeling the Freedom of Melanies improvisations reminded me of the hope that I have, not only for the reconciliation of my family around this subtle, dark secret, but for all African Americans who continue to



possess this divisive, color affliction. I have always loved Jazz, but I didnt really know why until nowJazz is FreedomFreedom is Jazz.


Whats in a name? What do you hear when the waves of sound born from each syllable pushes the air to tweak your ears? How do you interpret the nature of those rarefactions pain, irritation annoyance, or pleasure, beauty, joy. How do these feelings come together? Do they remain by themselves? Do they keep their original identities until their schizophrenic dance at the speed of thought, births a new experience never felt before from the combination of such diversity? Will your light speed evaluation render points for the plus or minus column .pleasure or painjoy or sadness. You never remember having to make a conscious choice. You always know. The vibrations that translate to what we believe we know as Juliet, has new meaning for me. No longer is my mind cluttered with thoughts of Romeo, Shakespeare or a feuding family destroying a natural bond between two lovers. I see her face, I hear her music, and I feel the beauty and joy from an instant, a mere instant in time with respect to my lifeline that has changed me forever. Something is different about me because I heard her music, saw her face, and shook her delicate hand. Whats in a name? A Rose by any other name is truly, STILL a Rose.



The Links/Peabody Series - 2007



Scape Series

Color Contrivance 2005

Significance 2009

Centennial Turtle Heads - 2007

Cloud Wars I - 2007



Cloud Wars II 2007

Snowbound Columbia 2010



Tokyos Imperial Garden - 2000



My collection will continue to grow as I continue my journey through life, meeting new people, seeing and learning new things. And, I truly believe that:

in LIFE, there are no real FINALS. We just run out of time.

Thank You, RAYMOND W. LUCAS 17