Statement - The Journey


In Plain Sight is the first body of work I created after discovering my families hidden African American ancestry and passing as white. The Journey is a collection of works about my thoughts on hybridity, racism, colorism, and caste.

The first work I created about my ancestry in 2018, Lost and Found, was cobbled together aided by Google and the scant details I knew of my family’s ancestry. Since then, through research into the archives of James Madison’s Montpelier (where I found evidence of my family members enslavement) the Montpelier Descendant Community, DNA and the help of a genealogist member of my family, we have reconstructed my family’s history from 1830 to present day. And in broader strokes, backwards from then until the forming of our nation.

My family surname, Braxton, comes from Carter Braxton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, linking our family’s history to the history of America's founding, enabling research that would not have been available otherwise. We may be descended from him, but I have no concrete proof of that. In many instances the enslaved were given the surname of their owner. Still, my descendents connections to Carter Braxton and James Madison has been abundantly helpful in researching my family.

My family’s story of passing is that of a mixed-race marriage, which is unremarkable today, but we have seen recently in America that this can change. My grandfather was very light skinned Black man, and my grandmother was Canadian with Anglo and Indigenous ancestry. They could not marry in America because of the anti-miscegenation laws at that time. After Reconstruction and then Jim Crow, it was a perilous time for Black Americans. My grandfather was sent by his employer to Europe where he was developing properties. My grandmother soon followed.They married in London in 1910 and raised their family in France until they fled back to America during World War II. His marriage certificate was the first place that I saw he declared his race as white. 

Through the research into my ancestry and reading an assortment of books including, Images of Kin, written by my cousin, poet Michael S. Harper, who writes broadly about Black history and his own personal experiences about my family. My families origin story and their enslavement shape my point of view. Freedom and equality continue to be hard fought.

While I will never know what it is like to be Black and experience the daily aggressions because of the color of my skin, I do know now how my Black ancestors were treated and how racism affected my family. We lost a great deal. Secrets are destructive. I am an ally and proud of my African American ancestry. I share my origin story with my children, so they are allies too. This is how we contribute to building a fair, free, equal, and just society. It is important for me as an artist to share my truth, to tell a story of my ancestry through my work to illustrate how interconnected we are.

My hope is that this work upends the idea of colorism. encourages the viewer to look deeper and learn the truth about the history of racial relations in this country. I believe honesty and education about America's past is the key to a strong, integrated and resilient future. The Journey is the space where my sculptures examining issues of race, caste and equality, live.

“Humanism is our common faith: the belief that we are all interconnected is the higher ground that we call the world to” Reverend John Morehouse, UU, Westport, CT


I realize my humanist view of how we move forward as a multicultural society is perhaps misunderstood by many. So, I was bolstered to read a new book just out by Yascha Mounk, The Identity Trap, in which he explains this point of view best.

“For much of history, societies have violently oppressed ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities. It is no surprise that many who passionately believe in social justice came to believe that members of marginalized groups need to take pride in their identity to resist injustice.”

“But over the past decades, a healthy appreciation for the culture and heritage of minority groups has transformed into a counterproductive obsession with group identity in all its forms. A new ideology aiming to place each person’s matrix of identities at the center of social, cultural, and political life has quickly become highly influential. It stifles discourse, vilifies mutual influence as cultural appropriation, denies that members of different groups can truly understand one another, and insists that the way governments treat their citizens should depend on the color of their skin.”

“This, Yascha Mounk argues, is the identity trap. Though those who battle for these ideas are full of good intentions, they will ultimately make it harder to achieve progress toward the genuine equality we desperately need. Mounk has built his acclaimed scholarly career on being one of the first to warn of the risks right-wing populists pose to American democracy. But, he shows, those on the left and center who are stuck in the identity trap are now inadvertent allies to the MAGA movement.”