Responds to Prophet Royal Robertson’s

Untitled, 1989
Prophet Royal Robertson
Marker, ballpoint pen, and paint on posterboard

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When I think about the work of Prophet Royal Robertson, I think about love and how love can somehow lead to a hate or resentment and disdain for not just that one person, but for a group of people. In his illustrations, it helps me to realize how much Black women specifically are emotionally, physically, and spiritually brutalized, literally for their presence.

I’m unsure or I have no idea what happened with Prophet Royal Robertson, his late wife, and why they got a divorce, but it just reminds me of how you have to come as your full self. You have to be willing to fill your cup, you have to lean into the joy in yourself before you decide to be in a relationship with another. It feels like after Prophet Royal Robinson’s wife divorced him, he had no one to lean on. It seemed like he wasn’t even leaning on his self, and he blamed her for not being able to hold the weight of his trauma, of his unhealed, of his frayed edges and ends. He blames her, he blames us.

So many times, Black women specifically are told to bend over backward for others, be an example, learn to nurture, learn to nurture others before you nurture yourself because to nurture yourself would be selfish. But no, not you telling me that I should live the way you want me to live, that’s not selfish at all. It’s me, it’s us, that’s always the problem. We are the fire, we are the vision. We are the whores, as Prophet Royal Robinson would say, just for being present, for merely existing.

I’m really interested in exploring what it would be like to not have to bend over backward, to not have to hold everything and everyone, but to just be still and listen, just be still and be present. I’m wondering if Prophet Royal Robertson, if he would see me just being present, listening, watching, and being, would he say those very things that are in his untitled piece to me, to us? Or would he simply be quiet?

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