Published on September 4th, 2020 | by Nina Pulley
In Living Color: The Beauty of Everything (But Especially Blackness)
Dripping off the walls like paint, oily and viscous, reflecting bright colors as the sun shines in. Messy like a palette, but somehow always poignantly, beautifully mixing hues to create some effect of life: a lake top at sunset, the forest canopy at dawn, the flecks of gold in sun-tinted hazel eyes… What can we say about color that has not already been said? I think we understand the importance of this rich and variegated aspect of life, but rarely do we take the time to articulate it solely, time—in a post like this—to just appreciate its color, or life.
Color informs our senses: our sense of taste is heightened when we perceive the color of the food on our plate; our olfactory sense intensifies when seeing the color of the flowers we smell, and all of this is activated by light. In the dark, the rods and cones in our eyes can only perceive black and white, but color comes alive when a certain threshold of light is passed. #word
So, what does this mean in real life? Black and white—the race problem and dichotomy exist when there is a lack of light in the atmosphere. There is nothing to come alive, nothing to feed life, and so things take effect in grayscale. Conflicts happen where they don’t need to, and people are reduced to stereotypes. When we apply this understanding to the beauty of Black people, or people of color—the beauty, the culture—we come alive in a way we never perceived before.
So, what does in living color mean? This term of course conjures up the famous 90s TV show[LM1] that featured Black culture, humor, art, and dance, in a vibrant convergence that made it one of the most popular of its time and a cultural stalwart in communities across the globe even to this day. But the term I mean came from a much quieter episode of life.
I was lying down in my room during quarantine, hoping that something would happen upon me to do as my boredom was turning into reluctant solitude. As I tried simply to enjoy the quiet, my eye caught my dress and then the light outside my window. The dress was a light, golden, delicious green. So, I decided to dress up (for no reason other than to motivate myself through another quiet quarantine day). In the plane of my vision, my dress was the horizon, and I glimpsed the top leaf of a tree right outside my window peeking over the fabric, juxtaposed perfectly as if an example in an art class. It was the same shade and hue of my dress, almost exactly—uncannily so. Yet, there was a quality to the leaf I could not quite explain at the time, but what now comes to my mind is the word vibrance.
This quality, I posit, is what Black communities possess. Not just Black communities, but communities of color. We are in living color—full of light, activated by conscience, brilliance, community, family, and most importantly, love. That’s what makes our color so brilliant, so beautiful. Our culture is so contagious, our energy so warm, our kindness so unparalleled. This post is just a moment taken to appreciate all that makes Black beautiful. Remember: black, in terms of paint, is the presence of all colors.