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Whether it's art, literature, bluegrass or blues, Black Kentuckians have had a hand in shaping it. The African American Folklorist explores that history by providing a more personal look at culture. Building upon the existing newspaper and podcast series, The African American Folklorist presents a chance to share lesser known stories of influential figures.

The African American Folklorist: Inner[re]visions

A piece from Inner[re]visions
Ebony Marshman
A piece from Inner[re]visions

Last year I interviewed Terrence Brown, Dean of Western Kentucky University's Potters College. As I walked out of his office, I was stunned by an exhibition located directly across the hall. The exhibit was beautiful paintings of black women and is called Inner[re]vision and the painter’s name is Ebony Marshman.

Marshman is a 2013 graduate of the WKU Arts Department and was commissioned by the university to create the exhibit. Currently, Marshman is a teacher and is one of the two founding teacher leaders of Wildflower Public charter school. A Montessori school centered on black students in the heart of Washington DC’s African American community. She fancies her art to journaling. Marshman is inspired by innovative Black women or the arts and folklore space, such as Zora Neale Hurston, bell hooks, and Toni Cade Bambara.

Ebony Marshman has an exhibition coming up called The Interludes: An Installation of Inner[re]visions from February 11, 2022 to March 27, 2022

Below you will find an excerpt from the Weekend Edition Segment:

Ebony Marshman: I often think about painting as journaling. Just a sense of like, Alright, I'm done. And this is what's on my mind, you know, and sometimes that's a book or inspiration from a book or something. I'm pondering the book, sometimes it's about the weather. Sometimes it's about a stray thought, a dream. So thinking about painting as journaling, it really just, I don't know, it opens it up to have my inspiration come from everywhere.

Lamont Jack Pearley: According to the WKU, Department of Art and Design, who commissioned the work Marshman says the title of this exhibition relates not just to the relationship with her imagination, but what results in her centering her own gaze while navigating externally constructed realities. Now, when I asked her what story is she telling through her paintings, Marshman responded.

Ebony Marshman: that's not the primary, you know, thing, I'm not really trying to convince anyone of anything. And for me, you know, in my multiple identities, like that's, that's very powerful, you know, and it's not, it's not this act of like, intentional rebellion, but it's just kind of like, I'm going to do what I do. And this is the one area of my life you know, as a black woman, that no one can tell me what I need to do. No one can tell me what my expression should look like, or no one is going to validate my expression.

Lamont Jack Pearley: Inner[re]visions isn't her only exhibition, though she loves to paint and is sure to take time to do so. Marshman also takes pride in being a teacher.

Ebony Marshman: I’m a Montessori teacher that's just like a child development and child-centric way of teaching. So instead of instructing like all of my children at once, I have lesson plans for each and I'm working with them at their own pace. I work with three to six-year-olds, I really I really, really love that work. I started doing that work back in Kentucky.

Lamont Jack Pearley: Ebony is one of the two founding teacher leaders of Wildflower Public Charter School centered on black students in the heart of Washington, DC’s African American community.

Ebony Marshman: Even being a teacher like I am always so inspired by this learning about black women. My experience in schools like I wasn't, I can't, I'm trying to remember the black women artists I might have known of and it's gonna take me a second.

Lamont Jack Pearley: As an adult, Ebony is still inspired by learning about and from notable black women such as a Zora Neale Hurston bell hooks in Toni Cade Bambara. She says, as a black woman, our legacy is our creativity.

Ebony Marshman: My upbringing in school, not at home, but in school. There were definitely moments where it's like, do we have history? Do we have culture like having a sense of like, Yeah, this is really confusing right now. So I think when I first read Zora Neale Hurston so the first work by her I read was Their Eyes Were Watching God, like that just felt so affirming for me.

Lamont Jack Pearley: Marshman says, from the moment she read Their Eyes Were Watching God to investigating her family's narrative. Her journey was intentional.

Ebony Marshan: In this moment, my purpose is to trust God because I feel like if I'm trusting what I believe in what you know, we could all talk about defining like, what is God to you, but if I'm trusting what I believe in, you know, that will be greater than, and believing, I'm connected and a part of everything that will be greater than what I can envision for my lane of painting and teachings. I'm on a journey of real-time learning and I think that people will see that you know, or can you know, if they're looking into it

Lamont Jack Pearley is an applied folklorist, ethnographer and African American traditional music historian and practitioner enrolled at WKU in the African American and Folk Studies programs. He is an African American Studies Ambassador with the African American Studies Department, hosts a weekly segment on WKU Public Radio called the African American Folklorist, and is the editor of the African American Folklorist Newspaper. He was inducted into the New York Blues Hall of Fame as Great Blues Historian and TV/Radio Producer (2017) and Great Blues Artist (2018).
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